April 2006
Vol. 4, No. 4

Tips & Inspiration for Organizing a Simpler Life

Housework is something you do that nobody notices unless you haven’t done it.

— Sam Ewing, Humorist

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FEATURE ARTICLE: Back-to-basics spring cleaning

Planning to do a little spring cleaning? Getting organized will make the job go faster and easier.

I recommend putting all your cleaning supplies in a bucket or special cleaning caddy that you can tote from room to room.

An alternative approach is to work on one task at a time; for example, do all your dusting, all your mopping, all your vacuuming. That way, you only need to get out the tools and supplies you need for that particular job.

Speaking of cleaning supplies, there seems to be a trend toward using less toxic products for cleaning.

Some people are allergic to the fragrances in many commercial cleaning products. Others are concerned about potential long-term effects of exposure to chemical agents in those products.
And, of course, if you have young children, you need to take extra precautions to keep cleaning products out of reach.

Consider getting back to basics. Here are some of my favorite nontoxic cleaning solutions:

* Use only a damp mop to clean wood floors.

* To clean linoleum and tile floors, mix one cup of vinegar and one gallon of warm water.

* Fill a spray bottle with half vinegar and half water and use it to clean and sanitize kitchen and bath countertops and sink fixtures.

* To disinfect surfaces, spray with a mist of straight vinegar followed by a mist of hydrogen peroxide. Allow to sit for five minutes. Then wipe with a paper towel or clean cloth.

* Sprinkle baking soda in a damp tub or shower and use as a non-abrasive scrub.

* Mix a little water with baking soda in a small dish and use the runny paste and a sponge to clean your microwave or glass stove top.

* Use microfiber cloths for dusting and you don’t even need furniture polish! They’re also great for wiping fingerprints off stainless appliances as well as cleaning mirrors and eyeglasses.

* Pumice or scouring sticks are great for removing hard water lines and stains from toilets, ceramic sinks and tubs. It’s readily available in supermarkets and hardware stores.

* Not happy with your window cleaner? Add 1/4 cup of white vinegar to a 16-ounce spray and bottle and fill the rest of the bottle with warm water.

* Pour boiling water down your drains twice a month to help prevent clogs.

* Pour a cup of vinegar in the toilet and let it sit.
In the morning, just brush and flush for a clean toilet.

These and other simple homemade solutions are not only safer, they’re also far less expensive than commercial products. If you do buy commercial products, look for brands like Method and Seventh Generation that specialize in nontoxic products.

Next month: Organizing a move

Ever wished for an easier way to clean house?

1. Create a new file on your PC.
2. Name it “Housework.” 3. Then send it to the recycle bin.
4. Empty the recycle bin.
5. Your PC will ask you, “Are you sure you want to delete Housework permanently?” 6. Calmly answer, “Yes,” and press the mouse button firmly.

(This clever idea appeared in my email inbox one day. I can’t remember now who sent it and I don’t know who wrote it, but I just had to share it.)


April is Stress Awareness Month…like we need to be reminded we have stress, right?

SURVEY RESULTS: Your personal organizing history

Last month, I asked: a two-part question:

1. Were you messy or neat as a kid? 2. Are you messier or neater now?

As promised, here are the results of that survey:

12% said they were messy as kids and either as messy or messier now

30% said they were messy as kids and neater now

40% said they were neat as kids and messier now

17% said they were neat as kids and either as neat or neater now


* Most people reported getting somewhat neater in their adult years and then messier as they get older. One reason is that we tend to accumulate a lot of stuff over the years.

* Some respondents wished they still had their mothers around to pick up after them.

* Many of those who say they are neater now often feel frustrated by messy family members.

* Managing paper without drowning in it seems to be one of the biggest challenges for messies and neatniks alike.
Check out our Reader’s Tip below for a “neat” receipt filing trick.

NEW SURVEY: Learning about organizing

What do you think is the most ideal way for you to learn how to get organized?

1. Read articles and books about organizing 2. Take an organizing workshop 3. Work with a professional organizer 4. Get the help of an organized friend or family member 5. Watch a TV program like Mission Organization 6. Other (please describe)

TO RESPOND TO THE SURVEY, click the following link editor@unclutter.com or send email to editor@unclutter.com with the words “April Survey” and the number of your response in the subject line. Feel free to add comments in the body of your email. I will share the results of this survey in the next issue.

READERS WRITE: Fridge file simplifies receipt organizing

I keep every receipt and in the past, my form of receipt organization was …well, my kitty cat cookie jar. The poor kitty was so stuffed with crumpled, tattered receipts that its little head was balancing on a belly full of paper and heaven help me if I needed a receipt.

After some wonderful advice from my old history teacher, I now clip an envelope to my fridge and write the month in large letters on the front. All month long I file my receipts in that envelope and at the end of the month, I tape the envelope closed and file it in a small box. After the year’s end I tape the box with 12 envelopes closed and begin a new box.

This has been a wonderful stress-reliever for me.
I have had to return items on several occasions and it has been wonderful to go directly to the envelope with the receipt. I have used this system for over a year and that one little thing makes me feel so much more organized.

–Submitted by Joy Dilts

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

Do you have a really great organizing tip you would like to share with other readers? Or a question about an organizing challenge you have?

Send an e-mail to editor@unclutter.com with “Readers_Write” in the subject line.

If your question or tip is included in a future issue of this newsletter, I will send you a free autographed copy of my book, The One-Minute Organizer Plain & Simple. Check it out at


PLEASE NOTE: I get a lot of questions and it’s impossible for me to respond to them all. Please know that I do read them and try to answer as many as I can.


Have you ever seen CNN’s Open House real estate/ homeowner show on the weekend? I will be a guest on the show Saturday, April 28 demonstrating some cleaning tips. Check your local TV listings for air times.

If you’re in the Charlotte, NC area, I will be at Mallard Creek Elementary School Tuesday 4/25 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. for the Scholastic Book Fair.
Parents, come learn how to “clean up and clear out!”

Later that week, I am presenting an Organize Your Office workshop to members of the American Society of Journalists and Authors in New York City.

I told you last month that I was going to the annual conference of the National Association of Professional Organizers. What I didn’t tell you was that I was nominated for the Founder’s Award. This is an award given annually to an individual who has made outstanding contributions to the industry. Needless to say, I was honored to be nominated — and even more honored to win!


For plain and simple tips for cleaning everything in and around your home, look for my new book, Cleaning Plain & Simple, in your local bookstore.
If they don’t have a copy, please ask them to order one.

If you are looking for organizing tips, look for my books in bookstores everywhere (including online bookstores) and in select Target, K-Mart, Staples, Discovery Channel, and Lowes stores.

Want a signed copy of one of my books? You can order directly from me:


Click on the SignedCopy.com logo to have a signed copy sent to you.

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