Archive for August, 2008

Paper Shredding Scissors – Tool or Toy?

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

In a previous post, I showed you the Dynomighty Magnets. Well the same company sells this cool set of portable shredding scissors. “This new Luddite paper shredder is perfect for those small items that you want to shred like voided checks or store receipts.” Made by Compact-Impact.

Made with stainless steel construction, they report the mechanics are very smooth and they feel great in your hand. I personally use a shredder that sits on the floor near my desk, but I could
see these scissors being used by someone in their kitchen or in a bedroom where they might want to toss a receipt they had in their pocket.

Available on line for $19.50. Buy a set for the person who tears up receipts into tiny pieces. At least they’ll save their fingers using the scissors.

Watch this video to see how easily they slice and dice a check into confetti.

I see these scissors as a toy more then a useful tool for the home.  They are certainly quieter then a document shredder but not nearly as efficient.

Space Saving Kitchen Items

Monday, August 25th, 2008

I simply love when brilliant people recreate common products to fit space limitations or with a new twist. Here are a few favorite pieces I have stumbled upon.

Origami for the Kitchen.
Orikaso has taken a completely flat piece of ultra lightweight polypropylene and engineered it to fold into a bowl, cup, or plate. Imagine the envious people around you when your picnic basket is smaller and lighter in weight, yet you’re sporting ultra cool blanket-top dish ware. Currently you can buy a dinner set, after dinner set, or a complete set for an individual.

Their web store has announced they will soon come out with a fold-up colander/strainer, cutting boards, and a set designed specifically for picnics. I hope they’re released in time for the great Fall movie events on the National Mall. For ‘green’ readers, yes, it is dishwasher safe and you can recycle the items if necessary. However, with a 10 year guarantee, you’ll have these items around for years of enjoyment. Check out how to fold bowl actually folds from a flat piece of polypropylene into the bowl.

Perfect For A Picnic.
Speaking of fantastic picnic plates, check out this amazing plastic plate I recently saw at one my favorite stores in DC, HomeRule. Designed with caterers in mind, this plate allows the user to snap her utensils into place and also hold a wine glass. No more fumbling over how to hold your glass and no more sticking your fork and spoon in your pocket as you move through the buffet line. Problem solved with the all-in-one design. There are even two locations to put your dipping sauces.

Shop HomeRule online or stop in the store to buy a set of 8 plates for $9.99. Grace, the store’s manager, reports that their shoppers love the fact the plates are dishwasher safe and not easily scratched. If not for picnics, use them for your next office luncheon or holiday party. The plates have a luxurious image versus that of something disposable. Plus I love that it is 100% recyclable. What this video to see how the plate works.

If you want to see the video produced by the makers of the CaterPlate, click here to go to Youtube.

Multipurpose & Space Saving Design.
You’ve probably seen the collapsible measuring cups and colanders, but check out the Foldibowl™. This bowl has no hard plastic because it is made completely out of silicon. Therefore it can also be used as a trivet. I love that I can flip it over and push it on to the counter top, where it will stick like a suction cup. It’s a great tool for boaters who don’t want bowls sliding around for those days when they’re out on rough water. I’m going to be giving these as gifts to my friends with boats and to my parents, who have a motor home. To buy online, Google Foldibowl, or check out your local Bed Bath & Beyond store. The lowest price I found online was here.

Do you have a favorite space saving kitchen product? If so, leave a comment to share it with our readers.

Old Denim? Put It To Use for Habitat!

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

Recently I worked with a client who lives in Silver Spring, Maryland. We’ve been clearing out her basement in order to create a home office and exercise area. In the process we discovered a box full of jeans. No, the box wasn’t full of Earnest Sewn, 7 For All ManKind, or Diesel. We had the wide leg kind, short-short cut-offs, painter jeans, and even the classic overalls. Holly explained “my accumulation of jeans was inspired by a quilt my mother made when I was in high school.”

Holly found numerous things to donate (which really helped move the basement project along). I left her with the assignment to find a new home for the donations before I returned one week later. Today, Holly emailed me to say she found the perfect place for the denim. “Since I recognize that I will never get around to making a quilt for myself, and that I can put the jeans to a good use, I was able to let go of them.”

An eighth grade student in Montgomery County, Christa Guild, is collecting jeans for a denim drive sponsored by Cotton Inc. and Habitat for Humanity of Montgomery County ReStore in Gaithersburg.

All the jeans collected will be shipped to California. There the jeans begin their transformation into Cotton Fiber Insulation. California-based Allen Company donates their resources to bale the denim. Next, the material is sent to JBM Fibers in Texas. JBM converts the denim back into cotton fiber. Eventually, the cotton fiber will be sent to Arizona, where Bonded Logic Inc. makes it into UltraTouch Natural Cotton Fiber Insulation. It’s lots of work for a cool product, which Habitat for Humanity will use in new houses built in New Orleans and the Gulf region.

As noted in the May 7th edition of the Montgomery County Gazette, Guild has already collected 114 pairs of jeans. She said, ‘‘we’re trying to get 500 because that’s how much it takes to insulate one house.”

The denim insulation is not created with harsh chemicals, is 30% more sound proof then fiberglass insulation, is hypo-allergenic, and it is not itchy like other insulation. The UltraTouch Natural Cotton Fiber Insulation can be installed without gloves or masks. Wouldn’t that make every insulation installer happier?

Cotton Inc. partnered with Habitat for Humanity of Montgomery County ReStore to bring the drive to Montgomery County for the first time this year, said Adeela Abbasi, marketing and communications manager with Habitat for Humanity ReStore. The goal for the county is to collect 2,500 pairs of jeans and insulate five homes.

Deadline for donations is September 2, 2008!
Be sure to donate before Labor Day. Take your jeans to:

Six Email Tips to Save Time

Friday, August 15th, 2008

Like most of you, I receive an overwhelming
volume of e-mail each day. I get e-mails from clients, my volunteer work, list-serves, family, etc. It’s simply exhausting. In order to preserve my sanity, it was critical for me to develop effective, time saving e-mail management techniques. Here are a few of my secrets:

Self-Management
Filters can help you save time by having your e-mail program manage itself. E-mail programs such as Outlook, Gmail, and Entourage can be configured to filter emails directly into folders. This includes sending spam directly to the trash. By filtering your e-mail, you’ll be able to selectively read mail in each folder as time allows.

Not on Demand
Conditioned like Pavlov’s dog, many of us are trained to respond to e-mail as soon as we hear “you’ve got mail.” If your e-mail program announces when mail arrives, turn off this feature or simply turn down the volume. You will be able to better focus on the project at hand.

Set a Time
Your work flow is disrupted if you stop to answer e-mails as they arrive. Your productivity will increase if you set aside a specific time each day to review and respond to e-mail. You may need only one block of time or your inbox may require more frequent reviews. If you set aside dedicated times to responding to mail, you’ll boost your efficiency.

Avoid Peak Hours
Most e-mail responses don’t require great thought, creativity, or analytical concentration. Therefore, avoid answering e-mails during your most productive time of the day. I am most creative and productive in the morning. Sometimes answering e-mails first thing in the morning can drain me of that positive energy. Put that power time to full use and save your e-mail replies for a time when you’re not at your peak performance.

Discover Technology
Using a smart phone with wireless technology (iPhone, Treo, Blackberry) allows me to use my unexpected downtime for practical purposes. If I arrive at a meeting early, find myself stuck in an airport, or simply don’t want to be tied to my computer on a beautiful day, I can use my phone from almost anywhere to quickly respond to e-mails. When I return to my office, I breathe a sigh of relief when I open my e-mail inbox and realize I’ve already responded to most of the messages.

Read, Respond, File. Repeat.
Use e-mail folders just like a paper file system. If you save e-mails, create folders and sub-folders for your inbox. This will make finding older mail simple and keep your inbox empty. For example, all e-mails from my family go into one specific folder. All e-mails related to my business go into a different folder. I use the “read, respond, and file” method as a great way to manage my inbox.

Survey Says, 62% Did It This Weekend!

Sunday, August 10th, 2008

Are you addicted to email? Because AOL Mail is curious. Each year, AOL Mail surveys their users on the email habits. Over 4,000 people age 13 and older were surveyed in June. Here are the results for Washington, DC. The results for the top 20 cities can be found here.

“In Washington, D.C., 46% say they’re hooked on email, matching the national average. Worse, 11% have even hid checking email from family.

The Punctuation Police
87% watch their spelling and punctuation when typing emails. More than two-thirds (68%) are irked by misspellings but 77% excuse the errors when the emails come from a mobile device, like a BlackBerry®.

My Email Filed for Bankruptcy
23% of email users have either declared “email bankruptcy,” deleting all of their email messages to start anew, or are seriously considering doing so.

23% have gotten a new email address to start fresh with a new inbox or are thinking about it. It’s no surprise then that the average DC user has 2.6 email accounts. It’s easy to get a new email address these days too, just visit My eAddress for a new one of your own.

I’ll Have the Duck, Just Let Me Send Off this Email
Nearly three-quarters (73%) of Washington email users say they’ve checked their email in a restaurant. Other popular email spots include in bed in their pajamas (62%), in a the bathroom (65%), while driving (49%), while on a date (32%), at happy hour (38%) and from church (14%).

It’s So Over, No Lose My Email Address
12% have asked someone out on a date over email and 6% have broken up over email. Meanwhile, 18% have used email to share bad news and 7% have quit their job by email.

Mixing Business & Pleasure
The average email user in Washington, DC checks personal email at work 3.6 times per day. Meanwhile, they also check work email more than 3 times in a given weekend.

19% plan vacations based on where they know they can access email, and 30% say they feel obligated to check work email while on a break from the office.

The First Email of the Morning
Almost a quarter (22%) of DC users check their email as soon as they wake up and 11% check email right when they get home from work. 37% even check their email in the middle of the night and 49% of mobile email users keep their mobile device or BlackBerry® on the nightstand so they can hear the chime of a new email arriving in their inbox.

Me and My Mobile Email
19% of email users check their email from a mobile device or cell phone. In fact, 51% of these users say they upgraded to a new cell phone in the last year because they wanted to get email while on-the-go. Want to get mobile email on your phone? Just click here to get started.”

I’m headed to Maine on vacation later this month. In the remote location where I’ll be camping, there is no internet access and no cell phone signals. I’ll have to unplug my spine and put away my iPhone for the week. I’m sure I’ll survive. I’m nothing like the guy in this video.

Do you have any experience with email addiction in you personal relationship or any rules with your significant other on cell phone use outside of work hours?

Going Green in DC With The USPS

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

The United States Postal Service has selected DC as one of ten cities to participate in a pilot program for recycling used small electronics. Ten cities doesn’t sound like very many, but it includes over 1500 branches. If the program is successful it could go nationwide.

You can recycle your cell phones, PDAs, MP3 players, digital cameras, ink cartridges, and other small electronics by simply dropping them in the small, postage-paid mailer available at DC area USPS branches.

According to a press release on the USPS website, the free program has a corporate sponsor.

Postage is paid for by Clover Technologies Group, a nationally recognized company that rec

ycles, remanufactures and remarkets inkjet cartridges, laser cartridges and small electronics. If the electronic item or cartridges cannot be refurbished and resold, its component parts are reused to refurbish other items, or the parts are broken down further and the materials are recycled. Clover Technologies Group has a “zero waste to landfill” policy: it does everything it can to avoid contributing any materials to the nation’s landfills.

It’s great the Postal Service is willing to participate in this program, enabling consumers to make environmentally friendly choices for their small electronics. I’ve wanted to test out the program so I took a field trip to my local Post Office branch. The box of return envelopes is not terribly large, so you might need to look around for it. Also, it appeared to be empty because the roll of envelopes was caught inside the box.

Once I had the envelope in hand, I was able to slide in a few different items. There are a few limitations which are not specified on the envelope. It is small, so whatever you slide inside must fit in a 5.5″ by 6.25″ envelope and total contents can’t weigh more than 13 ounces. The envelope doesn’t say the weight limit and I’m not going to pull out a scale to weigh the phones. If they want the phones, they’ll take them, right?

With a quick trip down the street to the
post office box, I was able to drop the mailer directly into the mail box. Because of the thickness of the phones I could not put it in the mail slot at the building where I live.

Overall I think the program is great. One suggestion is the USPS could include one mailer in each person’s mail box to increase the awareness of the program. Perhaps Clover Technologies Group should also pay for an advertising campaign to promote the project. I’ve shared the program’s information with many clients, friends, and local ‘green’ stores and no one had heard about the program. Perhaps the program can expand the number of locations the return envelopes are available? Most people avoid a trip to the post office at all cost!

If you’re reading this blog post and live in one of the 10 cities that is piloting this program, how did you hear about it?

Save Time and Money with Online Banking

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

I love online banking. I save time and money each month by using this free service. I can log in to my bank at my convenience to:

Save time, just like this Dad!

Save time just like this, Dad!

  • Make and schedule bill payments from any of my accounts
  • Schedule a recurring bill once and not have to worry about sending future payments of the same fixed rate
  • Request copies of payments or checks
  • View and download monthly statements
  • Change my address with the bank
  • Request a replacement card if mine ever breaks
  • Set up alerts if my account balance gets below a certain point–the alerts can be sent to my phone or to my computer

Paying your bills online also helps maintain lower interest rates and decrease your chance of defaulting to a higher APR. Keep in mind these helpful tips to pay your bills online:

  • Make a habit of paying bills as soon as they are received
  • Schedule a recurring payment through your bank’s online bill payment system
  • Allow the bill provider to auto-debit your bank account each month
  • Know your payment due dates each month, as they can sometimes vary
  • Use the bank’s alert system to remind you will bills are due
  • Remember the payment may take a few days to arrive depending on payment method and location

My favorite thing about online bill pay is the bank pays for the postage to mail the payment! Do you use auto debit or online bill pay each month? Do you think it saves you time and money?

Stop Junk Mail, I Dare You!

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

Junk mail is a huge waste of time. Don’t you agree? Unwanted mail is often what I see cluttering clients’ counter tops, entryway tables, home offices, and the never ending ‘in box.’

I dare you to follow these steps. I dare you to take a step forward by stopping unwanted mail. Do you accept this dare? If so, here’s how!

Step One

Stop unwanted junk mail by registering

with the Direct Marketing Association’s Preference Service.  Click on “remove my name from those lists.” You have to select each company individually, which can take some time, but in the long run it’s worth the extra effort. A credit card is necessary to confirm your identity, but there will not be a charge.

Step Two

Take a stand to reduce local junk mail through these resources.

  • Valassis Marketing – Call 888-241-6760 between 8:30 AM – 5:00 PM EST or complete this online form
  • VAL-PAK Coupons – You need to have a current pack envelope when you remove your name. Complete this online form
  • Call Carol Wright – 800-67-TARGET to get off that list

Step Three

Remove your phone number from the lists those

pesky telemarketers use by completing the Do Not Call Registry online. This list was previously only good for five years, but in February 2008 a new law made it permanent.

Tip to Share with Friends

If you move, do not fill in the USPS change of address cards. I’ve heard over the years that the address changes are sold to companies.  I reviewed the privacy statement and the 62 FAQ’s on the USPS website, but didn’t find anything for or against this belief.  I believe it is true, so stay away!   If it is true, you’ll be right back where you started.

Step Four

Cease bank and credit card offers by contacting the appropriate bank.  Banks and credit providers offer the opportunity to opt out of marketing efforts.  Some banks require a form, others require only a phone call.  Here are a few popular banks in the DC area:

  • Wachovia’s Online Form
  • Bank of America’s Online Form
  • Citibank – Call 888-214-0017 and tell them you’d like to update your privacy choices.
  • Chevy Chase Bank – Call 301-987-BANK or 1-800-987-BANK to update your privacy choices.

Step Five

Fellow organizer Ramona Creel offers additional tips on stopping junk mail in this post.  If you aren’t satisfied with the suggestions above, she offers some unorthodox approaches.

We’re passionate about stopping junk mail.  Be sure to subscribe to our blog by RSS Feed or via email (see upper left corner to enter email address).  We’ll be sharing more helpful information in the near future focusing on companies who will help you get rid of junk mail.

Do you have any other tips for our readers?  Please leave a comment with you ideas.