Handy Tips

Last Monday, I began to feel a little off. By Tuesday, I had the flu, as in the real flu, not an Irish flu after New Year’s Eve. When I called the office on Wednesday, I’m sure everyone was convinced I was simply extending my holiday break. I wish that were true. I haven’t had the flu for twenty years. It’s awful, and a huge time suck. Not only does being sick interfere with work, it precludes even simple organizing at home. As a side note, if I’m out sick and we move a meeting, nobody will lose his or her mind and run screaming in front of a speeding bus. Fortunately, I was productive earlier during the holiday break. Here is a project that can save money, and another that moves you away from the "hoarder" category.

Handkerchief Creation

Issue 1: My grandmother said, “A proper gentleman never leaves the house without a handkerchief.” I prefer the madras handkerchiefs, and typically buy mine from J. Press in Cambridge.

Issue 2: I have a plastic bin labeled “fat shirts.” These are the shirts I love, but really are too large and fit like maternity clothes. Most of the shirts are madras. When I wear them, I look like a table.

Solution: I took all the gigantic madras shirts to the dry cleaner and asked them to cut them up and make handkerchiefs. I gave them a sample of a J. Press one as a guide. The following week, I had 24 new madras handkerchiefs. Each one cost $6.00 to make. The J. Press handkerchiefs are $13.00 each. Now I can use any old shirt I no longer wear to create handkerchiefs. I am, however, concerned that the next step is heading toward Little House on the Prairie and making my own clothes from old blankets, and shoes from bits of leftover canvas.

Messy Linen Closet

I know everyone has his or her own method to organizing a linen closet. I hate finding the standard sized pillowcases for the twin beds mixed in with the California King sheets. I hate finding a top sheet that has no mate. I moved my sheets into individual plastic bins. Each bin has a bottom and top sheet, two pillow covers, and four pillowcases. I made labels for each bin and threw away any orphan pieces. I also threw out all the colored, patterned, or striped towels. Now all the towels are white and match. Easy peasy.

Binding the Past

I don’t like being organized as much as I get cold sweats when something is a mess. Disturbed, obsessive, bizarre? Yes. One of the tools I use to keep track of household issues is a set of binders. I have one for permanent work, such as construction, painting, and major appliances. I have another for small appliance manuals, furniture care, and transitory issues. This is an incredibly simple thing to do and makes a huge difference when I need to find out how much the last termite inspection cost, or what exact color the yellow guest room is. It takes 10 seconds to use the 3-hole punch and insert new information.

The binder is made up of different sections: contact info and business cards, paint swatches and diagram, construction records, major appliance information, and ongoing work. I use the handy plastic sleeves for cards, swatches, and items that don’t fit easily. A binder is a gift from the gods.

I have another binder trick, which points to further psychological distress. Rather than keeping piles of old magazines, I trim out the articles I want to keep, put them in 3-hole plastic sleeves, and keep them in binders also. This saves a huge amount of room, and makes finding that article about Mount Vernon an easy task.

 

Nice Box

Design samples are like printed t-shirts. You end up with too many, they look messy, you can’t decide which ones to throw away, and you find surprises when you look through them. As you age, design samples become increasingly problematic. Should I keep that one-color envelope sample? Maybe someone will need it for a retrospective when I’m 80. Pentagram and AIGA have walk-in safes for their archives. We don’t.

Years ago, we decided to buy good archival boxes for the samples. The original concept was that they would all match and look well ordered. This idea, of course, went tragically off the rails. The boxes multiplied in every shape and size possible. The neat labels didn’t correspond to the contents. It looked pretty sloppy. So I decided it was time to start fresh.

At first, we planned on buying a new set of archival boxes that all matched. Do you have any idea how expensive 100 of those cost? Too much. And I don’t think we need the whole archival quality. The samples aren’t the original Declaration of Independence. We found a box made by Uline that is a deep “pizza” box. They were only $1.00 or so each. That works for my budget. Now all samples have been pared down. The one-color envelopes have been discarded. New labels arrange items alphabetically by client, so we can add items as needed. Now, I need to tackle the flat files. Why all those press sheets of jobs printed 15 years ago?