Amazon Prime: The ultimate clutter-free gift

5 December 2016

Amazon Prime: The ultimate clutter-free gift

I’ve been a member of Amazon Prime for years—well over a decade, I’m sure. I first joined when pretty much the only benefit was free two-day shipping (and it cost $79 annually). Now the price is up to $99 but to me it’s an amazing bargain. The free shipping is great. But they have added some benefits that make the $99 expenditure well worth it, even you never have a thing shipped.

I’m a big advocate of giving gifts that won’t create clutter and Amazon Prime fits the bill. (Except, of course, that it would make it easy for the recipient to acquire more physical stuff…but at least that stuff wouldn’t be a hard-to-part-with gift.)

In case you’re not aware, I’ll spell out the Amazon Prime benefits. It provides so many options for accessing information and entertainment, all for $99 a year.

  • Free two-day shipping. You not only get your stuff shipped free, it comes more quickly! In certain metropolitan areas, Prime Now offers free same-day delivery is available for certain items.
  • Amazon Prime Video. At no additional charge, you can stream certain TV shows (including a library of HBO shows) and movies, as well as Amazon Original programming that is available nowhere else. There are some terrific Amazon Originals, including Transparent, Mozart in the Jungle, The Man in the High Castle, Bosch, and Catastrophe.
  • Amazon Prime Music. I recently discovered that I can stream music free of charge and free of ads through Amazon. You can tap into curated playlists or listen to whole albums. I just realized that rather than spending $20 on the Hamilton Original Cast Recording album via iTunes, I could just stream it through Amazon Prime Music. And get this: you can display the lyrics, if you want.
  • Audible audiobooks and Audible Channels. Until recently, I didn’t even know that Audible channels existed. I haven’t tried them out yet, but they’re original audio programming that look really interesting. (I’m starting to feel overwhelmed by all the options of things to listen to!) With Amazon Prime, you can stream certain audiobooks and (I think) all Audible Channels at no extra charge.
  • Kindle First books. I’ve written here about how much I love my Amazon Kindle. I read three or four books a month on my Kindle, most of which I check out from the library. Recently, Amazon added Kindle First, which provides Prime Members a monthly small selection of pre-release books, one of which can be downloaded free.
  • Kindle Owners Lending Library. With the Kindle Owners Lending Library, Amazon Prime members can borrow one book per month from a limited selection of books. The one caveat is that the borrowed books cannot be read on the Kindle app on other devices; they must be read on the Kindle itself. And you must return the current borrowed book before borrowing another. I’ve taken advantage of this benefit many times.
  • Prime Reading. It was only in researching this post that I learned about Prime Reading, which allows free reading of a limited (but not small) selection of books and magazines on your Kindle or Kindle app. What blew me away is that I can read, free of charge, the current issue of certain magazines, including Entertainment Weekly. I subscribed to EW for 25 years before I stopped my subscription because my aging eyes found the type too small to read. I’m taking great joy in knowing that I have access to the current issue (and I can make the type big enough to enjoy!). With a single click, I delivered it to my iPad Mini.
  • Prime Photos provides free, unlimited storage space for photos. I haven’t tried it, but if you’re looking for cloud storage for your photos, it might be worth looking into.
  • Twitch Prime, for gamers, provides free access to Twitch’s game-streaming service. I don’t even really know what that means, but if you’re a gamer, you might want to check it out.

This isn’t a comprehensive list. For more details, check out the Prime Benefits page at Amazon or this article from DealNews, Amazon Prime Benefits You May Not Know About.

In the past, you couldn’t give Amazon Prime as a gift. But in 2013 that changed. Click here to purchase Amazon Prime as a gift. Of course, one downside to purchasing a subscription as a gift is that the recipient has to re-up (or you choose to keep giving the gift). If your recipient is using the benefits of Amazon Prime, though, they may be more than happy to renew their subscription.

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The keys to orderly gift wrap

1 December 2016

Gift-wrap storage secrets

I see a whole lot of gift wrap in my clients’ homes. Christmas wrap, in particular, seems to take on a life of its own in my clients’ basements near their holiday decorations.

Storing gift wrap seems to be a perennial challenge for people. Here are some ideas for making it easier:

  • Make your gift wrap accessible. I often see that clients will just buy more wrap if it’s too hard to get to the wrap they already own. I encourage you to move your wrap to a spot where you can easily access it.
  • Use up what you have. Place a moratorium on buying new wrap. If you find yourself tempted to buy new wrap because you don’t like what you have, donate the old wrap before buying new.
  • Let go of the wrap you don’t love. If you have wrapping paper that’s been sitting in your basement season after season because you never use it, why not donate it, so that someone who loves it can make use of it.
  • Streamline your selection. I love the idea of having one “signature” gift wrap that you use for all occasions. Perhaps it’s white paper or brown Kraft paper. You could buy a roll and, if you have room, keep it on a dispenser for easy use. (Such large rolls and dispensers are surprising affordable at Paper Mart.) Think of all the time you’d save deciding which paper to use and figuring out if you have enough for a particular package.
  • Don’t buy the extra-long rolls. Those 40” long rolls might make it easier to wrap large gifts, but very few commercially available gift-wrap storage solutions will accommodate them. I urge my clients to let go of those extra-long rolls when they’re decluttering and to stop buying them.
  • Give fewer wrappable gifts. If you give clutter-free gifts, you have less to wrap and therefore less need for gift wrap.

I love a beautifully wrapped gift as much as the next guy. But I try hard not to accumulate a large collection of wrap. With gift wrap (as in other items, like cosmetics), the more you have, the harder it is to use.

Photo by asenat29 via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.

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Americans want to receive experiences, not stuff

29 November 2016

One of my refrains around any holiday is urging folks to give the gift of experiences, not stuff. I see how gifts can so easily become clutter, because people tend to resist discarding anything they received as a gift.

So I was really pleased to get an email from SpareFoot about their recent study that found that most people don’t use the gifts they receive and that 81% would rather receive experiences.

Here’s an infographic summarizing the study results:

For the nitty-gritty details, you can read the complete results of the SpareFoot Holiday and New Year Survey conducted by Wakefield Research.

The study comes from SpareFoot.com, the place to find the best deals on self-storage and full-service storage via their blog post, This holiday season, Americans want experiences, not stuff.

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The importance of gratitude

26 November 2016

These are tumultuous times for many people in the U.S. I think that no matter what is going on around us, we benefit from focusing on the things that we can be grateful for. My brother, Larry, is visiting me from Brisbane, Australia, and he and I were discussing how science shows that a gratitude practice leads to a longer life. Here’s an article that details some of the benefits of gratitude.

Toward that end, I thought I’d continue my tradition of writing a Thanksgiving post about the things that I am grateful for:

  • I get to hang out with my brother for a few weeks. Since Larry and I live thousands of miles apart, it’s a real treat to spend so much time with him.
  • I’m an early riser. Our fabulous friend, Jim, is also visiting us so there are four adults, instead of the usual two, in our house. Each morning, I’m the first one up, which gives me time to do my daily genealogy research and try to get a little work done. I’m truly grateful that I’m wired to get up early—I get so much done first thing in the morning.
  • Our father’s good health. Our father, Gene, is 86 years old. He has been treated for bladder cancer and is nowcancer free. He takes daily walks and leads an independent life. I’m so grateful he’s doing so well.
  • Bix! We brought our standard poodle puppy, Bix, home on December 13, 2015. He just turned one and he is an absolute delight. He’s almost past his naughty stage and basically spends his time making us laugh (and making us throw a toy for him to retrieve). Thanks to Bix, I have new friends and I’m exercising more. (That nine-month period without a dog in 2015 was quite sedentary.) He’s a very good boy.
  • Pet health insurance. Bix is a healthy dog, but we’ve had some vet visits and anomalies (like when he had to have eight baby teeth pulled because they didn’t fall out on their own). I’m so grateful that we signed up for amazing pet insurance through Nationwide. We have the Whole Pet with Wellness plan, which reimburses us for 90 percent of our expenses (after the $100 annual deductible was met). We pay about $60 a month for the premium but it has paid off in spades. It is so wonderful that money doesn’t play into our veterinary decisions.
  • Our house renovations. We’ve seen some big changes in our 108-year-old house in the past year. Our unfinished basement went from something out of Silence of the Lambs to a pleasant, open and water tight space. I no longer dread doing the laundry down there. And Bix enjoys having an indoor playground. We also have a wonderful new kitchen that is a joy to spend time in. Both those projects were dirty, disruptive and expensive. But they were certainly worth the expense and aggravation!
  • My wonderful business and amazing team members. For the last few years, my client work has been primarily leading teams of organizers. We help our clients make swift and transformative changes. My team members are amazing organizers and amazing individuals and I am indeed very grateful for them.
  • Friends of many decades standing. I am so lucky to have Thanksgiving dinner every year with the most amazing friends. I’ve watched their kids grow up and we’re now welcoming a new generation. I also am grateful for my buddies from college, whom I see at least once a year, and friends from high school whom I see when I visit family in Walla Walla. Perhaps one of the greatest things about growing older is my ever expanding pool of friends.
  • Hamilton. For the last month, I’ve been listening to the soundtrack of the Broadway musical Hamilton non-stop. I’ve read about Hamilton. I’m sort of living and breathing it and, for some reason, it’s incredibly life enhancing. I hope before next year’s Thanksgiving post I will have seen it in person!

There is always so much in life to be grateful for, if we’re looking for it. Sometimes I have to remind myself to step back and take stock of those things. For the rest of the year, I’m going to redouble my efforts to write a daily gratitude list. I know it will help me meet whatever challenges might be ahead.

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The key to finishing my big project

17 November 2016

On Monday, I reposted a 2009 post about the patchwork quilt I started knitting ten years ago. It took me two years to finish knitting the 63 squares. A year later, with the help of friends, I figured out a pretty layout for the squares and seamed them together. (I used only 48 of the 63 squares.) I started a knitting a binding around the edge. And that’s where the project stalled.

I bet I hadn’t touched the afghan since 2010. That’s when I placed it in a bag and put it in the closet because (a) knitting the applied i-cord binding was unbearably tedious and (b) I didn’t even know what I was going to do with the afghan when I was finished.

All that changed about a month ago. My knitting group now meets at the City Sewing Room a wonderful place for people who sew to use sewing machines (and other sewing accoutrements) and get advice. You can also have alterations and special projects sewn for you there. On October 19 when I was there, I saw that Anne, the owner, was sewing a flannel backing to a knitted baby blanket. My antennae immediately went up.

With the encouragement of my crafty friends who were there—and who helped me lay the afghan out way back in 2009—I talked with Anne about the possibility of her sewing a flannel backing on my much larger afghan. She said that wouldn’t be a problem. When I lamented that I still needed to finish knitting the binding, she mentioned that she could sew a flannel binding on. Sold! In no time, I ripped out the binding I’d already knitted. It felt great.

Two weeks later, I’d purchased and washed flannel and brought it to Anne, along with the clean and blocked afghan. I now have a beautiful, cozy afghan I can sleep under in bed or lie under on the couch. Last evening I used it as a lap blanket.

Here are a couple of photos. It feels like a miracle.

I got to thinking about how this happened and realized the key:

Impossible projects become possible when you enlist the help of experts.

For me, binding that afghan and then figuring out how to make is useful (it’s wool and too itchy to use without some sort of backing) was an insurmountable hurdle. For Anne, it was no big deal, just a few hours work.

The same is true for clutter or all sorts of other projects. My team comes in and, in a few hours, helps clients transform spaces in their home that had felt impossible to tackle on their own.

I am so happy to have this project completed and so glad I found an expert to help me. And I’m very grateful to Anne and my craft sisters for helping me make it happen!

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Worth repeating: Finishing is tough (in knitting and organizing)

14 November 2016

This post was originally published on July 9, 2009. It came to mind because this weekend, when the afghan in question was actually finished. That’s right, seven years later. Check back on Thursday for a post about that, complete with photos of the finished blanket. And don’t let the seven year delay detract from the message of this post!

It’s the rare knitter who enjoys the finishing aspects of their knitting projects. That’s the weaving in of ends, the blocking (soaking or steaming the knit fabric to size), the seaming.

Finishing is the bane of existence for most knitters. And it seems to be real problem for folks who are tackling organizing projects as well. (I count myself in both groups.) I can think of a few reasons:

  • Fear of screwing up the finishing and rendering all the prior work wasted
  • Fear of discovering I made a mistake in the process and will have to start over
  • The tedium of the final tasks (whether it be seaming a sweater or shlepping donations to charity)
  • Not knowing how to finish
  • The threat of being disappointed in the final result

But the flip side of the coin is the thrill when a project that has gone well is finished. And the time freed up to work on something else (another knitting project, another organizing project, or maybe just something fun).

I’m experiencing the combined tedium and joy of finishing a giant knitting project. As I’ve blogged about before, I started knitting Barbara Walker’s Learn-To-Knit Afghan back in early 2006. It’s comprised of 63 8×8-inch squares, each knit in a different stitch pattern. By the time you’ve finished it, you’ve tasted many different types of knitting.

I got about 48 of the squares done, hit a wall in the Lace section, then put the project down. I picked it up again about a year later when I participated in the Ravelympics, where my goal was to finish the Lace section during the days of the summer Olympics. I actually finished the rest of the squares in that time.

For more than 10 months, those finished squares sat in a stack waiting for me to do something with them. The next step was to lay them out, so that I could seam them into a blanket. I had absolutely no idea how to go about doing that well and lacked the confidence to do it myself. I didn’t want a poor layout to result in an ugly blanket. Plus, I was a little afraid that the seaming itself would be difficult or just plain unenjoyable.

Finally, last month, I sought the help I needed to get past that barrier. I took all 63 squares with me to Michigan on my R&R trip with my crafty girlfriends. And I got some of them to help me layout the afghan. They weren’t daunted at all.

Here’s a photo of the laying out process. It was like putting together a puzzle!

I decided to seam only 48 of the 63 squares, to make a smaller blanket to use on the couch. Once those squares were selected and laid out, I started seaming. I had six columns and eight rows. I started seaming columns, then I sewed columns together.

Here are two of the first squares seamed together:

Here’s a photo of the first column:

And the first pair of columns seamed together:

And the whole thing seamed together:

The next step is weaving in all those ends. Then I’m going to put an applied i-cord border around it. Then I’ll back it with soft fabric, so it’s cozy for using on the couch. And when I’m finished, you can count on my posting a photo!

A finishing job this big somehow seems more than finishing. I’m kind of glad I didn’t consider the enormity of what would have to be done after I’d completed the squares.

This is a great metaphor for all projects, isn’t it? Do it one square at a time. When you’re finished with all the squares, do the next task. Ask for help if you get stymied. Finish that task and then the next. Keep plugging away (even if you take months-long breaks!) and eventually you’ll finish. And, trust me, that’s a thrill and a half.

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The blog's 10th anniversary!

10 November 2016


Ten years ago today, I published my first blog post, called What is organized? It feels like I’ve been blogging forever, but at the same time, those ten years went by quickly!

Since that day, I’ve written 1,155 blog posts. They’re of varying lengths, but I’d say they average 450 words. That’s 517,500 words. The equivalent of four or five books.

That’s interesting—I would have said I didn’t have time over the past ten years to write five organizing books. But clearly I did. That right there, ladies and gentlemen, is the value of doing things a little at a time.

I took a glance at my Google Analytics to see what my most popular blog post is. Hands down, it’s the one called Are you interested in becoming a professional organizer? with 120,000 page views since I wrote in in 2011 (including a staggering 54,000 page views in the last year alone). Clearly plenty of people are interested in becoming professional organizers.

I want to thank the readers of this blog. I appreciate your encouragement and kind words. If you have topics you’d like to see me cover on this blog, please post a comment or send me an email.

In the meantime, I’ll keep trying to publish those two blog posts a week (Mondays and Thursdays). And if you have any interest in genealogy, please check out my other blog, Organize Your Family History, where I try to post Tuesdays and Fridays.

Photo by CJ Sorg: via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.

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About Janine

Janine Adams

Hello! I’m Janine Adams — a certified professional organizer based in St. Louis, and the creator of Peace of Mind Organizing®.

I love order, harmony + beauty, but I believe that the way that you feel about yourself and your home is what truly matters.

If you’re ready to de­clutter with a purpose and add more ease to your life, you’ve found the right blog — and you’ve found the right gal.

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