July 2004
Vol. 2, No. 7

Tips & Inspiration for Organizing a Simpler Life

“The difference between try and triumph is just a little UMPH!”
— Marvin Phillips, Christian author and motivational speaker

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FEATURE ARTICLE: The price you pay for clutter

Harry Browne once 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.”

What is the price you pay for clutter and disorganization? “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 from knowing that you really should get organized but not knowing where or how to start.

And, of course, there are the financial costs:

– How many times have you bought something you needed only to realize later that you already had it?

– How many times have you bought something on sale (or on a whim) that ended up as a permanent fixture in your closet or collecting dust somewhere?

– Have you ever discovered that something valuable was ruined because it wasn’t properly put away?

– Are you considering a move into a larger, more  expensive apartment or house 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 are you hanging on to that you could sell at a garage sale, on eBay or on consignment and recoup some of your initial investment?

– What items could you give away as non-cash, tax-deductible donations? Do the math. If you are in a 28% tax bracket, a $600 donation of clothing you aren’t wearing is a $168 tax savings.

Weigh the “price you pay for leaving things as they are” against the “price to pay if you want to make it 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 and eventually, you WILL realize a substantial return on your investment in every aspect of your life.

Next month: Simplifying your life

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


Growing evidence suggests that recordable CDs and DVDs should not be used for long-term storage. Rewriteable discs contain a heat-sensitive layer that decays much faster than the metal layers of write-once discs.

For maximum longevity, recordable CDs and DVDs should be returned to storage cases immediately after use and stored vertically.

Handle discs by the edges or the center hole only. Do not stick labels on them. And don’t try to peel off or reposition a label. Use a non solvent based felt tip permanent marker to write on the label side of the disc.

Clean by wiping with a clean cotton fabric in a straight line from the center of the disc toward the outer edge.

Also, discs should be stored in a cool, dark, dry place. The best temperature for archive storage is between 39 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not expose recordable discs to prolonged sunlight or other sources of UV light.

Source: National Institute of Standards and Technology Guide to Care and Handling of CDs and DVDs http://www.itl.nist.gov/div895/carefordisc/

SURVEY RESULTS: Clutter cutting

Last month, I asked: “Which ONE category of clutter do you MOST wish you either organize or eliminate from your home?” As promised, here are the results of that survey:

16% said: Clothing
4% said: Household goods
2% said: Toys, games and other child stuff
2% said: Computer, audio and video clutter
53% said: Paper clutter on desktops, countertops, floors
10% said: Basement, attic or garage clutter
2% said: Tools and hardware
10% said: Inherited items and things that belong to someone not living in your home
0% said: Other

As you can see by the results, paper clutter won hands down. For all of you who asked, here are some of my favorite paper organizing tips:

– Plan to spend 15 minutes a day going through papers in piles and files. When your 15 minutes is up, mark where you left off and start there tomorrow.

– Focus on one pile at a time. Find a new home for each piece of paper in the pile. When deciding what you need to save, ask yourself: Do I need to save this for legal or tax reasons? Save it. Could I get this information again pretty easily if I needed it? Toss it.

– Put all papers to be filed in a paper tray. When the tray is full, schedule time for filing.

– As paper comes into your possession, choose to either File, Act or Toss it (Remember FAT.) Keep a folder handy for things that need to be acted on and make a note in your calendar of the action you need to take.

– Rather than keeping entire magazines for selected articles, file articles in binders by subject; e.g. Home Decorating Ideas or Recipes. Insert the pages into plastic sheet protectors that are three-hole punched.

– Throw out entire piles of junk mail and catalogs. Don’t even give it a second thought because more of the same is already on its way. (Do shred preapproved credit card offers to avoid identity theft.)

NEW SURVEY: Online selling

Have you ever sold anything (or attempted to sell anything) on eBay?

a. Yes
b. No

TO RESPOND TO THE SURVEY, Please DO NOT REPLY to this message. Send an e-mail to editor@unclutter.com with the word “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, plus. . . some really exciting news for people who would like to sell on eBay but don’t want to be bothered with learning how!

READERS WRITE: About the “W” file

I keep a card file box that I call my “W” file – Who, What, Where, When and (W)how. (Okay, so there’s an “H” in there with the W’s.)

This is where I file small bits of infrequently used but essential information as:

Who did that specialty _______ repair job?
What is the brand of _________that I liked so much?
Where did I store_____?
When did I last have the _________ serviced?
How did I mix that cleaning solution for ___________?

I’ve found this a helpful system to keep track of services or techniques that I don’t use frequently, but don’t want to have to search for every time they are needed.

I like the card file because I can drop business cards or newspaper clippings of hints into the appropriate section.

–Submitted by Patsy Libby, San Antonio TX

WRITE TO WIN an autographed copy of my most recent book!

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.)

I try to answer all questions and, 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 http://www.unclutter.com/books.html.


I thought you might be interested to know that you are one of nearly 3,000 subscribers. Thank you for your support and encouragement. Knowing that I am helping you to achieve your organization goals is immensely satisfying.

If you’ve been a subscriber for seven months or more, you may recall me mentioning that I offer a line of greeting cards with organizing cartoons.

While the line is designed for professional organizers to send to their clients and prospects, our Birthday Card and Any Occasion Card are suitable for anyone to send. You might get a kick out of them. Take a peek: http://organizedgreetings.com/products/index.htm

Just a reminder: If you would like to get a signed copy of one of my current books, go to: http://www.unclutter.com/books.html

Click on the SignedCopy.com logo to purchase a signed copy directly from my Web site and have it delivered right to your door!

PRODUCT REVIEW: The Couponizer®

According to the Promotion Marketing Association’s (PMA) Coupon Council, 79% of consumers used coupons to the tune of $3 billion in savings in 2002. The Couponizer® can help you maximize your coupon savings.

A portable system for organizing, storing, and accessing coupons while you shop, The Couponizer includes 18 category pockets for grocery coupons plus five additional pockets for fast food, restaurant and service coupons.

At the front of the Couponizer, there are two pockets designed to make shopping with coupons more convenient. Simply pull the coupons to be used on a shopping trip up to the SHOPPING pocket. When you locate a product, you pull the coupon out and place it in the CHECKOUT pocket.

The feature I really like is a pocket for storing coupons that will expire this month. I can’t tell you how many times I have gone to retrieve a coupon only to discover that it was too late to use it.

The Couponizer creator, Amy Bergin, says, “The system will pay for itself in just a few shopping trips.” For more details, go to The Couponizer’s Web site: http://www.mcssl.com/app/aftrack.asp?afid=133224

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