November/December 2007
Vol. 5, No. 11

Tips & Inspiration for Organizing a Simpler Life

“There is a time for everything. . .
. . .a time to keep, and a time to throw away.”
— Ecclesiastes 3:1,6

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FEATURE ARTICLE: Simplifying the holidays

Does the sound of sleigh bells make you tense? A little organization can make the difference between having a stress-full or a stress-free holiday.

My favorite tip is to set an early deadline. Plan to have everything done two days early so you can relax with your family and guests instead of running around on the holiday itself. Following are seven more simple things you can do to help ensure a stress-free holiday.


Keep in mind: “less is more,” even at the holidays. Now’s a good time to donate some of your kids’ old toys and games – and some of your own stuff.

Keep a list of what you donate and be sure to get a receipt for tax purposes. While you’re at it, when you pull out your holiday decorations, add the ones you didn’t use last year to your donations box, and toss anything that’s broken or worn.


Ask family members: If you could go to only three holiday events, which would they be? Think about activities from holidays past. What activities refresh your spirit? What activities could you do without?

Decide which celebrations are the most meaningful and fun.
Pick a manageable number of events and activities and leave yourself some downtime to simply enjoy the holidays. You’ll save money and stress by reducing your obligations and expectations.

3 Get online instead of in line

Avoid long lines at the post office by buying holiday stamps at www.usps.com. (It costs an additional buck, but it’s worth it.) You can also print labels for your packages and even request mail pickup from your home at no extra charge.

Shop online to escape mall crowds and parking hassles.
Order as much as possible from one online company to save on shipping costs. Comparison sites such as MySimon.com and Froogle.com are great for finding whatever you’re looking for at the best price.

4 Simplify gift-giving

The last thing most of us need is more stuff. Consider giving edible gifts, tickets to an upcoming event, or gift certificates for a splurge on something like spa services or a one-of-a-kind experience such as a helicopter tour ride. I’m buying a ticket for my husband to ride in a B52 Bomber that flies out of our local airport. It’s something I know he would love to do, but won’t ever buy it for himself.

I recently found a company called Ribbon that offers a variety of gift albums that you can send to clients, friends and family so they can choose what they want (without knowing how much you spent). The albums can be mailed to you or directly to your recipient. For a look at the entire gift collection, contact my Ribbon representative, Don Feuerstein, at donf@odint.com or 866- 715-1726 or check out his web site at www.gift.odint.com . Please say hi for me and remind him that I am still waiting for a photo of their new baby.

5 Break big jobs into mini-projects

Did you know that you can freeze cookie dough? Then bake a batch each night while cooking dinner or doing dishes.
Freeze the baked cookies and thaw as needed.

Instead of that last-minute marathon gift-wrapping session, spend 15 minutes wrapping presents each night until you are done. Save time and frustration by setting up a gift wrap center with all of your wrapping paper, gift bags, tissue, ribbons, bows, and gift tags, tape, scissors and a marker or pen.

Holiday cards are another big project that you can complete in phases: sign cards, address envelopes, seal, and stamp.
Use the time during television commercial breaks and the job will be done in no time. This year, I’m using a service that lets me select the card I want to send from their online card catalog. All I do is press SEND and they do all the stuffing, sealing, addressing, stamping and mailing for about $1 a card. (These are real paper greeting cards, by the way, not e-cards.) Try it for free at www.yourcardconnection.com.

6 Keep it simple

With every activity you plan, ask yourself “How could I make this simpler?” Is it important for you to bake cookies or would you be just as happy buying them from a bakery? Do you really need to have a huge sit-down dinner on the holiday or could you have a buffet? If you’re having a holiday get-together, consider a potluck dinner or a party where guests help to trim the tree. If anyone offers to bring anything, say yes!

7 Plan ahead

If you have holiday guests coming, prepare the guest room now and stock the bathroom with clean towels, toilet paper, and toiletries. Clean your toilets and then install a continuous toilet bowl cleaning system like Kaboom NeverScrub that cleans with every flush.

Plan meals and do all your grocery shopping before guests arrive. You might even consider preparing meals in advance at one of the new meal preparation franchises that are popping up, such as Dream Dinners, Super Suppers, or My Girlfriends Kitchen. In just an hour or two, you can prepare up to 12 ready-to-cook dinners for your freezer.

And if your guests offer to help clean up, be prepared to hand them a dishtowel or broom.

Next month: Think yourself organized

SURVEY RESULTS: Your #1 organizing priority

Do you know right now what is your next organizing project?

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

10% said: No 90% said: Yes

The reason I asked you this question is because I knew if I asked, you would think about it and some of you would then put that thought into action. Just call me The Sneaky Organizer.

Here are the most popular projects you told me you are working on: papers, files, bedroom, bedroom closet, hall closets, office, study, files, craft/sewing room, kitchen cupboards, and basement.

So how’s that organizing project coming along?

NEW SURVEY: Tax-deductible non-cash donations

Did you take a tax deduction last year for items you donated to charity?

a. No b. Yes

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: Get “Ready Up Front”

I like to shop less often and stock my cupboards well. That doesn’t work for some things like sandwich meat. So I started buying good sandwich meat at the deli counter in the grocery store and then rolling the slices up in cylinders, wrapping them well and storing them until I used them. A few seconds in the micro and they are fresh and ready for a good luncheon sandwich. And I always have nice fresh sandwich meat if I have someone drop in unexpectedly at lunch time.

I also started something I call my RUF (or “Ready Up Front”) plan. If I buy a cake or brownie mix I bake it and freeze it. If it’s frozen, we are not so likely to eat it, but it is ready when we have unexpected company. Hamburger meat gets made into patties or mini meat loaves, frizzled hamburger, etc. Vegetables get peeled and prepped when they are purchased. Grapes get washed and divided into individual servings. Individual servings of instant pudding are really handy. At first it seemed like a big task until early prep started paying off. Now it is easy.

–Submitted by Carol C., Brainerd, MN

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 Cleaner 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: Counting my blessings

One of the blessings I am counting this Thanksgiving is all the wonderful media attention my books have had this year.

This month, I got a mention in Woman’s World (November 6, “Have a stressless holiday”) and in Country Living (December, “Prepare Your Home for Winter”).

And here are a few articles that appeared in Quick & Simple magazine this year, which I thought you might enjoy:

Get rid of paper clutter http://www.quickandsimple.com/article.php?id=378&menu=&menu_cat

How to get rid of smells that can haunt your house http://www.quickandsimple.com/article.php?id=94&menu=&menu_cat

Secrets of the organizational gurus http://www.quickandsimple.com/article.php?id=103&menu=&menu_cat


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 Storables 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.