APRIL 2003

Tips & Inspiration for
Organizing a Simpler Life

That which we persist in doing becomes easier – not that the nature of the task has changed, but our ability to do has increased.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

FEATURE ARTICLE: Organizing your way to a cleaner house

I used to spend every Saturday and sometimes even entire weekends doing my housekeeping. Now I hardly clean at all and my house is cleaner than ever!

I know what you’re thinking . . . it’s not because I hired a housekeeper. It’s because I have discovered that a little cleaning goes a long way. With just a minute of cleaning here and a minute there every day, you can keep your home spotless with very little time and effort.

Let’s apply this concept of everyday cleaning to the bathroom, which I think we can all agree is generally the nastiest, most dreaded room in the house when it comes to cleaning.

There are three quick and easy things you can do every day to virtually stop dirt, bacteria, and mold and mildew in its tracks.

(1) Use a daily shower cleaner to prevent soap scum build-up. (I recommend the kind you just spray without having to wipe.) The key is to start with a clean shower and use the product as directed.

(2) Wipe the sink, faucets, and countertop after the final use every morning. Just spray some basin, tub and tile cleaner on a paper towel and wipe. Or use a pre-moistened wipe. Even kids can do that!

(3) Use a flush-release cleaning product in the toilet bowl. I like the new ones that clip to the toilet bowl – you don’t have to pick up the heavy toilet tank lid. Keep a toilet brush handy for those times when a flush is not enough. Encourage household members to use it as needed.
TIME: 5 seconds

Once a week, wipe mirrors with glass cleaner and a paper towel or sheet of newspaper (the newspaper helps to prevent streaking). For cleaning floors, I recommend investing in a ready-to-use mop.

Some of these new mops utilize an on-board cleaning dispenser; others require a pre-moistened cleaning cloth. Either way, if you start with a clean floor and mop as needed, you may never have to get down on your hands and knees again!

The real advantage of incorporating everyday cleaning into your schedule is that instead of spending time cleaning, you can spend time having some much-deserved fun.

NEXT MONTH’S FEATURE ARTICLE: Organizing for summer

ORGANIZING TIP OF THE MONTH: Frequent buyer/flyer cards

Do you have a whole bunch of frequent buyer and/or flyer cards cluttering up your wallet?

Here’s one solution: You might try using a business card holder to organize them.

It works for me. I keep my frequent traveler (airline/hotel) cards in a cheap plastic business card holder and use another one to store my frequent buyer cards.

Then I keep the card holders in my purse so they’re always handy when I need them. A money clip might be any alternate solution for men. Or you may be able to insert the plastic business card holder (with cards) in the billholder section of your wallet.


Last month, I asked “What do you do with your catalogs?” As promised, here are the results of the survey:

22% said: I throw them all away immediately.
22% said: I keep only those catalogs that I want to order from.
13% said: I let them pile up and then throw them away.
0% said: I neatly file some or all of the catalogs I receive.
4% said: I set them aside to read them later, but never do.
22% said: I look through every one, but never or rarely order anything.
4% said: I use the catalogs to place orders on a regular basis.
13% said: “Other” with the following explanations:
(a) Use them to browse through instead of going shopping
(b) Use them as bathroom reading and to see what’s available and at what price
(c) Save for do-it-yourself home project ideas and for finding similar items at discount prices

NEW SURVEY: Who’s the disorganized one(s) in your home?

I was so pleased with the response I got to last month’s survey, that I have decided to include a survey in every issue of Organizing Plain & Simple Monthly.

This month’s survey question: Who’s the disorganized one in your home?

Reply to this e-mail with the word “Survey” in the subject line and one of the following numbers as your response:

(2)My spouse/significant other
(3)My kids
(4)My parents
(5)All of us
(6)None of us
(7)Other (please explain)

I will share the results of this survey next month.

DID YOU KNOW? It’s time to de-stress your life

April is National Stress Awareness Month. April 16 is National Stress Awareness Day. Think of one simple thing you can do to de-stress your life. Then do it.

READERS WRITE: What to do with perfectly good stuff?

Q. I’ve been a sentimental packrat all my life. I agree with all of the tips you’ve been passing along and I would love to follow them to a clutter free life! My problem/question is this: How do I DECIDE where the items go? I am not a decision maker and so I put things in the “until I decide” place. My other challenge is that I hate waste. So I find myself hanging on to many things (most people would call them junk) because I’m sure they could be used. It’s not because I’m cheap; I honestly hate waste! I figure the combination of sentimentality/packrat along with the hating waste is a pretty deadly combo. Any suggestions?

A. Whew! That’s a really good question. I’m going to make a few suggestions that you can take or leave.

(1)The more trouble you have parting with things, the more careful you may want to be about acquiring things. Make the decision NOT to bring something into your house and you won’t have to make a decision later about what to do with it.

(2)Try to let go of the belief that once something enters into your possession, you are now the keeper of it forever.  Things have a useful life and then they become useless. Sure, you can use an old tee shirt as a rag, but do you really need another rag? If you can think of no immediate use for a thing, give yourself permission to let it go. It’s okay. Honest.

(3)If you have trouble letting go of things, it sometimes helps to think about keeping things instead. Decide what things you want surround yourself with and let go of the rest.

(4)I hate waste too. But I have come to the realization that I hate the waste of space on useless stuff more than I hate throwing useless stuff out. You have to weigh the pain of keeping something against the pain of letting it go. Try establishing limits on things like rags (only what will fit in a tote bag, for example) and recycled computer paper (only what fits in a paper tray). The rest is more than you need.

SHAMELESS PROMOTION: Upcoming book tour and more

There’s a good chance that I will be going back out on book tour towards the end of May and into the first week of June.

Tentative stops include Milwaukee, Madison, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, Seattle, Portland, and San Diego. I will have more details next month.

My Web site (http://www.unclutter.com) is in the process of being updated. Past issues of Organizing Plain & Simple Monthly will now be posted under Newsletter Archives.

In addition to being a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers (http://www.napo.net), I recently joined the Arizona Professional Organizers Association (http://www.apoa.info). You can get referrals to local professional organizers through both of these sites.

ENTER TO WIN an autographed copy of my most recent book!

Do you have a question about uncluttering or organizing? Or a really great organizing tip that you would like to share with other readers? Click on the following link to send an e-mail to me. editor@unclutter.com

If your question or tip is used in a future issue of this newsletter, I will send you a free autographed copy of my latest book, Organizing Plain & Simple (www.unclutter.com/books.html)!

Congratulations to this month’s winner, Marcia B. of Lansdale, PA for her question about what to do with perfectly good stuff.

That’s it for this month. Until next month, keep it simple.