Tips & Inspiration for Organizing a Simpler Life May 2009 – Vol. 8 No. 5
“Most people have no idea of the giant capacity we can immediately command when we focus all of our resources on mastering a single area of our lives.”
– Anthony Robbins

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Disposing of expired and unused medicines There are a lot of questions about proper disposal of expired and unused medicines and vitamins. After reading my book The One-Minute Organizer, one woman wrote to request that I advise my readers against flushing medicines. Her suggestion was to take medicines and vitamins back to pharmacies.

In Canada (and perhaps other countries), that would be excellent advice. Unfortunately, in the United States, there is no national program in place for proper disposal of medicines. There are a handful of state, city, and community-based programs; the majority have no plan.

I did recently read about a private company that is offering drug disposal services to pharmacies. But last time I checked with my local pharmacy (today), they do not accept unused/unwanted medicines because they simply don’t have systems in place for proper disposal.

When I wrote The One-Minute Organizer six years ago, I did considerable research on the subject and at that time, flushing was one of two methods prescribed by environmental protection agencies. The second method was to empty liquids or grind pills and mix with coffee grounds, seal them in a plastic bag, and throw the bag in a lidded trash bin out of reach of children and pets. Sealing in a plastic bag helps keep the liquids from seeping into underground water systems. You can also put the mix into a lidded coffee can.

In the absence of a pharmacy “take-back” program, trashing is the more favored approach to disposal today in the wake of rising concerns about the level of drugs showing up in our waterways. Sadly, trashing vs. flushing may not resolve the problem of medicines in our reservoirs as the flushing of unwanted medicines likely pales in comparison to the vast amounts of medicines that are expelled as waste product from people actually taking the medicines. It’s a real problem.

For more insight into current activities of the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency, you might like to read this article: http://www.epa.gov/ppcp/projects/disposal.html

Upcoming speaking engagements

6/11/09 Scottsdale, AZ The Joy of Organizing 3:45-4:15 with social hour/networking to follow Little Pink Book Women’s Expo (2-8pm) Gainey Ranch Golf Club 7600 Gainey Club Drive $10 at the door; RSVP Little Pink Book

6/25/09 Chandler, AZ The Joy of Organizing 6:00 pm (networking 6-6:30 followed by dinner) Southeast Valley Business & Professional Women Iguana Mack’s, 1371 N. Alma School Road $15; RSVP roselp1@yahoo.com

Speaking of speaking, if you or someone you know is looking for a motivational guest speaker, perhaps I would be a good fit. Presentation topics include The Joy of Organizing and Secrets of The One-Minute Organizer. I can also create a custom presentation for your group. To check availability or for more information, please e-mail donna@unclutter.com.

Survey Results: Letting go Last month I asked: In general, on a scale of 1-10 (with “1” being really easy and “10” being really hard) how hard is it for you let go of (donate, sell, or toss) items you have not used in more than a year?

As promised, here are the results of that survey. . .

19.2% said: 1-3 28.8% said: 4-7 52.0% said: 8-10

If you have trouble letting go of things, and you’re overwhelmed with clutter, there are a few questions you can ask to help you decide what to keep and what to toss.
You’ll find these questions at my web site: http://unclutter.com/keep-or-toss.html

Paper in all its many forms seems to be one of the hardest things to part with. The reality is that 80% of what we file (or pile) is never looked at again. Why? Because we didn’t need to save it in the first place!

Here’s a quick tip for magazine lovers: If you want to save magazine articles, tear them out and put them into plastic sheet protectors in a 3-ring binder. Start with the magazine you are reading right now and then keep doing it.

When you have some downtime (maybe while watching television), go through older issues of magazines to retrieve those articles. Or just let them go! Yes! Think about how wonderful that would feel to NOT have that huge stack. Then vow to keep up with your article filing from this point forward.

What about kids’ artwork? With all the artwork that comes home from school, you could probably fill a museum. Here’s an idea: Periodically, bring artwork to the photo kiosk at your local CVS/pharmacy where you can create beautiful keepsake photo books in minutes. So the memories will live on even after you toss the originals. And they make nice gifts. (You can also scan artwork at home and bring the disk into CVS.)

Memorabilia can be hard to let go of. One woman wrote to say she is having trouble letting go of her children’s elementary school papers. Her husband is encouraging her to save just one box for each child. I support that.

Interestingly, her email reminded me that I still have all of my report cards from my childhood school days! I chose to save these because they represent years of happy memories for me. I remember showing my report card to my father who always made such big deal of being proud of my grades (I was mostly an “A” student.) Then he would sign his name on the back with a flourish.

I keep my report cards in a box with other memorabilia.
Notice I say “a box” not multiple boxes. I find it helpful to limit myself to one container. When it gets full, I go through the box and inevitably find things that are not as meaningful to me as they were when I decided to save them.

When I look at these cards, my heart floods with love and pride. But you know what? I get that same feeling just thinking about them. I thought I’d share that with you as a reminder that the most important things in life are not things.

New Survey: How organized is your car? Is your car clean and neat and organized or in need of a major decluttering? Before answering, consider all of your car’s storage spaces (trunk, glove box, etc.) as well as the main interior.

Exceptionally clean and neatly organized Fairly clean and organized Somewhat messy and/or in need of cleaning In need of a major decluttering and cleaning (please explain)

TO RESPOND TO THE SURVEY, 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! As always, I will share the results of this survey in the next issue.

Smart Readers Write About: Another (wo)man’s junk. . .

My friends get together on Fridays at 3:30 pm at my house for comraderie. We’ve decided to bring no longer needed items to trade. It’s done by category. Today it’s books. Other categories are jewelry, kitchen gadgets, duplicates, accessories, DVDs, CDs, cassettes (we are all over 50 years old), stationery, and more.

What we don’t recycle with each other, I take to local libraries, thrift stores, charities and other places. It’s a perfect reduce, reuse, recycle event. And it’s fun!

–Submitted by Pat D., Pekin IL

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 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.

Shameless promotion: On the go go

In a span of less than three weeks, I was in Raleigh, Orlando, Los Angeles, New York City and then it was off to Spokane to celebrate my stepdaughter’s graduation from Washington State University. Whew. I’m glad to be home for a bit.

I was in Orlando to attend the annual conference of the National Association Professional Organizers. Can you imagine 700 professional organizers in one place? If you want to hire a professional organizer to help at your place, you can search the association’s membership directory by zip code.

Also this month, I was honored to introduce to the media a new line of office products for Staples. Let me tell you, the new OXO® Good Grips tools are NOT your father’s office tools. There are folding rulers, scissors that double as a box cutter, front-loading staplers (just push a button at the back!), side-loading tape dispensers, magnetic push pin and paper clip dispensers and more.

If you love the feel of OXO Good Grips® kitchen tools in your hand, you’ll really like their new line of office products, available exclusively at Staples.

In other news, some organizing tips from my newest book, The One-Minute A to Z Storage Solutions, were featured in Success magazine. And if you happen to see the May issue of Better Homes & Gardens, you’ll find an entire article full of my favorite spring cleaning tips.

In case you missed it, on May 20, I was a guest on Martha Stewart Living Radio. We talked tips for organizing your outdoor living area. By the way, if you want to learn of media appearances in advance, I encourage you to follow me at www.twitter.com/donnasmallin or on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=693082344&ref=profile

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