MARCH 2003

Tips & Inspiration for Organizing a Simpler Life


FEATURE ARTICLE: Kicking the shopping habit

Have you ever stopped to think about why you have so much clutter? Could it be. . . maybe. . . you just love to shop?

Shopping has become America’s favorite pastime. We frequently go shopping not because we need something, but for something to do. And, of course, once we start shopping, we always seem to find something we just have to have!

According to the American Consumer Credit Counseling Service, half of all purchases are made on impulse. This is the stuff that ends up cluttering our closets and cupboards.

Following are five tips to help you kick the shopping habit:

1. Go shopping only when you need something particular. Go with a list and stick to it.

2. To minimize impulse buying, leave your credit card at home. When you shop with cash only, you tend to think twice about your purchases.

3. Don’t buy something because it’s on sale. Buy because you need it.

4. If you really want to buy something, walk away from it. Go to a different store, get a drink, or use the restroom. Then decide whether it’s worth the walk back. Better yet, go home and think about it for a few days.

5. Consider the real cost of your purchases. Think in terms of how many hours you need to work to pay for each item you want to buy. Then ask yourself: Is it worth the price of your time and energy?


ORGANIZING TIP OF THE MONTH: What to do with all those catalogs

Benjamin Franklin wrote, “…nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” If Mr. Franklin lived in the 21st century, he might be tempted to add “and daily delivery of catalogs.”


If you have loads and loads of catalogs and you rarely or never order from them, be brave. Toss them all out! (Or just keep your favorite few and recycle the rest.)

What’s the worst possible thing that could happen? Maybe you will decide that you absolutely have to have that thing-a-ma-jig you saw in the catalog you tossed out. Well. . .

You could call 1-800-555-1212 to get the company’s Toll-Free number or go online and place your order at the company’s Web site. Would that be so bad?

Chances are you will never miss any of the catalogs you get rid of. You know why? Because the catalog companies are going to keep sending you more! (See next section for how to reduce the number of catalogs you receive.)


If you regularly order from certain catalogs such as office supply or professional catalogs, file them alphabetically (upright not horizontally) and always throw out the old issue when you get a new issue.

If you see something in a catalog that you want, but either can’t afford it right now, or are undecided about buying it, tear out the product page and the order form and toss the rest of the catalog.

Staple the page(s) together with the order form and put them in a file folder labeled “To Buy”. This makes it easier to find what you were interested in without having to remember which catalog you saw it in and also cuts down on sheer volume of clutter.


What do you currently do with your catalogs? Reply to this e-mail with the word “Survey” in the subject line and one of the following answers (just the number is okay) in the body of your e-mail message:

1)Throw them all away immediately
2)Keep only those catalogs that I want to order from
3)Let them pile up and then throw them away
4)Neatly file some or all of the catalogs I receive
5)Set them aside to read them later, but never do
6)Look through every one, but never or rarely order anything
7)Use the catalogs to place orders on a regular basis
8)Other (please tell me what you do)

I will share the results of this survey with everyone next month.


CORRECTION: New address for DMA Mail Preference Service

In the February 2003 issue, I gave you an address that you can write to if you wish to reduce the quantity of unsolicited mail you receive. That address has changed. The new address is:

Direct Marketing Association
Mail Preference Service
P.O. Box 643
Carmel NY 10512

Send a postcard or write a letter asking to have your name removed from all of their members’ mailing lists. Be sure to include your name (with all of its various spellings) and address. Allow several months for the deluge to subside.



Laundry is quicker and easier to do when clothes are already separated into wash type. That’s why I recommend having a triple-compartment laundry sorter in the laundry room.

I also recommend putting a “dirty clothes collector” in each bedroom. Ideally, this is a lightweight basket or bag that can be easily carried to the laundry room. (Some family members may need a separate, smaller bag for collecting delicates.)

Train family members to sort their laundry into whites, lights, and darks. Use a permanent marker to label each compartment: Whites, Lights, and Darks.

If more than one family member is responsible for doing laundry (or you wish other family members would do laundry!), try this:

Write or type the washing instructions for each type of wash on a slip of paper and pin or tape it to the outside of each compartment. Voila! No more laundry mistakes!


READERS WRITE: Organizing important papers

Nancy C. sent the following “plain and simple” tip for organizing important papers:

A great organization tool I use for important papers is to put them together in plastic pocket sleeves.

I put each family member’s birth certificates, social security cards, and savings bonds in their own sleeve. I also did the same with life insurance policies and car titles.

I labeled each sleeve with the person’s name, put the sleeves in a notebook, and put the notebook in a fire-proof safe. Now if I need something, I know exactly where to look.

This came about in the fire frenzy from last summer we had in Colorado. You never know when you might need to leave in a hurry.


SHAMELESS PROMOTION: Houston, we have lift-off!

I have been asked to sign copies of Organizing Plain & Simple at the Grand Re-Opening of Lord & Taylor at the Houston Galleria in Houston, Texas on March 14 from 3:00 to 4:30 p.m.

If you live or work in Houston, please stop by. . .introduce yourself. . .and grab a free, autographed copy of my book!

Do you read Parenting magazine? I was interviewed earlier this month for an article on organizing kids’ closets and clothes, which is scheduled to appear in the August 2003 issue.


ENTER 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? Click on the following link to send an e-mail to me. mailto:editor@unclutter.com?subject=Readers_Write

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 (www.unclutter.com/books.html)!

Congratulations to this month’s winner, Nancy C. of Collbran, Colorado for her tip on organizing important papers!


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