November 2004
Vol. 2, No. 11

Tips & Inspiration for Organizing a Simpler Life

“Nothing worthwhile ever happens quickly and easily. You achieve only as you are determined to achieve … and as you keep at it until you have achieved.”

–Robert H. Lauer, social psychologist and author

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FEATURE ARTICLE: Last-minute holiday organizing

Even if you started early, you may find yourself racing to meet holiday deadlines. Following are six suggestions for last-minute holiday organizing:

1. Do like Santa and make a list.

Make a list of people you still need to buy gifts for. Next to their names, write a few ideas. Check off each name when you buy the present. If one gift would be perfect for multiple recipients, buy it in multiples.

2. Downsize your commitments.

Decide how you will celebrate the holidays. As a family, discuss which events or traditions are the most meaningful or fun. Pick a manageable number of events, and then really focus on and enjoy those. Remember to include time for “events” such as sitting around the fireplace, watching favorite holiday movies or making cookies.

3. Keep it simple.

If you’re hosting a party at your home, keep the menu simple. If anyone offers to bring anything or help out, say yes! Think in advance how you could use help so you’re ready if someone asks. In fact, consider a pot-luck get-together. After all, the holidays are about sharing!

4. Schedule mini-projects. Examples:

*Get your holiday cards out on time by working on the project in phases: sign cards, address envelopes, stamp and seal.

*Make cookie dough one night and freeze in batches. Then bake a batch each night during or after cooking dinner.

*Instead of that last-minute marathon gift-wrapping session, spend 15 minutes wrapping presents each night until you are done.

5. Share to-do’s.

Invite friends for a casual tree-trimming party. Get family members involved in holiday gift Wrapping, card writing or baking and make it quality family time.

6. Shop online.

Save time and money by shopping online. Sites like MySimon.com are great because you can find whatever you’re looking for online at the best price. And if you’re clueless about what to get someone, check out the site’s gift-giving guides for ideas.

Next month: Resolving to get organized


November is Clean Out Your Refrigerator Month.

If you need to make room for all those Thanksgiving leftovers, check out the November 2003 issue of Organizing Plain & Simple.

Look for it in the Newsletter Archives at

SURVEY RESULTS: Finding things

Last month, I asked: “What has been the most significant or memorable ‘discovery’ you have made while uncluttering and organizing?

As promised, here are the results of that survey:

32% said: Money (checks, cash, savings bonds, etc.)

38% said: Letters, cards, photos or other memorabilia

17% said: Jewelry or other valuables

0% said: A prized possession

10% said: An item that belonged to someone else

3% said: Other (please describe)

One woman found a wedding gift from her mother that she since given to her daughter to give her granddaughter someday. Another found material she
had purchased in 1968(!) to make pajamas for her
boys. Several reported finding notes and letters from loved ones long after they had departed.

But my favorite story came from a reader who recalled how she and her husband had just purchased their first home and were experiencing some cash flow problems.

“There was this one week in particular,” she wrote, “where we were BROKE. No cash whatsoever.” It was a Sunday and somehow they had to make it to the next payday which was Friday. “The frustration of thinking about how in the world we would make it though the next week kicked me into overdrive to clean out the junk drawer.”

As she was going through old bills and junk mail,she came across an unopened envelope from their insurance company. She hadn’t bothered to open it when it came, thinking it was one of the many insurance statements the company sends to report payments to doctors.

“But I had forgotten that on this one occasion, my husband and children went to a doctor and we had to pay for entire visit up front. I didn’t realize our insurance covered it – and did not check to find out.”

“So imagine my surprise when I opened the envelope and found a check for over $200.00. I just started shouting and thanking Jesus for it being there.”

“The topper is that the check had one more week before it would expire so you can imagine how long it sat in that drawer. Needless to say, we had money for the rest of the week.”

NEW SURVEY: Opening mail

How often do you open and sort your mail?

a. Every day
b. Several times a week
c. Once a week
d. Every other week or so
e. Once a month
f. Once in a blue moon

Please DO NOT REPLY to this message.

Send an e-mail to editor@unclutter.com with the word “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.


READERS WRITE: Colorful envelopes for filing

When my husband and I first had our wills prepared they were in a typical legal folder and were always hard to find in a pile of “important” business papers.

Now we put our wills in bright lime green or hot pink envelopes so they can easily be found. It’s very hard to misplace a colorful envelope.

Submitted by Hazel L. Gentry
Sun City, TX

WRITE 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.)

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, The One-Minute Organizer Plain & Simple. Check it out at http://www.unclutter.com/books.html.

NOTE: I get a lot of questions and it’s hard to get to them all. Please know that I do my best.

SHAMELESS PROMOTION: First the bad news

While I was on book tour, something went haywire with the Web site form on my home page where you can sign up to receive monthly organizing tips.

It took a few weeks to discover the problem. Then it took another week-plus to solve it.

And wouldn’t you know it? My web site was mentioned in the October 6 issue of Woman’s Day magazine. Unfortunately, all the requests I received from 9/19/04 through 10/12/04 were lost in cyberspace. Sigh.

On a more positive note, my latest book, The One-Minute Organizer Plain & Simple ranked #13 in The Midwest Independent Bestseller List of trade non-fiction paperbacks the last week in September.
That’s pretty good for a book that was just released that very same month!

By the way, if you would like a signed copy of any of my books, you can order direct from me:
Click on the SignedCopy.com logo to have a signed copy sent to you.

Just a thought: Autographed copies make great gifts for book lovers and anyone you know who wants to get organized.

And finally, for all of you who live in the Tulsa, OK area, I will be a guest on KAKC-AM radio 11/17/04 at 10:20 a.m. I hope you will tune in!


At the annual convention of the National Association of Professional Organizers earlier this year, I was introduced to an amazing new toy storage box for Lego® building blocks.

Box-4-Blox is not just a storage box, but also a sorter. As you put away the blocks, they are automatically sorted by size!  How cool is that?

For more information, go to the Box-4-Blox web Site by clicking here:

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