January 2004
Vol. 2, No. 1

Tips & Inspiration for Organizing a Simpler Life

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In his holiday letter to friends, motivational humorist and author, C.W. Metcalf, wrote:

It is a time of rebirth, moving from darkness to light and remembering that your ‘To Do’ list is not nearly as important as your ‘To Be’ list.”

C.W. is the co-author of Lighten Up: Survival Skills for People Under Pressure. For him, those have surely been put to the test.

In 1996, C.W. recovered from brain cancer despite being given a 2% chance of survival. Just last year, he was diagnosed with leukemia and in December, he finished the last of five, month-long chemotherapy treatments. C.W. refers to his ordeal as “Dancing with the Cancer Bear.”

I encourage you to read more about C.W. and his work at http://www.cwmetcalf.com. If you are able, please consider donating to the C.W. Metcalf Fund set up by friends to help C.W.’s family through this difficult financial time. With your donation of $10 or more, you will receive a free copy of C.W.’s inspirational “Dancing with the Cancer Bear” CD.


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.”

January 12 is National Clean Off Your Desk Day.

The month of January is Clean Out Your Closets Month


If you’re really serious about keeping that New Year’s resolution to get organized, recognize that a resolution is simply a promise. And without a plan of action, a promise is just a promise.

Do yourself a favor. Don’t expect to get organized overnight. Take this organizing thing one day, one step at a time.

Start with a clear understanding of your motivation. What do you stand to gain from getting organized? 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’m pretty sure 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 changing that behavior.

Create a one-month plan. Choose five things you most want to accomplish during the month. List these items from highest to lowest priority. Be as specific as you can. At the end of the month, if you have not yet accomplished all five tasks, create a new one-month plan that outlines what you hope to achieve this month – and what you are willing to do to make it happen.

Take immediate action. Pick a single organizing tip from this issue and do it today. Or take five minutes to organize your sock drawer or junk drawer.

Happy organizing. Be sure to write and tell me about your success!

To read back issues, go to: http://www.unclutter.com/newsletter


In the last issue, I asked “Do you save your utility bills (gas, electric, telephone, cable) each month after paying them? If so, why?”

As promised, here are the results of that survey:

4% said: It’s a tax-deductible expense for me.
21% said: For proof of payment.
38% said: I like to compare current bills to past
25% said: Because you’re supposed to save them.
4% said: Because I love to file.
8% said: Other (please explain)

It’s funny how many things we do without stopping to think WHY we do them. Saving utility bills is one of those things.

Some people (like me) need to keep home utility bills for tax purposes. Some people like to compare bills from month to month or year to year. If you are not doing either of these two things, you do not need to save your utility bills.

Unless you paid in cash and had your receipt stamped, the statement is not proof of payment. If you pay by check, you will have a note in your checkbook register so that you can look for a cancelled check if your payment is ever in question.

The really good news here is this: If you don’t have to save bills, you don’t have to file them, which saves both time and space.  It also means that you can throw out all those bills that are currently taking up room in your filing cabinet. I strongly advise shredding old statements. You may want to keep just the most current paid statement in your file for reference.

Also, for those of you who like to compare statements from month to month, several readers suggested simply noting amounts on a single sheet of paper and then tossing the actual statement.

NEW SURVEY: What are you most likely to do with “stuff” you’ve decided you don’t need anymore?

Have a garage sale
Donate to charity
Take to a consignment shop
Throw in garbage or recycling bin
Leave in boxes or bags or piles somewhere
Other (please explain)

TO RESPOND TO THE SURVEY, Please DO NOT REPLY to this message. Send an e-mail to editor@unclutter.com with the words “January Survey” and your letter answer in the subject line. Feel free to include comments in the body of your e-mail. I really enjoy reading them.

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

READERS ASK: About organizing a galley kitchen

I will be soon moving into an apartment with a “galley” kitchen. Do you have any suggestions for the best way to set up, store, and organize the dishes, pots, food, utensils, and everything else so that the kitchen is efficient and well organized? I think starting with a clear plan will add to the ease of setting up my new kitchen. Please help. Thank you.

–Submitted by Marlene B., Kingston NY

First, go through your kitchenwares and pull out all those items you aren’t currently using.There’s no point in packing, hauling, and unpacking them if you don’t need them. Donate them to charity or hold a moving sale.

Next, in your new kitchen, plan to store things in cupboards and drawers closest to where you will be using them. For example, store dishes and silverware near your table or dishwasher and store pots and pans near the stove. Avoid storing food and spices near the stove or above your refrigerator.

Make use of vertical space in your cupboards with shelves that hang from existing shelves, doubledecker turntables, and cup hooks. Plan to keep on your countertop only those things you use every day or at least several times a week. Consider storing occasional-use-only items such as a turkey roasting pan under your bed or in a closet.

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Do you have a question about uncluttering or organizing? Or a really great organizing tip that you would like to share with other readers? Send an e-mail to editor@unclutter.com with Readers_Write” in the subject line. (Please DO NOT REPLY to this message.)

If your question or tip is used in a future issue of this newsletter, I will send you a free autographed copy of my latest book, Organizing Plain & Simple. Check it out at

SHAMELESS PROMOTION: Here, there, everywhere

I should re-name this section to “Shameful Promotion” because I did not send tips to you last month. Please accept my sincerest apologies. I tried my darndest, but just couldn’t manage it. In retrospect, I should have combined the November/December issues to compensate for a busy travel schedule.

From November 21 – December 14, I appeared on television news programs in 10 cities across the states including New York, Boston, D.C., Tampa, Chicago, Minneapolis, Detroit, Dallas, Phoenix, and San Francisco. My topic was “Organizing to Avoid Holiday Headaches.”

I am happy to be home and getting organized for the new year. If you live in the Phoenix area, I invite you to attend a free workshop on Wednesday, January 14 from 6:30-7:30 at the Chandler Library, Hamilton Branch, 5700 S. Arizona Avenue, Chandler. We’ll be talking about how uncluttering and organizing can simplify your life.

Phoenix area residents might also be interested to know that on Friday, January 9, there will be two organizing panel discussions at the Maricopa County Home & Garden Show. The panels, hosted by the Arizona Professional Organizers Association, will begin at 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. For more information about the Show, go to: http://www.azcentral.com/ent/calendar/articles/0103home03.html

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