7 Reasons Why Clutter Accumulates – and How to Clear the Clutter

Clear the Clutter, Find Happiness – that was the title of a keynote presentation I delivered earlier this month. In that talk, I presented some of the most common reasons why clutter accumulates – and some simple strategies for making it stop. Which of these 7 reasons are the reason(s) why clutter has accumulated in your home?

1. Later-it-is – That’s when you set something down and tell yourself that you’ll put it away later. It might be shopping bags, mail or other papers, your coat, your keys, your clothes. How to put a stop to later-it-is: Get in the habit of asking yourself: Is this where this belongs? Don’t just put it down. Put it away.

2. Homelessness is another reason why clutter accumulates. How can you put something away if it doesn’t have a home? You have to find homes for the homeless. Or in other words, find a place for everything so that you can always put everything in its place. Be mindful about the plight of the homeless when you go shopping. Before you buy something, you should know exactly where it’s going in your home – or what you plan to remove to make room for it.

3. Fear creates clutter – You think, “I might need this someday.” Right? Well, maybe you will. But if you haven’t needed it in a year – or 20 years – you probably won’t need it in the next year or 20 years. And if you do, could you maybe borrow it from a friend? Sure. A good question to ask yourself is “What’s the worst possible thing that could happen if I needed this again?” You could probably beg, borrow or steal – I mean buy – another one. Right?

4. Is guilt contributing the accumulation of clutter in your home? You think about how much you paid for something – or overpaid – and you hang on and hang on to it. The thing is, there’s a great second market for items that are current and in excellent condition – things like cell phones and clothing. But the longer you hold on to them, the less they’re worth. Here’s a helpful guideline that I learned from The Minimalists: If you can get it again in under 20 minutes for less than $20, let it go. Sell it or donate it and take the tax write off. Boom!

5. Not knowing what to do with stuff. This is a big one. But guess what? You don’t have to take on the job of figuring out what to do with stuff because there are organizations that are really good at that – places like Goodwill and The Salvation Army. And they’ll even come and get it from your driveway! You don’t have to find new homes for your stuff. All you have to do is go to Donationtown.org to find a charity near you that will pick up for free.

6. Perfectionism – People ask if my house is perfectly organized. It’s not perfectly organized because perfection isn’t necessary.  If you’re a perfectionist, you need to get out of your own way. Perfect is not the goal. Done is perfect. And the sooner you start clearing clutter, the sooner you’ll be done.

7. Lack of time – You know what? You’ll never FIND time for organizing. You have to MAKE time. Organizing is one of those things that we tend to put off because we don’t have time right now. I don’t know what makes us think we’ll have more time later. It only looks like that right now. But you know as well as I do that by the time you get from “now” to “later,” that imaginary block of free time will have vanished.  Here’s what I suggest: pick an area or project that needs organizing and then commit to spending 15 minutes a day on it. Make an appointment with yourself. Write it in your daily planner and honor that appointment as you would any other appointment. Now, 15 minutes may not seem like a lot of time. But do the math: 15 minutes a day adds up to one hour and 45 minutes a week which is 7 hours a month. You can clear a lot of clutter in 7 hours!

Can you think of any other reasons why clutter builds up? Leave a comment below!

photo credit: kimosablaze21 <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/121616834@N05/13502293694″>Forbidden! tk-1</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>


Organizing Tips Newsletter – January 2017

Tips & Inspiration for Organizing a Simpler Life
January 2017 – Vol. 16 No. 1

The man who moves mountains begins by carrying away small stones. ~Confucious

get organized

                      Cartoon courtesy of Organized Greetings

What’s it going to take for you to get organized?

Did you make a New Year resolution to get organized? How’s that working out for you?

When you make a resolution, you are making a promise. But without action, a promise is just a promise.

Take baby steps. Don’t expect to get organized overnight. Take this organizing thing one day at a time and if that seems like too much, then take it 10 minutes at a time.

Know your why. Start with a clear understanding of your motivation. What do you stand to gain from organizing your kitchen or closet or whatever? What do you stand to lose if you don’t?

Accept your role. What are you doing that contributes to the clutter and chaos in your life? I believe that 90% of getting organized is getting out of our own way. When you are able to accept the fact that you are part of the problem, you are well are on your way to the solution which lies in changing your habits.

Think of one thing you do regularly that is something organized people probably do not do. For example, if you have a lot of “stuff” that is still sitting in shopping bags, try not to buy anything new for a month. If you tend to throw your coat when you come in the door, consciously retrain yourself to hang it up. Be patient with yourself. It takes a few weeks to establish new habits.

Take immediate action even it's just taking five minutes to organize your sock drawer. Click To Tweet

Create a one-month plan. Choose five things in your home or life that you most wish to get organized. List these items from highest to lowest priority. Get started on the one with the highest priority for you. Take immediate action even it’s just taking five minutes to organize your sock drawer. Or take some “before” photos so that once you get started, if you doubt you are making any progress, you can look back at those photos and prove that you are. If you get that first project done within the first 30 days, move on to the next priority. At the end of 30 days, make a new one-month plan.

Okay, so tell me…what organizing projects are on your to-do list for 2017? Any on your to-done list? I’ll share mine if you share yours!

Starting the year with a clean slate

In the 1925 book, The Customs of Mankind, author Lillian Eichler wrote: “In ancient England it was the custom to clean out the chimneys on New Year’s Day so that luck could descend and, of course, remain all year. With us it is customary to speak of ‘cleaning the slate’ and making good resolutions so the ‘slate’ will remain clean throughout the year.”

Favorite products and resources

As a professional organizer and certified House Cleaning Technician, I’ve used and recommended a lot of products, services and resources over the years. Every month in this column, I share new and old favorites.

get organizedget organizedLast month, I shared a crazy-good deal on my favorite gift wrap organizer – the Buddy WrapiT organizer. What I love about this product is that you can hang it up in a spare closet or store it under a bed and it’s got plenty of room for all your wrapping supplies.

And guess what? I just checked and that crazy-good deal from last month is still available. Enter the coupon code 12$buddy at checkout to get the Buddy WrapiT organizer for just $12.* (Regularly $57.99) *The coupon code can only be used once per customer, but you can purchase multiple buddys in one order at the discounted rate.

This month, I encourage you to take a look at this comprehensive review of moving companies.

I moved 10 times in 22 years – from one apartment to another in the same building, within the same city, from city to city and state to state with the last move being from a 3,500-square-foot home to a 350-square-foot home on wheels. Believe me, there’s some valuable information in this handyget organized resource.

Learn why you should trust your next move to the pros, plus how to choose the right moving company to ensure a smooth move, how to avoid scams, and what you need to know about moving insurance.

If you or anyone you know is planning to downsize or thinking about moving this year, they will thank you for sharing this valuable moving guide.

Shameless promotion: 16 years and counting

Did you know that January is national Get Organized Month? I’ve been celebrating by completing a few long overdue organizing projects in my tiny home – stay tuned for details in an upcoming blog post!

This month also marks the beginning of my 16th year publishing this monthly newsletter. I started it shortly after my third book, Organizing Plain & Simple, was published. That’s the book that really launched my career as an organizing expert, which led to me becoming a cleaning expert and now a minimalist. And oh, what a joyful and rewarding ride it’s been thanks to you, my loyal reader!

At least once a week or so, I get contacted by magazine and newspaper editors looking for tips on cleaning, decluttering, and simplifying life. In the February issue of Woman’s Day, you’ll find a cleaning shortcuts article on page 26 with some of my tips. I also contributed cleaning tips to upcoming issues of Dr. Oz’s The Good Life, HGTV Magazine, and Real Simple.

In addition to being interviewed for articles, I also write articles for other blogs, which is another way I get to share my favorite tips and ideas. Here’s one I wrote for Miss Information’s blog about spring cleaning chores most people miss and why you’ll be glad you did them. It includes some things you can do now to get a jump on your spring cleaning.

On a personal note, a few weeks ago, I was patting myself on the back for completing a 15K (9.3 mile) race, my longest run in 12 years. Then I sprained my ankle playing pickleball a few days later. Maybe I should just stick to the sport of cleaning house!

Here’s hoping 2017 is off to a good start for you.

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

FULL DISCLOSURE: Some links in this organizing tips newsletter may be affiliate links, meaning if you make a purchase after clicking on one of these links, I will earn a small commission. These earnings go toward the continuation of this complimentary newsletter which is free to you, but does cost to distribute. Please know that I only recommend products that I would recommend whether I got paid or not.


How to Organize Your Finances

organize your financesThe end of 2016 is quickly approaching and a new year is on the way. A good project to complete before you dive into 2017 is to organize your finances. Although the thought of tackling your many financial accounts and records may seem overwhelming, it is only a matter of following a couple simple steps to start the new year in organized bliss.

Take Stock of What You Have

It’s time to make some lists. Start by writing down everything that either brings you income or sends you a bill or statement, which may include retirement accounts, checking accounts, credit cards, savings accounts, insurance policies, utilities, your mortgage bank or landlord, and so on.

One by one, go through the list. Collect paperwork you’ve saved related to it, and figure out if you have an online account associated with it. (If you don’t, you can probably create one.)

Which brings us to our next step:

Use Online Tools

Even the most organized among us struggle to keep the many aspects of personal finance straight, from monthly bill due dates to credit score updates and everything in between. But thanks to the Internet, you don’t have to do it all yourself.

When you log into your online accounts, you’ll probably be able to find some options for setting email or text notifications whenever you have a bill due or have a paycheck coming in. You can also do it yourself and make note of important dates using a paper or digital calendar.

There are dozens of budgeting apps that allow users to view all their financial accounts and bills in a single dashboard. If you’d prefer to keep things separate but still need a little help keeping track of things, you may want to look into a password-storage app. Remember, it’s important to use hard-to-guess passwords and not use the same credentials across multiple accounts.

You may be pleasantly surprised by all the tools you have at your disposal through your existing accounts, as well. For example, you may have some perks like purchase protection or travel insurance through your credit card company. Many are offering account holders free credit alerts — like when a new account shows up on your credit report — while others provide their customers with FICO credit scores on their regular account statements.

Such tools are common, so take some time to explore the advantages you might already have.

Ditch the Paper

Now that you’ve gathered all that paperwork, you have a few things you can do with it: Save it for your records, dispose of it, or make sure you don’t get any more.

Among the many settings you’ve probably already come across in your online account exploration is the “going paperless” option. Ask yourself: Do I need this piece of paper every month? Some people like to use paper to keep themselves organized, but paper also gets you to the point you’re at now — needing to de-clutter. It might be time to say goodbye to regular mail from your bank.

As far as record-keeping goes, the IRS recommends you keep all documentation for your tax returns for a minimum of three full years in addition to the current year. Anything older than that can be scanned and kept on a drive, as can any records pertaining to any time you might have been a victim of identity theft.

Anything you don’t want to keep should go through a cross-cut shredder as opposed to a strip shredder. Cross-cut shredders cut your papers into numerous short, thin strips so your documents cannot be reconstructed.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), there were more than 3 million identity theft and fraud complaints in 2015, up from 2.5 million in 2014. All this means is that it is especially important to protect your identity and take extra precautions. You don’t want personally identifiable information — your name, address, birthdate, Social Security number, bank account numbers, etc. — getting into someone else’s hands.

Review Your Current Strategy

Now that you’ve gotten a sense of your personal-finance details, it’s time to think big-picture. Look for redundancies in your insurance coverage and do some math to figure out if you’re saving enough. Take the time to understand your paycheck — you’ll want to know exactly what’s coming out of it and which of those things might need adjustments — so you can feel confident in your short- and long-term budget and, hopefully, keep things a little simpler than they were when you started this project.

Christichristine-digangi-profile-picturene DiGangi is a reporter and the social media editor for Credit.com, covering a variety of personal finance topics. Her writing has been featured on USA Today, MSN, Yahoo! Finance and The New York Times International Weekly, among other outlets. You can find her on Twitter @writingbikes.

Organizing Tips Newsletter – October 2016

Tips & Inspiration for Organizing a Simpler Life
October 2016 – Vol. 15 No. 8

Order is never observed; it is disorder that attracts attention because it is awkward and intrusive. ~ Eliphas Levi, French occult author and magician

Organizing mistakes people make in small spaces

photo credit: Axiz Photography Come Snail Away ... via photopin (license)

photo credit: Axiz Photography Come Snail Away … via photopin (license)

Having lived in a 350-square-foot home for nearly 3 1/2 years now, I consider myself a small space living expert. Of course, much of what I do to keep my small living space organized is what I’ve always recommended to my followers.

Following are six of the most common organizing mistakes people make in small spaces.

Keeping too much stuff

Believe me, it’s easier to find space for everything when you have less stuff! William Morris said: Have in your home only those things you know are useful or believe to be beautiful. I say: If you don’t love it or use it, lose it. Apply this umbrella rule to every area of your home.


It’s a lot easier to keep up than it is to catch up. Apply the 2-DO rule: If it takes 2 minutes or less to do, do it now. Make your bed, hang up your clothes, empty the dishwasher, clean out your purse, put your keys where they belong. Your future self will thank you.

Not purging regularly

Decluttering is not something you can do and never have to do again. You’ve probably heard about the one-in, one-out rule: For every new thing you bring in the front door, send one thing packing out the back door. New dress? Make room by donating another item of clothing you have not worn in some time. You can do the same with paper including catalogs, monthly utility bills, and new insurance policies. Make it easier on yourself by reducing the amount of incoming paper – request paperless statements via email for checking and credit accounts.    

Allowing wasted space

Most cabinet shelf space and closet space is underutilized. In pantries, cabinets and linen closets, you can maximize space by adjusting shelves to better accommodate the contents. For example, if you don’t need much height for a shelf of baking staples, raise that shelf to be closer to the one above, making more space for taller contents on the shelf below. You can also use stacking bins to contain like items such as nuts and dried fruits, crackers, cookies in a pantry or first aid supplies or toiletries under the bathroom sink.

Not using vertical space as storage space

Add hooks to the back of your closet door or on the back wall of your closet. I like 3M Command adhesive hooks that you can stick anywhere and remove at any time without marring the surface. Or hang a shoebag organizer on the back of a door to hold pantry items, cleaning supplies, even socks and underwear. Use a magnetic strip on the wall to hang kitchen utensils and knives. And instead of posting things to the front of your fridge, post inside kitchen cabinet doors.

Mixing seasonal/occasional use items with items used every day

If you only use your suitcase occasionally, don’t give it prime storage space in your closet. Store it under the bed or in the basement or garage. Keep in your everyday closet only those items that you can wear today – they fit and they’re in season. Move everything else to another area of your home or donate/sell. In your kitchen and bathroom, on the counters, here’s my mantra: If you use it every day, it gets to stay, otherwise put it away.

Clear the clutter fall cleaning checklist

Most peopfallle at least think about spring cleaning — even if they never get around to doing it. In some ways, doing fall cleaning makes more sense because who wants to be cooped up in an unclean house all winter?

I pulled a few cleaning tips from my book Clear the Clutter, Find Happiness that you might find helpful:

Page 76 – Make cleaning more fun! Buy sponges in bright colors and cleaning products in scents you love (three of my favorites are citrus, lavender and clean linen) Do some cleaning for 15 minutes, then take a break to read an article in your favorite magazine or one chapter in a book (just one!). Repeat until the job is done.

Page 80 – Timesaver: The easiest way to clean your microwave is with steam. Place 2 cups of water in a microwave=safe bowl (add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract or lemon wedges to the water for a fresh scent). Microwave on high for 5 minutes. The steam will soften cooked-on gunk. Wipe with a paper towel for a quick clean.

Page 115 – Plan a purge. Once a year is good. Twice a year is better. Or do regular mini-purges of specific areas such as kitchen and pantry, bathroom, or storage areas or categories like files or sporting equipment.

Page 119 –  Resolve to surround yourself only with things you find useful or beautiful. Let go of the rest.

Page 123 – Tackle a pile of papers. Start by flipping over the pile. Because the items on the bottom are older, many are outdated, making it an easy decision to toss them.

Page 134 – Toss those toiletries! Go through the cabinets and drawers in your bathroom and get rid of makeup more than one year old, sunscreen more than two years old, perfume more than three years old, anything past its expiration date, and any toiletries you no longer use.

Page 245 – What’s that in your junk drawer? Sell that old cell phone! Check out SellCell.com to find the best offer for your old phone.

Page 286 – Only what gets scheduled gets done. Block out time on your calendar to clear clutter. Then show up for your appointment.

If you like these tips, grab a copy of Clear the Clutter, Find Happiness for more!

Favorite products and resources

As a professional organizer and certified House Cleaning Technician, I’ve used and recommended a lot of products, services and resources over the years. Every month in this column, I share new and old favorites.

Last month, I encouraged you to check out Carbonite as a solution for automatically backing up your hard drive. I had the bad luck of having my first-ever hard drive crash back in August. And I am embarrassed to say that I hadn’t backed up my files in over a year. Wait…what? Yes. I have a hard drive that I bought for the purpose of backing up. But I kept putting it off, which is what I love about Carbonite…it automatically backs up your data as you create it so you never have to remember. So why wasn’t I using it? As a full-time traveler, I no longer have unlimited high-speed Internet connectivity. But you probably do and for $60 a year, Carbonite will back up all of your photos and other files. So if your computer crashes, you can retrieve all of your data. Don’t do as I do. Do as I say and go check it out. BONUS: If you decide to sign up after following one of my referral links to Carbonite, we both get a $20 gift card as a thank you from Carbonite.

This month, I want to introduce you to a company that purchases pre-owned designer handbags. Rebagg pays top dollar for luxury brands such as Hermes, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and more.unnamed

Simply download the Rebagg app or visit Rebagg.com to upload photos of your bag, and receive a offer within one business day. You can then request a free prepaid shipping box to ship your item(s).

Once they receive your bag, they verify its authenticity and condition and you get paid by check or direct deposit within 2-3 business days. Rebagg will then re-sell your bag, but you get paid outright with no consignment hassles, no waiting.

Personally, I’ve never owned a handbag that cost more than $200. But if you have one or more high-end designer bags, Rebagg will pay you to clean out your closet!

Shameless promotion: Book-of-the-month club video

CleartheClutterCoverRevise2A fellow professional organizer by the name of Olive Wagar in Troy, Ohio recently selected my book Clear the Clutter, Find Happiness for her organizing book club meeting. I was so honored that I offered to videotape a self-interview using questions she sent to me via email.

I decided to share this video which is about 27 minutes long. I also saved it as an audio only file if you prefer to just listen.

Here are just a few of the questions I answered in this interview:

What area of the home do you most enjoy organizing?
How did you become a cleaning expert?
What classic cleaning tips do you use in your weekly routine?
Your decision to downsize from a large house to a 40 ft. long home on wheels sounds like an exciting adventure!! How long did it take to make the transition?
What are your favorite charities for donations?
What is your favorite reward for completing a decluttering activity?
What kinds of items have you successfully sold for cash?
What are your favorite items to repurpose and reuse?
What decluttering rule do you use most often?

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

FULL DISCLOSURE: Some links in this organizing tips newsletter may be affiliate links, meaning if you make a purchase after clicking on one of these links, I will earn a small commission. These earnings go toward the continuation of this complimentary newsletter which is free to you, but does cost to distribute. Please know that I only recommend products that I would recommend whether I got paid or not.

The Cost of Clutter

Many of you have told me that you need help getting motivated to declutter. Okay, let’s take a look at the cost of clutter.

Harry Browne said, “Everything you want in life has a price connected to it. There’s a price to pay if you want to make things better, a price to pay just for leaving things as they are, a price for everything.”

Depending on the extent of clutter or disorganization in your home, you may be paying a very high price. “Leaving things as they are” is most likely costing you one or more of the following:

  • Space that could be put to better use
  • Time and energy lost in looking for misplaced things
  • Stress and overwhelm – maybe even strained relationships

And then there are the financial costs:

  • How many times have you bought something, only to realize later that you already had it?
  • How often have you ended up paying a bill late because you misplaced the bill?
  • How much credit card debt are you carrying on items purchased but no longer loved or used?
  • How many times have you purchased an item on sale (or on a whim) that ended up collecting dust?
  • Have you ever discovered that something you loved was ruined because it wasn’t stored properly?
  • Are you paying for a storage unit? For how long now? And for how much longer?
  • Are you considering a move into a larger home largely because you need more room for your stuff? How much will it cost to move? What will be the additional housing cost each year?
  • What items are you hanging on to that you could be resold at a garage sale, on eBay or Craigslist, or on consignment to recoup at least some of your initial investment? (This book will show you how.)
  • What items could you donate to get a tax write-off? Do the math. If you are in a 18 percent tax bracket, you’re looking at $108 in tax savings for a $600 donation of stuff you’re no longer using.

I suggest weighing the price to pay for “leaving things as they are” against the price to pay if you want to “make things better.” Yes, you will need to invest some time and energy to get organized, but you don’t need to put your life on hold to do it.

Commit to spending 15 minutes a day organizing one area or task until it is done. Don’t get discouraged about how much remains to be done. Just focus every day on doing something toward your goal. Because even baby steps will eventually get you on the path to a less cluttered, more organized life.

Meanwhile, if the cost of clutter is more than you bargained for, think twice next time before buying. Go grab a coffee. Better yet, go home and sleep on it. Remember that today’s purchases, especially unplanned purchases, become tomorrow’s clutter.


Quick Question

photo credit: ? via photopin (license)

photo credit: ? via photopin (license)

I have a quick question and I’m hoping you might be able to help. One of my goals for 2016 is to make sure I’m writing and sharing information with you that’s really interesting and relevant.

I put together a super-quick 7-question survey to learn more about your decluttering, organizing and cleaning challenges. Would you be willing to help me out by telling me what you’d be most interested in learning about in the coming year?

It should take less than three minutes to complete the survey, and your responses will help make my blog posts even better and more helpful.

Take the survey now.  Thank you!

In other cool news, I’m excited to share that I was selected by Sparefoot as one of 10 Top Professional Organizers Who Might Just Change Your Life. What a surprise and honor!

Here’s hoping that your responses to my survey will allow me to help change your life!