Monday, December 31, 2007

Holiday Postscript: The Wrap Party

Before the New Year gets under way, I just wanted to share a few pix from my very own wrap party where I used some of the tips revealed in the Holiday Survival Guide, pt.2. When I get into this mode I give my Inner Packrat time off and my Inner Krafty Kat Wrapper gets pressed into service.

First: The Stash...

As a self-confirmed packrat I've accumulated quite a bit of wrapping paraphernalia over the years, but I do make an effort to reuse it when it comes time to wrap a gift. In The Stash I have

  • wrapping paper (stored more or less neatly in a "wrapping paper carrier" as well as an old shopping cart)
  • assorted bows and ribbon
  • accumulated tissue paper
  • assorted and accumulated boxes
  • a variety of stickers obtained from numerous sources (not shown)
  • greeting cards which I re-use to make gift tags (not shown)

It took me nearly 12 hours to wrap all my gifts this year (Phew)! But, I also enjoyed expressing my artistic side. Below are examples of a few of my creations. Note, that with one exception, all of the wrapped items shown here re-use items from The Stash List.

...And The End Result!

The Santa Wrap

To wrap this gift I used the technique I described in the Holiday Survival Guide, pt.2, but which I originally got from the Wrap Art site. It allows you to use those leftover bits and pieces of paper that by themselves are not big enough to wrap something, but when combined, give you more wrapping mileage.


After wrapping this gift, I added ribbon to "dress up" the seams between the two wrapping papers. The ribbon was then topped off with a gold "Santa" seal sticker.

The Art of Wrapping the Gift Card

As I discussed in the Holiday Survival Guide, pt.1 the giving of Gift Cards may seem a bit impersonal. So, I tried to take a creative approach to wrapping this gift, a gourmet food store gift card. After finishing up one of my rolls of wrapping paper, I used part of the inner tube it was wrapped around (which now-a-days is more like paper than cardboard) to make a mini brown paper grocery bag (remember those!?). To jazz it up I also used some green tissue paper along with a gold seal sticker from The Stash.

Festive Gift Box

In this case the item came with the blue box you see in the picture. I thought the box itself was already attractive and decided to just add some simple green ribbon and a gold seal to give it that extra special something.

Poinsettia Power!

Wrap fixin's for this gift included the box, the pretty poinsettia tissue paper and ribbon. The contents were a little larger than the box itself so I couldn’t put on the top (it's actually on the bottom), however because the tissue paper is so pretty it worked out. Also, the box itself was a pretty peach color so I felt it didn't need to be wrapped.

Let it Snow!

Of the gifts shown, these two items were wrapped with newly bought paper. I had to wrap a gift for a grab bag at work, which I didn't have a chance to wrap it at home. I ended up having to run out at the last minute to get some paper, however the ribbon and seal are from The Stash.

So, another holiday season has come, gone and been survived.

After this post my Inner Packrat returns.

See you in the New Year!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

My CD/DVD Cup Runneth Over

One of my decluttering projects from August (Wow! That was awhile ago already!) involved weeding. I think of weeding as a complimentary strategy to decluttering. The way I see it, decluttering has more to do with identifying objects for eventual removal OR allowing you to reorganize what you have so that it is neater. Weeding, on the other hand, involves reviewing a category of things you have, such as books or clothing, selecting particular items to get rid of, while keeping certain other items. This is what I did with various music CDs, DVDs and audio cassettes.

There are a number of options for dealing with CDs or DVDs. You could give them away to friends or relatives, or via The Freecycle Network™ or craigslist, or donate them to a non-profit organization, which they in turn sell to raise money. Again, be aware that the criteria of accepted items can be very specific, which may or may not coincide with what you want/need to get rid of at any given time. So, you'll need so keep that in mind should you go that route. Here are a couple of organizations I came across that accept such donations, however I have not tried myself:

As with my books, I decided to go the swap route again and checked out the following three sites:
Creating an account at each of these sites is free and fairly simple to do. However, on SwapaCD you will be charged 0.49/trade plus one SwapaCD credit.

I'm sure at this point, with the growth of the Internet, there are hundreds of swap sites to choose from, so you may be aware of others that you prefer. In fact let me offer this disclaimer right now:

My upcoming reviews of these sites strictly reflect my particular experience ONLY! (as does everything else discussed on twigghugger!) You're mileage may vary, so the sites described here (and elsewhere on twigghugger) may or may not end up being your cup of tea.

Having by now accumulated a bit of swapping experience under my belt, my ideal swapping situation

  • allows me to generate a shipping label (free, or the allowing the postage to be prepaid by credit card)
  • allows me to drop the item in the mailbox, thus avoiding the lines at the post-office or dealing with cranky postal clerks
  • allows the option of sending/receiving all materials (jewel or DVD case, liner notes, artwork, etc)
  • is as simple as possible to use in terms of listing and tracking items for trade
None of the three CD swap sites that I considered had all three qualities together. So far the only swap site that I have used that meets all these criteria is Bookins (see Something for the Bibliophile), but alas at this time you can only swap books through them.

Be that as it may, for my purposes, one CD/DVD swap site did emerge as my preferred site. Here is a quick and dirty chart summing up my overall opinions.

but I will discuss them all in more detail in separate, upcoming posts. Stay tuned!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

BookMooch

I was poking around the Internet, and came across BookMooch. I was immediately intrigued! The site's look and feel is delightfully whimsical, but at the same time uncluttered and easy to use. As you know by now, All Qualities I Like!


So, I signed up and listed my available titles. Thus far I have sent out three items.

When someone requests your book, you get a detailed email with a lot of helpful information, but directly relevant to sending out the item are:


  • the requestor's name
  • the book they want
  • the address to which the book should be sent
  • the points you' ve been awarded for the immediate request at hand, as well as a tally of the total points you have earned so far
Also conveniently included in this email are links allowing you to
  • log-in to the site and accept, delay, reject or indicate that you have sent the request
  • visit the USPS.com site's postage cost calculator page
However going to your BookMooch inventory page and clicking into any of the links for your listed titles will allow you to perform these tasks as well.

Another element that some may find appealing to swapping through BookMooch is a philanthropic one. BookMooch members have the option of donating the points they accrue through swapping, to charity thereby subsidizing book requests for such organizations (See http://www.bookmooch.com/charity).

A couple of logistical considerations. I found the BookMooch point system used a little confusing, but since I'm more interested in finding new homes for the books I already have rather than requesting books, understanding it was less important to me. But, if it is important to you, you can read more about it at the site: http://www.bookmooch.com/about/interview. Also, at BookMooch the sender pays for and arranges the shipping.

Happy Mooching!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

twigghugger's Guide to Surviving the Holiday Season - Part 2: The Art of Wrapping "Nothing!"

So! You've decided that transitioning away from giving and getting stuff that will contribute to clutter, is for you. However, at the same time, perhaps you are also a little concerned that the actual giving experience could be a little underwhelming and impersonal.

Nothing could be farther from the truth!

Because you won't be frantically running around shopping, that should leave you with more time and energy to take a more creative approach to "wrapping" or presenting your intangible gifts. With a little imagination, you can have a lot of fun doing it. You can also put all those little "couldn't bear to part with" snippets of wrapping paper, old greeting cards, bits of ribbon, small gift boxes and other baubles you have stowed away to good use.

Imagine, de-cluttering and giving gifts at the same time! If I'm not mistaken, that's a two-fer right there!

Printer Prowess

If you've got a laser or ink-jet, color printer, NOW is the perfect time to take a moment to actually check out some of those e-newsletters you've probably been receiving but ignoring, from your printer vendor each month! Or, to take a second look at those inserts that accompany your ink-cartridges. Both often describe all sorts of fun, exciting and hopefully simple projects you too can make with your very own printer.

For our purposes, this will mostly involve designing and creating unique certificates or note cards in order to inject a little something special into your "personal favors" or gift card exchanges. I'm sure you will be quite amazed at what you can come up with and that your printer can gracefully jump through your artistic hoops.

In The Ultimate Cardmaker: 180 Card Ideas & 20 Essential Techniques" edited by Sarah Crosland (ISBN-13: 978-0-7153-2596-4), there's a wealth of card ideas that you could probably adapt for non-tangible gift presentations. I picked it up last week (ah yes...craft books are one of my weaknesses!)

That's a Wrap!

As hinted above, wrapping intangibles can provide excellent opportunities for making use of the odd bit of wrapping paper and various other gewgaws. In "Simply Green Giving: Create Beautiful and Organic Wrapping, Tags, and Gifts From Everyday Materials" (ISBN-13: 978-0-06-112277-4), Danny Seo has a variety of clever gift wrapping ideas that make use of items you might find around the house (for you or I they’re clut-ter-ing the house) or which can be picked up inexpensively at flea markets or thrift stores.


It's a small book with only four chapters, but I think it packs quite a wallop:

  • Chapter 1: Cards and Tags
  • Chapter 2: Boxes
  • Chapter 3: Gift Wrap and Bows
  • Chapter 4: Handmade Giving
Check out Chapter 4, p.102 for a cute way to gussy up that otherwise, innocuous little gift card.

In addition to his book, Seo has a blog with a never-ending parade of creative and innovative, but inexpensive gift or reuse ideas.

Another website with fun wrapping ideas is WrapArt, but, I'm sure there are plenty of other sites like it out there.

Below are some examples of my Inner Krafty Kat in action. Be forwarned! The pix ain't fancy, but they should give a more visual idea of what I'm talking about. These are a few items from my very own wrapping stash: ribbon, tissue paper, bows, and a box! And then, what I did with those items (MacGyver eat your heart out!)



Here is another gift that I wrapped using a technique from the Wrap Art site:

Now, Tag IT!

Old greeting cards are a great alternative to those drab, store bought gift tags so go through that stash (and I know you've got one!) and see what you can come up with. Colorful, shiny, or sparkly cards are good choices. With a hole punch and some ribbon you'll be good to go. You can cut them up into rectangles and take advantage of the random, colorful patterns that emerge, or cut out elements of the card itself, which might lend themselves to making unique or decorative tags. There will probably be snowman, ornaments and other holiday icons a-plenty to get the job done.

If you're feeling particularly ambitious you might have a go at re-using....are you ready for this one....? Old business cards to make a more elaborate gift tag! Because you and I both know, you can't seem to order less than 10,000 of them at a time and invariably the information will probably change before you can possibly use them all. Head right over to Chapter 1 , p. 2 of Seo's "Simply Green Giving" to get the low down on making these tags, as well as a host of other innovative gift tag ideas.

Anyway! That should keep you busy (and clutter free) for the moment!

Happy Wrapping!

twigghugger's Guide to Surviving the Holiday Season - Part 1: Giving, Getting and How!

Sorry it's been so long since I last posted, but my decluttering activities have outstripped my ability to keep up with writing about them. More on that in the future, but for now...

It's hard to believe that Thanksgiving has already come and gone! But, perhaps even more significant for the Packrat, is the day after Thanksgiving, aka Black Friday, which has traditionally marked the official start of the holiday shopping season. All those shoppers lining up at the crack of dawn, waiting for the stores to open....I shudder at the thought of what this means for folk like us. If you (or someone you know) have been diligently working all year long to declutter your space AND can actually see some progress, then this time of the year could represent a serious setback to your hard earned success.

Below are six suggestions to help keep that momentum going. It is by no means an exhaustive list, but should at least get the wheels in your brain turning for “giving” alternatives. Because these ideas may represent a dramatic departure from what you’ve done in the past, it may be a good idea to discuss it first within your giving circle. This way everyone understands what is trying to be accomplished, is on the same page and awkward surprises or disappointments are avoided. To my mind the ultimate goal is to keep the holiday clutter in check.

  1. Exchange the intangible instead of the physical - give or make gift certificates for:

    • services: a day at the spa, a manicure, a hair salon visit, cell phone minutes, ring tones or whatever other doo-dads are hot this year for the mobile communicator

    • an entertainment or event experience: theatre or movie tickets, a Netflix gift certificate (to those who know me...hint...hint...;-) ), dinner for two at a local restaurant

    • personal favors: promises to baby-sit, shovel snow, rake leaves, or keep the [pick an area of the house] tidy

  2. The Gift Card - heck, with perhaps the exception of the personal favors, there's probably a gift card to be had for anything else in the other categories I just listed. You can get them easily enough at the particular establishment or order them from the merchants’ websites (e.g., Barnes & Noble, Starbuck's, Trader Joes, Target's, Red Lobster (yeah!) to name a few). Recently, I've even noticed kiosks at my local pharmacy, displaying all manner of gift cards for sale!

    The main take-away here is that this option facilitates targeted giving, allowing the recipient to choose their very own heart's desire (and from their favorite store to boot), rather than your having to guess at what that might be. How can either of you go wrong?!

  3. Give the Gift of Blog - encourage the writer in your midst. Creating a blog is easier than falling off a log, at least on Blogger it is. I've given the Gift of Blog twice already! My Inner Packrat took a vacation day and I pressed my Inner Krafty Kat into service. In each case, I created and designed a special blog gift card, recycling bits of leftover gift-wrap and greeting cards to create something new and fabulous!

  4. Snacks! - gifts of food are inherently un-cluttery, since they will likely need to be consumed within a specific period of time. As a result, they won't wear out their welcome by taking up too much space, at least for very long. Gifts of food can be store bought or for a nice personal touch, made with your own two little hands! Think mini quick breads, muffins, cakes, cookies, jams or jellies, fruit baskets, cheeses, wine and other beverages, munchie packs for movie night...the possibilities are really endless.

    Two books that survived my Great Book Purge were Gifts of Good Taste and Gifts That Taste Good both edited by Anne Van Wagner Young (Leisure Arts (c) 1989.

    A quick search at either of the two big online booksellers revealed that used copies of these (and other similar) books are still available. Of course, I got my copies before the Internet came along, but I'm sure there's a website or a blog out there that's chock full of ideas to suit your tastes (and yes the pun was intended! {{giggle}}

  5. Charitable Donations - Sites such as Just Give.org or Network For Good.org (also known as "charity portals") offer a variety of options for charitable gift giving such as:

    • charity gift certificates
    • ability to create wedding registries or charity wish lists
    • shopping via charity malls
    • charity auctions

    Options such as these will allow others to make a donation in your name or to have a portion of the proceeds from actual goods purchased through a charity mall, to be donated to an organization or cause (e.g. mycause.com) of your/their choice.

    Just Give provides a variety of tools that enables someone to search and identify organizations to donate to, and which have also been screened as fitting certain criteria, defined at their site (see also Check Out That Charity for additional tips on selecting and evaluating a charity).

    Please Note: that in order to provide this service to non-profit organizations, charity portals do deduct a small fee from each donation transaction (in the case of Just Give it's 3%). This is just something to be aware of and keep in mind when deciding how much to donate or even whether a given charity agrees with this condition and will accept donations generated through portal sites.

    Perhaps you're thinking that charging such a fee might impose a hardship on organizations already strapped for funds, however for some it is actually more cost effective to do it this way then to recruit, retain and pay personnel to provide e-commerce functionality for themselves.

  6. The Wish List - Finally, if you must or still want to give actual "things" the wish list is another way to more effectively focus gift giving by getting items a recipient truly wants or needs. If you've done any kind of online shopping you will probably be familiar with the wish list. If not, the wish list, is similar in concept to the bridal or baby shower registry, allowing you to add selected items from the site to a list for future reference. The drawback is that if there are several sites that a person frequents, gift givers will have to be directed to multiple places, which could be tedious.

    Not to worry! I came across a couple of sites (and undoubtedly there are many, many more) that allow you to coordinate and manage wish lists from multiple sources and share them with others.

    froogle.google.com/shoppinglist

    This link basically takes you to the "Google Product Search" page. In the upper right hand corner is a link to "My Shopping List". If you already have a Google or Gmail account, then you're pretty much already in business to use the service, otherwise you'll need to create an account. This service is in beta, so it was difficult to find any written explanation for how the wish list part works, but it's pretty easy to figure out if you poke around a bit.

    …and no, I’m not a shill for Google! I just either already use or happened to stumble across these services, but if you find or use something you like better, that’s fine too!

    thethingsiwant.com

    Another site I came across was The Things I Want.com I haven't actually tried it, but according to the site "...TheThingsIWant.com is an all-occasion universal gift registry site that enables users to add any item from any site to their wish list. "

So there you have it. I hope these suggestions have given you some ideas to keep from re-accumulating too much stuff over the holidays.

Good Luck and Good Giving!

Next up: twigghugger's Guide to Surviving the Holiday Season - Part 2: The Art of Wrapping "Nothing!"

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Scaling Your Magazine Mountains

Last week in Magazine Madness I discussed my attempts to find solutions for dealing with old magazines. Other than recycling, I really didn't find too many, but I did figure out a better way to organize what I had. In the absence of actually getting rid of stuff, organizing it can be the next best thing to help make clutter more manageable.

My magazines used to be stacked about in various and precarious piles, which I would shift from one place to the other or have to restack. Finally, I decided to go out and get some magazine holders, which come in all sorts of flavors: plastic, metal, cardboard, wicker, translucent, opaque, snazzy colors and so on. I settled on a simple cardboard version, readily obtainable at my local office supply store and easy to assemble by folding together. Also, although I didn't think about this at the time, if my magazine collection ever appreciably dwindles, I can just as easily break them back down for easy storage until they're needed again.

As I said, I had a lot of magazines so to make it less daunting, I would buy a package or two (2 to a package) each week, until I had enough. By doing it this way, I was able to break the task down into smaller segments, and actually see visible progress in moving from a state of disorganization to one that was more orderly. I say unto you, the ability to trick one's Inner Packrat by any means necessary is a skill that should not be underrated.

Now that the magazines are no longer toppling over, I am better able to select which ones I want to review and then determine those I want to keep and those I will get rid of. For example, I had about eight year’s worth of PC World! However, I finally faced up to the fact that there was just no point to that. With the way technology changes so quickly, a lot of the information in them was just plain out of date.

Also, you may or may not have noticed this, but many magazine article topics recur every few years. They are either perennial favorites, or are updated to give them a new spin to address contemporary issues. This is another very good reason to stop hoarding old magazines! At some point what has come around once will go around again.

Yes, I know, for a Packrat things are never quite that easy. In spite of everything I've just said, one thinks they're might still be some useful tidbit of information which might never be written about again. In the case of my PC Worlds there were indeed some tips that I haven't seen again in later issues, so to satisfy myself, I went through them a little at a time, clipping the articles I wanted to save and tossing the rest.

I've just about finished! Whoo Hoo! My ultimate goal is to just keep the most current 3 years of this magazine and drop the oldest each year (sort of like what you're supposed to do with your old bills and banking statements every so often...you are doing that right...!?)

Anyway, happy climbing!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Magazine Madness

Researching ways to reduce my magazine clutter was one of the things that originally propelled me onto my DeKlutter Quest. In this blog's inaugural post What Yet Another Blog!? I wrote about the difficulty of finding new homes for still usable stuff, and I have definitely found this to be the case when it comes to magazines.

After scouring the Internet for magazine donation, reuse or exchange options, what I have mostly found are articles with generic laundry lists of theoretical suggestions such as senior citizens' homes, medical office waiting rooms, or your local library, but very few references to individuals or organizations who are actually accepting such donations in practice. Organizations tend to have specific needs and wants that don't necessarily include or overlap with the Packrat's need or desire to get rid of things.

Libraries, for example, to the extent that they accept magazine donations at all, tend to be very specific about either the titles they are willing to take or how old they can be. They prefer magazines of a substantive or serious nature such as National Geographic or Architectural Digest as opposed to more popular fare like Cosmo or People. They will probably also require that magazines be no more than 6 months to a year old, (Hahahahahaha! Yeah right!). Depending on the title and a given library's particular needs, they may incorporate such donations into their existing collections, but it is more likely that they will be used in a "Friends of the Library" type group book sale to raise money.

I was able to get rid of several years' worth of back issues of Threads, a high-end sewing magazine in this manner (also a component of my fascination with fabric, written about in these here pages; see also A Fair & Square Send Off). I listed them at Throwplace.com® (see Throwing Away at Throwplace.com® . Oddly enough, an animal rescue non-profit took them to sell on eBay! I'm hoping to strike similar gold with a stash of Brill's Content.

Other places may be looking for vintage magazines or those published before a certain date. One site that I found was only looking for magazines published before 1945. Thankfully, I don't have anything that old! There's also the swapping alternative, either locally based where you can bring the magazines you don't want and trade them for something else, or via an Internet forum where people post their magazine wants and offers. Haven't tried that yet. Of course, if you have the fortitude you too can try the eBay route. As for myself, I haven't quite felt up to that either.

Anyway, together, the two criteria of time and topic may tend to rule out a substantial number of options for many of us, so the traditional paper-recycling route may be the only alternative. However, your mileage may vary depending on the needs of organizations in your particular community, so it doesn't hurt to investigate first. Helpful search terms might include:

  • magazine donation programs
  • magazine donations
  • reading material(s) donation(s) programs
  • reading material(s) donations
Good luck!

Next up, Scaling Your Magazine Mountains. Why? Because they are there and in the way!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Card Shark

Up until now, I have mostly described projects that involve the removal of an item. However, as discussed in Weeding, even though you are paring down your belongings, there will still be some things that you want to keep or are not quite ready to get rid of just yet.

This summer one such project that I undertook was to pull out and examine the collections of cards and letters I had squirreled away. I am sure you know how that kind of stuff can accumulate! The insidiousness of this kind of accumulation is the strong sentimental attachments that may be associated with it.

Never-the-less, into the fray of sentiment I plunged, pulling the cards and letters from the various spots where I had stashed them. There were

  • letters to and from friends sent and received while in college and shortly after that period (this was before email y'all)
  • Christmas cards
  • birthday cards
  • Valentine's Day cards
  • graduation and other congratulatory cards
  • wedding invitations, souvenir bride & groom photos, and other related ephemera
  • thank you notes
  • unused greeting cards, some purchased while in college! (oh yeah. . .BUT, I have since found new homes for those)
  • etc. (of course a Packrat's always got an etc. category!)

After all this time, I thought I would be able to part with the letters at least, but it turned out to be harder than I thought (Ahhh, sentimentality! The archenemy of the Packrat). But that's okay! Not to worry. If you find it particularly difficult to part with something, don't force it. Getting it sorted and/or organized can be the next best, workable compromise, and might help make stabs at future removal a little easier.

So, while I only managed to get rid of a small portion of the letters and cards, I organized what remained a little better.

  • all correspondence to and from a particular individual is now all together
  • the cards are now organized by type (birthday, Christmas, etc)
  • everything has been put into shoeboxes which are much easier to neatly store in the closet, than the plastic bags they were in before.

If/when I am ready to finally get rid of them they will now all be together in one place, making it much easier to review and at once, rather than unexpectedly stumbling across stashes here or there every so often.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Check-out That Charity!

As I mentioned earlier this week a clutter Exit Strategy will often involve donating your no-longer-needed items to a non-profit or charitable organization. In this entry, I will discuss a couple of tools available to help you learn more about the organization to whom may have chosen to donate your stuff. They will help you to determine
  • whether an organization is a legitimate non-profit or charitable operation
  • an organization's particular mission and the communities or constituencies it serves
  • an organization's tax-exempt status (useful, if you would like your donation to be tax deductible)
  • if any complaints have been filed against an organization and whether they were satisfactorily resolved

Two of the tools that I have previously used are GuideStar and the Better Business Bureau's (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance at Give.org.

GuideStar

GuideStar is a comprehensive source of information regarding organizations operating within the non-profit sector. Their database includes information on hundreds of thousands of charitable and non-profit organizations across the country. Note: Some of the information in a organization's profile is only available with a premium access subscription, but what is freely available should be more than sufficient for the purposes identified above.

At the search page just type the name of the organization you are looking up into the search field and click the search button. A list of possible organizations from which to choose will be displayed. There are also classification codes (the NTEE Classification System) that you can search by, if you want to pinpoint organizations involved in specific types of activities (e.g. youth, the environment, the arts, etc.) For a more complete listing of those codes visit NCCS.

Anyway, click a link to see additional information. Be forewarned that you will need to register with GuideStar in order to click through to this basic record! Yes, this is a little inconvenient, but registration is free and is much less inconvenient than finding out later that those clothes you realized you were never going to wear again didn't end up getting to other people who could really use them.

Once you have registered and logged in, a free, basic search will yield the following types of information:

  • the organization's name and address
  • a contact person along with a telephone and fax number (email address info in the profile is, unfortunately, only part of premium access. . .)
  • a website if available (. . .however you may be able to pick that up here)
  • a brief description of the organization and its goals
  • the type of tax-exempt status an organization has (there are nearly 40 categories!) and whether contributions to the organization are deductible, as provided by law
  • whether they are required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ with the IRS and if available, links to .PDFs of those previously filed
  • when the organization's GuideStar profile was last updated
  • whether an organization makes its audited financial statements available to the public
Other information included in the basic profile if available and which might be of interest is

  • year founded
  • location(s) served
  • additional detailed information about an organization's programs and achievements
For additional tips and information to keep in mind when investigating a charity see GuideStar for Donors.

Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance

Give.org also provides information to help you evaluate a charity. Additionally, they maintain a list of organizations that solicit funds on a national basis (the National Charity Reports Index) with links to reports evaluating them in terms of the BBB's voluntary charity standards. To find information regarding regional or local charities, you will need to visit the corresponding BBB for that region or locale. Go to the BBB Look-up page.

Now you will be better able to make an informed decision about choosing a new home for your stuff.

Happy Giving!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

End of Summer Update!

Greetings to my fellow Packrats out there! Hope you all had a pleasant summer. I took a bit of an unplanned break in August! This is the first summer in four years that I have not been in school and towards the end I got a little lazy, basking in my new-found freedom.

Be that as it may, my I have not been idle. During this brief hiatus from the blogosphere, I began several projects:

  • went through, sorted and organized an accumulation of old letters and greeting cards.
  • continued my ongoing magazine weeding project
  • decluttered my bathroom rolly cart

    I'm steeling myself to tackle the kitchen! But one thing at a time.

    Anyway, as you can see the past month has still been a busy and productive time and I'll be describing these efforts in greater detail in upcoming weeks.

    But before I get to all that good stuff, I will talk about the charity check. Quite often an Exit Strategy for your clutter will involve donating the no-longer-needed items to a non-profit or charitable organization. So, I thought it would be helpful to discuss a couple of ways you can learn more about an organization to whom you have selected to donate your things.

    More on all these topics soon!
  • Sunday, July 22, 2007

    A Fair & Square Send Off

    I was poking around in one of my closets again, doing DeKlutter Assessment, that is, reconnaissance for possible, future deklutter projects. Ohhhhh, the forgotten things I found up on my closet shelves! Birthday presents for example! I called myself trying to be proactive so I wouldn't end up running around at the last minute, and then forgot they were up there! So, I probably ended up running around at the last minute, anyway! But that's a tale for another time.

    Identify

    Anyhow, while I was so engaged, I found another shoebox of fabric swatches!

    If you recall, in Fabric Free, I talked about the swathes of fabric that I had accumulated when I belonged to not one, not two, but three fabric clubs(!) and that I had stashed this bonanza away up on a closet shelf, but that I finally managed to part with it (well most of it) by donating the fabric to Materials for the Arts. You may also recall that I had also accumulated the swatches (about 2" x 2" square) the fabric clubs would send once or twice a month, and that I had come across a whole shoebox full of them in another closet!

    Gather

    Well, I found another box of them this week! Yes I did.

    What I didn't tell you, was that back when I found the first box, I was actually able to identify a new home for the them. Since I will be sending this more recently discovered stash to the same place, I thought it would be useful to share my Exit Strategy for these goodies, in case someone out there in the blogosphere finds themselves in a similar predicament. Don't look so skeptical. It could happen!

    Unlike the lengths of fabric, I ended up sending the swatches somewhere else. A woman named Joyce, had posted a small classified ad at one of the reuse/recycle websites I frequent. Apparently she works at a senior center or a nursing home and she was looking for beads and "findings" to use the beading classes she teaches there. At the time, I wasn't exactly sure what "findings" were, but I decided to contact her about the fabric swatches to see if she might have any use for them. It turns out that she did!

    They have various arts & crafts and sewing classes for the seniors and Joyce advised that they could use the swatches to make lap robes for people in wheelchairs at the nursing home. Having found this other box of them, I followed up with her to see if she could still use them and she assured me that she could.

    As I also learned, findings are the different accent beads that are used in making jewelry. For example in a necklace, there may be five beads of one type, then an accent bead of another, to provide contrast. At the center, the seniors will take old necklaces apart, use the beads, and create something different. Even chain-type necklaces can be taken apart and the sections used in a new necklace. Earring wires and clip-ons are also considered to be findings.

    I had some old necklaces I knew I was not going to wear again, so I threw those in along with the swatches. Joyce was very happy to receive everything.

    Remove

    I popped the fabric into a small mailer and headed to my favorite place, the post office!

    So if have any old jewelry or necklaces that you don't want and don't know what to do with, send these items her way. She can definitely use them! Joyce can be reached at

      tiredted [at] comporium [dot] net

    Wednesday, July 18, 2007

    New Tricks for Old Cell Phones: CollectiveGood

    There are millions upon millions of cell phones either lying around collecting dust in people's homes, waiting to be recycled, or which may have already been tossed intot the trash. Millions more will be added to one of these three categories with each passing year. In A Tale of Two Computers, I talked about how recycling electronics was relatively easy compared to other items, because of the existence of numerous ways and opportunities to responsibly dispose of such gadgetry (also referred as "e-waste" or "technotrash", see Green Disk)".

    There are

    • periodically scheduled municipal drop-offs (see A Tale of Two Computers)
    • manufacturer or retail store "take-backs". Check out
    • various non-profit organizations that collect them for recycling or that refurbish and redistribute them for use by others (throw the terms +"recycle" and +"cell phone" into your favorite search engine and take your pick)

    So, I'll say it yet again:

    There is really no good reason not to make the effort to
    responsibly dispose of your unwanted electronics!

    Furthermore, cell phones as well as other electronic equipment, contain toxic materials such as lead, mercury, cadmium, and arsenic which the EPA has deemed to be hazardous waste. Therefore, simply throwing your cell phone into the trash is a bad move. If it ends up in a landfill those toxic materials can leach into the ground and seep into local water supplies. This is an even better reason to make the effort as much as possible, to responsibly dispose of your cell phone.

    The existence or establishment of processes, policies or programs that facilitate and encourage consumers to responsibly dispose of a product at the end of its useful life is known as "product stewardship" or "extended product responsibility". This helps to minimize a product's impact on the environment. You can read more about this concept at the EPA's Extended Product Responsibility page.

    Identify

    Well, of course I had a couple of old cell phones taking up space and decided it was time to divest myself of them. One of the cell phones that I got rid of was what I fondly refer to as a Nokia brick, circa 1997, as opposed to today’s sleeker and infinitely more compact models. Check out these pictures at the Museumsstiftung Post und Telekommunication's Telefone 1863-2000 page, to get an idea of what it looked like! Now, when's the last time you saw anyone pull out a cell phone like that? Yet, Packrat that I am, I had one up until late last year.

    GreenDisk, which I talked about in an earlier post, accepts a variety of electronic waste, including cell phones and PDA's. However, for the two cell phones that I was getting rid of, I decided to use another organization called CollectiveGood. They deal specifically with cell phones, PDA's, pagers and related accessories such as battery chargers, and say they accept all makes and models. In fact, they are partnered with Staples to handle the free recycling service for cellular phones, PDAs, pagers, digital cameras, and chargers that the store offers to customers (one component of Staple's big takeback program, which I mentioned above). CollectiveGood will refurbish this equipment for reuse, and will donate a portion of the resulting proceeds to charity. Anything they cannot refurbish will be properly recycled in accordance with the EPA's guidelines.

    Gather

    CollectiveGood's process was pretty simple, which as you know by now, is just the way I like it. At their site all you have to do is:

    1. select a charity from one of those listed with CollectiveGood (your donation will be credited to this organization)
    2. fill out and submit the online form with your contact information so you can receive an acknowledgement of your donation (takes about 10-12 weeks)
    3. print the information/instructions that display once you submit this form and enclose it with your shipment to ensure that your selected charity is properly credited
    4. pack up and send your phone(s) in accordance with those same instructions

    Also note!: that whenever, wherever and however you end up donating or recycling a cell phone or similar device, just like a computer, you need to "prep" it. That is, you need to make sure that you have

    • disconnected any services associated with the equipment that you are donating or discarding
    • deleted, erased and/or removed any personal information on such devices (e.g., email addresses, telephone numbers, passwords, photos, etc)

    otherwise you run the risk of incurring unauthorized charges or misuse of that personal information. You are responsible for any subsequent mishaps if you fail remove it, not the organization you or donating them to, or any subsequent recipients!!! You can read more about CollectiveGood's polices in this regard at their FAQ page.

    The documentation that accompanied your cell phone should have information about how to clear this data from your phone. If by some chance you no longer have the manual (or can't find it) try visiting the manufacturer's website. WirelessRecycling.com, another cell phone recycling site (I've never used them) has a handy database for finding data removal instructions for a wide variety of cell phone manufacturers and models. Click on the "Erase Your Personal Data" link.

    Remove

    I sent each phone that I had at separate times, however, you can also send multiple items at once. Just make sure to pack them securely. I happened to still have the original boxes they came in, along with the manual and other peripherals that came with them (now, don't even act surprised!), so I packed everything back up in those,I then placed them inside of another cardboard box, just to be on the safe side.

    All that was left after that, was to take myself off to the post office, and send them on their merry way.

    Tuesday, July 3, 2007

    The Exit Strategy Made Easier

    A couple of weeks ago, I was poking around the NYC WasteLe$$ site and came across a page that I think is a very cool and invaluable tool for the Packrat. It's the NYC Stuff Exchange. According to the website:
    This website offers a quick and simple way for NYC
    residents to search for places in their neighborhood
    and throughout the city where they can donate, sell,
    buy, rent, or repair different types of gently used goods

    But of particular interest is the Events Calendar!

    What this means, is that for those of you in the NYC area, you can search for possible Exit Strategy opportunities from the comfort of your browser!

    You can search

    1. within the following four categories:
      • donation drive
      • rummage sale
      • used book fair
      • swap meet
    2. within specific date ranges
    3. by keyword

    It will list the event, the date and time, and the sponsoring organization.

    You can also click on the listing for more details such as the specific location of the event, contact information, a website if available, and a little blurb about the items being accepted.

    Wowee! I think this is terrific!

    Friday, June 29, 2007

    Weeding

    In the upcoming months I will be undertaking a variety of weeding projects.

    What is this? Well, many deklutter projects involve getting rid of those things you no longer need or use, however you will still end up having to keep some stuff, just not as much of it! For example clothing, magazines, CDs, audio-cassettes (anyone remember mix tapes....!?) Things like that.

    Weeding involves the same underlying drill (see Getting Started (Part 2)):

    • Identify
    • Gather
    • and Remove

    but is generally undertaken once you begin to tame or gain more control over your klutter. At this stage, it is no longer the overwhelming and undifferentiated mass of stuff it once was. It has hopefully become a little more organized or neater, making it easier to zero in and drill down on really specific deklutter projects.

    For example, all those magazines you may have had are now in neat piles (or even better, magazine holders!) and in one area of the living room rather than scatted all over the house. You may have even already gotten rid of a lot of them, but there are still some left that you'd like to go through more closely. Perhaps there are individual articles you would still like to keep. Now you can!

    Since I've had quite a bit of success in clearing a few larg-ish swathes of klutter (those extra computers for one thing! See A Tale of Two Computers), I can now begin to do "touch-up" work like this.

    So, at my leisure, I will slowly be going through some of my stuff for a second round of cuts.

    Stay tuned!

    Sunday, June 17, 2007

    Digital Spring Cleaning: The Final List!

    With this entry, I more or less bring my Electronic DeKluttering Project (EDP) (see Digital Spring Cleaning) to a close, something I'm very pleased and excited to report!

    Harboring three computers was bad enough (see a A Tale of Two Computers). However, it may be less obvious that electronic gadgets spawn their own peripheral, klutter-y, flotsam and jetsam. And, as the list below will graphically demonstrate, this just adds up to a big ole' pile of stuff!

    Once again, my cousin Julio (see The Diskard) came to the rescue and happily took the whole kit and caboodle off my hands. When he picked it up earlier this past week, he advised that he had already found new homes for a lot of it! This of course delights me to no end.

    All I can say is, thanks again Julio!

    In any event, I am posting this list in all its klutterish glory, not only to show what exactly had accumulated that I was no longer using, but to also show that with a little imagination, persistence and knowing who to contact, you can actually responsibly dispose of quite a few more things than you might at first think.

    Perhaps some of you will be able to create even longer lists than this! Well, I say have at it and happy dekluttering!

    http://twigghugger.blogspot.com/2007/05/diskard.html TARGET=NEW> The Floppies

    1. 9 boxes (10-20 disks each) of disk
    2. 4 boxes (10-20 disks each)
    3. a number of blank, never-been-used disks
    Hardware
    1. Altec Lansing speakers & subwoofer
    2. BSR External CD-ROM player - 6800MX
    3. Iomega External Zip Drive 100
    4. Panasonic KX-P1180 Impact Dot Matrix Printer w/stand and cables
    5. several computer cables
    Related Accessories
    1. Mouse Pad
    2. Plastic keyboard cover
    3. Telephone cords
    4. HP Inkjet print cartridge - black (#45)
    5. 5.25" Disk Holders/Cases - 4 (medium sized)
    6. 5.25" Disk Holder- 1 (large)
    Manuals and Books (scads of 'em!)
    1. Advanced Graphics With the IBM Personal Computer by Ian O. Angel (1985)
    2. ACS295 Altec Lansing User Guide
    3. CompuAdd - Color Monitor (VGA) User's Manual
    4. CompuAdd System Manual for Models 212/216 (1989) - loose-leaf, w/ various system disks (8) CompuAdd Model 212/216 Setup Disk MS-DOS v. 401 Install
      MS-DOS v. 401 Operating 1 MS-DOS v. 401 Select 1
      MS-DOS v. 401 Operating 2 MS-DOS v. 401 Select copy
      MS-DOS v. 401 Operating 3 MS-DOS v. 401 Shell
    5. Daily Planner & Calendar for Publisher: 3.0 for Windows (User's Guide) (1993)
    6. Dell D1028L Color Monitor User's Guide (Digital AutoScan Color Monitor)
    7. Dell Dimension Vxxx and Vxxxc Systems Setup Guide (1998)
    8. Dell Dimension Vxxx and Vxxxc Systems Reference & Troubleshooting Guide (1998)
    9. Dell-Installed Microsoft Windows 98 Set-up Guide (1998)
    10. Fast EtherLink XL User's Guide & Quick Guide (1998) - w/ disks
    11. Getting Started: Microsoft Windows 98
    12. Halo DTP Manual (Desk Top Publishing Editor): v. 1.3 - Guide to Operations (1988)
    13. Hand - Scanner Utility Scankit v.1.01 (1989) - w/ 3 Program disks v. 1.3b
    14. HP DeskJet 880C Series Printer: User's Guide (for Windows) (12/98)
    15. Integrator Manual 3rd ed (3/89) - w/ diskettetopics covered include: The Calculator File Manager
      Appointment Calendar Game
      Editor PC-FullBak
    16. Keyboard (Ergonomic) User's Guide
    17. Logitech Paintshow Plus: User's Manual (1989)
    18. Logitech MouseMan User's Guide - w/ diskette
    19. Making the Most of Your Money (Intuit) Quicken 2000
    20. Managing Your Money: User's Guide for 256K IBM(R), PC and Compatibles - v.5.0 - by Andrew Tobias (1988, Meca)
    21. Managing Your Money: The Official Guide to Version 6 - by Andrew Tobias (1989, Brady Books/Simon Schuster)
    22. Mars 105 Hands-Scanner Users Manual (Marstek)
    23. Microsoft Works Suite 99 Manual w/ disks
    24. Norton Antivirus User's Guide - v.5, Windows 98 / Windows 95 etc.
    25. Outlook 98 10 Minute Guide: Master the Essentials You Need in 10 Minutes or Less by Joe Habraken (1998, Que)
    26. PC-FullBak - Manual w/ disk
    27. ProComm Reference Manual (1986) v.2.4
    28. SD-M1202/ATAPI DVD-ROM: Technical Notes v.A0, 6/98
    29. Software CineMaster DVD Playback: User's Guide - w/ CD
    30. VGA Card Software Manual: A Supplement to the VGA User's Guide (1988)
    31. VGA Card User's Guide: For IBM PC/XT/AT & Compatible Computers & IBM Personal System/2 Models 25 & 30 (1988)
    32. WordPerfect Manual (1989) - v. 5.1, loose-leaf w/ 11 diskettes Install/Learn/Utilities 1 Spell/Thesaurus 1
      Install/Learn/Utilities 2 Spell/Thesaurus 2
      Program 1 Printer 1
      Program 2 Printer 2
      PTR Program/Graphics 1 Printer 3
      PTR Program/Graphics 2
    Miscellaneous Software (mostly DOS based)
    1. 3Com U.S. Robotics CD-ROM
    2. Art Gallery BAK-UP Diskette
    3. Best EGA/VGA Tetris Clones (Reasonable Solutions, 4 disks)
    4. CityMap - NY (Softkey) 5 diskettes
    5. Crossword Puzzle Creator (Reasonable Solutions)
    6. Dell/AT&T ConnectDirect CD
    7. Dell Dimension ResourceCD
    8. Epson Driver(?)
    9. Grammatik II original disk & BAK-UP
    10. HealthAide (Reasonable Solutions, 2 disks)
    11. Home Buyer's Guide Collection (Reasonable Solutions, 2 disks)
    12. Inmagic
    13. Kedit
    14. Managing Your Money (1987) 4 disks
    15. Managing Your Money (1988) 5 disks
    16. Managing Your Money (1989) (v.6) 5 disks
    17. Meal-Master (Reasonable Solutions, 3 disks)
    18. Microsoft Works Suite 2003) - 6 disks
    19. Mouse Software v. 4.10 - original disk & BAK-UP
    20. Music Trans Sys II (Reasonable Solutions)
    21. Paintshow Plus (Logitech) v. 2.21
    22. Pianoman (Reasonable Solutions)
    23. PC Outline (Shareware Express)
    24. PCWrite Utility BAK-UP Diskette
    25. PCWrite Program BAK-UP Diskette
    26. PrintMaster
    27. Procomm 2.4.2 - Premier Computer Innovations (1988)
    28. Sierra Entertainment Demo w/ Manhunter & Goldrush
    29. Software Labs Print Shop Graphics Library
    30. Unicom RemDat2(?)
    31. VGA Card Utilities (2 disks)
    32. Wheel of Fortune (3rd ed)
    Miscellaneous DOS-based Games
    1. Beyond Columns, VS2 Demo
    2. Blocks, Fallout, Dlink, Stetris
    3. Blockout
    4. Brix
    5. Egaint
    6. Carmen San Diego
    7. Colors
    8. Comrade
    9. Flip
    10. Frac
    11. Paga2
    12. Paga3
    13. Quatris2
    14. Rampcube
    15. Sitris

    Sunday, June 10, 2007

    Knick Knack Round-Up

    Today, I participated in my first Freecycle™ exchange!

    Although I discussed Freecycle™ early on, in Join A Freecycle™ Group! I had not as of that time actually exchanged anything through it. However, recently a request came over my Freecycle™ list serve, which I thought I could help out with. It was from a teacher who was planning an end-of-year party to reward their students for their hard work during the year. They were looking for "any knick knacks you may have in good condition . . . that a child . . . may enjoy."

    Identify

    Well, you can be sure any Packrat worth their name has got knick knacks aplenty! I contacted this person to let them know I might have a few things they could use, and to find out when they would be needed.

    Mind you, I had already liberated quite a few of my chatchkis at the Freecycle™ Freemeet last week, however as you also know, a Packrat can never quite get rid of everything all at once. Often something is held back so, I still had a few things on hand when they emailed me to follow up.

    Some of the items I had ordered a number of years ago through one of those offers they stick in your credit card bill. I had some vague notion of using them as stocking stuffers, grab bag or Secret Santa gifts, but they got stored away and I forgot about them. Some of the other things I had simply accumulated over time (as packrats tend to do), and just faced up to the reality that I probably wouldn't use them, at least any time soon!

    Gather

    Thus, my second knick knack sweep included the following:

    1. 3 combination digital alarm clock/picture frames
    2. a wallet
    3. wooden picture frame
    4. set of 5 flowered pencils in matching case (so not-used that they had never even be sharpened!)
    5. a nice pen with an embroidered holder
    6. lacquered stick/hair ornaments, still in their original packaging
    I gathered everything up and placed it in a nice gift bag (more reuse at work!)

    Remove

    The teacher and I spoke briefly by phone to arrange a pick-up time, and the hand-off was made earlier today!

    Every little bit helps!

    Tuesday, June 5, 2007

    Spring Cleaning - The FREECYCLE™ NYC FreeMeet

    Identify

    Sometime last month, I received an email regarding a FREECYCLE™ sponsored FreeMeet. This event was described as a

    . . . chance to unload unwanted, but usable items, take home things you can put to good use and meet other folks from the Freecycle community. Anything leftover at the end of the event will be donated to local charities or recycled to the extent possible. As the name suggests, the Freecycle™ FreeMeet is FREE and open to the public!

    You don't need to bring anything to take anything (though a tote bag might help). Please bring portable items only and leave furniture and other heavy stuff at home (log on to www.Freecycle.org to find people who can pick these items up from you).

    The FreeMeet was sponsored by a local YMCA, Freecycle™ New York City and the Office of Recycling Outreach and Education (OROE).

    Well! My eyes fairly danced at the thought of such a DeKluttering Extravaganza! This would be an opportunity to get rid of an assorted collection of items in one fell swoop, sans some of the difficulties associated with the typical Freecycle™ exchange or other swap strategies that I have previously discussed (see Join a Freecycle™ Group! or Throwing Away at Throwplace.com® for the particulars).

    However, my glee was short-lived. Unfortunately, I had another activity scheduled later that same day so I wasn't sure I would be able to attend the FreeMeet and then get home in time to get ready for my other event. Never the less I passed the information on to a friend who is also trimming his klutter. He said he would probably go and graciously offered to take my stuff along, so it worked out.

    Gather

    I had already identified a variety of things that I planned to part with and had gathered them together in a shopping bag, so all was in readiness. By way of inspiration for my fellow hoarders out there, here's a list of the accumulated objects that I hoped would find happy new homes:


    1. Snowflake candles (3)
    2. Christmas candle
    3. Apple candles
    4. Liz Claiborne purse
    5. Daffodil bookmark
    6. Scooby Doo bookmark
    7. Pair of patent leather red thongs
    8. Ballerina finger puppet
    9. Personal organizers (paper based - 2)
    10. Cloud address book
    11. Ice scream scoop
    12. Fanny pack
    13. Coaster
    14. Washington DC marble/pewter paperweight
    15. Stationery set
    16. Kiddy kalculator - (2)
    17. Samsonite garment bags (2)
    18. Wallet
    19. Camera (non-digital)
    20. Cosmetic bag and mirror set
    21. Plastic lei
    22. Assorted paperbacks (9)

    Assorted Paperbacks




    1. Connecticut - Off the Beaten Path: A Guide to a Unique Place
    2. Possessing the Secret of Joy - Alice Walker
    3. If Beale Street Could Talk - James Baldwin
    4. The M.D. - Thomas M. Disch
    5. The Dark Tower II: The Gunslinger - Stephen King
    6. With a Tangled Skein - Piers Anthony
    7. Native Tongue II: The Judas Rose - Suzette Haden Elgin
    8. Dragon's Egg - Robert l. Forward
    9. The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands - Stephen King

    Not a bad haul, eh?

    Remove

    At the appointed time my friend swung by and picked up my stuff and proceeded to the FreeMeet.

    Later he called to tell me that it was pretty easy. He was met at the door by volunteers, who took the things he had brought and whisked them to the area where the actual swapping was taking place. He didn't even have to stay or go down to the swap area. However, he did go just to take a peek to see how it was set up.

    I don't know if all FreeMeets are organized in this manner, but this format certainly worked for us!

    Monday, May 28, 2007

    A Tale of Two Computers

    In Digital Spring Cleaning and Diskard I mentioned that I had somehow come to harbor three computers in my tiny apartment. How could that happen, you ask?

    Identify

    I acquired one of the computers when I returned to graduate school, the first time around. It was the first PC that I ever owned. A CompuAdd PC running DOS. Great computer! Never had any real problems with it. Sturdy and solidly built. Just how sturdy I only truly discovered later, when I tried to extract the hard drive. But I digress.

    I eventually bit the bullet and got a Windows PC, but not being entirely convinced that I would get along with it, I kept my CompuAdd as a sort of electronic security blanket. Eventually though, I used the CompuAdd PC less and less until it just sat shrouded in the corner, collecting dust.

    This second computer, I only had for a couple of years before it needed to be replaced. As many of you may know, it can be quite a production (and a painful one!) to transfer your files and applications from an existing computer to a new one. Never mind having to then prepare it for a new owner if you decide to give it away or donate it to charity. However, with this computer, uncharacteristically, I somehow managed to accomplish these tasks relatively quickly and passed it on to my mother, who had finally decided she was ready to take her first steps into the world of computing.

    I trundled along with my third computer for about seven or eight years, before it too began to conk out. Unfortunately, getting rid of it did not proceed as expeditiously. I was in the final throes of another academic experience {{{shudder}}}, and hoped it would hold out long enough for me to complete my coursework, which it thankfully did. Incredibly, I still had one more academic requirement to complete, so I just did not have the time nor the fortitude right then, to go through the contortions of breaking this third computer down, in order to get rid of it. It would be two more years, before I could even contemplate that project and then, due to my floppy disk dilemma (see Diskard for the sordid details), possession was extended a tad longer.

    And so, this is how I came to have three computers in the house, not a completely unreasonable scenario, at least for a Packrat, right . . .?

    Gather

    Nevertheless, the day finally came when I truly accepted that I did not need to have three computers, when one would do just fine, and had the time to do something about it. The CompuAdd, trusty little computer that it was, went first. Its 5.25" drive no longer worked so I really had no further reason to keep it any longer. I even managed to suppress a compulsive thought that there might be stuff on the hard drive that was possibly worth keeping, which would have only needlessly delayed the inevitable. I consoled myself by reasoning that if I had not looked at it or needed it by now, I probably wouldn't miss it! However, as a slight concession to myself, I decided to remove the hard drive before getting rid of the computer altogether.

    And, let me tell you, I might just as well have been trying to break into a safe! Those CompuAdds were solidly built machines. Tightly screwed (like lug nuts on a tire) and all but welded together. Once I managed to get inside the box, I had to figure out where the hard drive even was! It turned out to be tucked quite securely under the 3.5" floppy drive bay, which also had to be removed in order to get at the hard drive. All told, it took several hours to figure all this out, get everything apart so I could do the extraction and then put it back together. I very nearly gave up, especially since the computer drop was the next day. But you know what I always say . . . I am nothing if not persistent and at last the deed was done. Several months later, I repeated this drill with the other computer. Thankfully, getting the hard drive out of this one was much, much easier. Undoing one screw here, pressing a couple of release tabs there and POP! Instant access inside the box. And this time, the hard drive bay was not buried under some other component, but was instead easily spotted and also easily released by undoing one or two screws and pushing on a couple of tabs.

    Remove

    The computer and its related equipment will probably be some of the easiest stuff you'll ever get rid compared to other treasures you might accumulate over the years.

    For one thing, relatively speaking, the tech industry is way ahead of manufacturers from other industries in incorporating "take backs" into their business practices. By that, I mean they have specific and explicit policies to facilitate the consumer's ability to properly dispose of their used or unwanted electronic gizmos, but more importantly, this information is readily communicated to the consumer at some point during the acquisition process or ownership phase. For example, printer cartridges. Within the packaging of the new cartridge, my printer manufacturer includes instructions along with a postage-paid return envelope for sending back the old one. Imagine being able to do the same with a pair of shoes or sneakers...an ironing board...? Anyway, you can check out the EPA's Plug-in Partners page for a listing of companies who have such a program in place.

    Also, a variety of organizations have sprung up that either sponsor electronics drops, will pick up, or to whom you can send your old equipment for refurbishment or proper disposal. GreenDisk is one such organization that I've previously talked about and actually used (also discussed in Diskard). GreenCitizen, (I haven't used them) based in California is another. Every so often, the Lower East Side Ecology Center in NYC among other activities, sponsors electronics drops. Earth 911 is another excellent resource for finding out how and where various items, including electronics, can be recycled nation wide.

    To dispose of each of my computers, I took advantage of one of the municipal electronics drops, which are scheduled from time to time by the city. Both times that I dropped my computers off, I found it extremely easy, convenient and well-organized. They were held in locations to which you can drive your car if you choose. Once there, personnel then direct you to the particular spot where they will unload the stuff from your car, after which they point you in the direction to exit the area. Each time, I was on my way in less than 5 or 10 minutes. In fact, the hardest part was getting the stuff down from my apartment and into the car, beforehand.

    Really, I can't see any good reason not to take advantage of the available opportunities to get rid of this type of stuff. Also, while putting the finishing touches on this week's post I discovered that Staples just announced a massive takeback program. There's a press release at the Earth 911 site, here.

    So, there you have it. What are you waiting for!

    Monday, May 14, 2007

    GreenDisk

    Last week in The Diskard entry I described my difficult, but ultimate triumph in disposing of an accumulation of 5.25" floppy diskettes, and advised that this was part of my multi-faceted Electronics Discard Project (EDP), discussed in Digital Spring Cleaning. For The Diskard's "Removal step I used Green Disk, which turned out to be a really easy solution! Just the way I like them!

    According to their website, "GreenDisk began on April 22, 1993 (Earth Day!) . . . [and] was founded by high tech industry veterans who had a particular passion for the environment." I had actually first heard of them many years ago through a professional list serve I subscribe to. Someone on the list asked if anyone knew of an environmentally friendly way to dispose of disks and CD's, and Green Disk was suggested. Packrat that I am, I tucked this bit of information away for future reference. Once I decided it was time to finally get rid of these floppies, I untucked it and decided to give GreenDisk a try. You see! Hoarding can have its advantages!

    Through a series of partnerships with both for-profit businesses and non-profit agencies GreenDisk takes advantage of existing recycling centers to process what they call "technotrash". This arrangement also provides employment opportunities for disabled adults. Certain of the refurbished "technotrash" items are sold as GreenDisk's branded line of office supplies. Those items that cannot be refurbished are dismantled and properly disposed of, and they will provide a certificate to that effect. Everyone wins!

    There is a fee to take this stuff off your hands (varies depending on the service you use), but for me, this was well worth it. Another great thing about GreenDisk is that they handle both small (30 lbs or less) and large amounts (over 300 lbs) of technotrash, so this deklutter solution is one that is suitable for both individuals as well as businesses. They accept quite a wide variety of electronic refuse:

  • desktops
  • laptops
  • monitors
  • printers
  • CDs
  • DVDs
  • videotapes
  • cell phones and other PDA equipment
  • but this list represents just a smidgeon of it. For a complete list visit their FAQ.

    I used the Technotrash Pack-It service, although there are other service options available: Technotrash Can and the Computer and Component Recycling Program. With the Technotrash Pack-It service you use your own box and fill it with up to 20 lbs worth of whatever technotrash you can fit into it. At this writing the cost was $6.95 plus you have to pay for shipping. Anything over 20 lbs will costs 0.30¢ per additional pound. It took mere moments to set up an account. Placing my order and the final checkout process was also a breeze. The mailing label was included as a .PDF attachment to the order confirmation sent via email. Regular users of their services can manage their account and product orders through the site.

    The Technotrash Pack-It service is good for small amounts of such items as floppies, DVDs, CDs, mice, cell phones, PDAs. Smaller, computer-related stuff like that. For larger volumes of this type of trash, you should use the "Technotrash Can" service. Various box sizes and pricing are available, however all the ins and outs are clearly spelled out at their site.

    For computer components like monitors, printers, laptops, or complete desktop systems, they require you to use the Computer Component Recycling Program. If you or your business has unique needs, you can contact them to arrange a solution tailored to your particular situation. Note: "Technotrash Can Service is available only in the 48 contiguous states. Service is not available in Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, Mexico, or outside North America."

    I packed up my floppies and just for the heck of it, tossed in a bunch of promotional CDs that I had (such as might be received from a certain internet and email service provider that starts with an Amer...?). I took the box to the post-office in order to weigh it on the self-service scale. It came to a little over 9 lbs. Later, I placed my order and printed out the label, then went back to the post-office to mail it. I used US Postal Service Media Mail, however you can choose whatever shipping method you like (e.g. UPS, FedEx or whatever). A week later, I received a Certificate of Destruction, which GreenDisk states is a bonded guarantee that the intellectual property and all of the physical materials were disposed of in an environmentally responsible manner.

    And that was that! Diskard Mission accomplished!

    Sunday, May 6, 2007

    The Diskard

    The Diskard was one facet of my overall Electronics Discard Project (EDP), which I alluded to in the Digital Spring Cleaning entry last week.

    Identify

    Somehow, I had managed to accumulate about 13 boxes of 5.25" diskettes. Each box held or was capable of holding about ten diskettes, twenty with a little shameless cramming. I also had a number of what I think were never used, blank diskettes that my father had given me at some point. For those of you who may not be getting the picture (or don't want to face it), let me spell it out:

    I HAD AMASSED A COLLECTION OF NEARLY 300 5.25" FLOPPY DISKETTES!

    And, as some of you may also be very well aware, 5.25" diskettes are definitely a storage media of the past. For the less technologically savvy among you, in computer years, think of them as dinosaurs! So you know they weren't really serving any useful purpose other than to collect dust and take up space on a shelf in my apartment!

    Why didn't I just toss them and be done with it!? Even with the length of time those diskettes had to have been sitting there, I still thought there might be some useful data worth preserving (Well, you never know!). My plan was to take a quick look at them, copy any files I wanted to keep over to 3.5" diskettes so that I could access them on my current computer, and delete the rest. Easy enough, right?!

    Well that part of my plan proved to be a huge stumbling block on my DeKluttering Path. One of the three computers I had been harboring in my small abode (another facet of the EDP to be discussed in a future post) had both a 5.25" and 3.5" disk drive. Ordinarily it would have been just the ticket, however, its 5.25" drive was not working properly, and I never dreamed how difficult it would be to find a comparable set-up. Actually, finding a 5.25" drive wasn't even the main problem. There are plenty to be found on eBay! I even went to the trouble of setting up an eBay account in the hopes of successfully bidding for one! The true predicament became figuring out which one of the hundreds of such drives available would be compatible with the other computer system I had, which could accommodate a 5.25" drive, and then to somehow figure out how to install it correctly.

    The only other solution, with which I occasionally flirted, was to purchase yet another system with the requisite floppy drives (also available on eBay), but that just seemed like waaaay too much trouble. It also involved bringing another computer into a house which already had too many of them, rather than getting rid of one. Basically, to my mind, a big step backwards!

    Gather

    However, I am nothing if not persistent. I finally thought to contact a cousin who troubleshoots and repairs computers and posed my problem to him. He was able to scavenge up a system for me, but more importantly, one that I could use at his house, rather than mine! But, I wasn't quite out of the woods yet! Both of us have busy schedules so it took a while for us to hook up. In the meanwhile, I got everything organized into a shopping bag and set it aside until we were finally able to get together.

    <<--l-->>

    Many of the diskettes were unreadable. It is very likely that over time they had simply gone bad. Also, another techy friend of mine advised that 5.25" drives can be finicky and may fail to read perfectly good diskettes. Oh well! I did the best I could, under the circumstances, and more or less accomplished my goal of copying some stuff, deleting other stuff, and finally determining what could be trashed. It ended up taking eight or nine hours, but I was determined and my inner Packrat was appeased. Plus, my cousin and I also had a really great time, just shooting the breeze while I did it.

    I could now proceed to the "Remove" step of the DeKlutter drill. Thanks Julio!!!

    Next up! My floppy diskette exit strategy: Green Disk!

    Saturday, April 28, 2007

    Digital Spring Cleaning

    After several weeks absence I am happy to get back to twigg hugger! March and April were unusually busy months for me. As a result, I confess to having experienced a bit of Deklutter-er's Block, that is, a state where decluttering activity slows down or just plain comes to a halt.

    I am now pleased to report that I finally was able to complete several phases of a long term and multi-faceted Electronics Dekluttering Project (EDP), which I will discuss more fully in upcoming entries. My EDP involved the disposal of a many year's accumulation of the following

      Hardware
      • two computers
      • a dot-matrix printer
      • external CD-ROM drive
      • scanner
      • set of speakers and sub-woofer

      Software

      • old DOS based computer games
      • along with other DOS based applications

      Various other electronic accessories

      • old used and unused 5.25" floppy disks
      • computer software and hardware manuals
      • a Unix-based email account!
    Mmm hmmm! As you can see the tenacity of my Inner PackRat is phenomenal! But I was committed to disposing of this stuff in as responsible a manner as I could in spite of some of the challenges this presented.

    I am nothing if not persistent, so stay tuned!

    Sunday, March 4, 2007

    Fabric Free

    Many years ago, one of my hobbies was sewing. I used to subscribe to several sewing magazines and through them discovered fabric clubs. I ended up joining three of them! Each month I would receive swatches in the mail. Of course, I drooled over those samples while visions of garments I would sew myself, danced in my head! I guess you can see where this is heading, right?

    Although I had accumulated quite a bit of fabric, alas, I never quite got around to actually sewing anything with it (I even kept those little swatches! Yup! Discovered a whole shoebox of 'em while I was poking around a closet. Well, they were perfectly good! How could I possibly throw them away...?!!)

    Identify

    While I do hope to get back to sewing one day, for now that won't be happening, so I finally faced up to the fact that it was time to find the fabric a new home. I threw the phrase "donate fabric" into the search engine to see what would turn up. One possibility that presented itself was quilting groups or non-profit organizations looking for fabric to make blankets on behalf of various constituencies (e.g. children who are going through difficult times whether due to illness or family issues (e.g. Project Linus, IPump.org, Inc.). Another possibility, which had not occurred to me, were animal rescue organizations. I discovered that many sponsor Cage Comforter Programs. Volunteers make little quilts or blankets for the animals they shelter while they await adoption. Apparently the blankets are comforting and are much more attractive to potential new owners, then shredded newspaper.

    However, I decided to donate my fabric to Materials for the Arts (MFTA), a "materials exchange" organization, NOT to be confused with an exchange or swap site, which I discussed previously (see The Exchange Game). Materials exchanges are organizations (often non-profit) that collect donations of various types of excess materials from businesses and/or individuals. Others can then purchase these materials for a much lower price than they would ordinarily cost. In the case of MFTA, purchase is restricted to NYC Department of Education art teachers, government agencies and not-for-profit arts and cultural groups, social service, health, and environmental organizations that have an ongoing art program. However, other materials exchanges may have different stipulations. Some other materials exchanges that I came across during my internet wanderings were Materials Exchange Center for Community Arts Home in Eugene, Oregon, Scrapbox in Ann Arbor, MI and St. Louis Teachers' Recycle Center, Inc. in Missouri, but that is by no means an exhaustive list. Check out MFTA's resource page for more possibilities in the NY tri-state area. The Find Reuse directory at Redo.org is another handy tool for locating such organizations in other parts of the country.

    Gather

    Once I had some idea of where the fabric was going (i.e. my Exit Strategy), I dragged a stepladder over to the closet where I had it stashed, waaaaay up on a top shelf, and pulled it all out so I could see exactly what I had. I guestimated the value as best I could and made a list describing the type of fabric, the color or pattern and its yardage.

    I have to admit this did set off a bit of a Klutter Krisis, until I got all the details finalized. I had to register as a donor at the MFTA site, submit a list of the items I was donating via their online donation form and then wait for someone to contact me to confirm whether my donation would be accepted. In the meanwhile, I tried to minimize the disruption as much as possible by keeping everything neatly organized in shopping bags until the final removal.

    Remove

    Fortunately, somebody contacted me by phone within a day or so and thankfully MFTA was more than happy to accept the donation. A drawback is MFTA will only pick up items that weigh at least 250 lbs and/or have an estimated monetary value of $1,000. Otherwise, you will need to drop it off personally at their warehouse or mail it to them. This is what I ended up doing, since their drop-off hours were very limited (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between 9AM and 3PM).

    Once I got the final go ahead, I spent an afternoon getting everything packed up and ready to go. I should have been doing schoolwork, but that's another story. Plus this was far more enjoyable. I was reducing clutter and knew it would be going towards a great cause! Since then I have received several acknowledgements (including a reciept for tax purposes), both from MFTA as well as the ultimate recipient, a visual arts teacher working at a public school through Studio in a School, which places professional artists in public schools throughout NYC's five boroughs.

    <<--I-->>

    By providing a relatively inexpensive source of arts and other supplies, materials exchanges enable teachers and organizations to deliver services or provide programs that enrich their communities educationally, artistically and culturally (check out MFTA's recipient list). They also help to divert huge quantities of materials that would otherwise end up in the landfills.

    Voila! A personally satisfying and eco-friendly solution for reducing clutter!

    Alright, alright! So, what if I did keep a few pieces of the fabric. Releasing one's inner Packrat doesn't happen over night, you know!

    Sunday, February 25, 2007

    Throwing Away at Throwplace.com®

    In the Exchange Game I talked about exchange or swap sites as one of the tools a Packrat should include in his or her Decluttering Arsenal. In Something for the Bibliophile I discussed the Bookins site, which is specifically for the exchange of books (hard cover, paperback) and audio books. This week I would like to tell you about Throwplace.com®, an exchange site where all sorts of items can be posted for exchange. They describe themselves as "The Internet's Landfill Alternative".

    I stumbled across this site in the course of searching for, what else? Recycling information! Unfortunately, I initially forgot to bookmark the site! Also, of the many sites I'd viewed that morning, I couldn't remember where I'd specifically seen the link to Throwplace. Adding even further insult to injury, I hadn't even correctly remembered the name of the site. I kept thinking it was "Drop Place" or something like that. As you can see I was batting a thousand. How-some-ever, I am nothing if not persistent. Oddly enough, for some reason I was able to remember one of the sites they had listed as having written about them, and was eventually able to get the URL in this manner. Needless to say I bookmarked the site immediately this time!

    Why did I go through so much trouble to find my way back to this particular site? Well during my initial visit, I just really and immediately liked the site's look and feel. I wanted to poke around it some more. When I did get back to it, I found the site was easy to navigate and getting set-up was equally simple. As you know simplicity is one of my main criteria for giving something the thumbs up, and as I've also said, this quality is particularly important in the war against clutter.

    It's free to set up a basic account, which will allow users to list or "throw" items in any of the following four categories:

  • US Charities
  • International Charities
  • Business/Individuals
  • Up-For-Grabs

    However, only premium users can "take" from all four of those categories. Regular users are just allowed to "take" from the "Up-For-Grabs" section. But, since our main goal is to get rid of rather than acquire things, this should suit most purposes just fine. I set up an account back in October and since then have been able to dispose of about 27 out of 30 or so of the items that I've listed. Many of these items have included books, which for whatever reason, could not be listed on Bookins or were not requested after listing there.

    Once someone requests one of your listed items, you will be sent an email with a link to the request. You will then need to sign in to obtain additional information regarding the request. After logging in, if there are multiple requests for the item in question, you can select the one you want and accept their request. Once you have accepted a request that "throw" is removed from the browse list of available items. An email is then sent to your chosen recipient advising them of your acceptance. Each of you will then receive an email containing each other's email address so that you may contact each other to complete the arrangements for the exchange. If for whatever reason, a "throw" falls through, relisting the item is simple by using the appropriate links in the item's listing. However, see their FAQ and Overview pages for all the ins and outs.

    Once your account is set up, listing and keeping track of your "throws" is a snap, which are organized on your account in separate sections based on whether an item has been accepted (Older Throws) or not (Active Throws). Other helpful features include links to the US Postal and UPS sites for calculating shipping costs, along with a few additional tips related to getting your item to its intended recipient. Of additional and potential interest are various green or environmental resources at the site, such as

  • a directory of socially responsible vendors, retailers and suppliers
  • other green or eco-friendly related sites
  • participating US 501(c)(3) verified charities as well as International charities (not verified) or US charities who lack 501(c)(3) status charities
  • a classified ads section

    However, these extras DO NOT get in the way of, what for me anyway, is my main goal in using the site: to facilitate the disposal of unwanted items!

    In closing, I would like to offer one more final good word about Throwplace. I have found their Customer Service to be very friendly and helpful in resolving the few problems I have encountered, thus far. One particular issue involved my ISP, who on two separate occasions tagged their automated notification emails as spam and blocked them. However in distinct contrast to my ISP, whose basic stance is to require their paying customer's to chase around the necessary documentation before they will remove such blocks, all the while making you feel like some common bulk spammer, Throwplace worked cooperatively with me to get the problem resolved. This only served to enhance my overall positive attitude towards them and I would highly recommend at least checking them out.

    So then! The twig hugger drill is as follows:

    1. Identify that quaint little gewgaw quietly collecting dust in some corner of your home
    2. Sign up for a free Throwplace account and list that delightful trinket using Throwplace's simple form
    3. Wait for that lucky someone to espy your item in the browse list and to quickly request it before someone else does!
    4. Accept their request lickety split and email the lucky recipient to make whatever final arrangements
    5. Then, and only then Gather this precious knickknack and prepare it for shipping
    6. Remove said item from your home and send it off to its new one

    FINITO!

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