Tips & Inspiration for Organizing a Simpler Life April 2009 – Vol. 8 No. 4
“The things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”

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Gotta get organized? 3 practically painless ways to get to it! Has “get organized” been on your list for what seems like forever? If you tend to put off rather than plunge in, or dawdle instead of do, here are three simple, practically painless ways to get to it.

Make umbrella rules. Organizing is a decision-making process. We need to make decisions about what to toss and what to keep as well as where to put what. Putting off those decisions just adds to the mess.

Many people who struggle with clutter and disorganization do so because they have developed a habit of postponing decisions. To simplify the decision-making process, develop a few umbrella rules such as:

“If I haven’t used it in over a year, I will let it go.”

“If I love it or I think it is beautiful, I will keep it.”

Or “Could I get another one fairly easily or inexpensively? If yes, it’s out of here.”

Start with today’s stuff. Do you hope that someday you’ll get organized? Why not start by organizing today’s stuff?

For example, if you keep adding printed photographs to pile of photographs that need to be sorted through, you’re just creating a bigger project for someday. Instead, put your most recent photographs in albums and keep it up. That way, all the photographs you take from today forward – for the rest of your life – will be organized.


– If you sort through your mail every day, you will be less likely to miss payments on bills or important events.

– If you hang up your clothes when you take them off, you won’t have a whole pile of wrinkled clothes on the floor that will later need dry cleaning or ironing.

– If you put things down where they belong, and only where they belong, you will be able to find them when you need them.

Once you organize your everyday life, you can begin to set aside time to work on selected projects one at a time.

Make it fun. What could you do to make organizing more fun? Maybe you could invite a friend to help organize your closet in return for your help at her home. Organizing is more fun when you have an organizing buddy and four hands make quicker work than two.

Before you begin, establish a reward for getting the job done. For example, you might decide to reward yourself with 30 minutes in the bathtub or reading a magazine with a nice cup of tea.

Then put your favorite music on and get to it.

Quick tip: Simple way to keep your closet organized For quite some time now, I’ve organized clothing in my closet by type: pants, skirts, dresses, blouses, etc. But, and this may come as a shock, I didn’t always put clothing back where they belonged. So I would have to rearrange things periodically to get them back in order.

Then I bought a couple of packs of The Clutter Diet Simple Division® Garment Dividers. They hook over the rod and come with pre-printed labels such as Casual Pants and Short- Sleeved Blouses – even Needs Repair. There are blank labels, too, so you can you create your own categories.

Now I put everything back where it belongs and my closet stays more organized. Who would have thought that such a simple, inexpensive product would be so effective?! As far as I know, the only place to get these dividers is at Lorie Marrero’s Clutter Diet site.

Survey Results: Storing passwords and PINs Last month I asked: Where do you store your passwords and PINs? As promised, here are the results of that survey. . .

10.7% said: In a spreadsheet 43% said: On paper 17.4% said: In my head 4.1% said: Special password program 24.8% said: Other (please explain)

Wow. This was a hot topic resulting in a lot of comments and interesting ideas. “Passwords” is actually an entry in my latest book, A to Z Storage Solutions, and I have to say it was one of my favorite entries to research.

Obviously, the safest way to store passwords is in your head. But what if you forget your password? One way around that is to develop a system of root phrases, prefixes and/or suffixes that eliminates the need to memorize passwords. Then you only need to remember the system.

I used to use the address directory in my daily planner to record passwords and that worked great until I switched to using Outlook Calendar. That’s when I created a spreadsheet to store my passwords. If you do the same, be sure to password-protect your spreadsheet. Otherwise, if your computer is lost or stolen, whoever finds it will have access to all of your accounts. Yikes! Here’s how to do that in Microsoft Excel. Open your password spreadsheet, click Tools, and then Options and then select the Security tab. Enter your master password.

This may come as a surprise to you, but Microsoft advises: “In general, passwords written on a piece of paper are more difficult to compromise across the Internet than a password manager, Web site, or other software-based storage tool, such as password managers.”

Several readers indicated that they use the Internet Password Organizer® which has been called “the little black book for the 21st century.” It provides a single, centralized location in which to store all your online account login information. Bonus sections provide you with space to record relevant information about your Internet Service Provider, Home Network, and Software Licenses. Take a closer look at the Internet Password Organizer site.

The “Other” responses may have skewed a bit high. Some were more accurately “On paper” responses. Others provided no details. One reader said: I save PINs as fake phone numbers with code names in my cell phone directory. Interesting!

New Survey: Letting go

In general, on a scale of 1-10 (with “1” being really easy and “10” being really hard) how hard is it for you let go of (donate, sell, or toss) items you have not used in more than a year?

TO RESPOND TO THE SURVEY, send email to editor@unclutter.com with the word “Survey” in the subject line and the number (1-10) that corresponds to your answer. Feel free to add comments in the body of your email. I love reading them! As always, I will share the results of this survey in the next issue.

Smart Readers Write About: Labeling

The best $15 I ever spent on organizing supplies is a labeler. I label everything from files and family medications to pantry shelves and toys. [So now] everyone knows where to look for “First Aid” supplies without asking. [Also], I’m more inclined to use a system that looks pretty and inviting. Sure, I could pencil in my file headings, but seeing my files all uniform makes me want to keep them that way.

–Submitted by Jennifer L., O’Fallon MO

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 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.

Celebrating Mother’s Day with two free gifts Don’t forget Mom on Mother’s Day (May 10). Did you know that you can real paper greeting cards from your own computer? Send a Mother’s Day card for free from my SendOutCards account. Just go to www.yourcardconnection.com and follow the video prompts to select and personalize your card.

Here’s a Mother’s Day gift that will enhance your physical and emotional well-being. Sign up now to receive a free copy of the new, award-winning book, The Mother’s Guide to Self Renewal: How to Reclaim, Rejuvenate and Re-Balance Your Life by Renee Trudeau, a nationally recognized career/life balance coach (a $20 value). This is an e-book that will be available for download May 8-10. But you can register in advance to get it.

Shameless promotion: Feelin’ the love!

Christine Vick (www.storeandstyle.com) wrote to say: “I just wanted to let you know that we recommended Organizing Plain and Simple as a guide in our “Organizing for Less” column this month. We considered many books for the column and I thought yours really stood out.” Awwwww. Thanks, Christine. You can read the article here.

In other news, I got an email the other day from the publisher of SUCCESS magazine. He wrote to tell me that storage solutions from my latest book (A to Z Storage Solutions) are featured in an article in the May issue. I was so excited that I signed up for a subscription (been meaning to do that). Anyway, here’s the online clip for your reading pleasure.

Also on newsstands, look for the May issue of Better Homes & Gardens. There’s a spring cleaning article on page 84, featuring some of my favorite shortcuts.

Back in February, I taped an interview with HouseSmarts TV, a nationally syndicated program, that will air May 2. If you want to watch it, go to www.housesmartstv.com to find out if the program is broadcast in your area and on what station. Then check local listings.

If you want to learn a little about spring cleaning (and maybe get inspired to do it!), you can listen to a recording of recent interview on BlogTalkRadio with the hosts of The O-Myth here.

Earlier this month, I spoke to a full house at La Siena – Senior Living in Phoenix. Speaking of speaking, if you or someone you know is looking for a motivational guest speaker, perhaps I would be a good fit. Presentation topics include The Joy of Organizing and Secrets of The One-Minute Organizer. I can also create a custom presentation for your group. To check availability or for more information, please e-mail donna@unclutter.com.

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