January 2006
Vol. 4, No. 1

Tips & Inspiration for Organizing a Simpler Life

“We would be happier with what we have if we weren’t so unhappy about what we don’t have.”

— Frank A. Clark

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FEATURE ARTICLE: Starting off the new year on an organized foot

Did you make a New Year resolution to get organized? You’re not alone. Getting organized is consistently in the top five list of new year resolutions.

If you’ve tried before to get organized and failed or were successful at getting organized only to find yourself in a state of disorganization again, don’t despair. You can do whatever you put your mind to and organizing is no exception.

Following are a few pointers to help you get organized – and stay organized this year:

* Get your brain in gear. Think about why you want to get organized. What’s in it for you? What do you stand to gain by getting organized?

* Make organizing a priority. Don’t just talk about getting organized. Look at how you spend your time and adjust your priorities accordingly to give yourself the time you need to get organized.

* Establish a reward. Getting organized is reward in itself. (You’ll see!) But let’s say you want to organize your clothes closet. If you pull out all those clothes you no longer wear and take them to a consignment shop, you can reward yourself with something new that you WILL wear with the money you make.

* Focus your efforts. Work on one project at a time: a bookshelf, closet, dresser, jewelry box, toy box or whatever. Keep at it until you have organized it to your satisfaction. Then move on to your next project. Taking each project to completion provides momentum and motivation for the next project.

* Make and keep organizing “appointments.” Make an appointment with yourself to spend 15 minutes each day on organizing activities. Honor that appointment as you would any other. But what can you accomplish in 15 minutes? It may surprise you to learn that 15 minutes a day adds up to 7 hours a month. That’s a lot of organizing time!

* Let go of the past. Give yourself permission to let go of anything you no longer love or use. Give it away, donate it or sell it.

* Get help. If you have the resources to hire a professional organizer to help you get organized (or at least get a start), do it. For a referral to a professional organizer in your area, go to the Web site of the National Association of Professional Organizers. http://www.napo.net

* Act as if you are organized. This may sound crazy, but when you act as if you are organized, you will become more organized. How do you do that? Think before you act. Don’t just set something down; put it away. Find a home for “homeless” items.
Take care of today’s things today.

* Make yourself accountable. Tell a friend or family member about your organizing goals. Ask that person to check in next week for a report on your organizing activities. You’ll be less likely to let that resolution fall by the wayside.

Next month: More time to do what you love

QUICK TIP: Pocket-sized paper organizer

If you prefer paper and pencil to a PDA for keeping track of appointments, expenses and whatnot while you are on the road, check out The PocketMod at http://www.pocketmod.com

With this free application, you can transform a single 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of paper into a pocket-sized organizer. Select from various page formats: daily and weekly appointment calendars, expense forms, phone and address directories, lined note pages – even games. Then simply fold the sheet of paper as directed.

SURVEY RESULTS: New year organizing priority

Last month, I asked: “What is the one organizing project you would most like to complete in the new year?

As promised, here are the results of that survey:

38% said: Photographs

2% said: Kitchen

4% said: Closet

16% said: Basement, attic or garage

20% said: Office/papers

20% said: Getting rid of things you don’t use

2% said: Other (craft room)

This survey drew the largest response ever, which I am going to take as a sign that more and more people are planning to get on the organizing train this year. Welcome aboard!

Remember, you don’t have to put your life on hold to get organized. You just need to start. Plan to spend 5-15 minutes each day on a single task and keep at it until it is completed to your satisfaction.

For example, if you selected “organizing photographs” as your top priority, start with today’s photographs and work backward. Take that most recent envelope of recently developed photographs and put them into an album. Keep doing that and from this day forward, all your photographs will be organized in albums! How simple is that?

Now, what about all those photographs that date back to when your kids were born or you were in high school? If they all happen to be in date order (most recent on top of the pile and oldest at the bottom), great.
Just work your way backward in chronological order.

Chances are, though, that what you have is a jumble of photographs. Step one is to sort through them and create categories such as grandchildren, holidays, or vacations.
As you sort, toss photos in labeled paper grocery bags that have been cut down to about 8 inches. Just do what you can and return tomorrow to where you leave off.

Once all your photos have been sorted into categories, start going through each individual category. If you have a lot of photos in one category, sorting into into sub- categories will make them more manageable for the next step which is to put them into albums or photo boxes.

Helpful hint: As you sort through photos, toss all those that did not come out well. Also toss or set aside duplicates for family members.

NEW SURVEY: Best place to find organizing products

Where is the first place you look for products to help you get organized?

a. Retail organizing store such as The Container Store
b. Discount store such as Target or Wal-Mart
c. Online organizing store such as Organize-Everything.com
d. Hardware store
e. Your own home
f. Other (please describe)

TO RESPOND TO THE SURVEY, click the following link editor@unclutter.com or send email to editor@unclutter.com with the words “January Survey” and the letter of your answer in the subject line. Please feel free to include comments in the body of the email. I will share the results of this survey in the next issue.

READERS WRITE: Color-coding office papers

Here’s a handy office hint: If you print off a lot of information from the computer, use different colored papers for different categories, such as financial or PTA. Paper comes in a wide variety of colors which can be bought in single color packs or variety packs. This will help a lot in organizing and filing your records.

— Submitted by Patsy Libby, San Antonio TX

WRITE TO WIN an autographed copy of my most recent 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


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

SHAMELESS PROMOTION: Win Donna for a day!

Everybody’s always asking if I can come to their house to help them clean up and clear out. Well, some lucky person is going to have that wish come true in the “Win Donna for a Day” contest.

Enter to win at my Web site: http://www.unclutter.com

Click on the contest button on the home page for contest details and an entry form. But hurry. . .
the contest ends March 31, 2006. Good luck!

For plain and simple tips for cleaning everything in and around your home, look for my new book, Cleaning Plain & Simple in your local bookstore.
If they don’t have a copy, please ask them to order a copy.

I am writing to you this month from Albany, New York – the first stop on my “Clean Up & Clear Out” book tour.
Hope to see you on the road:

1/5/05 Book signing 7:30 pm Chester County Book Company West Goshen Center 975 Paoli Pike West Chester PA

1/9/05 Book signing 7:00 pm Piece of Mind 1530 Troy Rd Edwardsville IL

1/11/05 Book signing 7:00 pm Third Place Books 17171 Bothell Way NE Lake Forest Park WA

1/17/05 Book signing 7:30 pm Tattered Cover Highlands Ranch 9315 Dorchester St Highlands Ranch CO

1/19/05 Presentation Noon Federal Reserve Bank (closed to public) 2200 N Pearl St Dallas TX 75201

1/20/05 Keynote Presentation “Dare to Dream: Growing your Organizing Business” NAPO-Houston Regional Conference Sheraton Brook Hollow 3000 North 610 Loop West Houston TX More

1/21/05 Keynote Presentation “Secrets of The One-Minute Organizer: How to Get Organized in No Time!” NAPO-Houston Regional Conference Sheraton Brook Hollow 3000 North 610 Loop West Houston TX More

1/24/05 Book signing 7:00 pm Barnes & Noble, Buckhead 2900 Peachtree Road Atlanta GA

1/30/05 Book signing & presentation 6:30 pm Changing Hands 6428 McClintock Drive Tempe AZ

Also, you can catch me on the radio: 1/14/05 Mr. Fix-It (8 am ET) Business Talk Radio http://www.mrfixit.net/

If you are looking for organizing tips, look for my books in bookstores everywhere (including online bookstores) and in select Target, K-Mart, Staples, Discovery Channel, and Lowes stores.

If you would like a signed copy of any of my books, you can order directly from me:


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

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