April 2004
Vol. 2, No. 4

Tips & Inspiration for Organizing a Simpler Life

“If I had only done today what I set out for yesterday, I’d be free tomorrow.”
–Andy Munthe, Race car driver

Thank you for subscribing. . .

I hope you enjoy reading Organizing Plain & Simple Monthly as much as I enjoy writing it. Feel free to FORWARD THIS NEWSLETTER to your family, friends, and colleagues.

If you received this issue as a forward and would like to receive your own free subscription, you can sign up at: http://www.unclutter.com.

SPAM ALERT: If you use AOL or have recently added a spam filter, please be sure to add donna@unclutter.com to your address book so that this newsletter does not get filtered or accidentally deleted.

Please DO NOT REPLY to this newsletter as I will not receive your message. You’ll find contact information below.

FEATURE ARTICLE: Organizing the stress away

Feeling a little stressed? Out of control? Organize something and you’ll feel better.

Believe it or not, you can alleviate stress in a matter of minutes through the simple act of organizing.

Got a minute?

* Review your to-do list (or make one).
* Determine what is the most important thing you need to do today and start doing it.
* Make a 15- to 30-minute organizing appointment with yourself. Write it in your daily planner and honor that appointment as you would any other.
* Put a bowl or hook somewhere to collect keys every day.
* Make a “Bills to Pay” folder for storing incoming bills.
* Make your bed.

In under five minutes, you can:

* Sort your mail.
* Flag items in your email inbox that require a reply or other action.
* Pick up five things and put them where they belong.
* Clean out the glove box in your automobile.
* Unclutter your wallet.
* Throw out all the junk mail and catalogs that have piled up. (Don’t worry…you’ll get more.)
* Find a local professional organizer to help you get organized through the National Association of Professional Organizers (http://www.napo.net).

And in just ten minutes, you can:

* Make a list of things you want to organize. Pick one project and start it.
* Start going through file folders, tossing any papers you no longer need. Mark where you left off with a sticky note or binder clip.
* Rummage through your shoe collection. Pull out and donate any shoes you haven’t worn in the last year or so.
* Clear your desktop or kitchen counter. Put back only what you use daily. Store everything else in drawers and cabinets.
* Organize your sock drawer.
* Unclutter the trunk of your car.

The next time you’re feeling stressed, take an organizing timeout. As you begin to regain control over your physical space, you’ll immediately start to feel better and think more clearly.

Next month: Organizing to avoid identity theft

NEW SUBSCRIBER? To read back issues, go to: http://www.unclutter.com/newsletter


4/18-24 is Organize Your Files Week

What will you do to get your files organized that week?

Idea: Set a goal and then commit to spending at least 15 minutes a day working toward that goal. At the end of the week, treat yourself to a nice lunch out with a friend.


In the last issue, I asked “How often do you pay bills?”

As promised, here are the results of that survey:

11% said: Once a week
17% said: Every other week
9% said: Once a month
46% said: As they come in
17% said: No regular schedule
0% said: Other

Nearly half of all those who responded are paying bills as they come in – not because they sit down immediately write checks, but because they’ve set up automatic debits from their checking accounts or use online bill paying services.

Market research estimates that 35 million people pay their bills online now, a number that will grow to 65 million by 2007.

If you have been thinking about setting up online
bill payments, take the first step: shop around.

Start with your bank. Many banks offer bill pay services for free to customers; some require minimal balances.

America Online just introduced a free service for its subscribers to both receive and pay bills, with the added bonus of e-mail notification when bills are due. Yahoo and MSN also offer ways to pay and receive bills online.

Fee-based services like PayTrust.com offer more features such as the ability to download information to your financial software.

The other option is to avoid the intermediary. Check the back of regular-payment bills such as mortgages, car loans, utilities and home-delivered newspapers to see if there is an “auto-pay” feature. Many billers will also send e-bills, eliminating the need to sort and file paper mail.

Online bill paying and biller-direct services provide the following valuable benefits:

* Reduce the amount of mail you receive
* Free up time you currently spend paying bills
* Save the cost of postage
* Ensure that all bills are paid on time

All that said, if you pay bills weekly, biweekly, or monthly as you get paid, never misplace a bill or miss a payment, and you’re more comfortable with your current method, don’t change a thing. Obviously, your system is working.

NEW SURVEY: What organizing issues would you like to read about in future issues of Organizing Plain & Simple Monthly?

a. Clearing clutter
b. Clutter control (maintenance mode)
c. Room organizing tips
(please specify which rooms)
d. Organizing schedules & things to do
e. Filing systems
f. Family organization
g. Disaster preparedness
h. Moving
i. Organizing finances
j. Other (please specify)

TO RESPOND TO THE SURVEY, Please DO NOT REPLY to this message. Send an e-mail to editor@unclutter.com with the word “Survey” and your letter answer in the subject line. Feel free to include comments in the body of your e-mail. I really enjoy reading them.

I will share the results of this survey in the next issue.

PRODUCT REVIEW: An Organizer for Breast Cancer Patients

Being told that you have breast cancer – or any major illness – is devastating, but it needs to be dealt with like any other crisis situation. You have to take control of it rather than have it take control of you.

Otherwise Healthy: A Planner to Focus Your Thoughts on Organizing Life After Being Diagnosed with Cancer is designed to help patients maneuver through medical and insurance mazes and organize the chaos that invariably follows the diagnosis.

Developed by Lynda Shrager, OTR, MSW, after her own diagnosis and experience with breast cancer, Otherwise Healthy is a valuable organizer for keeping track of everything from second opinions and conversations with health insurance personnel to lab results, treatments, medications, physician visits, and more.

Lynda says, “Organizing the many aspects of your life will alleviate stress and free up your energies to focus on getting well.”

If you or someone you know has been recently diagnosed with breast cancer, I urge you to take control. For more information or to order Otherwise Healthy visit http://www.otherwisehealthy.com.

READERS WRITE: What to Do with Owner’s Manuals

I am in the process of doing a complete reorganization of my basement and am making big steps. I have come across tons of owner manuals for appliances (big and small), woodshop tools(big & small), personal products, car, home, etc. What is your suggestion on how to store, file and where to store them?

–Submitted by Cindy Fiordaliso
Cheektowaga, NY

You can organize manuals one of two ways: in binders or in file folders.

If you like the idea of storing them in binders, get a large 3-ring binder and a box of three-hole punched top-loading sheet protectors.

* Put the manuals in the pocket of the sheet protectors and place them in the binder.
* File alphabetically by product name; e.g. television, refrigerator or by manufacturer; e.g. Amana, Craftsman.
* Label the front and spine of your binder for easy identification and store on a shelf somewhere.

You may be able to get all the owner’s manuals in one binder and use indexed tabs to divide the binder into sections. But it sounds like you’ve got a lot of manuals!

I think you will need to create separate binders for specific categories, such as workshop tools or large appliances or have separate binders for each room in which these products reside. Store binders on a shelf.

If you have space in a filing cabinet, it may be simpler to store all of your manuals in a filing cabinet in file folders. Create a hanging file for each category or room (including the garage and workshop) or create grouped alphabetical files; e.g. A-E, F-J. Then file the manuals open end down in the folders, all facing front and in the same direction.

Whatever method you choose, be sure to discard any manuals that go with products you no longer own!

WRITE 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?

Send an e-mail to editor@unclutter.com with “Readers_Write” in the subject line. (Please DO NOT REPLY to this message.)

I try to answer all questions and, 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. Check it out at http://www.unclutter.com/books.html.

SHAMELESS PROMOTION: 100,000 and counting!

Last month, my most recent book, Organizing Plain & Simple, went into yet another reprint. The grand total of copies in print is now 102,000!

Have you read Organizing Plain & Simple? If you have found this book to be helpful, I would be delighted if you would write a review at Amazon.com.

It’s very easy to do. Just go to http://www.Amazon.com and bring up the listing for Organizing Plain & Simple (or any of my books using the keyword “smallin”). Then scroll down until you see where you can write an online review.

Once again, for those of you living in the greater Phoenix area, we have two upcoming opportunities to meet in person:

Tuesday, April 27, 2004 (postponed from 4/21/04)
6:15 – 7:15 p.m.
Free Seminar
Spring Cleaning: Time to Clear the Clutter!
Chandler Public Library – Hamilton Branch
3700 S. Arizona Blvd.
Chandler, AZ
No reservations are required, but plan to come early. Last time I presented there, it was standing room only for latecomers.

May 12, 2004
9:00 – 10:00 a.m.
Free Seminar
One-Minute Organizing for Busy Parents
Bright Beginnings School
400 N. Andersen Blvd.
(1 block north and 1 block east of the corner of Dobson and Chandler Blvd.)
Free; e-mail me to reserve a space:

If you can’t make it to one of these events, but would like to get a signed copy of one of my books, go to:

Click on the SignedCopy.com logo to purchase a signed copy directly from my Web site and have it delivered right to your door!

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