April 2007
Vol. 5, No. 4

Tips & Inspiration for Organizing a Simpler Life

“I wish I had a talent for dropping things as well as taking on new ones. It gets to be quite a clutter after a while.”

— Joshua Lederberg, 1958 Winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1958

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FEATURE ARTICLE: Cleaning up by clearing out

True story as reported in The Northwestern. . .

A Wisconsin woman found three lottery tickets in a purse she had decided to donate to Goodwill. One of the tickets was a winner worth $43,000. And she had only 18 days left to claim her prize winnings. Talk about the rewards of spring cleaning!

Okay, she was pretty lucky. But you could get a little richer by cleaning out your closet. A 2004 AC Nielson survey showed that the average American has more than $2,000 worth of unwanted items that could be donated as a write-off or sold to generate cash. What’s in your closet?

Look at what you’ve got. Then pull together all the clothes, shoes and accessories you wear regularly.
These are keepers.

Now take a good hard look at the rest. Ask yourself these questions: Have I worn this in the past year? Do I love it? If you answered “yes” to either question, add it to your keepers. If your answer is “no” to both, toss it. There’s probably a good reason why you didn’t wear that fuzzy red sweater or those acid-washed jeans last season, which is the same reason you won’t wear those things next year.

You may say, “But I paid $500 for that suit!” Okay, but what’s it worth if it’s just hanging in your closet? Here are several ways to re-coup some of your investment:

Donate it to charity. When you write off non-cash donations, you pay less in taxes. Just be sure to get a receipt. It’s up to you to determine the value of your donation, which is not the retail price or price you paid. It’s the amount that it would sell for today second-hand. Generally, that’s about 20-30% of the original value – more for designer brands, classic styles and newer styles and less for other clothing.

DressforSuccess.org is a great place to donate suits and other business-appropriate clothing. They get donated to economically- challenged women who are re-entering the workforce. Larger sizes are especially needed.

Sell it online. Designer purses are good sellers on eBay. If you don’t want to be bothered selling them yourself, you can take items to an eBay reseller who will handle everything from taking a photograph of your stuff, listing it and shipping it for a cut of the sale price.

A popular alternative to eBay is Craigslist.org where you can sell items in your local community. This is particularly good for large and bulky items that would be expensive to ship.

Take it to a consignment shop. A variety of consignment shops have sprung up over the past decade. There are consignments shops for clothing, sporting goods, furniture and more. Look for them in your yellow pages.

Have a garage sale. After you go through your closets, you might want to repeat the purging process in every room in your home, including the garage. Pick a date for your garage sale and make that your goal for clearing your home of things that are just taking up valuable space – things that could earn you some extra cash for a summer vacation or night out with your family.

What are you waiting for? Get to it!

Next month: Ways to help others get organized


April is Stress Awareness Month. Think about how you might be able to reduce stress by organizing a project or area that frustrates you daily.

Maybe you can go through those piles of catalogs and magazines or straighten up your closet or hang a hook for your keys or organize your junk drawer so you can actually find what you want when you need it. Let me know what you decide to do and how it works out for you. Email editor@unclutter.com


The Community Medical Foundation for Patient Safety recommends that you follow the recommendation below every six months or when you add new medications to your medicine cabinet:

* Get rid of all expired medicines and medicines you are not using, even if they are not expired.

* Keep only medicines and first-aid items in your medicine cabinet.

* Store medications in cool, dry place, away from sunlight. Do not store medications in the bathroom if ventilation is poor and there is too much dampness.

* Use shelves to separate medicines for different family members.

* Keep all medications (including pill organizers or boxes) beyond their reach and use a child-safety lock on your medicine cabinet.

* Keep prescription information sheets close to your medications.

SURVEY RESULTS: Your organizing plans

Last month, I asked you to think of one small area or project at home or in your office that needs organizing. I asked, “Do you believe that you are capable of achieving that goal?”

As promised, here are the results of that survey:

63% said: Yes, and I most likely will.
20% said: Yes, but I probably won’t.
9% said: No, because I lack the time or energy.
9% said: No, because I am clueless about where to begin.

Remember that your beliefs drive your experiences. Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

Even if you are very disorganized, you will make more progress toward your goal if you begin to believe that you are capable of getting organized. Because you are!

You truly are capable of doing anything you put your mind to. But it doesn’t matter what I think. . . you need to believe it. That’s when you will start to make the changes you need to make.

NEW SURVEY: How many junk drawers do you have?

a. None b. One c. Two d. Three or more

TO RESPOND TO THE SURVEY, click the following link editor@unclutter.com or send email to editor@unclutter.com with the word “Survey” in the subject line and the letter that corresponds to your answer. Feel free to add comments in the body of your email. I love reading them!

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

READERS WRITE: Organizing kids’ crafts

My tip is for the “craft” box or closet for young children. I was tired of not being able to find supplies for crafts, etc. when a rainy day was upon us.

I took gallon size plastic zippered bags (important for little fingers) and put all the supplies needed for each craft in separate bags and labeled them on the white label area on the front of the bag (this is more for me as my children are young). That way all my kids need to do is pick out a bag and bring it over to their art table.

This works great for Playdoh and tools for Playdoh, crayons, washable markers, paint supplies – brushes, paints etc., miscellaneous items to use with glue i.e. Popsicle sticks, paper tubes, googly eyes etc., smocks and floor coverings for messier projects, beads and necklace thread.

I also keep a running list of items we run out of and then when we go to the craft store I know what I need to stock up on.

Before, the items were all over the house in boxes, original packaging, and drawers in every room. I now keep the large Rubbermaid with wheels (this is key) in a closet so I can find everything and so I have control over what gets pulled out and when as my kids are only 2 ½ and 4 years old.

I have made a deal with myself that we will never buy anything that will not fit into the bin as that means we have too much craft clutter!

— Meagan Ginley, Newbury MA

WRITE TO WIN an autographed 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 bestselling book, The One- Minute Organizer Plain & Simple. Check it out at http://www.unclutter.com/books.html

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

SHAMELESS PROMOTION: Spreading the news far and wide

My latest books, Unclutter Your Mind and The One-Minute Cleaner got a few mentions in Toronto Homemaker magazine this month. And last weekend I was a guest on the WMAS 1450 radio program, Kath and Mo, in Massachusetts.

You may have also seen these articles in your local newspapers.
If not, here they are for your reading pleasure!

The Arizona Republic Cleaning the air: 4 ways to get a fresher indoors http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/arizonaliving/articles/0319simple0319clean.html

The great spring cleaning debate Evansville Courier & Press (and others) http://www.courierpress.com/news/2007/apr/04/great-spring-cleaning-debate/

Passionate organization a label of love for some Orlando Sentinel (and others) http://www.orlandosentinel.com/features/home/orl-labels1807mar18,0,1233767.story?coll=orl-shoppinghg-headlinesforthe

Patios “spring” to life PhillyBlurbs.com http://www.phillyburbs.com/pb-dyn/news/287-04102007-1328090.html

Dow Jones Marketwatch Glam garages: garage organization systems are hot, and could help at resale http://www.marketwatch.com/News/Story/Story.aspx?guid=%7B27CE01CB%2DE889%2D4E47%2DB2DB%2DBAE5145ED874%7D&siteid=mktw&dist=nwhpf

A few months ago, I started sending greeting cards through an online service called SendOutCards. (These are real paper greeting cards, not e-cards.)

I love it because I no longer have to run to the store to buy cards; there are thousands to choose from online. I just select a card from the card catalog, type my personal message (in my own handwriting), enter my recipient name, and click send.

The cards are printed, stuffed, stamped and mailed for me for about $1. And I can send the same card to 100 people as quickly as I can send one card!

If you want to see how it works, I can set you up with a guest account so you can send a few cards on me. Email donna@yourcardconnection.com if you would like a personal walkthrough of this system.

Or go to YourCardConnection.com to learn all about it and send a free card on your own. Either way, I invite you to be my guest!


For nitty-gritty cleaning tips and techniques, look for Cleaning Plain & Simple in your local bookstore. If they don’t have a copy, please ask them to order one! For quick tips, look for The One-Minute Cleaner, an abridged version of the big book.

If you are looking for organizing tips, look for The One-Minute Organizer and Organizing Plain & Simple in bookstores everywhere (including online bookstores) and in select Target, K-Mart, Staples, Discovery Channel, and Lowes stores.

If you feel a need to simplify your life, check out Unclutter Your Mind: 500 Ways to Focus on What’s Important.

Want a signed copy of one of my books? You can order directly from me: http://www.unclutter.com/books.html

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

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