A few weeks ago, I was driving home from a client appointment, feeling happy with the progress that we had made. After organizing items in a shelving unit, we used temporary labels so that the client could test the new system.
Just as scientists test hypotheses before coming to conclusions, individuals can test new "homes" for objects before affixing permanent labels. Locations might change after a bit of interaction with a new system. Using masking or painters' tape can be a great way to aid our memories as we familiarize ourselves with new set-ups. Apparently, it can also be a great way to annoy a cat who has exactingly high standards.
You can imagine my surprise and ensuing laughter when I received this photo from the client (shared with my client's permission). What a determined little kitty!
Cats can sometimes be mischievous during organizing sessions. They frequently like to plop down into the middle of any space that is being organized. Sometimes they even insist on sitting squarely on top of a pile that is being reviewed. In these cases, we banish them to another room for the remainder of the appointment. In this case, though, I was quite surprised. This particular cat is traditionally well-behaved and utterly uninterested in our organizing efforts.
This amusing fall-out from our organizing session perfectly illustrates the need to ask a critical question before affixing labels. What elements will the labels face, and thus, which should we use?
Is it time for young children to start putting their toys away, even though they cannot yet read? Do the labels need to withhold the stress of enthusiastic little hands? If this is the case, you can print images representing bins' or shelves' contents. Then you can laminate and attach them. Alternatively, you could print photos of the actual contents that will resonate with the eager little helpers.
Below are other scenarios that you might want to consider.
(I have included links to various products to give you some ideas, but I am not endorsing these products. You will be testing them at your own risk. Thus, you will want to ensure that the labels work for your particular surfaces, especially those that might be delicate.)
If the labels will be used outdoors or will need to withstand heat and cold inside garages, basements, and attics, you could give "extreme" Post-It notes a whirl: https://www.post-it.com/3M/en_US/post-it/products/~/Post-it-Products/Extreme-Notes/?N=4327+8750143+3294529207+3294857497&rt=r3.
Are you looking for something quick and easy that will not break the budget? How about painter's tape? You might be surprised at how many options are now available. Here are just a few:
Exterior" weatherproof" tape: https://www.lowes.com/pd/Scotch-1-Pack-1-41-inPainter-s-Tap/1002260746
If you like the chalkboard look, you could use chalkboard tape: https://www.scotchbrand.com/3M/en_US/scotch-brand/products/catalog/~/Scotch-Chalkboard-Tape/?N=4335+3293692109+3294529207&rt=rud.
How about dry erase tape for those labels that will need to be changed frequently? https://www.scotchbrand.com/3M/en_US/scotch-brand/products/catalog/~/Scotch-Dry-Erase-Tape/?N=4335+3293692116+3294529207&rt=rud.
Are you looking to avoid eventually dealing with hardened tape residue? How about reusable labels that slide directly onto the edge of a shelf? https://www.containerstore.com/s/office/labels/shelf-clip-labels/12d?productId=11011586
Will labels need to be changed frequently on kitchen jars and Tupperware? Perhaps Jokari erasable labels will do the trick: www.jokari.com/products/erasable-food-labels.
Need to label finicky surfaces like rattan baskets? How about bin clips? https://www.containerstore.com/s/office/labels/white-bin-clip-labels/12d?productId=11003245
You can change categories in a flash with vinyl adhesive reusable labels: https://www.containerstore.com/s/office/labels/smartstore-adhesive-labels/12d?productId=10034526.
If none of those will do the trick, you can always use a trusty label maker. They can work wonders if your penmanship leaves others wondering whether you assigned a specific spot for alfredo, potatoes, or tomatoes. Consider yourself warned, though: labels take a fair amount of time to create when using a label maker. If you have a large volume of tags to make, do yourself a favor and overestimate how long you intuitively think it will take to finish the task.
Label makers have come a long way. Remember manual label makers with large circular dials? I am shocked that they are still being produced, especially given how long it takes to create a label, not to mention how painful those label corners can be when they jam under a fingernail: www.walmart.com/ip/DIY-Manual-Label-Maker-for-9mm-Embossing-PVC-Label-Tapes-Portable-Label-Printer-Mini-Handhold-Typewriter-2PCS-9mm-Embossing-PVC-Label-Tapes/874543719.
As for electronic label makers, I prefer QWERTY-style keyboards so that the buttons line up in the same fashion as a computer keyboard. Although faster than the circular dial label maker, they can take longer than a Sharpie and tape. On the flip side, they might last longer than the tapes listed above. Label makers now come with all sorts of bells and whistles: lovely fonts, symbols, colored tape, borders, and bar code creation. Some models can even embellish ribbon and washi tape. For you crafters who already give Michael's a run for their money, please back away from your favorite search engine before it's too late!
There are label makers that connect to computers via cable or wifi, which should translate into time-savings: https://www.brother-usa.com/products/ptd600.
Some can connect to both computers and phones. Studies have shown that dictating can be three times faster than typing. Suppose you typically hen-peck text messages and are willing to use your smartphone's microphone feature. In that case, you could potentially save even more time than typing on a computer: https://www.brother-usa.com/ptouch/cube/family.
I have seen an increase in thermal label makers on the market in the last few years. The resulting labels look like those on packaging envelopes. If speed is what you are after, this type of label maker might suit your needs. This one apparently prints a whopping 71 labels per minute: https://www.staples.com/dymo-labelwriter-450-turbo-label-printer/product_796630.
If you absolutely cannot bear to use unsightly technology, I doubt you will find anything on the market that is cuter than these label makers: https://phomemo.com/.
Whichever label you use, think about how long it will take to create the tags, how much money you are willing to spend, how long they need to last, and what pets or children might test their longevity.
Whatever label you use can be immensely helpful, especially when sharing a home. Imagine the eternal bliss that could result from the absence of hearing those dreaded words for the umpteenth time, "Mooooooomm" or "Honnneeeeeeeyyy," "where can I find the scissors?"
It can be exciting to discover a convenient resource for donating unwanted goods. When this happens, we might pat ourselves in the back for diverting items from landfills. Perhaps we even assuage any lingering guilt for impulse buys that did not work out.
A few years ago, I was excited to discover that DSW (Designer Shoe Warehouse) had a used shoe program. It allowed participants to exchange used shoes for discounts on new ones. On the surface, it sounded like a great program.
After some initial online digging, I decided to test it out. I hoped that it would become another helpful resource for clients. Since I did not have any shoes to donate at the time, I spoke with clients who were offloading their own. They were more than happy to participate in my experiment. I loaded my car with their cast-offs and made my way to the store. It was not entirely convenient, but still worth the time and effort because of the potential payoff for clients in the future.
After a fifteen-minute drive to the store, I hauled the stash to the checkout counter and waited ten minutes to speak with a salesperson. Contrary to the information I had found online, the DSW program was not user-friendly. They only accepted “very” gently used shoes. Many individuals use shoes past the “gently used” phase, which eliminated a lot of this program’s usefulness.
I knew that I could collect $2.50 per shoe. Still, the salesperson informed me of what I considered to be another complication. I was not previously aware that they would only give credit for one pair of shoes in any given 24-hour period. This last complication was the dealbreaker. In my estimation, a program participant would lose money on increased gas usage from all the additional mileage and heavier-than-average carload. I also imagine that the extra fuel consumption would partially offset some of the environmental benefits of diverting the shoes from landfills.
Imagine you had ten pairs of gently used shoes. Let us also imagine that your feet do not sport a dainty size 5. Trunk space can be precious, especially in places like San Francisco. You need hidden space to avoid “smash and grab” car break-ins that occur when possessions are left in plain sight. Are you willing to sacrifice a good portion of your trunk for a measly $2.50 per day?
Will you also be willing to drive to DSW ten times to donate all ten pairs? It took 25 minutes to donate one pair. I imagine four hours of your precious time is worth more than a $25.50 discount. That is four hours that you could use to clear out additional clutter so that you are:
All this is not to say that I believe landfill diversion is not a worthy cause. Many simple programs make a positive impact. However, everything can be taken to an extreme that decreases the ability to enjoy a space. Many landfill diversion programs sound great until we look under the hood. Then we find out how many hoops we have to jump through and how much time we will need to devote to it.
Here is an excellent question to ask yourself when examining donation programs: is the offloading project important because you value sustainability, or is it a sneaky case of perfectionism? If your answer is the former, I would like to play devil’s advocate. When cast-offs sit around long enough to collect dust, perfectionism might be at play. Suppose sustainability is such a significantly held value. In that case, I imagine it would be a top priority to remove the items before they degraded to the point that the donation program could no longer accept them. (I frequently see this degradation happen and have to be the bearer of bad news.)
Many individuals, especially in the Bay Area, struggle to let items go into landfill or recycling because it feels like a failure. When these piles of unwanted items sit in the home for more than a few weeks, they become “stale.” They create unnecessary tension. Each time we see the pile, we remember that we wanted to “do the right thing,” but the mere thought of jumping through all those hoops like a circus dog is exhausting. Thus, the pile continues to collect more dust.
Meanwhile, our homes turn into mini recycling centers. We can no longer use spaces for other vital activities in our lives. It may feel a bit controversial to read, but I will state it anyway: not only is it ok to avoid finding the “perfect” home for unwanted items, but, in many cases, it is imperative.
Whether you live in a mansion or a studio apartment, your space is valuable. How much of your precious (and sometimes expensive) square footage are you willing to devote to items that do not deserve a spot in your home? On a square footage basis, how much money are those cast-offs costing you each month?
Additionally, whether you are working your first full-time job or are years into enjoying retirement, your time is valuable. How do you want to spend it?
Think of these questions the next time you have a complicated donation project. If the offloading project is truly worth the time and effort, make it a top priority and get it out of the home within a week. Then it will not stall progress on decluttering. After all, organizational goals do not typically exist because of some moral imperative to be “organized.” In my experience, individuals create these goals so that personal spaces no longer wreak emotional havoc. Other times, individuals set the goals to enrich their lives on a profoundly personal level. And these goals, in my opinion, are worth the time, effort, and money that we spend to reach them.
Author: Judith Dold
Musings from yours truly about all things organizing.