October 2006
Vol. 4, No. 8

Tips & Inspiration for Organizing a Simpler Life

“Determine that the thing can and shall be done, and then we shall find the way.”

–Abraham Lincoln

Thank you for subscribing. . .

I hope you enjoy reading Organizing Plain & Simple Monthly as much as I enjoy writing it.
If you find this information valuable, please pass it on to a friend.

If you received this issue as a forward and would like to receive your own free subscription, you can sign up at: http://www.unclutter.com

FEATURE ARTICLE: 10 simple ways to unclutter your mind

There have been many times in my life when I wanted to scream, “Stop the world – I want to get off!” (I get overwhelmed very easily.)

What I wanted more than anything was for time to stop for just a little while so that I could catch up on everything and get to all those things that it seemed I would never get to.

I am no less busy today, but I have learned to unclutter my mind. And that has made a world of difference in my life.

Following are ten tips for uncluttering your mind so that you can figure out what’s really important to you and let go of the rest.

1. Worry only about right now. Don’t worry about something that might happen or already did happen. Ask yourself: What am I worrying about? If it’s something in the past or future, let it go and focus on the here and now.

2. Slow down. Try this simple exercise: Stand up and deliberately move across the room in slow motion. Notice how it increases your awareness and expands time. That’s what slowing down in life can do for you.

3. Make conscious choices. How often do you think or say, “I have to”? Replace this statement with “I choose to”.
It will relieve a lot of the pressure you place on yourself and you will find yourself enjoying more and dreading less because you “choose” to do them.

4. Recognize that we’re all doing the best we can. If someone frustrates you, tell yourself that he or she is doing the best he or she can at this moment in life. Notice how that belief eliminates much – if not all – of your frustration with this person.

5. Leave work stress at work. Studies have shown that if Mom or Dad comes home grumpy from work, the stress and negative emotions can infect the whole family like chicken pox. If you’ve had a bad day, do something on the way home to improve your mood. Listen to soothing music in your car or take a brisk walk.

6. Believe in yourself. If you believe that you are a capable, talented person (or whatever), then you will become that person.
Fake it until you can make it.

7. Breathe. When you are feeling overwhelmed, take a deep breath.
And another. This is a good time to remind yourself that all you really need to do today is breathe. Everything else is optional.

8. Cut yourself some slack. If you find that you are slipping back into behaviors that you are trying to change, congratulate yourself for recognizing that. Then recommit to the new behavior.

9. Schedule fun first. If you never seem to have any time left for fun at the end of your day or week, try putting fun things to do in your calendar first and then schedule everything else around that.

10. Start a “thanksgiving” journal. Each evening, write down the good things that happened throughout your day and whatever else you are thankful for. Keeping a journal like this helps you to appreciate the many blessings that might otherwise go unnoticed. (It’s also very uplifting to read through your journal if you are feeling blue.)

Excerpted from Unclutter Your Mind: 500 Ways to Focus on What’s Important By Donna Smallin

Next month: Getting into the organizing spirit


In last month’s feature article, there was a typo in the link to the IRS publication that includes a handy household inventory form. This is the correct link: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p2194.pdf NOTE: You only need to print pages 17-34.
Also, I want to point out that last month’s tip for organizing pantries was submitted by Donna McClung in Rhoadesville VA. Thank you, Donna!


October is national Organize Medical Information Month.

Here’s how I organize my medical information:

I have one hanging folder labeled “Health Insurance” in which I file the following items: (make one manila folder for each item) – Health insurance policies (including Medicare and Medicaid)
– Copies of claims filed
– Explanation of Benefits (EOB) statements*
– Record of insurance payments received (check stubs)
– All correspondence from insurance company

I have another hanging folder labeled “Medical Records” in which I file the following items: (make one manila folder for each item unless noted otherwise) – Medical records for each family member (use separate manila folders for each person)
– Receipts for all paid healthcare expenses

*Before paying a medical bill, I check the EOB to make sure that the amounts match. Then I staple the EOB to the bill, make a note of my check number and the date I paid it, and file it with medical receipts.


Always file documents in the front of a file folder so that the newest papers are most accessible.

SURVEY RESULTS: Rating your organizing skills

In the last issue, I asked: On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being super-organized, how would you rate your organizing ability?

As promised, here are the results of that survey:

19% said: Poor 29% said: Okay in some areas; not so good in others 32% said: Fairly good when I put my mind to it 17% said: Very good with good results most of the time 3% said: Excellent

Here’s an exercise I would like all of you to try (super-organized ones excepted):

Make a list of the things you do that contribute to the abundance of clutter or disorganization around you.

Now pick one disorganizing habit that you believe is within your power change right now. Change one thing like what you do with your bills when they arrive in the mail. Instead of leaving them on the counter where they are bound to get lost in the paper shuffle, put them all into a folder labeled “Bills to Pay” and keep this folder somewhere that is easily Accessible, but where it won’t get lost.

Or, if you have a tendency to toss your clothes when you take them off, take an extra few moments to put them away. Or, if you realize you’ve got too much stuff because you spend too much time shopping, vow to not buy anything (except for necessities such as food and toilet paper) for the next 21 days.

This is how you learn to get organized; you begin to change one disorganizing habit at a time and to incorporate new habits that will allow you to get organized and stay organized.

NEW SURVEY: Paying bills online

How many bills do you regularly pay online each month?

None At least one Some, but not all All

TO RESPOND TO THE SURVEY, click the following link editor@unclutter.com or send email to editor@unclutter.com with the words “Survey” and the letter of your response in the subject line. Feel free to add comments in the body of your email. I will share the results of this survey in the next issue.

READERS WRITE: Saving greeting cards

My organizing tip has to do with what to do with those wonderful cards from hubby, children, friends, etc.

I’m talking about sweet, loving, encouraging, touching types of cards that you really want to keep, but usually put in a box or basket or drawer and never see again except by chance.

Now I tape these cards to the insides of my upper kitchen cabinet doors. Actually any back side of a cabinet door will work for this. You can even use the inside of your medicine cabinet door. When you open the cabinet doors, you’re reminded that someone thinks you’re special.
— Mary Balph, Madison Indiana EDITOR’S NOTE: I love this tip because I do this, too!

WRITE TO WIN an autographed copy of one of my books!

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


PLEASE NOTE: I get a lot of questions and it’s impossible for me to respond to them all. Please know that I do read them and try to answer as many as I can.

SHAMELESS PROMOTION: Where in the world is Donna?

You may find it interesting to know that Americans aren’t the only ones who need help with uncluttering and organizing.
My books have been translated into German, Dutch, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese, and even Indonesian.

This month, for the first time ever, I will be making an international appearance as an organizing expert. I’ve been invited to be a guest on BBC Radio Saturday, October 21 at 9:00 p.m. BST. (For those of you in Great Britain, I wish I could tell you which channel I will be on, but I do not know; I only know that it will be live.)

Last week, I was interviewed for an article about clutter, scheduled to appear in the Sunday Magazine of LA VANGUARDIA, one of the main newspapers in Spain. Imagine that!

And, of course, I manage to get around the world on the Internet.
Following are a few online articles that may interest you:

Q & A: Decluttering Your Life (over 50) http://www.eons.com/love/feature/3868?section=yourself

Ask the Expert (advice on organizing greeting cards, RSVPing, gift giving) http://www.completelyyou.com/bluesuitmom/living/organized/invitation_control/index.html

Operation Spring Clean Resolution: Clearing the Clutter http://www.tangodiva.com/index.php?page=features&j=1&cat=3&story_id=000412

Organize Now: 10 Clutter-Busting Don’ts http://home.ivillage.com/cleanandorganize/organize/0,,9g89tq3f-p,00.html

10 Ways to Get Through Crunch Time (for writers) http://www.chrystlefiedler.com/articles/TheWriter-10Ways.shtml

The Hitched Girl’s Holiday Survival Guide http://www.mannersmith.com/about/reprints/the_hitched_girls_holiday_survival_guide.cfm (Reprinted from Redbook December 2004)


Unclutter Your Mind: 500 Ways to Focus on What’s Important was released in August. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, check it out.

For plain and simple tips for cleaning everything in and around your home, look for my book, Cleaning Plain & Simple, in your local bookstore.
If they don’t have a copy, please ask them to order one.

If you are looking for organizing tips, look for my books in bookstores everywhere (including online bookstores) and in select Target, K-Mart, Staples, Discovery Channel, and Lowes stores.

Want a signed copy of one of my books? You can order directly from me:


Click on the SignedCopy.com logo to have a signed copy sent to you.

Note: Cleaning Plain & Simple and Unclutter Your Mind will be available on my Web site Soon. I will be sure to let you know.

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