MAY 2003

Tips & Inspiration for
Organizing a Simpler Life

“One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries.”
-A.A. Milne

FEATURE ARTICLE: Organizing for summer

Are you ready for the season of sunshine? Every season brings a new list of TO-DOs and summer is no exception.

Have you put away your winter clothing and accessories yet? If not, wait! This is the perfect opportunity to do a little uncluttering in your closet.

If you haven’t worn something this past season, how likely are you to wear it next year? Use the Keep or Toss quiz (http://www.unclutter.com/keep-or-toss.html) on my Web site to help you decide what items to put away and what items to donate or sell at your next garage sale.

Before putting clothes into summer storage, be sure to clean anything you’ve worn because it’s your body oils and scent that attracts moths and insects.

This year, I decided to try those vacuum seal bags that supposedly reduce the volume of clothing and bedding up to 75%. I bought a few different sized bags, including some specifically designed for hanging clothes.

Though 75% may be a stretch, these bags really do save space and also protect clothing from dust and insects. If you want to try them, or you don’t know what the heck I am talking about, check out the Online Resources listed on my Web site. (I just searched for “vacuum bag” at The Container Store (http:/www.TheContainerStore.com) and discovered that they are on sale. How do you like that?)

I also recommend cleaning and waterproofing leather shoes and boots before putting them away. That way, they’re ready to wear when you need them. You might store them in large plastic bins (separate bins for each family member maybe?) or even a large plastic trash bag to keep them free of dust while in summer storage.

If you want to give your home a summer-fresh look and smell, get your carpets cleaned. Your spring cleaning might also include cleaning curtains (including your shower curtains which you can wash in your washing machine) and replacing heavy winter bedding with lighter sheets, bedspreads, comforters or quilts. Launder all winter bedding before putting into summer storage. (I used my vacuum seal bags!)

Got kids? Inspect bicycles; lubricate chains and adjust seat heights as necessary. Also inspect outdoor play equipment for loose bolts or broken parts.

Like to play in the dirt? You can plant annual flowers and vegetables and bring houseplants outdoors once the danger of frost has passed and nighttime temperatures are holding steady at 55 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. (When I lived in Lake Placid, New York, we had to wait until the first full moon in June!)

Doing some simple home maintenance in spring can help prevent small problems from becoming big problems. Take some time to walk through and around your home. Make notes of any repairs or problems that require your attention such as non-working light bulbs, loose roof shingles, cracked washing machine hoses, or cracks in your foundation, masonry, or stucco. Now is also a good time to have your central air conditioning system inspected.

Finally, before you light up that gas grill, use a pipe cleaner to remove possible blockage by spiders or grease buildup in the tubes that lead to the burner. Check hoses for cracking, brittleness, holes, and leaks; replace as necessary.

Okay, you’re good to go. Have a wonderfully organized summer!



May is National Moving Month. Each year, more than 21 million Americans move between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The average American moves once every seven years. Organizing tip: Start packing as soon as you decide that you are going to move.

May 5-11 is National Organizing Week in Canada. Organizing tip: For a referral to a professional organizer in Canada, go to http://www.organizersincanada.com.


Last month, I asked “Who’s the disorganized one in your home?” As promised, here are the results:

42% said: Me
36% said: My spouse/significant other
8% said: My kids
0% said: My parents (apparently I have no young readers)
6% said: All of us
3% said: None of us
6% said: Other (me and one or more of my kids)

NEW SURVEY: Which area of your home could use the most organizing help? Reply to this e-mail with the word “Survey” in the subject line and one of the following numbers as your response:

(1) Kitchen
(2) Bedroom
(3) Bathroom
(3) Family room/living room
(4) Office
(5) Kid’s room/play room
(6) Garage, attic or basement
(7) All of the above
(8) None of the above
(9) Other (please explain)

I will share the results of this survey next month.

READERS WRITE: How do I unclutter e-mail?

Q. My desktop at home is fine, but my computer desktop is a mess! How can I extend my un-clutter skills to e-mail?
A. Delete all e-mail that requires no further action on your part. If you want to save an e-mail, don’t save it in your inbox; create a folder for it on your hard drive instead.
For example, if you want to save all issues of this newsletter, create a folder called “Organizing Plain & Simple Monthly.” Click on this e-mail message in your inbox, then select “Save as” and direct it to the folder you have set up.
When creating folders, set them up the same way you would set up physical folders. For example, you could have a folder called “Online Newsletters” that contains individual folders for each of the newsletters you subscribe to. You can use this same method to file “Jokes” or “Greeting Cards” or (gee whiz!) work projects.
Saving e-mails in a folder on your hard drive theoretically eliminates the need to print an e-mail (unless you absolutely need to have a hard copy), so it also eliminates the need to file! Just be sure to back up your computer regularly.
One final word about organizing e-mail: deleting e-mail removes it from your inbox, but you still need to empty your deleted items folder to remove items from your computer memory.
SHAMELESS PROMOTION: Coming to a city near you!

Do you live in or near Seattle, Portland, Salt Lake City, Minneapolis, Milwaukee or Madison? I will be doing book signings in your area on the following dates:

Seattle          6/3/03
Portland         6/5/03
Salt Lake City   6/6-6/7
Minneapolis      6/17
Milwaukee        6/18-19
Madison          6/20

You’re invited to come by and introduce yourself as a subscriber! Times and locations will be posted on my Web site (http://www.Unclutter.com) as soon as they are confirmed.

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. editor@unclutter.com

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, Sylvia G. in West Hartford, CT for her question about how to unclutter e-mails.

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