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Date: Tuesday, 26 Aug 2014 14:30

A few weeks ago I wrote to Erin and said, “I’d like to review Sugru for Unclutterer.” She was intrigued, so I ordered a set, and after weeks of using the product I wanted to share the results of my test-drive with you.

Sugru is a “self-setting rubber” invented by Ireland’s Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh. It feels like Play-Doh when initially removed from its package and then hardens, yet remains flexible, after being exposed to air for about a day. People are doing all sorts of creative and useful things with it, and that’s why I wanted to review it.

For me, part of being an unclutterer means a commitment to frugality, and I use the New England definition of frugal: nothing is wasted. Since Sugru lets you repair or improve on a huge number of devices in and around your home, it prevents those things from becoming clutter.

Packaging

The Sugru packaging includes a list you can populate with future projects, instructions, many photos, use ideas, and a super handy color chart. I received four colors (other combinations are available), and the chart explains how to combine them to produce a variety of hues, so that you can match whatever you’re trying to fix or improve. The Sugru itself comes in sliver, 0.17-ounce packages that resemble the condiment packs you might find at a fast food restaurant.

Use

My goal was to both fix something and improve something; both were met easily. As mentioned earlier Sugru is nice and soft out of the package, with that “I just want to squish it forever” feel. (Note: that the color does come off onto your fingers. Not a lot, and it’s easily removed with a wet wipe, but still worth noting.) Its consistency made it an obvious choice for my two projects.

The first thing I did was to fashion a DIY iPhone cable holder out of a LEGO minifig. I put a bit of black Sugru on his back, pressed him to an inconspicuous area of my bed’s headboard* and the next morning he was ready for cable-holding duty:

The second project was the “fix.” I have an Amazon Fire TV that runs a little hot. So, I decided to add some feet. After molding some black Sugru into little balls and sticking them on the bottom, the device now has a nice cushion of air between itself and the surface it occupies.

At this point, I had the bug. There’s a cabinet in our house that never says shut. It’s old, the latch is misaligned and the humidity of summer makes things even worse. There’s a perma-gap that lets the door swing freely. Sugru to the rescue! I applied enough white to fill the gap, let it harden and now the door stays shut and only opens when we want it to. Wonderful.

The only caveat I found was that, once a pack is opened, you best use all it contains. I was unable to re-seal a pack and even putting it in a tiny zip-top bag — with as much air pushed out as I could manage — didn’t prevent the leftover from hardening into a solid, unusable slab. Fortunately, each pack contains just 1/17th of an ounce, so it’s easy to use the whole thing.

Conclusion

In the end, it’s great stuff. It’s occasionally obvious that you’ve used Sugru, so if a clean look is what you’re after you might be a bit bothered by the homemade look of your fix. Color matching helps, as long as you have the colors required to mix your target color. I like it, though, because it can help prevent slightly broken things from becoming clutter. Be sure to check out the Sugru gallery for more ideas for how the product can be useful around your home and office.

*My wife’s insistence. Really.

Post written by David Caolo

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Author: "David Caolo" Tags: "Home Organization, Reviews, reviews, sug..."
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Date: Monday, 25 Aug 2014 15:29

I just finished reading An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Col. Chris Hadfield and found that it contained some great tips from outer space that we can use to be organized right here on Earth.

The pen just floated away

In space, if you don’t hang on to them, things like spoons, pencils, scissors and test tubes simply drift away, only to turn up a week later, clinging to the filter covering an air intact duct. That’s why there’s Velcro on the back of just about every imaginable item: so it will stay put on a Velco wall.

Things on Earth don’t exactly “float away,” although sometimes it feels like they do! There are several strategies that we can use to help things stay put! Consider using Velcro to stick markers and an eraser to a whiteboard. A Grid-It organizer can be placed in a drawer, backpack, or briefcase to stop smaller items from disappearing to the bottom of a bag.

A pegboard won’t stop items from floating away, but it clearly identifies where items belong. Pegboards are ideal for tools, craft supplies, and even accessories such as jewellery, belts, and purses.

The most useful thing to do

During a mission on the International Space Station, when Commander Hadfield asked, “What’s the most useful thing we could be doing right now?” the answer was “an inventory of the inside of every single locker in the Russian cargo block.”

Previously on Unclutterer, we’ve discussed creating a home inventory. Inventories are important because they indicate how much homeowners insurance you should carry and also help identify items that may be missing or damaged if your home suffers from theft or other disaster.

Inventories done on a regular basis help ensure your items aren’t past their due dates (e.g. fire extinguishers, canned food) or have become obsolete (Do you need to keep the baby gates if your children are teenagers?). Regular inventories help you figure out how much of certain items you are using so you can prevent product shortages and keep just enough inventory on hand without having too much.

I can imagine that an accurate inventory is even more important for the astronauts and cosmonauts since the nearest convenience store is 205 miles away. Items must be ordered in a timely manner so they arrive when needed and there are only a limited number of items that can be sent on each flight to the space station. Planning in advance is essential.

Although being organized may not give you the opportunity to go to the International Space Station, it can certainly help you enjoy your space right here on Earth.

Post written by Jacki Hollywood Brown

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Author: "Jacki Hollywood Brown" Tags: "Celebrities, Home Organization, Small Sp..."
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Date: Sunday, 24 Aug 2014 14:15

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

  • Ask Unclutterer: Organizing hair styling doo-dads
    I have a 9-yr-old girl with long hair. She has zillions of barrettes, headbands, clips, bobby pins, etc. and I need some good ideas how to organize these! Any suggestions??
  • To-Do Tattoos
    You can be sure your child makes it wherever he needs to go with everything on his list. It’s novel, and I like when organizing can be fun.

Post written by PJ Doland

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Author: "PJ Doland" Tags: "A Year Ago"
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Date: Thursday, 21 Aug 2014 14:30

In his book The Checklist Manifesto, Dr. Atul Gawande made a strong case for the power of checklists to help us “get things right” — including a checklist’s power to save lives when used by surgeons and airline pilots. But checklists can be useful tools for all of us, in many situations.

On Unclutterer, we’ve written about checklists for moving, packing for travel, preparing for a trip, and requesting tech support. We’ve also provided a how-to guide for having a yard sale, which is basically a large checklist. The following four examples may give you ideas of other types of checklists you’d like to create and use.

Choosing a house or an apartment — or buying almost anything

Many years ago, I almost bought a house with a key flaw: the house had very few walls without windows or doors, and there would have been no good place to put any bookshelves. After that experience, I created a checklist with everything I could think of that mattered to me in a house. I could still choose to buy a home that didn’t have everything I wanted, but at least it would be a conscious choice.

If you want to create your own home checklist, you could use the wishlist and the checklist (PDFs) from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as a starting point.

The same basic type of checklist could be created for any major purchase: selecting a school or a camp, buying a car, etc. When I was buying a car four years ago, my checklist included price, reliability, miles/gallon, length, turning radius, acceleration, and the opinion of trusted reviewers.

Fixing things

Back in 1993, I read a column by Bill Husted that provided his rules for fixing anything, from a computer file to a motorcycle. I can’t find the article online, but here are his first six rules:

  • Make a carbon copy. As Husted explains, that “copy” could take many forms: a backup of a file, a drawing of some wiring, etc.
  • Take things one at a time.
  • Be lazy. Take a lot of breaks.
  • Try the easiest and most obvious first.
  • Clean up as you go.
  • Keep a diary.
  • All these years later, this still seems like a good checklist to me.

    Packing for frequent activities

    This is the packing list concept applied beyond trips and suitcases: for going to the beach, for attending a class, etc. Even if you keep a packed bag at the ready for such activities, having a checklist is usually a good idea, too. With that checklist, you can quickly confirm the bag has everything on that list so you can replace anything that got used up or misplaced.

    The same type of what-to-pack checklist could be created for diaper bags, school backpacks, first aid kits, etc.

    Visiting a doctor

    It’s easy to forget everything you need to tell a doctor, or everything you’ll want to ask. Organizer Ramona Creel has a checklist to help patients prepare for a visit, so they do remember everything they want to discuss. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs also has a checklist (PDF) of questions to ask a healthcare provider, which could certainly be used by patients who aren’t veterans, too. While not all items listed will apply to all visits, the checklist helps to ensure you don’t forget anything important.

    Post written by Jeri Dansky

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    Author: "Jeri Dansky" Tags: "Home Organization, Tips"
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    Date: Wednesday, 20 Aug 2014 16:45

    All Unitasker Wednesday posts are jokes — we don’t want you to buy these items, we want you to laugh at their ridiculousness. Enjoy!

    This is one of the more bizarre unitaskers we have encountered here at Unclutterer. Dave possibly described it best when he said, “if this isn’t a unitasker, I don’t know what is.” He was right in that this may be the most unitaskery unitasker of all time. Introducing the DestapaBanana from Argentina:

    In case the images didn’t give you enough information, I’ll explain the device in a bit more detail. The DestapaBanana bores a hole through the length of your banana and then you pour a sweet filling (like caramel, chocolate, or strawberry sauce) into the reservoir. Once sauced, you can eat the banana right away or you can put it in the freezer and eat it frozen later.

    For starters, this device does nothing else and won’t work with bananas that have a lot of curve to them. Additionally, I think a straw would do the same thing if you really are fond of this idea. Or, you could dip the banana in a sauce and not waste part of your banana. And, finally, let’s not forget the most obvious thing here that injecting sauce into a banana transforms it from a health food into a tube of pure sugar.

    Anyone else craving a banana split now?

    Post written by Erin Doland

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    Author: "Erin Doland" Tags: "Unitasker Wednesday"
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    Date: Wednesday, 20 Aug 2014 14:15

    2012

    2011

    2010

    • Unitasker Wednesday: The bananarama continues
      We’ve written in the past about the Banana Saver and the Banana Slicer, but did you know you could also get your hands on so many more banana unitaskers?
    • Simplifying packed lunches
      Reader Jon wrote to us asking if we had any tips for preparing lunches at home that he can take to eat at work. He has been spending $100 a week on eating out at restaurants, and is hoping to become someone who brings his lunches to work. Since students are already back in the classroom in many states, and other students are getting ready to go, I thought now would be a great time to discuss the humble brown bag lunch.

    2009

    Post written by PJ Doland

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    Author: "PJ Doland" Tags: "A Year Ago"
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    Date: Tuesday, 19 Aug 2014 14:30

    Wake the kids and tell them to grab their backpacks: it’s time to go back to school. This can be a stressful time for kids and parents, but a little preparation goes a long way. In Part 2 of our back-to-school series, I’ll highlight some ways technology can ease the transition from summer.

    Go social

    When I was in school, we huddled around the radio on snowy mornings, eager for a closing announcement. Today, many school districts share this information via the web and social media. Get yourself in the loop this school year and visit your district’s website to find the following information:

    • Your school’s and/or district’s Twitter feed
    • Any associated Facebook accounts
    • Classroom-specific websites
    • Classroom Blackboard accounts and mobile applications
    • Teacher blogs

    Of course, some schools will embrace social technology more completely than others. Colleges and universities seem to be the most aggressive, but even elementary schools are using the technologies available to them. If your school/district/child’s teacher is using websites, be sure to bookmark the sites and/or add them to an RSS feed so you can easily access the information for future reference.

    Subscribe to a school calendar

    Most schools publish a calendar for parents and students to review, and many offer the opportunity to subscribe electronically for immediate updates. The Salt Lake City School District is a great example of a digital calendar, with instructions for subscribing to it with Apple’s Calendar, Google Calendar, and Outlook and Yahoo Calendar. Once you’re subscribed, you needn’t depend on the monthly printed calendars you likely have hanging on the refrigerator.

    Make custom notifications

    I’ve written about IFTTT before on Unclutterer, and the start of the school year is another time to use this program. IFTT is an online service that lets you create actions, or recipes, to accomplish tasks for you, including custom notifications.

    For example, let’s say your district or teacher always uses adds a certain hashtag when composing tweets related to your child’s school or class. You could create a recipe that sends you a text message or an email whenever such a tweet is published. Or, you can have all of those tweets pushed to a Google document for a daily review.

    On the other side of the desk, IFTTT is a terrific resource for teachers and schools. Communications with students and parents can easily be automated.

    Here’s hoping you have a successful school year. There’s more to do to get ready, of course, but these technology tips are a good place to start.


    Part 1 of the series

    Post written by David Caolo

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    Author: "David Caolo" Tags: "Children, College Life, Home Organizatio..."
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    Date: Monday, 18 Aug 2014 14:34

    Based on where you live, your kids may have already headed back to the classroom or they’re preparing to go in September. If you’re a student, you might be in the same boat. This transition period doesn’t have to be a stressful time. Households that have established routines are extremely beneficial for children and parents. Being prepared will bring peace of mind and make everyone’s transition from summer days to school days easier.

    Start the school routine a week early

    Practicing the routine in advance is especially important for children who are just starting school or who will be starting a new school. By doing a few trial runs before the school year actually starts, you’ll be able to determine if there are any problems with the new routine before the first day.

    Plot the route

    If your children are starting a new school, walk or bike with them on their route. Point out areas where there is heavy traffic and where drivers may have difficulty seeing pedestrians. Indicate safe havens where children can find assistance or a telephone if needed (e.g. convenience stores, public offices, houses of worship). Map out an alternate route home in case of emergency. If your child takes public transit or a school bus, create a plan in case the buses are late or if your child misses his/her stop.

    Unplug and preset

    Turning off the TVs and computers at least an hour before bedtime will allow you and/or your kids to get organized for the next morning. Make lunches (if you didn’t make them when preparing dinner) and gather school supplies together. You can even set plates, cups, and silverware on the table for breakfast.

    Create a drop zone

    Hang backpacks on hooks near the door so kids will know exactly where to find their stuff and where to put it when they get home. Make an inbox where they can put all the paperwork for you to fill out and sign. You can create one inbox for all the children but one box per child may work better, especially if the children attend different schools.

    Prepare for the paperwork

    Every year the school requires information such as health card numbers, vaccination schedules, emergency contact numbers, etc. If you know where all this information is, you’ll be able to fill out all those forms quickly and easily. Once filled out, make a copy of the paperwork for yourself. It will be easier to find the information for next year.

    Create an in-home supply closet and pharmacy

    Stocking up on supplies will save you from running across town to the 24-hour (expensive) pharmacy. While the sales are still going on at retailers, gather pencils, markers, notebook paper, and other supplies you and/or your children will need this entire school year (that is, if you have the space to store these items in an uncluttered way) Also, don’t forget items such as bandages, cold medication, and even lice shampoo that may be needed during the first weeks back.

    Create a homework zone

    While older children may benefit from doing homework in their bedrooms at a desk or in the home office, younger children who need parental support to do their homework in the kitchen or dining room while their parents are preparing dinner. Wherever the homework zone is located, make it easy to use and easy to put away supplies.

    Make a “fingertip file”

    Use a binder with sheet protectors to contain important information such as the school phone numbers, a list of phone numbers of friends of your children, the list of parents who carpool, menus from the local take-out restaurants, etc. You’ll be able to find what you need this school year exactly when you need it.

    Get your money and tickets ready

     
    Purchase transit tickets and taxi vouchers in advance, if necessary. Fill a jar or bowl with coins and small bills so you won’t be scrounging for lunch money at the last minute.

    Schedule everyone’s activities on a calendar

    Enter all of the school holidays and pedagogical days on the calendar as soon as the information is received from the school so that you can arrange for daycare or other activities as soon as possible. In Part 2 of our back-to-school series we’ll go into more detail about creating a digital calendar and in Part 3 we’ll explore using a paper calendar with younger children.

    Post written by Jacki Hollywood Brown

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    Author: "Jacki Hollywood Brown" Tags: "Children, Home Organization, Tips"
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    Date: Sunday, 17 Aug 2014 14:15

    2013

    2012

    • Unitasker Wednesday: Sushi Made Easy
      The Sushi Made Easy requires two additional steps and another piece of equipment for the maki-making process. It’s not Sushi Made Easy, it’s Sushi Made More Complex. It’s also sushi in the style of caulking your bathtub!
    • Get organized for back-to-school
      Help your children get organized and ready to go back to school with these four tips.

    2011

    2010

    • Marketing to Unclutterers-In-Name-Only
      Regardless of if you have read or your opinion of Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Eat, Pray, Love and the recently released movie of the same name, the show Marketplace on National Public Radio had a very poignant piece this Friday about the business, marketing, and branding of simplification and uncluttering.

    Post written by PJ Doland

    Let Unclutterer help you get your home or office organized. Subscribe to our helpful product shipments from Quarterly today.

    Author: "PJ Doland" Tags: "A Year Ago"
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    Date: Thursday, 14 Aug 2014 14:30

    Reader John recently asked the following question in the comment section of the post “Why is organizing and uncluttering paper so difficult?“:

    The draining emotional impact of sorting through and properly organizing boxes and file cabinets of paper can at times be overwhelming. Could you address in more detail strategies for maintaining or improving personal motivation to get the ongoing task completed?

    John, many people have this concern, so I’m very glad you asked the question. The following are strategies that might work to motivate you to keep organizing your papers.

    Work in reasonably small blocks of time

    Organizer Janine Adams wrote on her Peace of Mind Organizing Blog about a women who got through 12 years of accumulated papers by working on them for 15 to 30 minutes a day. It’s often easier to tackle a dreaded task if you know you only have to do it for a short period of time.

    But, if you want to work for a longer stretch of time, that’s fine, too — just be sure to take breaks. You want to avoid decision fatigue. If you find yourself thinking, “I just don’t care any more,” you might start making poor decisions as a result.

    Create a pleasant work environment

    If you’re a person who gets energized from music, try playing some as you sort through those papers. Also, make sure you’re working in an area with sufficient lighting and a comfortable room temperature.

    Have good tools

    I know someone who prefers to keep certain papers in a three-ring binder. However, her three-hole paper punch didn’t work well; she always had to struggle with it. She has decided to invest in a higher quality hole punch that will be easier to use.

    It definitely helps if all your frequently used tools work well. Those tools might include a label maker, a stapler, a staple puller, a letter opener, a shredder, and a scanner. If you are someone who is inspired by beautiful or cute objects, consider investing in those, too.

    Put some things off

    If you’re going through a big stack of papers and find a few you just can’t deal with right now, set them aside. Know that this is both normal and perfectly okay. Don’t let the few papers that are hardest to deal with derail your efforts. And, when you come back to those papers somewhat later, you may find them less challenging.

    Keep the goal in mind

    You’re likely going through papers for some good reason: so you can find things when you need them, so your space supports you in your work and family life, etc. Keep your goal in mind, and celebrate the small victories along the way, such as a critical paper found, or a chair that’s now usable because it no longer has papers stacked on it.

    Enlist some help

    A trusted friend might be able to help by doing a first-pass sort: financial, medical, etc. Or the friend could simply sit with you as you go through the papers, perhaps acting as a sounding board or just as an accountability partner.

    And you can always hire a professional organizer to help. The National Association of Professional Organizers has a website that can help you find someone in your area.

    Thank you, John, for asking such a good question.

    Do you have a question relating to organizing, cleaning, home and office projects, productivity, or any problems you think the Unclutterer team could help you solve? To submit your questions to Ask Unclutterer, go to our contact page and type your question in the content field or put your inquiry in the comments to a post. If you send an email, please list the subject of your e-mail as “Ask Unclutterer.” If you feel comfortable sharing images of the spaces that trouble you, let us know about them. The more information we have about your specific issue, the better.

    Post written by Jeri Dansky

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    Author: "Jeri Dansky" Tags: "Paper, Tips"
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    Date: Wednesday, 13 Aug 2014 15:00

    All Unitasker Wednesday posts are jokes — we don’t want you to buy these items, we want you to laugh at their ridiculousness. Enjoy!

    As longtime readers are aware, I don’t understand the desire to keep trash as a hobby — I’m referring to things like wine corks and baby teeth. I’m cool with dropping these items into a trash can or recycling bin, because that is where trash belongs. But displaying trash or hoarding it in a drawer doesn’t sit right with me. Trash, waste, rubbish is clutter.

    This week’s unitasker selection falls into the trash-as-hobby category, it’s the Bottle Opener Cap Catcher:

    This device removes bottle caps, and then stores them for you. Instead of removing a bottle cap and instantly putting it into the trash or recycling bin, you get to save it … for reasons I cannot not imagine.

    Maybe if you are an artist and bottle caps are your medium I could understand the desire to save bottle caps. However, my guess is that the vast majority of Unclutterer readers are not artists who are paid to create sculptures from bottle caps. Just a hunch.

    Per Jacki’s post about “Modified principles of sanitary design” on Monday, try to avoid buying things that create additional work and unsanitary conditions for you and your family. If your intention is to throw away the bottle caps after collecting them, don’t add the extra step of collecting them in the first place. Throw them right away. Save space in your drawers/cupboards for things that are worth taking up that space. A small bottle opener is uncluttered and doesn’t tempt you to keep trash as a hobby — this device is the opposite of those things.

    To be fair, this is far from being the worst unitasker we’ve featured. However, I think it’s important to really think about the items we buy. Are we creating extra work for ourselves? Are we keeping something that really belongs in the trash? Good questions to ask about everything, even something as simple as bottle openers.

    Post written by Erin Doland

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    Author: "Erin Doland" Tags: "Unitasker Wednesday"
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    Date: Wednesday, 13 Aug 2014 14:15

    2013

    2012

    2010

    • New office products: Antimicrobial file folders and bookmark index cards
      My friend and professional organizer Julie Bestry recently headed to Office Depot to see what is new in the back-to-school supplies section. Her recap of the adventure introduced me to two new types of organizing products I wanted to pass along to you.
    • Unitasker Wednesday: The Mayo Knife — Spreader
      I think my favorite part about this unitasker is how it mentions an alternative multitasking object that can do the job just as well in the product’s name. The name of the product reminds you about a knife! A knife you already own! A knife that makes this product completely unnecessary!
    • The multitasking sleeper chair
      Sleeper chairs are fantastic additions in small spaces because they work double duty as seating and guest accommodations. One of these multitaskers in a living room or office is perfect when you don’t have a guest room or space for a larger sofa sleeper.
    • Ask Unclutterer: Trash or treasure old stuffed animals?
      Reader Kay wants to know what she should do with all of her old stuffed animals that have been in storage for decades in cardboard boxes in her basement.

    2009

    Post written by PJ Doland

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    Author: "PJ Doland" Tags: "A Year Ago"
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    Date: Tuesday, 12 Aug 2014 14:30

    Years ago, I worked in a group home. It had a big kitchen with flat, spacious counters. My staff and I were very good at keeping the place nice and tidy, however, there was one corner of the countertop that just seemed to attract clutter.

    No matter what we did, things would pile up in that corner — notebooks, mail, pens and paper, all sorts of stuff the should’ve lived in the drawer in the kitchen. For a long time, this annoyed me. I’d think, “How hard is it to just put this in the drawer? Why can’t anyone put this stuff away?” It was only after doing some detective work that I discovered the problem. The cabinet where the clutter should have been stored was the same cabinet that held a whole lot of plastic storage containers. The containers were stored in a haphazard fashion, and opening this cabinet almost guaranteed that lids and other bits of plastic would rain down upon you. Once I took care of the plastic storage containers, the countertop remained clean.

    Today, you can conduct the same type of clutter detective work in your house. Look at the areas that are typically messy. You’ll want to try your best to see the space with fresh eyes. That is to say, hold a question in your mind as you inspect the space: “What exactly is keeping this area so messy?”

    I did some successful detective work around our own house recently. The back door of our house is what we use most often. Just inside this door is a small coat rack we bought for the kids to use years ago. However, the kids come home from school and drop their coats and bags and hats and what-have-you all over the floor. This drove my wife and me crazy, and constant requests to please pick up after yourself after coming home from school seemed to fall on deaf ears. So what was the problem?

    Well, one afternoon while putting everything on the rack again, I remembered how wobbly it was. After heaving the last winter coat onto it, the whole thing toppled over. The coat rack was the root of the problem. My kids learned that the rack just was broken and stopped using it entirely. A new coat rack was the solution.

    You can apply this investigative strategy to your home office as well. In a previous post, I mentioned something I call swivel distance. This is the distance you can reach things from your chair without having to get up out of your seat. Since human beings will almost always lean toward the path of least resistance, we’re more likely to stack something instead of getting up and putting it in filing cabinet across the room. That stack of papers could be due to simple poor office layout planning.

    The takeaway here is to periodically scan your house for persistent clutter spots and try to figure out why clutter loves to accumulate there. Often, the reason isn’t what you think. For example, my kids aren’t lazy or disinterested in following the rules, they just learned that the coat rack wasn’t very effective.

    Post written by David Caolo

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    Author: "David Caolo" Tags: "Decluttering, Home Organization, The Big..."
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    Date: Monday, 11 Aug 2014 14:30

    In the food industry, a high level of hygiene must be maintained and, in order to be profitable, it is beneficial to reduce the amount of effort required to maintain this high level of hygiene. Therefore, before any piece of equipment is purchased or any process started, it is evaluated with the Principles of Sanitary Design.

    In order to reduce clutter and make my days easier and more productive at home, I ask myself these tough questions first and then I apply a modified version of the Principles of Sanitary Design prior to making any purchases. It might seem weird to use a food industry practice in one’s personal life, but I’m willing to do so because it makes my life easier, saves me money, and creates less clutter.

    Easy assembly/disassembly: Items should be easy to disassemble and reassemble. If you need a degree in mechanical engineering to put together and take apart your food processor each time you need to clean it, you probably won’t use it and it will end up as clutter. Pieces of furniture may require some time and effort to assemble, however once built they should be solid. If you live a nomadic lifestyle (e.g. military family) consider purchasing furniture that can withstand being disassembled and reassembled numerous times and is easy to assemble/disassemble with a minimum number of people.

    Compatible materials: Kitchen tools and kitchen appliance parts should be dishwasher safe and easily fit into the dishwasher. Fabrics should be durable and withstand day-to-day wear. Clothing should be machine washable (even if on a cold water, delicate cycle). Furniture should be able to withstand regular vacuuming and it should be easy to do “spot-cleaning” between regular deep cleans. (Purchasing a beige sofa with two children under 5 years old was not one of our family’s better ideas.)

    No niches: Items that have nooks, crannies, and other hard to clean areas are off my list of potential purchases, especially if they are frequently used kitchen appliances. I avoid purchasing glasses with divots in the bottoms and bowls with rims because they collect water in the dishwasher. Furniture, lamps, and light fixtures that have dust-collecting decorative features are off my list, too, especially if I have to get a ladder to clean them.

    Clean operational performance: During normal operations, the equipment should not increase my workload. For example, our hot-air popcorn popper spewed more popcorn on the floor than it did in the bowl. This created more work because we had to make two batches of popcorn to get enough in the bowl and we had to sweep the kitchen floor. A table saw that cuts wood faster than a manual saw but sprays sawdust all over the house may not actually save time or energy when cleaning up efforts are taken into account.

    Hygienic compatibility: We tend not to purchase items that require special cleaners or special cleaning processes. This saves us time and effort, as well as money since we do not have to purchase special cleaners.

    This list may seem restrictive, but we have found when items do pass the test, they last longer, we use them more often, and we have very little mess to clean up afterwards.

    Post written by Jacki Hollywood Brown

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    Author: "Jacki Hollywood Brown" Tags: "Tips"
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    Date: Sunday, 10 Aug 2014 14:15

    2013

    • Unitasker Wednesday: Morninghead
      However you think this product might work, you’re wrong. And, based on its name, whatever you think the product might do, it isn’t that, either. Seriously, it is NOT that.
    • Free up computer disk space
      Tips for freeing up disk space on your computer’s hard drive.

    2012

    2011

    2009

    Post written by PJ Doland

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    Author: "PJ Doland" Tags: "A Year Ago"
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    Date: Thursday, 07 Aug 2014 14:09

    Here’s a fascinating video about a tiny house community in the District of Columbia and the legal and zoning issues that the residents have faced.

    There are some really inspiring living spaces featured in the video.

    Post written by PJ Doland

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    Author: "PJ Doland" Tags: "Minimalism, Simple Living, Small Spaces"
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    Date: Wednesday, 06 Aug 2014 15:22

    All Unitasker Wednesday posts are jokes — we don’t want you to buy these items, we want you to laugh at their ridiculousness. Enjoy!

    Back in 2011, we featured The dipr in one of our Unitasker columns. It’s a spoon made to only hold sandwich cookies when you dunk them in milk — to clarify, it’s only for cookies like Oreos and Hydroxes. It’s cute, but undoubtedly a unitasker.

    Since its introduction into the sandwich-cookie-dipping market, a few problems have been discovered with the product. The most notable of these problems is that The dipr doesn’t work well with standard cups. The angle of the handle is too shallow, so the cookie rolls off The dipr when you go to dip your cookie in milk. Instead of doing the sensible thing and changing the angle of the handle to improve the product, the same company has introduced a specialty shallow cup to hold your milk! The dunkr:

    Now, you can buy The dipr AND The dunkr! For $15! One cup. $15 for just one cup. Not two, not four, one. All to “fix” a bug with the original product.

    Can you imagine if a car company “fixed” a failing brake problem by asking customers to buy special padding to wrap the car in instead of fixing the brakes? Or if a roofing company solved a leaking problem by telling its customers to buy buckets to catch dripping water?

    This does nothing to help my faith in the manufacturing industry.

    Post written by Erin Doland

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    Author: "Erin Doland" Tags: "Unitasker Wednesday"
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    Date: Wednesday, 06 Aug 2014 14:15

    2010

    • Unitasker Wednesday: The Daddle
      Oh, Daddle, you are one of the most special and strangely inappropriate unitaskers I have encountered.
    • Bringing clutter into the light
      Is there clutter hiding in your basement, attic, or garage? Is it at the back of a closet, under the kitchen sink, or in your medicine chest? What is the situation under your bed, in the linen closet, and in the drawers of your entertainment center?
    • Ask Unclutterer: What should I do with old awards?
      In sorting old memorabilia, I have found my large collection of award ribbons from the many fairs and shows that I competed in as a youth. There are some that I plan to keep that really meant a lot to me. But I literally have a large Sterilite container full of these. Do you have any suggestions on a nice way for me to store these or some sort of way to use them? I hate to just throw them out.

    2009

    Post written by PJ Doland

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    Author: "PJ Doland" Tags: "A Year Ago"
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    Date: Tuesday, 05 Aug 2014 14:53

    One of the questions I ask when tempted to save and file some paper (or save information electronically) is: Under what circumstances will I ever pull this out and look at it again?

    Some items obviously need to be saved for tax and legal reasons (talk to an accountant, tax lawyer, and/or estate lawyer in your state to know exactly what the law requires you retain). But, what about the other bits of information we tend to save?

    I started thinking about the items I have indeed pulled out and looked at again, and what prompted me to look at those items. I asked the following questions, which have led me to keep specific types of additional documents:

    Large purchase receipts: When did I buy my refrigerator?

    My refrigerator was making strange noises, and I was wondering whether I was going to need to replace it. A starting point in the repair vs. replace question is how old was the refrigerator. To answer this, I looked up the receipt, which I had scanned. Keeping receipts for large purchases can help with returns and warranties — and if the receipt is for a large appliance that will remain in the house when you move, you can pass it on to the next home owner.

    Computer instructions: What apps do I need to update before I update my operating system?

    When I went to update my MacBook to the Mavericks OS, I looked to my computer bookmarks to find the site that had an extensive list answering just this question. I’ve since shared this list with two other people who had the same question.

    Additionally, sometimes when I’m using an application that I use infrequently, I may forget how to do certain actions. I’ve filed away how-to information that was a bit difficult to find, so I have it handy when I need to do the same thing again.

    Local resources: What can I do with this old fur coat I inherited?

    I get questions like this from my organizing clients, and I have bookmarks in my online browser with resources, ready to share. You may wish to keep a similar reference file with business cards, notes you’ve jotted down from friends’ recommendations, etc.

    Travel resources: What did I want to see in a city I’m going to visit?

    For places I’m hoping to visit someday, I keep bookmarks and scanned articles about them in a digital folder; other people may choose to keep such information in Evernote or in paper. While it’s easy to search for major tourist sites in any city, and nothing replaces an up-to-date guidebook, I also like the articles that point me to oddities I might not find otherwise or point me to things worth noticing at those major tourist sites. Visiting places like this have often been a highlight of a trip.

    Looking at these questions, I can see what has been useful is practical information that I can’t necessarily find through a quick online search. Realizing this is the information I reference, it will help me make better decisions in the future about what to keep and what to toss. Now it’s time to ask yourself: Under what circumstances will I ever pull this out and look at it again?

    Post written by Jeri Dansky

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    Author: "Jeri Dansky" Tags: "Home Organization, Paper, Tips"
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    Date: Monday, 04 Aug 2014 14:32

    Of the 16 different homes in which I have lived, 12 of them did not have a designated utility closet. Most of the houses had basements or garages and we were able to our utility items in those areas. However, in a few homes, we had to be creative with our storage space, as in addition to not having a utility closet we didn’t have a basement or garage. The following are some storage solutions we’ve come up with over the years as alternatives for storing utility items in areas other than a utility closet, garage, or basement.

    Cleaning products

    Start by cutting down on the amount of cleaners you have. Consider using an all-purpose cleaner instead of specific cleaners for bathrooms or kitchens. Also, purchase smaller containers of cleaning products. It is a little more expensive in the longterm, but it is worth a few pennies per ounce not to have crammed cupboards. A small wash bucket can double as a caddy in which to carry the cleaning products around the house.

    Here are some possible places to store cleaning products if there is no designated utility closet.

    • Bathroom cupboard
    • Kitchen cupboard (away from food storage and preparation areas)
    • Laundry room cupboard or shelf
    • Hallway or linen closet on an upper shelf

    Most cleaning products, even the all-natural, organic ones, can be toxic. It is important to keep them out of the reach of children and pets. Ensure the products are on an upper shelf or cabinet doors are fitted with safety locks.

    Paper products

    Paper products should be stored close to where they are used. In the bathroom, consider using a multi-roll toilet roll holder so you don’t need shelf storage. Extra rolls of toilet paper can also be stored in a bathroom cabinet, in a basket or bin beside the toilet. A narrow shelf above the toilet can also provide some storage space. Surplus rolls also could be stored in a hallway closet or under a bed.

    Paper towels (or kitchen roll as it’s called here in the UK) and paper napkins are often stored in the cupboard under the kitchen sink, however, if there is a leak, all of the paper towels and napkins may get ruined. Since these paper products are lightweight, consider storing them on the top shelf in a hallway closet, above kitchen cabinets, or in the cupboard over the refrigerator. Remember that paper towels are flammable and should not be stored above or near the stove or oven.

    Brooms, mops, and vacuum cleaners

    Brooms and mops can fit in narrow spaces. Additional storage suggestions:

    • Between the refrigerator and the wall
    • Inside closets or tall cupboards
    • Behind kitchen or bathroom doors

    You can even squeeze a folding stepladder in these narrow spaces.

    Vacuum cleaners are generally big and bulky. More storage options:

    • In one end of a hallway closet or bedroom clothes closet.
    • In a tall cupboard in the kitchen.
    • Behind a doorway.
    • Under a stairwell.
    • Behind a tall houseplant in the corner of the living room (upright vacuums)
    • In a chest or trunk that doubles as a table or seat (canister vacuums).

    Tools

    Having a few essential tools handy will help you complete household projects quickly and easily. Ideally tools should be stored in a locked box so little fingers cannot access things they shouldn’t. A toolbox can be stored under a bed, sofa, or chair or it can be stored on a shelf or in the bottom of a closet. A larger toolbox can be stored inside a closet or it can double as a console table in an entryway.

    Everything Else

    There are many small items that may be kept in a utility closet. These include batteries, extension cords, screws, nails, bolts, extra cable ties, bungee cords, padlocks, keys, and even some UFOs. It is best to sort these items into categories and use small containers to keep them organized. My favourite container is the Professional Organizer by Stanley. It is great for small things like nails and screws. A tower of plastic drawers is ideal for a closet or cupboard and can be used to store larger items such as flashlights, duct tape, and vacuum cleaner attachments. If you’re looking for something a little more aesthetically pleasing than plastic drawers, consider purchasing end tables with drawers and using chests of drawers as console tables and hallway tables to maximize your storage space.

    There is no right or wrong way to organize utility items — use whatever method works best for you and the space where you live.

    Post written by Jacki Hollywood Brown

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    Author: "Jacki Hollywood Brown" Tags: "Home Organization, Tips"
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