July 2007
Vol. 5, No. 7

Tips & Inspiration for Organizing a Simpler Life

“A complete and accurately defined list of projects, kept current and reviewed on at least a weekly basis, is a master key to stress-free productivity.”

— David Allen, author of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

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FEATURE ARTICLE: Staying productive at the office (when you’d rather be at the beach)

It’s that time of year again when productivity tends to lag. Half your office is on vacation; the other half wishes they were. But the work still has to get done. And honestly, the day goes by faster when you are busy, right?

Following are five ways to stay productive when you’d rather be at the beach or anywhere but your office.

1. Listen to music that makes you feel like you’re on vacation – something from your favorite destination – maybe Caribbean-style tin drums or flamenco guitar music.
Or, if you’d rather be at the beach than in your cubicle, pop in a CD with the sound of ocean waves beating up against rocky shores and seagulls squawking over seashells.
At the very least, play music that puts you in a happy, relaxed mood. For me, that’s anything by Jack Johnson or Santana.

2. Take “mini-vacation days” in your off-hours and you’ll feel more refreshed and energized on workday mornings. Go to the places local tourists visit. Explore neighboring cities or countryside. Invite friends over for a vacation- themed party like a Hawaiian luau or Mexican BBQ. Join a bicycling group. Register for summer classes in cooking, photography, art, or language. Just don’t overdo it or you’ll be dragging come Monday morning!

3. Don’t think about all the work that’s in front of you.
Focus on only one task at a time. Make a list of the three most important things to do today. Challenge yourself to see how quickly you can get that first item done. When you’re done, take a break to respond to phone and email messages. Then repeat with the second and third most important items on your list. The more focused you are, the faster and easier it will be to get things done and maybe, just maybe, you can leave work early or at least on time.

4. Plan your next vacation. Create a vacation file for travel brochures and maps. Or make a dream vacation collage using clippings from magazines, newspapers, catalogs and brochures. Hang your collage in a place where you will be sure to see it every day. When you’re bumming about having to be at work, let your vacation file or collage be a reminder of what you are working toward.

5. Organize your workspace. Unclutter your desktop – remove everything and put back only what you use every day; find another place for everything else. File those piles of paper. Toss or shred outdated files. Set up in and out boxes to streamline paper flow. You’ll feel better about going to your office, be less frustrated, and more productive each day if your workspace is in good order.

Next month: Organizing children


Vacations may have startling side effects on workplace productivity. According to surveys by OfficeTeam, a staffing company that does workplace research, it takes the average employee a day and a half to resume normal productivity at work after a break.

ENTER TO WIN: Wire wine rack

Have you found a really creative use for a chrome wire shelving unit? If so, here’s your chance to tell your story and win a 5-tired chrome wire wine rack. But you need to act soon. This contest, sponsored by The Shelving Store, ends July 31, 2007. For details and to enter, go to: http://www.theshelvingstore.com/contest.asp

SURVEY RESULTS: Purchasing organizing products

Last month, I asked: Do you or would you prefer to buy organizing products from a retail store near you, online source, or from a second-hand source?

As promised, here are the results of that survey. . .

70% said: Retail store (I like to see what I’m buying) 4% said: Online source (I like the convenience of shopping online) 11% said: Thrift store, yard sale or other second-hand source (I don’t like to pay retail price) 9% said: I rarely or never buy organizing products (I use whatever I happen to have or what people give me) 6% said: Other

I’m often surprised at our survey results and this is one of those times. I figured that “retail” would be the number one answer, but I also thought that more people would buy online because it’s so convenient.

A lot of people said they would buy at a retail store even if it was more expensive. On the other hand, many of you enjoy looking for and finding bargains on gently used products or get creative with new uses for things you might already have around your home.

Whatever your preference, remember to unclutter and organize your space first so you know better exactly what kind of product and what size you need. Otherwise, the organizing products you buy today could end up as clutter!

NEW SURVEY: How often do you spend at least 15 minutes engaged in an organizing activity?

a. Daily b. Once a week or more c. Less than once a month d. Never

TO RESPOND TO THE SURVEY, click the following link editor@unclutter.com or send email to editor@unclutter.com with the word “Survey” in the subject line and the letter that corresponds to your answer. Feel free to add comments in the body of your email. I love reading them!

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

READERS WRITE: Financial organizing

Take all your once or twice a year expenses (car insurance, vacation expenses, etc.) and your estimated house and auto repairs, total up for one year and then divide by 12. Put this amount into a savings account that you earmark for “escrow.” Out of this account you pay these bills without the panic you used to get when these came due and you don’t have the extra money. Have this amount deducted automatically each month into your escrow savings. Boy, it’s worked well for us! We’ve been married 37 years and it’s been a great stress reducer! Hope this helps others.

— Submitted by Nancy Meyer, Omaha NE

WRITE TO WIN an autographed 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 bestselling book, The One- Minute Organizer Plain & Simple. Check it out at http://www.unclutter.com/books.html

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

SHAMELESS PROMOTION: On newsstands now

If you’re stuck in the supermarket checkout line, look for the July 10 issue of Quick & Simple (page 62) and the August 1 issue of Woman’s Day (page 118) for super- speedy ways to clean your home.

Want to know my favorite bathroom cleaning secret? You don’t have to clean your toilet. Well, okay. . . you just have to clean it once and then install Kaboom® NeverScrub that cleans your toilet with every flush. Just replace the cartridge every 2-3 months. Find it wherever you shop for bathroom cleaning products or online at http://www.kaboomkaboom.com


For nitty-gritty cleaning tips and techniques, look for Cleaning Plain & Simple in your local bookstore. If they don’t have a copy, please ask them to order one! For quick tips, look for The One-Minute Cleaner, an abridged version of the big book that was just released in February 2007.

If you are looking for organizing tips, look for The One- Minute Organizer and Organizing Plain & Simple in bookstores everywhere (including online bookstores) and in select Target, K-Mart, Staples, Discovery Channel, and Storables stores.

If you feel a need to simplify your life, check out Unclutter Your Mind: 500 Ways to Focus on What’s Important.

Want a signed copy of one of my books? You can order directly from me: http://www.unclutter.com/books.html

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.