Tips & Inspiration for Organizing a Simpler Life February 2009 – Vol. 8 No. 2
“That which you cannot give away, you do not possess.
It possesses you.”
— Ivern Ball, Dadaist poet and one-liner genius

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Put it where? Put it there! I write a lot about how to unclutter your home. But my latest book, A to Z Storage Solutions, is less about uncluttering and more about how to store all the things you’ve decided you can’t live without. Following are some basic storage tips excerpted from the introduction.

Unclutter first. The average U.S. home has doubled in size in the last 60 years and still we struggle to find a place for everything. Hmmm…could it be we have too much stuff? My motto is “If you don’t love it or use it, lose it.”

Pick a space, but not just any space. Store things where you use them; you’ll be more likely to put them away when you’re done.

Store like with like. It’s a lot easier to know what you have — or don’t have — when you store like items together.
In closets, for example, you might organize by type of clothing such as short-sleeved shirts, pants, and skirts.

Consider accessibility. Store frequently used items where they are most convenient. Store things you rarely use in less prime locations such as the upper shelf of a closet, back of a cabinet, or in some other out-of-the way place in your basement, attic or garage. This includes seasonal items such as clothing and holiday decorations, occasionally used items such as punch bowls and large roasting pans as well as tax returns and other paper records that require long-term storage.
Find or create hidden storage. To find a place for everything, make use of vertical wall space and other hidden storage spaces. A shoe rack hung over the back of a door, for example, takes up less space than a standing shoe rack and frees up floor space. Make use of hidden storage space under a bed, behind a sofa or door, on top of kitchen or garage cabinets, and think about what you might be able to hang from the ceiling.
Maximize existing storage space. Eliminate wasted space in cabinets. You can double, even triple cabinet storage space by raising or lowering shelves in cabinets to create more usable space. If shelves are not adjustable, maximize storage space with freestanding shelves, under-shelf hanging baskets, stepped shelves, and double-decker turntables in a variety of sizes.

Hey, did you know? Hoarders in crisis are wanted for a TV documentary. Apply at www.hoardersdocumentary.com. Meanwhile, here are some hoarding resources you may find helpful: http://www.childrenofhoarders.com/bindex.php

It’s a good idea to apply a label with your name and phone number to all of your electronic gadgets (laptop, cell phone, iPod, and camera) to facilitate their return if ever lost.

You can bypass the card shop and mailbox and save time and money by sending real paper greeting cards from your computer. Try it. Send an unexpected card to someone you care about for free by visiting www.sendoutcards.com/15432.

Survey Results: Your money or your stuff? Last month I asked: Generally speaking, would you rather have the items you purchased over the past year or the cash you spent on them?

As promised, here are the results of that survey. . .

45.3% said: Items (I’m pretty happy with my purchases) 50.9% said: Cash (What was I thinking? Who needs all this stuff?) 3.8% said they felt in between; they were happy with about half of their purchases

It’s probably too late to return the stuff you bought, but now wish you hadn’t. But it’s not too late to get some of the cash back.

Make money by uncluttering your home. A recent eBay study determined that the average American household has about $3,000 worth of items that could be sold. That’s a lot of cash that could be in your pocket instead of your closets and cupboards, attic, basement and garage.

Web sites like eBay.com and Craiglist.org make it easy to turn clutter into cash — FAST. Just post a photo and description of each item and bingo! Potential buyers will get in touch with you.

But these aren’t the only web sites where you can sell items. Trade computer components, cameras, and cell phones for cash at Gazelle.com or BuyMyTronics.com. Or check out Office Depot’s Tech Trade-in Service.

Sell used sporting and fitness equipment online at www.usedsports.com or at your local PlayItAgainSports store (see www.playitagain.com for locations and details). Sell books in good condition at www.Cash4Books.net

I’ve always said, “If you have clutter, you’re richer than you think!”

New Survey: Do you unpack your suitcase sooner or later?

(Fellow professional organizer in Nashville, Ellen Zucker of EZ Organizing, inspired this month’s survey question.)

When you return home from traveling, do you unpack your suitcase at your earliest opportunity (right away) or when you get around to it (eventually)?

a. Right away b. Eventually

TO RESPOND TO THE SURVEY, 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! As always, I will share the results of this survey in the next issue.

Smart Readers Write About: A Bill-Paying System

I was one of “those people” that paid bills late because I either couldn’t find the bill, or thought I had already paid it, but I hadn’t! I tried several different systems that failed to solve my problem, but I finally found a system that works for me. I created a spreadsheet that has a list of all of my monthly bills. Across the top, I list Company, Type of Bill (utility, mortgage, revolving), Due Date, Date Paid, Amt Paid, Method of Payment (online, EFT auto, check), Balance and Credit Limit.

I print a page for each month in a 13-pocket expandable file. The extra pocket I use for yearly tax papers. When I sit down to pay my bills I can see exactly what is due and when. I just fill out the date paid, amount paid and balance, if any, as I go and now I know if and when I’ve paid the bills each month. This makes it easy to do a monthly or yearly budget or year-end summary of expenses.
This also makes it easy to read and discuss your finances with your significant other or in the event of an emergency when you are unable to sit down and pay the bills so that your significant other or other family member easily see what needs to be taken care of.

–Submitted by Maxine C., Harrah, OK
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.

Shameless promotion: Out to organize the world A to Z My newest book, A to Z Storage Solutions, is now available in bookstores everywhere (and from my web site where you can request an autographed copy).

Earlier this month, I made five stops on my book tour. In Toronto, I taped five segments for Canada AM which will air 3/2-3/6 at 7:50 am each day. In Minneapolis, I appeared on KARE-11 TV’s Showcase Minnesota and tried to stay warm (it was -2 degrees there. . .brrrr). Then it was on to Good Day Sacramento on Wednesday, Salt Lake City’s News10 on Thursday and AM Northwest in Portland on Friday.

I was on three different stations in Cleveland this week (Cleveland rocks!) and to round out the tour, I’m taping a Bookshelf Interview that will air on HouseSmartsTV, a nationally syndicated program.

For details on upcoming book tour events and speaking engagements, visit http://unclutter.com/seminars_events.html

You can also sign up to receive ongoing updates on upcoming events in your area or request to have me speak to your organization at http://booktour.com/author/donna_smallin

While I have you. . .do you Tweet? If so, I invite you to follow me (@donnasmallin) on Twitter.com. Let’s connect on Facebook too!

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