May/June/July 2006
Vol. 4, No. 5

Tips & Inspiration for Organizing a Simpler Life

“You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.”

— Beverly Sills, American opera singer and manager

Thank you for subscribing. . .

I hope you enjoy reading Organizing Plain & Simple Monthly as much as I enjoy writing it.
If you find this information valuable, please pass it on to a friend.

If you received this issue as a forward and would like to receive your own free subscription, you can sign up at: http://www.unclutter.com

FEATURE ARTICLE: Learning to do anything– even organizing!

I was supposed to write about organizing a move in this issue, but the results of last issue’s survey (tallied below) inspired me to pursue a very different topic.

It’s my opinion–and I am not alone in my thinking— that most people who want or need to get organized simply don’t know how.

Fortunately, anyone can learn how to organize.
Don’t believe me? Well, the truth is that you can learn to do anything you put your mind to.

Stop for a moment and think about all the things you have learned to do in your life: walk, talk, read, write, ride a bike, somersault, swim, draw, paint, photograph, sew, cook. . . . an endless list of things, right?

Were you able to do any of these things perfectly the first time you tried? Of course not. But in time, you learned. And with practice, you got quite good.

Let me share a personal story to illustrate my point.

Awhile back, I got it into my head that I wanted to get a motorcycle. Now, you should know that I didn’t know the first thing about motorcycles. So I decided to go to motorcycle school.

I was so committed to the idea of riding a motorcycle that I went out and bought a brand new Moto Guzzi Breva 750 the week before I took the course. I was that committed to my goal.

So imagine my disappointment when I bombed out of class on the first day!

Almost from the start, I felt myself falling behind my classmates. I was learning, but I wasn’t learning quickly enough.

It was all so new! I would be just catching on and then we would move on to the next thing, which didn’t allow me enough time to practice the new skill I had just learned.

Not only was I frustrated–and scared that I would never be able to ride that shiny new motorcycle sitting in my garage–I developed a complete lack of confidence in myself and I simply could not make any progress. (Have you ever felt this way when trying to get organized?)

Still, I was determined to accomplish what I set out to do.
Every day, my fiancé took me out to a quiet backroad and I practiced what I had learned in class until I got good enough to go back to school.

And guess what? I was able to pick up where I left off in class, pass my driving test and get my motorcycle license— something that only a week earlier I seriously doubted I would ever be able to do.

The moral of the story? You need to commit to your goal, get yourself motivated, learn what you need to get started, and then just do it over and over until it becomes second nature. Because you know what they say. . . practice makes perfect.

Next month: Organizing a move

SURVEY RESULTS: Learning about organizing

In the last issue, I asked: What do you think is the most ideal way for you to learn how to get organized?

00% said: Read articles and books about 00% said: Take an organizing workshop 00% said: Work with a professional organizer 60% said: Get the help of an organized friend or family member 40% said: Watch a TV program like Mission Organization 00% said: Other (please describe)

All of the above are excellent ways to learn how to get organized. Whatever works for you is the best choice. And sometimes, several choices in combination are an even better choice.

Now, when you’re learning something new, it does help to have a good coach or mentor. If you don’t have a family member or friend who is willing to take on that role, I strongly recommend working with a professional organizer because it’s the quickest way to learn how to organize.

I recently flew to Milwaukee to organize the winner of the “Win Donna for a Day” contest. A working mother of two, Kristin’s home was overrun with toys, laundry and whatnot that had accumulated over time.

Kristin thought we were crazy as local professional organizer, Paula Apfelbach, and I removed the contents of Kristin’s living room and deposited everything on the front lawn. But by the end of the day, she realized that we had to empty the room before we could organize it.

We had to see what kind of space we had to work with and what really needed to be there. We ended up moving her sofa away from the wall to create room to store toys and a mini-playroom behind it.

Kristin learned that when you empty the space to be organized, it’s a whole lot easier to organize what you put back! Try it. And let me know how you make out.

(Note: Start small. If you’ve got all day–and a few organizing helpers–you may want to tackle an entire room.
Otherwise, keep your organizing projects manageable by organizing one drawer, one shelf, one small space at a time.)

NEW SURVEY: Where to donate what

Which one place are you most likely to donate things you’ve decided to let go of?

a. The Salvation Army or GoodWill Industries b. Other thrift store c. Domestic violence shelter d. Animal shelter e. Homeless shelter f. School, library or theater g. Hospital, nursing home or senior citizen’s center h. Other (please tell what you donate to where)

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

READERS WRITE: Recycling children’s clothing

My husband and I have been blessed with 6 wonderful, beautiful and healthy children. The only thing that is not a blessing is the expense of raising a family like that in today’s world.

I make it a habit to try and get the most of my money when it comes to clothes–either ones I purchase or ones given to us. I keep an underbed tote–one that opens on either side and has the wheels–for the clothes that are getting too small for that child.

As child 1 is getting dressed and notices that something is too small or does not fit right any longer, they place it in one side of the tote and put it back under the bed.
When that side is full, she will turn it and fill the other side.

As child 2 is growing out of clothes and looking for something bigger, she can go to the first side of the tote and get the smallest size of clothes to add to her wardrobe. Then repeat this with the other side of the tote when needed.

This has proven to be a great system and a huge money saver–and time saver–because there is not that time once a year when you have to go through the closet and have each child try on everything that they own to see what fits and what does not.

–Submitted by Debbie Wotring, Dellslow, WV

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.


My plan is to “lay low” for the summer. So I have no upcoming events to tell you about.

But September is already shaping up to be a busy month. And I have some exciting news to share with you. . . more about that next month!


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 one.

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.

Want a signed copy of one 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 all for this month. Until next month, keep it simple.