Saturday, July 30, 2011

Meditations for Parents Who Do Too Much

book cover - Meditations for Parents Who Do Too Much

A dear friend once gave me a box filled with various words — imagine, blessings, abundance, and such — on individual slips of paper; I pull one out each day, and see what it inspires within me. The daily entries in Meditations for Parents Who Do Too Much are more than a single word, but each day's entry takes only a single page.

And given the book's title, it's not surprising that it touches on some organizing themes. Here are just a few small portions of what caught my eye; note that the quotes shown are not the whole entry for any given day. Some of them may even speak to those of us who are not parents!

January 20:
We hear lots of parents complain that they are so busy doing other things that they have little "quality" time with their kids.

But if we're going to find that time, we may have to relax our standards. We may have to let the laundry pile up, let a day's phone messages lapse, let the dog go without his bath. A little "disorder" may be necessary, if we're going to find the time to read that bedtime story.
August 16:
As parents who do too much, we are often prioritizing. We will put aside the medical checkup, the long-distance call to a friend — because there are "important" things to get done — things that need our immediate attention.

But let us not confuse urgency with importance. Just because something sits up and begs at our feet, does not mean we have to throw it a bone.
August 18:
The greatest gift I give my children is the time I spend with them.
September 2:
In this society, we are so bent on accomplishing all our tasks as quickly as possible, that we rarely, if ever, think about the enjoyment of our work, how it may enrich us, or what we may learn from it. Rather, we're immersed in getting it "done."
September 14:
Some of us now have a mountain of accumulated things that seemed totally necessary a few years ago. Our basements appear to be a distribution center for Toys-R-Us. It's not just that our children outgrew much of what we bought. That is inevitable. It's that a great deal of these things were never used or never enjoyed.
December 7:
Our lives and our closets have a lot in common. Both are cluttered with things we could easily do without.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Laundry Hampers: A Better Option Than the Floor or the Treadmill

hamper from ctoon canvas

Looking for a hamper that's cool enough that family members might actually use it? Take a look at the lovely hampers from Lovell Designs. [via Apartment Therapy]

felt laundry baskets in red and purple

Hey-Sign has felt laundry baskets, in grey and in bright colors; you can buy them here.

laundry basket from Vetiver root

Another unusual option is this laundry basket made from vetiver, a "deep growing and naturally aromatic root." The vendor says that "the natural aroma of the vetiver root hamper should keep even the dirtiest laundry smelling fresh." Update on August 25, 2012: The Global Exchange Fair Trade online store that was selling this laundry basket is offline, although the organization does have physical stores that are still open. But you can find a vetiver and linen hamper online at 7 Hopes United.

African basket hamper

And then there are the stunning baskets made by the Wolof Weavers of Senegal; they're "woven from a local grass and plastic strips recycled from used prayer mats." You can find them Swahili African Modern, VivaTerra, and Connected Goods.

Related Posts
7 Special Laundry Hampers
6 Laundry Hampers from Around the World

Monday, July 25, 2011

Saying No to Free Hotel Toiletries

Survey on USA Today's travel site, via Veronica Stoddart.

USA Today's survey is far from scientific — but I was still interested in the results, showing that more than 50% of the people who took this survey said they took hotel toiletries with them. And back in March 2010, Christopher Elliot wrote, "A recent Travelocity survey found 86 percent of hotel guests admitted to taking toiletries, like oatmeal soap and lavender body gel."

If you're really going to use those toiletries, then sure — go ahead and take them. The hotel certainly won't mind. But if they're just going to take up space in one of your closets, how about just leaving them behind?

Here are a few tales of people who found they had accumulated a bit too much. (You may want to read the full stories; I'm just including a brief excerpt from each one.) The first is from a story in Time called The Simple Life: Goodbye to having it all:
For Karen Glance, 36, it came down to all those little packets of shampoo. She remembers the morning she opened her bathroom cabinet in St. Paul and counted 150 that had followed her home from hotels in dozens of cities.
Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist writes:
i forget exactly why i ever thought it was a good idea to take home the hotel shampoo/conditioner/lotion. i think it was because i thought it would be good for weekend travel, which it is… but last year when i cleaned out my bathroom, i realized that i didn’t need a whole shelf full of little bottles of shampoo.
And Moata Tamaira writes:
I go nuts about anything that could be accurately described as "complimentary". I'm talking lotions. I'm talking shower gel. I'm talking funny looking plastic shower caps. Whatever is on offer, regardless of whether I will use it or not, I take. ...

What I do have to admit to myself, and to you all, is that it's really not about the usefulness of the products ... it's really just about me acquiring them. Take the shampoo and conditioner, for instance. I'm quite fussy about my hair and I'll pretty much stick to using my usual products. Certainly I'm not going to risk my locks on some unknown hotel branded stuff. ... But I still take the stuff home with me, which means I've got a lovely collection of random tiny-sized hair products in my bathroom cabinet that I pretty much will never use.
Finally, Eric on A Penny Closer point out that, for many, there's something about the psychology of free:
I have to admit, I’ve been guilty of hoarding free stuff. Specifically hotel shampoos and soaps. Not out of frugality. Not out of need. It was really because ... I felt I had paid for them, so I better take them. It makes no sense. But I did it anyhow.

We went to dinner with some friends over the weekend. ... My friend brought up a point I hadn’t considered: You know, if they charged you a penny for those toiletries, I bet you wouldn’t take them.

Immediately, I knew he was right. A penny. A single stinking penny.
If you find you've got a stash of unopened toiletries that you're not going to use, you may want to donate them to a shelter for the homeless, or one for battered women. And remember that even shampoo goes bad over time, so do that donating while the products are still good. Real Simple says shampoo and conditioner last 2-3 years from manufacture date, while bath gel and body wash last 3 years.

Related Posts:
Free Promotional Products: Just Say No
Declining Free (but Useless) Stuff
Get Your Free Valentine's Day Teddy Bear!
Who Needs Another Coffee Mug? Pen? Free Calendar?
Green Useless Stuff is Still Clutter

Saturday, July 23, 2011

What Happens After You Donate that T-Shirt

Book cover - The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy

Do you ever wondered what becomes of the clothing those of us in the U.S. donate to charity? Pietra Rivoli explains it all in her book, The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy. I didn't read this whole book, just the last three chapters — and it was a fascinating read.

You may have already known that much of the clothing donated to Goodwill or The Salvation Army winds up overseas, because there simply isn't enough demand in the U.S. for the huge amount of clothing that gets donated. (And about 85 percent of the clothes we throw away goes into landfill, which is sad — since almost all of it can be reused.)

But much of what Rivoli explains was new to me, including this concept:
The global used clothing industry is ... a fascinating study in the market for "snowflakes," as almost every item of clothing that enters the trade is unique. ...

The snowflake factor means that the most successful firms in the industry are those with highly developed expertise in picking out special snowflakes, and with worldwide but personal relationships that allow them to match snowflakes with customers.
Rivoli takes you to one such company, Trans-America, which has been a family business for multiple generations. About half of the clothing it buys "has another life to live as clothing" while the rest — clothes that are torn or stained, for example — goes to rags, or gets shredded into bits for various industrial uses. Trans-America loses money on this part of the business; the money comes from finding those snowflakes.

Certain items of clothing are especially in demand, and may go to London, Tokyo, New York or Los Angeles, and sell for quite a sum. When this book was written, T-shirts from 1970s rock bands were one such item. Other clothing goes to places like Eastern Europe, the Philippines, Chile and Guatemala. "But most of the clothing whizzing by on Trans-America's conveyer belt is headed to Africa."

And Rivoli takes us to Tanzania to see what happens next. "Almost all of the men and boys in Dar Es Salaam wear mitumba —clothing thrown away by Americans and Europeans." And African buyers are just as particular as those anywhere else in the world — so again, "the business is all about snowflakes."

Rivoli notes that "critics of the used clothing trade are not hard to find," and a number of countries, including some in Africa, ban the import of used clothing. But she argues:
There is little evidence ... that the African textile industries — at least in many countries — would be flourishing but for mitumba. ... The Tanzanian textile industry, ironically, seems to have withered long before the flood of mitumba, and now is recovering even in the face of swells of used clothing imports. ...

As for employment, while mitumba may destroy some jobs, it very clearly creates others.
But a brief summary and a few quotes can't do justice to Rivoli's writing; I recommend reading this book if the topic interests you. There's a second edition of the book out now, and I've reserved it from my library system. I'll come back and modify this post if anything has changed significantly in that new edition.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Food Storage: Alternatives to Plastic

glass food storage bowl, with farm animal design

Some plastic food storage containers are safer than others, as I've noted before. But if you were already concerned about plastics, the latest research might increase those concerns; it indicates there may be problems even with BPA-free plastics.

I'm not trying to tell you not to use plastics; that's very much an individual decision, based on the imperfect knowledge we have now. But for those who do choose to avoid or minimize plastic food storage, let's look at some of the alternatives — beyond those I've listed before.

1. The storage bowls from Fishs Eddy are a fun choice. That's one of them, at the top of this post. They come in 16- and 24-ounce sizes, in a variety of patterns.

glass storage bowls with lids

2. Duralex, from France, also has glass storage with plastic lids. You can also see them at the Duralex USA web site. One place to buy them is Chefs.

airtight glass food storage with stainless steel lid, square

3. Sanctus Mundo has a number of interesting storage choices, mostly stainless steel. But the company now also sells airtight glass storage with stainless steel lids, which you can buy at Life Without Plastic. These containers come in several different sizes. [via Care2; thanks to the friend who sent me to this blog post]

fabric food covers

4. If you like the idea of glass storage containers but don't like the plastic lids they often come with, take a look at the fabric food covers at Hunter Gatherer. [via Remodelista] Update on Feb. 18, 2014: These are called BowlOvers, and you can now find them on the BowlOver website.

fabric food bowl covers

5. You can also get reusable bowl covers in a whole range of patterns from Taila Custom Designs.

Related Posts:
Plastic Food Storage: OK or Not?
Reader Question: Glass Food Storage
The Latest on Plastic Food Storage - And Alternatives
Another Scary Thing, as We Approach Halloween: BPA

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Fun with Office Supplies: Paper Clip Holders

paper clip and single-pencil holder, green, human shape

If you've got paper clips scattered all over the place — or if you have one of those boring paper clip holders sold at big box office supply stores — you might want to look at some fun ways to corral those clips. The one above is called the Desk Knight.


This car-shaped paperweight and clip holder comes from Philippi.

car-shaped paper clip holder and paperweight

Troika, in Germany, has so many fun choices that it's hard to pick just one. This car is sold by The Black and White Gift Shop in Australia. Liberty in the U.K. has the Troika ocean liner and red racing car. Morphose in Germany has the motorcycle, the excavator, and more. [via Retro to Go]

stacked stones paperweight and paper clip holder

OK — I can't show you just one, because I have to include the Inukshuk. You can find this one at Rolo and Skripta-Paris (lava and pebble colors).

magnetic paper clip holder, bird shaped

Alessi makes this paper clip holder, called Chip; you can find it many places, including Unica Home. [via Switched On Set]

wood paper clip holder

This paper clip holder comes from ScanWood, also available from Panik and Modetwentyone. [via Better Living Through Design]

bobble head paper clip holder - lion
bobble head paper clip holder - man

And let me leave you with a couple of the bobble head paper clip holders by Amy Hardacre.

Related Post:
Paper Clip Holders with Pizzazz - for Office Supply Addicts and More

Monday, July 11, 2011

Two Companies with Amazing Storage Ottomans

large storage ottoman, lovely fabric
Photo used with permission.

Want a unique storage piece? Look at the ottomans — including one intended for files — created by Nomad Ideas in the U.K. They're covered with kilims from Istanbul, and they're gorgeous. [via The Daily Basics]

Photo used with permission.

And then take a look at the ottomans and stools made by Katie Thompson of Recreate, based in South Africa. You'll find hatbox ottomans such as the one shown above, as well as suitcase stools. From Africa with Love, a showroom/gallery in Amsterdam, carries a limited selection. [via The Design Tabloid]

Related Posts:
Storage Ottomans with Style
Filing Cabinet Alternative: File Storage Ottomans
Small Space Solutions: Storage in a Stool

Sunday, July 10, 2011

July 2011 Organizing Tips and More

basket made from sweetgrass and pine needles

Worn-out clothes don't have to go to landfill. To learn how to donate them, see my July 2011 newsletter!

Also included in the newsletter:

- Product of the Month: Basket from Pine Needle Perfection

- Organizing Quote of the Month

- Twitter Updates: little tidbits you might enjoy

If you'd like to get my newsletter by e-mail, you can subscribe.

Small Space Solutions: Storage in a Stool

storage stool / pouff

Small spaces and dual-purpose furniture go together — and one such furniture piece is the storage stool. For storage and a splash of color, there's the Candy storage pouff from Calligaris; many different color combinations are offered. You can buy it here, here and here. [via From Europe]

sorage stool / pouf

Wildspirit, in Belgium, provides the Stoll 50, "serviceable as pouf, side table, serving tray and storage trunk." One place to buy it online is here. If you like color, check out the orange leather cushion option.

bucket storage stools

Pedersen + Lennard, in South Africa, created the bucket stool; you can get one here. [via The Design Tabloid]

storage stool, wool fabric, ikat pattern

This ikat storage stool comes from VivaTerra.

upholstered storage stool

And finally, there's the Ava storage stool from Neiman Marcus.

Related Posts:
Dual-Purpose Furniture: The Storage Stool
2 Storage Stools from Europe
Beyond IKEA: Scandinavian Designs to Help You Organize - scroll down to the Tunto Design product

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Reader Question: Organizing the Greeting Cards from a Wedding

Stuffed in a large envelope in the filing cabinet is all our cards from our wedding. I'd like to have them in some sort of album, or box, so we can occassionally look at them. I don't want to scrapbook them, 'cause it's hard to keep the inside message and outside pretty all together. Any ideas?

This question came in as a comment to another post, and I'm late in responding — but yes, I have ideas!

1. Get a good box.
Since these cards are precious to you, it's probably worth getting something that's truly archival quality: acid-free and lignin-free. Since "archival" is meaningless in the labeling of products, and not all items listed as acid-free truly are, I tend to go with the companies I see recommended time and again: Gaylord, Hollinger Metal Edge, and Light Impressions.

2. Get an album designed specifically for cards.
Postmarked sells such albums; the sleeves are made from "archival quality polypropylene."

3. Scan the cards.
You could then have the scans printed into an album — or just enjoy viewing them online. You could scan the cards yourself, or use a company that provides a scanning service.

Anyone else have ideas? What have you done with the very special cards you wanted to save?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Got Purse Clutter? Consider a Purse Organizer!

purse organizer

Struggling to organize the contents of your purse? You must have a lot of company — because there sure are a lot of businesses selling purse organizers! I've written about purse organizers twice before — see the related posts at the end of this post — but I've since found many more. Let's start with the lovely purse organizers from Divide and Conquer, sold on Etsy. They come in many different sizes and patterns (and solid colors, too).

purse organizer

Another Etsy seller with a nice range of purse organizers is It's All in the Bag.

purse organizer, blue

The Purse Perfector comes in two sizes and various colors. Since I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, I was delighted to read that these organizers are actually made in San Francisco! And here's an interesting note: "Each Purse Perfector order is hand-packed by a local nonprofit, Easter Seals Work Resource Center, an organization dedicated to training the developmentally disabled in meaningful work for a variety of businesses."

purse organizer insert

I first discovered the PurseN organizer inserts on the Levenger web site, but there are many more options than the one Levenger carries.

purse organizer, plaid

The purse organizer from Plaid Doctrine was mentioned in the comments on a prior post, but not everyone would have seen the comments — and this is an organizer worth seeing.

handbag organiser

Now let's leave the U.S., and go to London, where Oliepops is based. The company's handbag organisers come in five different colors, and the company provides free worldwide shipping.

handbag organiser, aqua blue

Bragbags, based in Australia, has a number of interesting handbag organisers, handmade in Vietnam.

purse / bag organizer
purse / bag organizer

And finally, we have the purse organizers that come to us from Korea, from invite.L, Standard Number, and iswas. Invite.L handles international orders, but you can also find these products at Yesstyle, which also has web sites for the U.K., Australia and Hong Kong. You can also get them from Designed by Korea — or from MochiThings, which doesn't identify the brand/designer.

Related Posts:
Purse Organizer Found During Flight to Paris (and 8 More)
Can't Find Anything in Your Purse? 10 Purse Organizers to the Rescue!
An Organizer Opens Her Purse

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Bathroom Organizing: Shower Curtains with Pockets

shower curtain with nine pockets

If your bathroom lacks storage space, a shower curtain with pockets might be useful. This one from Maytex is widely available; see here and here. The same product — or something that looks very similar — is sold as Colormate and Home Classics.

green shower curtain with pockets

The Wintertek utility shower curtain has "four large self-draining pockets, capable of storing eight regular-sized shampoo and conditioner bottles and two loops (one large and one small) to accommodate various sizes of toothbrushes and razors." It comes in five different colors. [via Freshome]

shower curtain with ocean theme - and pockets

And Pottery Barn Kids has its Ocean Shower Curtain with some smaller pockets.

Related Post:
Shower Curtains to Get You Organized