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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Downsizing... Part 2

So here are my two main organizing/downsizing strategies.

The first is that I pick one spot in a room, then I go around the room as though it were a clock and I'm the minute hand just moving from the beginning of the hour all the way around until the end of the hour.

It makes it seem doable as opposed to looking at the room with that "deer in the headlights" look.  It's easy to see an overwhelming amount of "stuff" and just freeze into inaction.  The clock method helps.  It's like putting blinders on and staying focused on task, even if the immediate task is just little... just that one little spot in front of you... then moving to the next tiny spot.

The second thing I do is compartmentalize.  I take between 3-10 boxes (depending on the task) and label them.

Sometimes they're labeled with the names of other rooms: Bathroom, Bedroom, Garage, etc.

Sometimes they're labeled with categories: Papers, Not This Room, Clothes, etc.

Those "category" boxes can be further sorted later.  But in the interim, if you have to find something this gives you a better chance of finding it.  For example, I needed my DMV registration form and it was so much easier to just grab my one box of papers and go through that until I found the letter than it would have been to search through every nook and cranny of the house for a letter with piles of papers everywhere, stuffed in drawers, laying on top of book cases, etc.

This "downsizing/cleaning/organizing" that I'm doing is being done in my spare time, which for someone who takes care of 3 acres, a senior citizen, a 2000 sq ft house, and 3 cats... while trying to run a business that includes working at a gallery, teaching, making jewelry, marketing, and running a jewelry makers' organization (whew!) is kind of a joke.  But we do what we gotta do, right?

At least that (the above) might help to explain how things tend to get out of hand.  I just finished two shows.  One was three days, the other was two days.  I was prepared for neither so lots of last minute creating and packing.  Which means that a lot of other things didn't happen... like baskets of clean laundry didn't get folded and put away, mail didn't get sorted and dealt with, labels that didn't work didn't get sorted for salvage, accoutrements for sending out orders didn't get put away, etc.

As I said yesterday, nothing's really dirty or dangerous... just stuff ends up piling up into a center of the rooms like a magnetic vortex or something.

So here's today's progress.  Unfortunately I don't have a good "before" photo of the computer corner, but here's a bit of it...

So I took everything out of that corner of  the room, one at a time, cleaned each item (I do have a dust problem) then put back only the things that belong there.  I put my new power strip down (yay!), removed some electronics I wasn't even using, taped some of the cords to the back of the computer desk (I hate all that stuff on the floor)...

... and here's the corner now. 

I added some aloe plants because I have no plants in my room and I don't mind having something in there that produces oxygen.  Aloe is supposed to be an air purifier too (see NASA's clean air study).

I moved my label printer and my postage scale to much more convenient locations (get a surge protector with lots of holes!).  Actually, let me show you which surge protector I got.  Aside from lots of holes, the holes are in different directions for optimal use AND there are two really nifty latch holders on the end that keep the cords down.  Really spiffy.

And notice that thing on the wall to the right of my desk.  THAT is perfect for tiny homes.  It's a 2-dimensional (okay, not really, but nearly) file cabinet!  All my important and often used files are there.  I got them on Amazon.

 WAY better than this...

And while it's true that the traditional file cabinet will hold more, it takes up way too much space in my prime real estate.  I keep my 3-dimensional file cabinets in the garage, while all the papers I deal with frequently are on my wall at my fingertips and out of the way. 

This one I did yesterday.  Took some of the things that I wear frequently so don't want to "put away" (I hate putting things away... so much work) and here they are... again, at my fingertips.  This was a bit of empty wall space in my living room so I just put some Monkey hooks into the sheet rock and voila!  I don't have to LOOK for this stuff that I use every day and they aren't cluttering up my bedroom.  IMO there's no point in putting things out of sight if you use them every day.  This is neat enough a solution for me.

Here's something I spent about five minutes debating about.  It's a set of glass coaster that you can put photos into.  But I can't justify keeping them because I've HAD them for over a year and never did anything with them.  Ugh!  I was originally going to put poppy images in them then give them to my mom, but I think she's already got coasters.  I don't need coaster because I have a glass table and if I did want coaster they wouldn't be glass... my glasses and coffee cups would be lethal with glass coasters.  I'm NOT a gentle person.

So now they're in the give-away pile.  Yay me!

Oh, look what I found when I moved my computer desk out.  A Labradorite and a Moonstone.  Whoohoo!

So here is (a side view) of the couch in my bedroom.  Well, it's just a little love-seat but I call it a couch.  It's not FILTHY... I just end up piling stuff on it.  In this photo I see clean clothes, winter things (that I ended up putting on those Monkey Hooks), my surge protector, mail that I have to deal with, and stuff I use to wrap out-going packages.

And here's the couch after I dealt with that stuff.

I still have a short stack of books I need to deal with, but at least a person can sit down now. 

Watched a couple more episodes of tiny house stuff while I was doing this organizing.  There are some cute ideas.  I think the "tiny house" aesthetic can (and should) be utilized everywhere, not just necessarily in 200 square foot living spaces.

To see the start of this journey, go to PART 1.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Downsizing... But Not Really (part 1)

I recently got a desire to watch some of the "tiny home" shows on tv.  For those who don't know what a tiny home is, it's a home that is very small.  Very VERY small.  Usually around 200 square feet.  Sometimes they're on wheels so you can be mobile.

It's very trendy at the moment so there's lots of info about it all over tv and the internet, etc.

Here's just one (of many) Facebook pages dedicated to them.

And other sites:

While most seem to be on the extremely small side of things, some tiny homes are as big as 500-600 square feet.

My first home was 827 square feet.  Lived there as a family of four, so not sure how 600 qualifies as tiny.  I guess it's all relative.  They say the average home in America is 2300 square feet.  To me, that's ginormous... and that's just the average.  That means a good portion of these houses are 4000, 6000, 8000 square feet.


I can see why people want to downsize.  Maybe some are learning, however, that a true "tiny home" was too much of a change for them.  After watching a couple of the tv shows on tiny homes, I know it's not for me.  And the thing is, at one time I could have thought it'd be up my alley.

I can easily see how there are many like me... who thought, "Hey, what a great idea.  I can do this!"  Ah, the bane of being an idealist.

That being said, while I can't see myself ever by choice living in a tiny home, I can fully embrace the idea of downsizing.... my stuff.

My kids and I have had some living conditions that could be similar to some of the things a tiny home owner has to deal with.  For over a year I had no bedroom, but opened a sleeper sofa every night and closed it back up every morning.  There were also a couple of years where I slept on the couch and my daughter slept on the floor of the living room.  I spent three years sleeping in a cot in my workshop too.  I currently cook (fabulous meals so I'm told) using 2 on/off burners and a toaster oven.  These are the kinds of things you do out of necessity and they are generally temporary.  I have no desire to make a sofa bed every day for the rest of my life or to sleep on a living room sofa.

So that's part of my reasoning for not wanting to consider a tiny house.  One of the other reasons is that I run a business and with that comes "stuff".  I can't "downsize" my workshop.  Well, I can, and I have been, but there's still going to be a lot of stuff... and continually more and more stuff.  It's a business.

Also, I like to entertain.  I want friends over... I want family to stay the night, etc.  That is SOOOO hard to do in a tiny home.

So my plan is to go through my current living conditions and "downsize" my stuff.  I want a clean, clutter-free living environment and I want to be able to find anything I need within seconds.

Follow along with me as I begin.

I'm starting in the bedroom because that's where my computer is (yes, I still use a desktop for 99% of my computing).  A couple months ago I bought a high end surge protector because I live in a rural area and when we get storms, we sometimes lose electricity and/or have brown-outs and none of that is good for my computer.

But that surge protector has been sitting on my couch waiting... waiting... waiting.  I can't GET to my computer plug.  Ugh!

And so it begins.

If I get up the nerve to let you see before pictures, I'll post them when I get to the after pictures.    You see... I run out of time... and then I put things down and say I'll deal with it later.  but later doesn't come because I'm still pressed for time.  It just goes on and builds up.  And while it's not dirty or dangerous, it's clutter and inconvenient.

So let's do one issue at a time.

This is a good example of how my thought processes get me in to trouble. The cotton robe on the left is the one I use every time I take a shower.  The one on the right is similar if not nearly identical, but I don't need two... I can only use one at a time, right?

But then my brain says things like, "But what if you have company and they need to borrow a bathrobe?"

Oh seriously?!  I'm supposed to store a bathrobe indefinitely on the off chance that someone may someday say, "Hey, do you happen to have a spare bathrobe I can borrow after my shower?"

Then I argue, "But it's 100% cotton and really good quality.  You can't just throw that away."

Wrong. I need to learn to get rid of things that serve me no purpose EVEN IF THEY ARE GOOD QUALITY.

The blue thing in the middle... I guess that would be referred to as a housecoat.  How often do I use it?  Hm.... If I'm running around in my pajamas (which is often) I could put it on if I'm cold.  but I could also put on a sweater (and I have several of those).

Does the housecoat serve an important role?  I don't think so.  And it's butt ugly.

Remember that rule we've all heard? If you haven't used it in six months, you don't need it.

I'm sure I haven't worn that housecoat since last year.

How about if I put BOTH of those things in a box and put the box away for a year?  Then if I don't need either of them, I can get rid of the contents of the box after a year.

But I think I'd rather make a decision now and not store a box of stuff for a year.

Okay, they both go.  I'm trying to downsize.

Oh, two comments regarding that photo... the walls were NOT my choice.  I inherited them and just haven't gotten around to doing something to cover-up/remove the wall paneling.  Also, hooks... are awesome!  I need more hooks and shelves everywhere.

New Jewelry Creations at Bracken Designs

Just catching you up on some of the pieces I've made in the past few months.  The ones that are still available are listed on my website so if you want to see more info about any piece, just click here.


Friday, November 18, 2016

Be Judicious With Your Newsletters

A couple months back, a friend came to visit and during that visit we ended up going to a Sur La Table store in order to buy a crème brûlée torch.

At checkout, I was asked my email address.  I was distracted (not difficult to do) and without thinking overly much about it, I gave it to them.

I was not told why they wanted my email address, nor was I asked if I wanted to sign up for their newsletter.

Here is a screen shot showing the unsolicited emails from Sur La Table from Sept 10 - Sept 17 of this year.

I don't know about you, but I consider this obscene.  On what planet would a company seriously think I could ever be interested in reading 2-3 emails from them each day?

Do I blame Sur La Table entirely for overloading my email inbox?  No.  After all, I am the one that stupidly responded to the question asking for my email address.  I'm used to checkouts asking for my zip code (which makes more sense) and I just wasn't thinking too much about what they were asking for.  My bad.

That being said, 17 emails in 8 days is overkill.

So what's my point?

My point is, they lost an interested party.  I had to unsubscribe and/or set up a filter so these all bypass the inbox from here on out.

This means I will never see a Sur La Table newsletter.  Had they sent one a month, or even one a week, I probably would actually read it.  I'd still be a bit miffed that I never opted in to receiving their newsletter, but that seems like SOP for a lot of businesses these days.

So having been on the receiving end of "this is too much!!!"... fellow artists, my advice in regards to newsletter is:
  • Make sure your list consists of people who requested to be on your mailing list
  • Don't send too many newsletters to your mailing list
This is just my opinion, but I have the feeling many people feel as I do.

I send out one email per month (btw, if you want to sign up for it, here's the link).  I try to make it short and to the point and I try to put something interesting in it.

Do you send a newsletter to your customers?  Do you receive and read/enjoy any particular newsletters?  What's your experience on the subject?

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Tucson Gem & Mineral Show How To Advice and Tips

A month or so ago, I was perusing Facebook and saw a thread (probably in a metalsmithing group) about the Tucson show.  (schedule)

This is one of the biggest and most well-known shows in the jewelry-making industry. Days and days and miles and miles of workshops, vendors, buyers, sellers, stones, jewelry components, etc.

Anyway, the person posting the thread inquired about how to prepare for going to the Tucson show, and one of the responses just blew me away.

I reached out to the artist who posted the response, asking if she'd allow me to repost her info here on my blog. It's just too invaluable not to be shared with as many people as possible.

The response came from metalsmith and jewelry artist Jill Sharp.

To see Jill's amazing jewelry, check out her shop by clicking here!  


Anyway, here is Jill's exact post response in the FB thread. I really appreciate Jill for taking the time to post her thoughtful FB response as well as for letting me repost it for all of my followers. If you find this info helpful, please leave a comment. 

If you go, it will help tremendously if you pre-register for the shows you want to see (assuming those shows are wholesale only; there are also many ‘open to the public’ shows that don’t require a wholesale license).

You’ll want to figure out your lodging early. Tucson hotels book up often a year in advance; not only from all the people coming to buy and coming to sell, but some of the sellers stay in / sell from hotel rooms as well. So usually even the inexpensive chains are either booked or quite pricey. You can stay in Phoenix and drive down and back each day, but that’s a 90 minute (at best) commute which adds a lot of time to the day. There may be other places to stay closer to Tucson, but I don’t know about any. I stay with a friend, so hotels are not an issue for me.

As far as “best” options for cabs or beads…that’s so subjective that it’s impossible to say what the “best” would be. Everyone’s preferences will be different. The best thing to do is start attending the different shows and make excellent notes on what you like / don’t like and from whom you buy, so you can plan to buy from them again if their inventory suits your needs. I always go to the Holidome, GJX, and JOGS, and then some of the smaller, open to the public shows too. I used to go to AGTA, but that’s mostly very pricey faceted stones and jewelry, and you’ll have to provide a lot of documentation (and show that you’ve spent a certain amount of dollars on inventory in the prior year) to qualify. So I’ve skipped it in the last few years.

Shuttle vs. rental car: I have never gone to the gem show WITHOUT getting a rental car. The shuttles can be helpful, but you can find yourself waiting…and waiting…and waiting in line for the shuttle. That’s fine if you’re just going for fun and a little spending, but I am buying most of gem stock for the YEAR. I don’t have the time to wait. Also sometimes the shuttles don’t go where you think (or you’ve been misinformed, either by a new shuttle driver or someone else) they’re going. So you can get stuck. I have had this happen, and waited for two hours for the shuttle – that’s utterly lost time for buying. Also I have had to call a taxi when a shuttle just never came back…even before they were supposed to stop running. So I really don’t even shuttle anymore. I just drive. It’s an extra expense – and this you would want to book early too, as I have been to Tucson, picking up my rental car, and heard the reservations people telling folks that they’re all sold out during the gem show – but it’s worth it for me.

What I bring: copies of my business license. Plenty of business cards. I actually make up stickers that have my information already on them – and I give this to the sellers when I purchase (when you’re buying wholesale, the sellers must take your information for their tax records). I simply hand them my sticker with all info and it’s much faster than them having me write my info (name, address, phone, tax id) over and over again when I make a purchase. Checkbook, plus cash. Sometimes (though not always) you can negotiate a better deal for cash. Not if you’re buying like $15 worth of beads, but if I am spending, say $500, I will ask if there’s a discount for cash. And sometimes there is. Especially if I’m a repeat buyer (and some of the sellers – especially the US sellers – will remember you from year to year.)

What else do I bring? A small backpack and a wheelie bag. I promise you, your neck and shoulders are going to get tired and sore after a day of bending over those tables and perusing potential purchases. And if you’re buying a lot of beads or metal (bead) or gems, the weight of carrying those around *will* add up. So I bring a wheelie and bottled water, protein-based snacks for those low blood sugar moments, hand wipes because your hands will get ridiculously dirty handling all the gems, and I bring "extras", depending on the weather. I’ve been in Tucson for the show when it was (unseasonably, but it does happen) 40 degrees for the high. And with driving to each show, sometimes there’s a good bit of walking from your parking area to the event. So I bring gloves, a scarf, usually a windbreaker. If it’s going to rain you’ll need an umbrella. Usually I bring two pair of boots, to be able to change them out midweek (I’m usually shopping for 3 or 4 days) to give me feet a break. Mostly boots (though I keep a pair of flip flops in the car for when the weather warms up). I’ve also been to Tucson when the parking lot was so muddy and flooded that you could barely walk through it without boots. I also bring a small travel umbrella. So check the weather before you go and if it looks iffy at all, bring whatever extras you might need.

You WILL be walking a LOT. I have worn a pedometer before, and most recently my Fitbit, and I have logged on some days, 20,000 steps. Usually I’m in the 13,000 to 17,000 range. For many of us, who sit more than we move, your legs and feet (and the previously mentioned neck and shoulders) will be SORE. Bring your ibuprofen, or whatever else you need to manage that if necessary. Be prepared that it’s great fun, but also exhausting. You will get overwhelmed and you’ll stop being able to process everything, and that’s probably when you should stop shopping for the day. Because purchases made when in that state are usually the ones you might regret a bit. Ask me how I know. ;)

Know that there’s the budget, the over-budget, and the “oh my god what have I done”. If you can avoid that last one, great. But it’s not always possible. I have a budget. I usually go over it (slightly). Because there will always be that “once in a lifetime” most amazing gem(s) or price(s) that you just HAVE to take advantage of. So you dig a little deeper and find some extra money (or a little room on your credit card). You’re there, all that yummy goodness is there, and it’s nearly impossible to resist. It happens. Just know that it happens and try to be aware of it when it’s happening.

I usually, every night in my room, go through the day’s purchases and figure out what I’ve taken care of and what I’m still looking for / need to buy. If I don’t do that, I sometimes will overbuy (forgetting that I’ve bought it – or similar – already). I also total up the day’s purchases at night so I know exactly where I’m at for the next day. I keep a guesstimate of what I’ve spent in my head while shopping, but sometimes I’m a little off and it helps to know exactly what I've spent before I start out again.

I have never shipped my purchases home. The cabs and beads (back when I was buying beads) are small and I have been able to tightly pack them into my carry on and just take them with me. I don’t like to ship and I don’t want to pay the extra expense – so I make it work and then I know I have all my items with me. I have, on occasion, been stopped to have my bag manually checked. When that happens, I ask for a private screening. It’s never been a problem to have that done. It’s not like I’m buying diamonds and high value gems, but I still don’t need everyone else in line to see just how much I’ve purchased. I also fly into and out of Phoenix, instead of directly to Tucson, because I have friends there and I stay an extra couple of days in Phoenix before heading home – but I have flown through Tucson in the past and most of the TSA people know that the gem show’s going on and they’re typically very understanding that you might not want everyone to see all your purchases.