March 2004
Vol. 2, No. 3

Tips & Inspiration for Organizing a Simpler Life

“Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.”
–Carl Bard

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FEATURE ARTICLE: How much is enough?

According to a 2001 report by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), the average new home size in 1950 was 983 square feet with two bedrooms and one bathroom on one story.

By 2000, the average new home had more than doubled in size to 2,265 square feet on two stories with three or more bedrooms, two and one-half bathrooms, and a garage for two or more cars.

Coincidentally, clutter wasn’t as much as a problem in 1950 as it is today. It seems that the more room we have for our stuff, the more stuff we have!

Have you ever read the book, Mutant Message Down Under? The author, Marlo Morgan, goes on a life-changing journey into the Australian outback with a group of Aborigines. In her book, one of the Aboriginine characters says, “The more things you have, the more you have to fear. Eventually you are living your life for things.”

Do you really need 63 pair of shoes? Or seven sets of sheets for your bed? Or that handy-dandy gadget you just saw advertised on television? How many things that you have bought are still in your home, but not being used?

Acquiring things has become such a habit that we often don’t think about the cost of acquisition. Think about the price you pay – not just the cost of purchasing, but the cost of owning.

On a practical level, your belongings cost you storage space and they cost you the time it takes to clean and care for them. The more you own, the more you have to care for.

And, if you’re charging purchases and carrying balances on your credit cards, what you buy ends up costing a lot more than the item is worth, even if you buy it on sale.

No matter how much you acquire, you will never have it all. Better to have a few possessions that you love and use than a thousand that weigh you down.

Years ago, I attended a workshop presented by Albany, NY-based professional organizer, Helen Volk. She asks the following key question to help individuals determine how much is enough:

On a scale of ten to one, with ten being everything you currently own and zero being nothing, what would feel more reasonable? Nine? Eight? Seven? Six? Five? If it’s seven out of ten, make it your goal to pare down your belongings by about 30%.

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


March 22-28 is National Clutter Awareness Week. Dedicated to the beginning of spring cleaning, Clutter Awareness Week is a great time to tackle those problem areas.

If you’re up for the challenge, set a goal to unclutter the most cluttered room in your home. Or schedule 15-30 minutes for uncluttering into every day that week. Either way, in a week’s time, you can accomplish quite a lot.

It might also interest you to know that March 9 is Organize Your Home Office Day. Consider dedicating the day to uncluttering your desktop, sorting and filing papers, and organizing your files. Organizing your office is guaranteed to make your energy and productivity soar.

SURVEY RESULTS: Underbed storage

In the last issue, I asked “Do you use the space under your bed as a storage space? If yes, what items do you store there?”

As promised, here are the results of that survey:

7% said: Linens
23% said: Gift wrap
0% said: Paper goods
3% said: Canned and boxed food stuffs
3% said: Board games and toys
3% said: Craft or sewing projects
3% said: Workout equipment
3% said: Luggage
0% said: Photos
23% said: Seasonal clothes and accessories
30% said: Other

The other category included an inflated air mattress, folding table, leaf for kitchen table, small bag of socks with missing mates, children’s artwork in boxes, keepsakes, Playboy magazines, and framed artwork.

A few people wrote to say that they don’t store anything under their beds because to do so is “bad Feng Shui.” Feng shui (pronounced fung-shway) is the ancient Taoist art and science of living in harmony with the environment.

Feng shui is based on the belief that your home is alive with chi, or energy. Clutter is said to obstruct the flow of energy.

So if you have trouble sleeping, you may want to find another home for those items under your bed. Also, in her book, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, Karen Kingston says,” For those who are romantically inclined, whether you are single and looking or already in a relationship, it will pay you dividends to keep your bedroom tidy and clutter-free.”

NEW SURVEY: Bill paying

How often do you pay bills?

a. Once a week
b. Every other week
c. Once a month
d. As they come in
e. No regular schedule
f. Other

TO RESPOND TO THE SURVEY, Please DO NOT REPLY to this message. Send an e-mail to editor@unclutter.com with the words “March 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.

PRODUCT REVIEW: Simpliciti Home Organizer

Back in November, when I was invited to be a guest on the CBS Saturday Early Show, the producer asked me to bring really “Wow!” organizing products to demonstrate.

I searched all over and one of products I found was the Simpliciti Home Organizer. This brand new electronic organizer is like a PDA except that it’s designed for use by the whole family.

What’s really “wow” about this product is the family scheduler. Individual schedules automatically update the master family schedule, so you can see at a glance who needs to be where when – and avoid scheduling conflicts. You can even enter details like directions to a party or what to bring. And it synchs with Microsoft Outlook.

The Simpliciti Home Organizer can also be used to create and maintain shopping and to-do lists as well as phone and address lists. It comes preloaded with 500 recipes and you can download more or add your own. It also comes with a printer for producing hard copies.

The Simpliciti Home Organizer normally sells for $129.95, but as a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO), I get a $10 discount that I can pass along to you.

To get your $10 discount, go to www.simpliciti.com/buyNAPO. Enter “Unclutter” as the referrer name and submit. Your discounted price will appear automatically. For more information to help you decide if the Simpliciti Home Organizer is right for you, click on “Products.”

READERS WRITE: Tips for uncluttering

I used to save up all my unwanted stuff (lots of it still very nice, serviceable and useful) and then have a big yard sale every couple of years. Even though I often made more than $300, I finally decided it just wasn’t worth it anymore.

Now I have a single box in the garage and I put things in it as I come across them. When it is full, I schedule a pick-up day with the local Salvation Army. In the last year, I have averaged one scheduled donation per month and have been able to keep the accumulated junk to a minimum and have been able to claim more in charitable contributions than I ever made sitting in the driveway under the blazing sun.

I also donate business/career clothing to a local women’s empowerment and starting over training program. I feel glad that my gently used items are helping those who need it most and I am able to support my goal of a clutter-free home.

Submitted by Philipa Barnes
Roseville, CA

Last month, we discussed the merits of donating things to charity. I mentioned ItsDeductible software as a resource for determining fair market value for tax-deductible non-cash donations. Afterwards, a reader wrote in with this tip:

Why pay money for software when you can get fair market value for donated items at http://www.SalvationArmyUSA.org?

Go to the Your Help drop down menu, choose Receipts, then Valuation Guide. The Salvation Army provides lists of high and low condition valuation for all types of items. While the lists are not exhaustive, they are excellent guides.

I print them out and itemize right on the sheet, staple my donation receipt to the itemized list and file. I was astonished at the value of my donations when I first used this system three years ago. The Salvation Army seems to update the lists and values at least annually. I use this system for any donation of goods to any organization.

Submitted by Dana Essex
Plymouth, MN

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? 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.

SHAMELESS PROMOTION: Upcoming events & more

In January, I became the Office Organizer expert for Teacher’s Rewards, a free membership program that rewards teachers with valuable savings and discounts and also provides useful information to help make the most of your time and money. The program is sponsored by Teacher’s Insurance Plan. To learn more about the program, visit: http://www.TeachersRewards.com.

This month, I am presenting organizing tips at two venues in the greater Phoenix area:

March 18, 2004
9:00 – 10:30 a.m.
Breakfast Meeting
Sun Lakes Women’s Association
(affiliated with Stonecroft Missions)
Sun Lakes Oakwood Country Club
I will be giving a 15-minute presentation on “Organizing for Busy People.” Also presenting: Irma Norleman with a spiritual message “The Greatest Gift in Life.”
Cost: $10 includes breakfast. Reservations are required. Call Renee 480-883-1869 on or before March 15 if you would like to attend.

March 30, 2004
7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Free Seminar
Secrets of Professional Organizers Revealed
Glendale Public Library
5959 W. Brown
Glendale, AZ
(1 stoplight south of 59th and Peoria)
I will be one of several presenters; my topic is One Minute Organizing.
Reservations required; RSVP 623-930-3552.
NOTE: Don’t wait too long because this event has sold out in the past, leaving 150 people on a waiting list!

If you can’t make it to one of these events, but would like to get a signed copy of one of my books, now you can!

Go to: http://www.unclutter.com/books.html

Select the book(s) you want. Then click on the “SignedCopy.com” logo to purchase a signed copy directly from me. I’ll personally sign your books and ship them right to your door via Priority Mail.

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