Sunday, May 10, 2015

In Honor of My Mom: Organizing in Blue for 2015

small fabric bucket with blue polka dots

Eight years ago today, my mom died of pancreatic cancer. It’s an especially poignant day this year, since May 10 falls on Mother’s Day. My mom’s favorite color was blue, so this is my annual tribute to her: blue containers and other organizing-related products. Let’s start with this small fabric bucket, which comes from Nik J Designs.

4 magnets, in blue and yellow, with bicycle designs

These glass magnets come from Tanner Glass. These caught my eye because I remember Mom insisting I learn to ride a bike — but I was never very good at it.

small glass tray, blue and clear

Greg Stefan Studios has a wide variety of small glass trays.

stack of 4 lacquer trays; top one is black exterior, blue interior

Nom Living provides lacquer trays in a range of shapes, sizes and colors.

leather bookend, blue, that holds a photograph

Finally, Mom would probably have liked the Evolution Photograph Bookend from David Linley, as long as she didn’t see the price tag.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Organizing the Gift Wrapping Paper

gift wrap paper where you circle the appropriate greeting (out of 20 choices)

When it comes to gift wrap, people generally fall into one of two camps:

1. The minimalist, who either gives relatively few gifts which need wrapping, or who chooses simplified wrapping solutions. Those simplified solutions might be a small collection of gift bags, a generic wrapping paper than can work for multiple occasions, or something like maps or newspapers which can work as wrapping paper. The Wordless Wrap, which lets you circle one of 20 greetings, is pretty ingenious. [via Swissmiss]

2. The gift wrapping enthusiast, who enjoys creating beautifully wrapped gifts and collects papers, ribbons, etc. For those who fall into this second category, there are some interesting gift wrap organizers to help manage the collection. It’s no use having a bunch of lovely things if you can’t find them when you want them!

gift wrap organizer that can hang in a closet

Wrap iT is a very complete solution which is also easy to use. This is the Wrap iT Deluxe, which accommodates both 30-inch and 40-inch tall gift wrapping rolls. As you can see, it also has places for ribbon and bows; there are pockets on the outside to store gift bags, tissue paper, etc.

The company also has less bulky options for those who don't need quite as much storage. The original Wrap iT only handles 30-inch rolls. And the Wrappy (available in original and deluxe versions) is a non-zippered option which holds fewer rolls. All of these products can either hang in a closet or slide under a bed.

gift wrap organizer

The Gift Wrap Caddy can stand up while it’s being used, which is a nice feature. When collapsed, it can be hung in the closet or stored under the bed. However, the items are not fully enclosed, so dust and curious babies/pets (for under-bed storage) could be an issue. And any 40-inch rolls are going to stick up over the top, which might make it difficult to hang.

gift wrap cart
gift wrap cart - detail of the top portion

Crate and Barrel has a rolling wrapping cart which could work nicely for those with the room for it. The deep back bin holds the paper, and there are places for almost anything else you'd need, including a shelf where you could place the wrapped packages.

gift wrap solutions using Elfa

And then there’s Elfa. You could get just the door/wall organizer, or go all out and create an entire gift wrap closet. While the closet would only work for those with lots of space to dedicate to gift wrap, the door/wall organizer would work for those of us in smaller homes who still have free door space. But it does have the drawback of not being mobile.

gift wrap roll fastener, to keep it from unrolling

Finally, if you’re using any gift wrap storage product that doesn't have loops to keep partially-used rolls from unwrapping (as both the Wrap iT and the Gift Wrap Caddy both do), you may be interested in the Neat Roll.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Tote Bags: Organizing Tools or Just More Clutter?

Little Prince canvas tote bag
Little Prince tote bag by Anchor Comics; details below

It’s easy to accumulate too many tote bags, as Jason Pinter noted on Twitter: “I’ve received approximately 842,000 tote bags from conferences over the years.” And too many tote bags are just clutter.

But tote bags, when kept to a reasonable number, can also be useful decluttering and organizing tools. I use tote bags in my organizing work; they help with decluttering when they’re used for things like hauling books to the used bookstore.

Karina Glaser uses tote bags as part of her system for organizing books in a household that includes two parents, two kids, and six library cards. (Karina's whole post, over on Book Riot, is delightful. Thanks to Liz Jenkins for the pointer.)
My daughters are so lucky to have great libraries in their schools, and I’m lucky too because as a parent I can check out up to ten books at a time. These books go into a tote bag next to our living room bookshelf.

... I’m not even going to go into my book return procedure, which involves tote bags in various styles for the different institutions we need to return them to.
Totes are also good for arts and crafts, as Mickie Mueller notes. (Go read her whole post on 7 ways to use a tote bag.)
Craft Tote: When working on various projects, I sometimes run to my daughter’s house, and sometimes she brings projects to my house, we love tote bags for the convenience of being able to fit any size or shaped craft supplies right in there. ...

Art Tote: Speaking of projects, being an artist, I can carry a small piece of art, sketch book, pencil sharpener, and a great big pencil bag in one of my totes, great if I want to catch up on an art deadline if things are slow at the office or I’m vending at a fair. I love to carry my art supplies in a tote with an inspiring design.
Even though I have plenty of tote bags, some especially wonderful ones still catch my eye. I’m enchanted with the Little Prince tote bag at the top of this post, with art by Sean Gregory Miller.

Cat Lady for Life canvas tote bag

And I’m also very fond of this cat lady tote bag by Emily McDowell. [via Hauspanther]

Related posts:
Decluttering and Organizing the Tote Bag Collection
Two Tips for Managing the Tote Bags

Friday, February 27, 2015

Avoiding Meetings That Waste Your Time

Ribbon: I survived another meeting that should have been an email

Ribbon by Will Bryant, via Mike Monteiro

I’ve sat in my share of meetings that seemed like a waste of time, so this ribbon made me smile. Still, there are some good reasons for having meetings, and David Allen summarized them nicely (PDF):

1. To give or get information. Yes, a lot of routine information could be just as easily (and much more efficiently) shared by email. As someone wrote on, meetings “usually convey an abysmally small amount of information per minute.”

But sometimes the issues involved are sensitive, and communicating though a meeting is more effective than the alternatives. I’ve been in situations where organizations were going though big changes and people were nervous; having plenty of meetings to keep people informed was a big help.

Here’s an example Allen provides:
“Hello everyone. I’ve brought you all together today to let you know what’s been going on about the pending lawsuit. I’d like you to leave here today understanding what’s going on, and with as much background as you need to be able to answer questions that may arise from our customers.”
2. To develop options and make decisions. Getting the right people together is often the most effective way to have these types of discussions.

3. To build relationships through in-person meetings. This is especially useful when a new team is forming.

As I’ve mentioned before, any meeting will be more effective if a well-constructed agenda is provided to meeting participants for their review before the meeting. Sometimes there are documents that should be shared before the meeting, too — and sent out early enough that participants have adequate time to review them.

So how do we avoid the plague of meetings that arent useful? In his talk at TED@State Street Boston, David Grady suggests that part of the problem comes from our tendency to mindlessly accept any meeting invitations we get.
A meeting invitation pops up in your calendar. ... There’s no agenda. There’s no information about why you were invited to the meeting. And yet you accept the meeting invitation, and you go. And when this highly unproductive session is over, you go back to your desk, and you stand at your desk and you say, “Boy, I wish I had those two hours back.”

Every day, we allow our coworkers, who are otherwise very, very nice people, to steal from us. ... I’m talking about time. Your time. In fact, I believe that we are in the middle of a global epidemic of a terrible new illness known as MAS: Mindless Accept Syndrome. The primary symptom of Mindless Accept Syndrome is just accepting a meeting invitation the minute it pops up in your calendar.
Grady suggests that you don’t automatically accept a questionable meeting invitation, but rather get in touch with the meeting organizer to learn more about the meeting and figure out whether it makes sense for you to attend. This might not be acceptable behavior in all organizations, but it’s an idea worth trying if your organization’s culture would support it.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Giving the Keys a Home

key cabinet with queen and Corgi

You need the One True Place to put your keys in as you enter your house. — user “maudlin” on Ask MetaFilter

If you don’t want your One True Place to be a magnetic key holder, there are plenty of other solutions. While you don’t need something specially intended for keys — any hook or small dish could do — here are some key holders worth admiring.

The key box above comes from The Original Metal Box Company. This is the smaller size, with 10 hooks; each hook can hold at least two fobs. The larger size has 24 key hooks and has a lock; sadly, this design is not available on the larger box. The company sells the boxes on its website, and you can also find them on Not On the High Street.

key hook with London Underground linesfour key hooks (a set) with London Underground lines

Let’s stick with the British theme for a minute. The Remember Me key hooks from Blue Marmalade can be bought separately, but they also work nicely as a set of four. Each one has two hooks and one key fob. Blue Marmalade says, “Remember Me fixes to the wall with some clever sticky pads that are very strong but can also be removed without damaging paint or tearing wallpaper.” The hooks are made from recycled plastic.

key hook with a single London Underground line (Victoria)

Another version of the Remember Me key hook shows a single Underground line, rather than a combination of many. Six different lines are available. [via Switched On Set and Freshome]

brass key holder and fob brass key holders and fob

The Pure Brass key holder and fob is an elegant storage solution, although it does involve adding a bit of heft to the keyring.

key cabinet behind a mirror

Returning to the idea of a key cabinet, you can combine the key cupboard and the egg mirror from Rizz to get this lovely key storage solution. The cupboard is made of Corian. [via Design Milk]

Monday, February 2, 2015

Magnets Make it Easy to Find the Keys

magnetic key holder; wooden cube with magnets on 3 sides and bottom

To avoid misplaced keys, it helps to have a regular location where they’re always stored. That could be a dish or a hook — or it could be a magnetic holder. I’ve mentioned Peleg Design’s Key Pete in a prior post, but there are many other options.

Tat Chao has the Kube, available with a walnut, mahogany or birch veneer. All three sides plus the bottom are magnetized, so a small cube can hold a fair number of keys. The bottom side can hold up to 0.75 pounds; the other sides can hold about 0.5 pounds. You can find the Kube on Etsy. [via Toronto Life]

magnetic key holder, wood

Søren Henrichsen makes this magnetic key holder called the Woodee. You can get it directly from Søren Henrichsen, in one of three finishes, or you could get it from The Merchant & Co.

magnetic key holder, cube shape

Kubonets recently launched via a successful Kickstarter, and the products are now available on Etsy. They come in sets of nine, in three finishes; you can get a single finish or a mixture. Each one holds about a pound. [via organizer Julie Bestry and Backerjack]

magnetic key holder, cloud shape

But not all magnet key holders have the wood finish. Duncan Shotton Design Studio provides us with the Cloud key holder; the keys are meant to represent rain falling from the cloud. There are three hidden magnets, each of which can hold about 200g (7 ounces). [via Freshome]

magnetic key holder, target shape

The Key Target was designed for AreaWare by Bower. There are several magnets inside, which allow you to just toss your keys at the target. It’s sold at a number of places, including Generate.

magnetic light switch cover, holding key ring with 20+ keys

And here’s a totally different approach: the NeoCover magnetic light switch cover, which will hold up to 27 keys.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Very Cool Surfboard Storage from Australia

surfboard rack for five boards, with swan's head design

I've written about surfboard storage before, but I’ve never seen anything as eye-catching as the surf shelves from Kauai Swan. This one is the Sentinel, which comes in sizes for two, three, four or five boards.

corner storage rack for two surfboards, with a swan design

And this design is called the Cygnet; it was designed specifically for corner space storage.

Both designs are made from “the finest quality Wisa marine grade laminated wood, harvested from environmentally sustainable birch plantations in Finland. Timber struts on the Sentinel models are of Australian hardwood.”

The products are shipped in a flat-pack; they are assembled with just a Phillips screwdriver. You can contact Kauai Swan about delivery outside the Sydney area, including overseas delivery.

horizontal surfboard rack, wood

If you'd prefer to keep the racks stored horizontally, take a look at Byron Bay Board Racks, such as this wedge rack for seven boards. All of these racks are made from “recycled Australian hardwoods, including iron bark, yellow box, Australian cedar and red gum to name just a few.” The wood comes from old houses, barns, decks, fences, etc.

wood surfboard rack for 10 boards

The company also has a vertical rack, available in various sizes. You can get a protective floor mat to go with this rack, made from recycled tires.

The Byron Bay racks are shipped fully assembled. The company does not ship outside of Australia.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

You Have Too Much Stuff

book cover: You Have Too Much Shit - a self-help book by Chris Thomas

If you don’t mind a bit of obscenity, and you want a quick read to inspire your decluttering, this might be the book for you. It only has 16 pages of content, in large type; you can read it in 10 minutes or so. And the ebook version is free!

Chris Thomas, a designer, doesn’t provide any gentle handholding here. Rather, this is more of a manifesto for those who own lots of stuff: identify the useless things and get rid of them. And, most importantly, stop buying the kinds of stuff you wind up tossing.

The book starts with a list of things you probably don’t need, including
  • Free pens, mouse mats and mugs.
  • Your hidden stash of takeaway menus.
  • Unwanted Christmas presents that have hung around too long.
  • Your plethora of novelty electronics.
  • Boxes full of photographs that you, be honest, will never look at again.
  • Rolled up posters hidden from view.
  • Obsolete gizmos you keep lying around in case they’re ever worth something.
  • Chargers and cables for obsolete gizmos you keep lying around in case they’re ever worth something.
  • DIY materials, bought for an unfinished project several years ago.
Chris then goes on to write about the negative effects of keeping all this stuff around and the advantages of getting rid of it. He also writes about the environmental impact of all our purchases:
The amount of stuff we consume as a species is insane. ... The environmental case is worthy of a whole other book, but I’ll put it simply: the earth’s finite resources are, well, finite – and if we continue to consume at our current rate, it won’t be long before they’re gone.
Chris says to spend our money on the stuff that really matters to us:
To find real value in material things, it’s helpful to discover a deep appreciation of the things you use every day.

Everyday things are the things that you use the most, so they’re the things truly worth investing in. Have hard-wearing shoes, comfortable chairs, knives and forks that won’t bend or rust. Have a computer that won’t crash or lose your work. Invest in your hobbies. Whatever it is you spend most of your time doing, have things that assist in making this better, all of the time.
He concludes with a list of the many ways to get rid of things, including selling them or just giving them to people who need them:
People with less than you. Charities who need the money. Schools. Libraries. People who need materials for experiments or making things.
There's nothing new in this book — nothing you can’t read plenty of other places. But sometimes the way a person words a familiar concept makes it resonate in a way it didn’t resonate before.

[via Sam Dunne on Core77]

Monday, January 5, 2015

For the New Year: 2 Thoughts About How to Spend Your Time

Image entitled Time by Sean MacEntree, licensed under Creative Commons

I'm not into resolutions, but I read two things recently about ways to approach time management in the new year that I wanted to share.

From Oliver Burkeman, one of his resolutions worth making (and I recommend reading them all):
Select something to stop doing this year. I don’t mean bad habits, such as injecting heroin or picking your nose; I mean something worthwhile, but that, if you’re honest, you don’t have time for. 
In our hyperbusy era, there’s an infinite number of potential things to do: emails to read, groups to join, ways to become a better person, parent, employee. Yet still we proceed as if “getting everything done” might be feasible. It isn’t; the wiser plan is to get more strategic about what you abandon. (One technique: list your 10 most important roles in life, rank them, then resign from at least the bottom two.)

From Neil Gaiman, as part of his New Year’s wishes and gifts:
Try to make your time matter: minutes and hours and days and weeks can blow away like dead leaves, with nothing to show but time you spent not quite ever doing things, or time you spent waiting to begin.

Monday, December 8, 2014

4 Unusual Things You Can Rent Instead of Buying

ugly holiday sweater

If there's something you seldom use — or plan to use just once — it often makes sense to rent or borrow it rather than buy it. This can save money, and it definitely saves on storage space. Let’s look at just a few of the many things you might choose to rent.

The ugly holiday sweaters from Rent the Runway are some of the most unusual rentals I’ve seen. [via Maria Konnikova and Business Insider]

living Christmas tree being delivered to a home

Don’t want to store an artificial Christmas tree, but also don’t want to go cut down a live one? In some areas, you can rent a living Christmas tree.

Polaroid camera

If you live in the San Francisco area and want to rent photographic equipment — including a Polaroid camera, a Phantom 2 drone and much more — you can do that at Photojojo. Other cities may have similar rental services.

Pley - Netflix for Lego Sets

And then there’s Pley, which lets you rent Lego sets. [via Megan Panatier and io9]

Related Posts:
Renting Things You Never Knew Could Be Rented
Now Where Did I Put that R2D2 Cake Pan?
The Sharing Solution
1 Way to Avoid Future De-Cluttering Decisions: Rent the Wedding Gown
Renting or Borrowing vs. Owning
The Joys of Renting Stuff: Saving Both Space and Money