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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Magazine clutter...

I absolutely love this post by Lorie Marreno of Clutter Diet.

National Geographic Collections: Golden Shelves of Glory?

NatgeoOne of the most humorous things I notice in my work as a Professional Organizer is how many people collect National Geographic magazines.I think of them as the "Golden Shelves of Glory" when I walk into a room and see them.Here's a photo of some in a basement, but often they are very prominently displayed in living rooms or in office shelving units.
Funny thing-- I have never met anyone who actually references them or does anything useful with them beyond occasionally letting their kids cut them up for social studies projects. (Clearly now that I have said this, I will hear from someone in the comments how saving these won them a science project award, made them some money, saved someone's life, stopped a bullet, etc.)
In my opinion, saving National Geographic, along with its close cousins The New Yorker and Architectural Digest, provides us examples of these three phenomena:
  1. "Perfectly Good" Syndrome. "These are too nice to throw away... surely these have some kind of value! I don't want to waste them!" Read here on National Geographic's own website where it says that issues from the 1920s to the present are fairly easy to find. Are some of yours older than 1920? If so, they may be worth something to a serious collector (here is a list of dealers that NG maintains). But if you have the typical last few decades' worth, they are a dime a dozen.
  2. "Manifest Destiny/Collect Them All" Syndrome. "I've collected these since I was a kid." So you keep on doing it, just because... but why? Really, why?  This may have become an unconscious action and you have a choice to stop doing it at any moment. Having a "complete" collection of these magazines doesn't provide any more value to your life than not having it. You can just stop.
  3. "I'm a Sophisticated Person" Syndrome. You're not even reading them when they arrive, but you're saving them because somewhere in your mind it makes you feel like you're the kind of person who does read them. Subscribing and saving them makes you absorb their knowledge by osmosis alone. And when people come over and look at your bookshelves, they know you're a literary, worldly kind of guy. Sometimes owning certain objects allows us to believe things about our own identity-- things that might not reflect reality but instead reflect our aspirations and visions of our ideal selves.
Here are some questions to consider about your magazine collection:
  • Do you ever refer to them?
  • Are they useful in any way?
  • Are they beautiful? Yes, they are Golden Shelves of Glory, but what else could be in their place that you might enjoy more, like favorite books or photos or artwork?
  • Have they added any value to your life, enough to merit the space they occupy?
  • Have you indexed your collection?  In other words, if you needed information on Burkina Faso, would you know which issue to grab?
  • Could you find that same information online or in your public library, without having to be "the keeper of the archives" yourself?
  • What would happen if you moved? Do you realize how much your collection weighs and how much it would cost you to move it?
  • Do you realize that your kids do not want to have this collection? (I am a betting kind of gal and I would take that bet.)
  • What is the cost of keeping it? Storage costs money, particularly if you have offsite storage units. Golden Shelves of Glory represent many linear feet of shelf space that could be used for other more useful and relevant things.
National Geographic suggests on their FAQ page that you donate your collections to schools or hospitals, and they give some addresses where you can mail your collections (but you'll have to pay shipping costs-- look out!). Here in Austin, Half Price Books stores do take them and sell them, and your local used book dealer may also do so. You can also try selling or giving them away at a garage sale. And, you can recycle them. You really can--they are just paper and millions of copies of them exist elsewhere. If you must, keep some issues that are relevant to your own life, like the issue from your month and year of birth or those of your children or grandchildren.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Pantries I have known...

As a bay area professional organizer, I get to work on a lot of kitchen pantries.  It's one of my favorite things.  Every kitchen has its challenges and it's the opportunity to solve those issues for a family that is so exciting.

Pantries often suffer from over crowding, lack of organizing supplies, misplacement of type of item, failure to discard the old items, too many people accessing without know where things should go.

Here are some pantries I've worked on over the years...







Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Q + A = but we don't have a pantry

Yes, I know...lots of kitchens don't come with a formal pantry.  Organizing my client's homes, I've had to create many a pantry area.  

Sometimes a closet or laundry area near the kitchen can be organized into a shared space to include a food pantry.  Once in while, even part of a garage can be designated for food, using proper storage cabinetry.

In apartments with small kitchens, we choose a particular set of cupboards and make it the food storing, we taken the upper cabinets furthest from the kitchen sink and used them to house food.  We organized the cabinets so that like items are together, things that are not used as often are on the top shelves and we've kept bottles on the bottom for easy reach.  Small food items, like packets of instant noodles, are binned in acrylic containers to keep them from falling all over.  Products that might go stale are in Snapware.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What's in your pantry...

February is "Organize Your Pantry" month, at least according to me.  I decided this when I went to make chili and pulled out a can of tomatoes that expired in is this possible?

Those expiration dates often come as a surprise to my organizing clients as well.  I can't tell you how many cans I have had to pry off the back of pantry shelves, as they leaked their contents from 1982.  It's so easy to push cans and bottles to the back of the shelf when you bring home supplies are in a hurry to get them off the kitchen counter.

So, let's just take a look at what is going on in our pantries this month.  Even if you just do one shelf at a time, by the end of the month you will probably have a pretty good looking pantry.

Getting started:  pick a shelf and pull everything out, check the dates, check the condition of the contents - are cans bulging? Do you still recognize the contents of what's in the jars?  Will you ever use that one can of coconut milk you bought on a whim...

Now is a good time to wipe down those sticky shelves and maybe even change the contact paper.

Group like things together, soups with soups, veggies with veggies, etc. Bin like items - think peanut butter and jelly or beans and rice.

Use airtight containers to hold items that go stale, like crackers, cookies and cereals.  
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