July 2005
Vol. 3, No. 7

Tips & Inspiration for Organizing a Simpler Life

“Know what you want to do, hold the thought firmly, and do every day what should be done, and every sunset will see you that much nearer the goal.”
— Elbert Hubbard, Editor/author/farmer/country doctor

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FEATURE ARTICLE: Backyard cleaning tips

Just like the interior of your home, the exterior of your home, yard furnishings and other outdoor property require regular cleaning also. Following are some tips for quick clean-ups:

– Patio furniture. One way to clean outdoor furniture fast is with a pressure washer. Use water only on the lowest pressure setting to avoid blowing lighter furniture around. A garden hose with sprayer attachment can also do the job. Spray, then wash with soapy water, then spray again to rinse.

– BBQ grill. To keep your grill like new, clean out ashes regularly. Use a brass bristle brush to lightly clean off the excess build-up on both sides of the grilling grate. Clean the interior and exterior of your grill with a nylon scrub sponge or brush and a sudsy mixture of dishwashing liquid and water or spray and wipe with a citrus-oil-based cleaner such as fantastic® Orange Action™ All Purpose Cleaner. Cover your grill when not in use to keep it clean and rust-free.

– Driveway and sidewalks. Clean driveways and sidewalks with a broom rather than a hose to conserve water. Sprinkle cat litter on fresh oil stains, leave overnight and sweep up in the morning.
To “clean up” grass and weeds growing in the cracks of your sidewalk or driveway, pour white vinegar in the cracks.

– Window screens. A dirty screen is more than an eyesore. Wind blowing through a dusty screen will blow dust into your home, which can not only aggravate allergies, but create the need for more frequent cleaning of surfaces. You may be able to vacuum screens in place. If not, remove and spray with a garden hose or pressure washer. Allow to dry before replacing.

– Cleaner hands. Before working in the garden or on your car or lawnmower, wash hands thoroughly and then apply hand cream liberally, especially around fingernails. The cream will make it easier to wash grime off your hands afterward.

Next month: Organizing for back to school

SURVEY RESULTS: Top priorities

Last month, I asked: “If you had to evacuate your home for an emergency, never to return again, what is the one thing you could not possibly leave without (besides family members and pets)?”

As promised, here are the results of that survey:

10% said: Legal documents (deed, birth certificates, etc.) 5% said: Valuables (jewelry, stock certificates, etc.) 64% said: Photographs 0% said: Memorabilia (other than photographs) 2% said: Collection (coin, stamp, etc.) 2% said: Personal address book 3% said: Computer back-up disk 9% said: A prized possession (please describe) 5% said: Other (please describe)

Well, I knew this survey would come out with photographs on top. Did you know that if you store photographs and negatives in a fireproof box, the contents may burn up in a fire? It’s better to store negatives in a safe deposit box.

By the way, I discovered a great little sorter for photos from Creative Memories. It’s a big box that comes with a dozen smaller boxes with labels that you can use to divide photos into categories.
It’s called a Power Sort Box and it can hold up to 2,400 photos.

Even if you never get to the next step of putting photos into albums, this is a much better way to store them (as opposed to having them loose in a box somewhere). I bought my Power Sort Box from Creative Memories Unit Leader Jeannette Irby: http://www.creativememories.com/jeanetteirby .

In case you were wondering, “Prized Possessions” mentioned by survey participants included family genealogical research, paintings, and a bible.
The “Other” category included an evacuation handbook and simply memories.

NEW SURVEY: Paper pile-ups

“Where is the biggest accumulation of unfiled papers in your home?”

a. Kitchen b. Entry way/hallway c. Office/den d. Bedroom f. Living room/family room g. Basement/attic/garage h. Other (where?)

TO RESPOND TO THE SURVEY, send an e-mail to editor@unclutter.com with the word “Survey” and your 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 WRITE: Getting the most out of coupons

Our secret to success for using coupons before the expiration date is to file in folders or envelopes labeled by month. File in the folder or envelope for the month prior to the expiration month. Example: File a coupon with a May 15 expiration date in the April folder or envelope. Once a month, go through the current month file and pull the coupons you will use plus any others.
— Submitted by Jo Anne Duke, Lubbock, 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 latest 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 do try to answer as many as I can.


I had the good fortune to be interviewed this spring by a number of magazines that are just beginning to hit newsstands. If you want more tips on getting organized, check out the organizing articles in these magazines:

– Good ideas! Home Storage and Organizing, Summer 2005
– Jungle, July 2005
– Woman’s Day, July 12, 2005 (Slow down to get more done)
– Baby & You (Wal-Mart), August 2005
– SHOP, etc., July 2005 (Summer clothing storage)
– Child Magazine, August 2005 (Transitioning back from vacation)
– Cooking Light, September 2005 (“Expert Picks – Back to School Time Management”)

Meanwhile, if you would like a signed copy of any of my books, you can order direct from me: http://www.unclutter.com/books.html 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.