May 2007
Vol. 5, No. 5

Tips & Inspiration for Organizing a Simpler Life

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.”
-Eleanor Roosevelt

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FEATURE ARTICLE: Ways to help others get organized

Are you living with a disorganized spouse or packrat kids?

Well, I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is that anyone – even those messy family members of yours – can get organized. The bad news is that they have to want to get organized.

That’s where you come in. You can continue to complain and yell, quietly seethe, or learn to live with the chaos. Or you can help them see how and why getting organized would benefit them.

Show them the WIIFM – What’s In It For Me? Let’s say you want your kids to keep their rooms neater. Why should they? (I’m assuming you’ve already tried the old “Because Mom or Dad says so” reason with no success.) Okay, so what’s in it for them? Well, maybe you tie some sort of reward or privilege to keeping their rooms organized. Decide on it together. When you talk to your spouse, emphasize the benefits to him or her.

Be specific. Kids need more direction than just “Clean up your room.” Their idea of “clean” and yours may be worlds apart. What exactly do they need to do? Spell it out. Make a list; for example, “Put all the clothes that you no longer wear for whatever reason, in this trash bag.” In the case of your spouse, be specific about what you want to see so that he or she has a clear picture. For example, you might describe a kitchen counter with nothing on it but the toaster and coffeemaker. Or you show them a system you’ve set up for sorting and organizing mail and how it works.

Provide resources. Offer to help family members get started. Have them start small – one drawer, one shelf at a time. Give them trash bags or boxes labeled DONATIONS, SELL, and TRASH (To label bags, apply a piece of masking tape to the bag and user a fat marker to write on the tape.
Suggest organizing products that might help. Shop online at stores like The Container Store and Organize.com.

Be respectful. Remember that while you can offer organizing suggestions, the decision about what to keep and what to toss ultimately rests with the owner of an item. And if that person just can’t seem to get it together, then you will do well to focus on his or her better qualities and maybe declare certain rooms off limits to their stuff.

Good luck with all of that. And, oh, by the way, if you are VERY organized, you might like to explore a career in professional organizing. Start by attending a local chapter meeting of the National Association of Professional Organizers or sign up for an Introduction to Professional Organizing class at the organization’s web site: http://www.napo.net.

Next month: Maximizing storage space


Between May and September every year, approximately 40 million U.S. families pack up and move. If you’re one of them, start gearing up for your move as soon as you know you are moving.

United Van Lines has an excellent moving checklist to get you thinking about what needs to be done when: http://www.unitedvanlines.com/mover/moving-aids/moving-checklist.htm

You’ll also find good advice on packing at this site.


Do you know someone who is getting married this summer or fall? SendOutCards offers a fast, easy, affordable way for them to send really unique wedding and shower invitations, thank you cards, moving announcements, housewarming invitations, and upcoming holiday cards.

At the SendOutCards web site, couples can create cards with a photo from their wedding or honeymoon on the front with their own handwriting and signatures inside – all for less than $1 each plus postage. But what’s really great is that once these cards are created, they can be sent to an entire list just by clicking on the Send button.

If you or someone you know would like to see how it works, I can set you up with a guest account so you can send a few cards on me. Email donna@yourcardconnection.com if you would like a personal walkthrough of this system.

Or go to YourCardConnection.com to learn all about it and send a free card on your own. Either way, I invite you to be my guest!

SURVEY RESULTS: Junk drawers

Last month, I asked: How may junk drawers do you have?

As promised, here are the results of that survey:

25% said: None 19% said: One 17% said: Two 39% said: Three or more

I was impressed that one out of four people who responded have no junk drawers. Our hidden cameras tell a different story. . . just kidding! But seriously, having no junk drawers? That’s organized!

Now, don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with having a junk drawer if you can find what you need when you need it. You can buy drawer organizers or organize like items such as batteries in plastic zippered bags (one of my favorite organizing tools!).

I’m even okay with multiple junk drawers, provided they each serve a purpose. For example, one drawer may contain household “fix-it” stuff, such as superglue, duct tape, picture hangers, a small hammer, felt chair leg pads and that kind of thing. Another drawer might include scissors, pens and pencils, stamps, envelopes, and tape.

If you have multiple junk drawers with no rhyme or reason or if your junk drawers contain things that are better suited to storage elsewhere, you might want to put “Clean out the junk drawers” on your to-do list for a rainy day.

NEW SURVEY: Organizing services

In 2006, members of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) served 140,000 clients. Were you one of them OR do you know someone who hired a professional organizer last year?

a. Yes b. No

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: How it pays to get organized

I just wanted to tell you this story, especially after reading your newsletter today.

Earlier today I asked my husband to give me the two movie tickets I received from Safeway (if you bought $25 worth of frozen foods, you received two movie tickets). I had given them to him to take the kids to the movies, but they went miniature golfing instead. Anyway, when he got home this evening, he said that he has looked everywhere, but could not find the tickets.

I decided to check out his car for myself. Wow!!! What a mess!!!! I never did find the movie tickets, but I did find a $15 Home Depot gift certificate, a $25 Visa gift card, 3 spoons and 2 forks (from our everyday silverware that he takes to work to eat his lunches), my son’s sunglasses that he has been looking for since last summer, numerous toys from kids meals AND one of his paychecks that he never cashed!!!!!!!!!!! Not as good as a $43K lottery ticket, but still great! (See the April 2007 issue of this e- newsletter.)

When I was done I put a small compact trashcan (with liners) and a small basket for odds and ends that need to come into the house labeled “Please Don’t Leave Me Here.” Although I found some great surprises, hopefully I will now get them in the house in the new basket instead of me crawling around his car.

— Submitted by Patrice Hedman, Queen Creek

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.


Earlier this year, I was invited to become a member of the Westin Renewal Council along with Vern Yip from Trading Spaces and other home makeover programs, David Kirsch fitness trainer to the stars, renowned psychologist and relationship expert Dr. Dale Atkins, trend forecaster Jane Buckingham and organic chef Akasha Richmond.

The Westin Renewal website – http://www.findrenewal.com – was launched earlier this month. This is the only place on the web that brings together into one location, an array of renewal tips, ideas, and suggestions from a collection of leading lifestyle gurus. (I am their productivity and organizational expert).

The goal of the site is to offer simple solutions that help people live their best life wherever they are. The collective wisdom of the council provides insight on renewal at work home, on the road and everywhere in between.

Information is organized in an easily digestible manner that encourages you to come back each day to get a daily tip designed to assist you in your daily life. You can also have daily tips delivered directly via RSS feeds and an easy-to-download widget that sends daily motivational tips and friendly reminders on personal renewal directly to your desktop, personal webpage, or blog 365 days a year. Click here to download the widget: http://www.findrenewal.com/index.php?sec=wid If you want to read more about the Westin Renewal Council, click here: Westin Hotels Recruits ‘Renewal Council’ to Lead New Lifestyle … or here Westin Hotels to develop in-room lifestyle TV channel.

In other news, my organizing and cleaning tips appeared in a number of publications over the past month including the magazine First for Women and multiple newspapers across the country. Below you will find links to some of the online articles.

Fast way to clean? You bet Akron Beacon Journal – Akron,OH,USA

Unleashing your inner clutter buster Fort Wayne News Sentinel – Fort Wayne,IN,USA

Need to know how to spring-clean? Read up The Wichita Eagle – Wichita,KS,USA

SHORT TAKES Newsday – Long Island,NY,USA

Dust bunnies are not friends Fresno Bee (subscription) – Fresno,CA,USA

Four steps to a neater garage Houston Chronicle – Houston,TX,USA

Upgrade the garage to increase the value of a home PR Web (press release) – Ferndale,WA,USA


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 Stowables 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.