June 2004
Vol. 2, No. 6

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, Author

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FEATURE ARTICLE: Getting motivated to get organized

I won’t kid you. Getting organized is not an easy job. But then, nothing worth doing is easy, right?

The hardest part is getting started. Following are some tips to help you get motivated:

* Start with a clear understanding of your motivation. What do you stand to gain from getting organized? What do you stand to lose if you don’t?

* Make today the day you decide to get organized. Tell someone about what you plan to do and why. Ask that person to “check in” one week from today to see how your organizing project is coming along.

* Commit to spending a set amount of time each day on uncluttering and organizing activities. Make an appointment with yourself and write it in your daily planner. Then honor that appointment as you would any other appointment. How much time you spend is not as important as being consistent.

* Tie your organizing goals into a larger life goal. Think about how getting organized will help you achieve what you are trying to achieve in your relationships, career, and life in general (e.g. save money, pursue a hobby, starta new business).

* Apply some pressure on yourself. Offer to host a family dinner at your house over the holidays, plan a party and send out invitations, or set a date for a garage sale.

* Decide in advance what your reward will be for completing each organizing project or room. Ideas: Buy yourself flowers. Treat yourself to a pedicure or massage. Or invite your best friends over to enjoy coffee and dessert in your newly uncluttered family room.

* To make getting organized a priority, tie it to a financial reward. What will you do with the money you make selling things you no longer want or need? The more you get rid of, the more cash you’ll have.

* Keep a daily journal of your organizing activities. Take a few minutes each day to jot down how long you spent organizing, what area or things you organized, how you felt afterward, and your goal for tomorrow.

Next month: The price you pay for clutter

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


June is National Safety Month. For tips on how to organize your home and office for safety, see the June 2003 issue of Organizing Plain & Simple Monthly, archived at my Web site:



SURVEY RESULTS: Spring cleaning

Last month, I asked: Did you or do you plan to do a spring cleaning of your home? As promised, here are the results of that survey:

15% said: Yes, it’s done.
55% said: Yes, I am planning to give my home a spring cleaning.
30% said: No, I haven’t done any spring cleaning and don’t plan to.

Many of those who said that they plan to give their homes a spring cleaning added, “But I don’t know when or how” or “it usually becomes summer cleaning.” And one respondent said she routinely cleans throughout the fall months to get her home ready for the holidays.” Not a bad idea!

Those who responded that they would not be doing any spring cleaning” cited lack of time as the #1 reason.

I am reading a fascinating book called Never Done: A History of American Housework (Owl Books, 1982) by Susan Strasser. Here’s an interesting little tidbit from the book. . .

The reason why everyone did spring cleaning way back when was to remove the accumulation of soot and smoke from wood and coal fires and kerosene lamps. If you think dusting is a chore, imagine work of cleaning soot and smoke from every surface and crevice!

Emily Dickinson wrote: “I prefer pestilence.” A household advice writer of the time referred to spring cleaning as “a general housewrecking process.” Still, it was an annual ritual that signaled the end of winter.

While spring cleaning is not the necessary evil it once was, now is still a good time to do those things that should be done on an annual or semi-annual basis.

* Open windows in basements and attics to ventilate.

* Wash windows inside and out (or hire someone to do it).

* Move your refrigerator and stove out so you can vacuum underneath and behind.

* Replace the batteries in your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.

* Clean smoke detectors. Remove and wipe cover with a damp cloth; vacuum interior.

* Clean or change your air conditioning filter.

* Roll up large area rugs and vacuum underneath.

* Clean and clear all household drains.

* Drain the hot water heater.

* Wash winter quilts and linens and replace with lighter ones.

* Turn your mattresses.

* Clean and rehang curtains or replace with spring/summer curtains.

* Clean carpets.

* Add fresh mothballs or fresh cedar products to your clothes storage

* Pack up clutter and donate it.

Victorian women started their spring cleaning by opening windows to let fresh air into stuffy rooms. If that’s as far as you get, consider it a start.

NEW SURVEY: Clutter cutting

Which ONE category of clutter do you MOST wish you either organize or eliminate from your home?

a. Clothing you don’t wear
b. Household goods
c. Toys, games and other child stuff
d. Computer, audio and video clutter
e. Paper clutter on desktops, countertops, floors
f. Basement, attic or garage clutter
g. Tools and hardware
h. Inherited items and things that belong to
someone not living in your home
i. Other

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.

READERS WRITE: About personal space

Q. I have a question that has been bugging us more with each additional child. We are two adults and three children living in a two-bedroom, 1,000 square-foot house. My husband thinks that if we just tried harder, we should be able to easily fit all of us in here. What amount of square footage per person is considered comfortable?

–Submitted by Rebecca Kennedy, contributing quality children to the world since 1992

A. I happened to run into a friend, Carrie Dubiner, a professional organizer who lives in San Francisco, and I posed this question to her. I liked her answer so much, I am passing it along to you.

Carrie said: I think what you want is a simple Formula like figuring how many fish can be supported in a 20-gallon tank. I researched your question and discovered that there is no “fish tank formula” for humans. We know that other cultures routinely sleep entire families in one bed, while Americans value “personal space” and privacy above all.

It really comes down to a matter of comfort. There are some safety issues to consider, such as is there enough room for doors to fully open or close due to furniture placement, and are passages wide enough to navigate?

There are, of course, things you can do to maximize the space you have. For example: Do the kids have bunk beds to save on floor space? Or could each kid have storage for their toys under each bed?

(Donna adds: Bed risers will allow you to elevate the bed enough to accommodate toy storage or even desk. Check out Bed Rizer Bed Legs.)

You might try the “fun” experiment of packing up lots of things for temporary storage and seeing if for a month or so you can live without them. If so, these things are good candidates for getting rid of.

(Editor’s note: If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area and would like to learn how to organize your space, contact Carrie Dubiner at carrie@carried-away.com.)

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.


My friends at Storey Publishing invited me to join them at the Book Expo of America (BEA) in Chicago, an annual event that attracts upwards of 30,000 book publishers, agents and booksellers.

If you plan to attend BEA, please stop by the Storey Publishing booth. I will be signing 150 free copies of Organizing Plain & Simple at 3:30 on Friday, June 4. I am honored to be one of 650 authors who will be signing books during this event.

On June 29, I am presenting a one-hour lunch seminar in conjunction with a meeting of the Flying Dentists Association in Flagstaff, AZ. The topic is “Secrets of The One-Minute Organizer: How to Get Organized in No Time!” (In case you’re wondering, “flying dentists” are dentists who are also private pilots. My orthodontist happens to be one of them. Yes, I have braces at the age of 44. Better late than never, I say.)

The other big news I want to share is that I have a new organizing book coming out this fall. I wrote The One-Minute Organizer specifically for busy people. This fat little book of tips is based on the premise that you don’t have to stop everything to get organized; you just have to start. I’ll let you know when it’s available.

Meanwhile, 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!

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