Tips & Inspiration for Organizing a Simpler Life
April 2015 – Vol. 14 No. 4

Start by doing what’s necessary, then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible. ~ St. Francis of Assisi

Are you chained to the American dream?

photo credit: CHAINED!!! via photopin (license)

photo credit: CHAINED!!! via photopin (license)

I like to publish a blog post every week or at least three times a month. But this month, I only managed two blog posts – Time to Do the Spring Fling and this one, my regular monthly newsletter which, by the way, is now in its 14th year of publication. I guess that goes to prove that I never get tired of writing about cleaning house!

But my, oh my, sometimes the weeks just fly by! I’m sure you can relate. We have things we really want to do like write a blog post or clean out that closet, but other more urgent things vie for our time and attention. That’s how it was for me this month. I spent the first two weeks of April getting ready for the annual conference of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) — and the past week recovering from it!

Our keynote presenters were Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, also known as The Minimalists. Before they had even turned 30, these guys (who happen to be long-time friends), were making six-figure incomes and living what many people would describe as the American dream. But they weren’t happy. In fact, they were depressed. And alone.

You see, while they had all the trappings of success and appeared to be successful, they were failing miserably at life. Josh talked about working 80 hours a week, which was great for his bank account, but didn’t leave much time or energy for his relationships, particularly the relationship with his wife which ended in divorce. Ryan talked about having nice cars and clothes, going out to expensive dinners, taking the kinds of vacations that “successful” people take — and incurring a mountain of debt.

Josh got a wake-up call when his mother died and he had to deal with all of her stuff. According to him, she had managed to cram the entire family home into her tiny retirement apartment. As he sifted through everything his mother had left behind, he came to realize a few things that really resonated with me:

Letting go of things (selling or donating) adds value to other people’s lives — and to the things themselves.

By having fewer items of sentimental value, we are able to enjoy them more (versus having boxes of things we keep and never look at such as photographs).

We need to let go to move on. (Deep breath.)

As Josh came to these and other realizations about stuff, he found himself embracing the minimalist lifestyle. And then Ryan, seeing how this path had transformed his friend, quickly followed suit. They gave up their high-paying corporate jobs and now write about living a meaningful life with less stuff.

The Minimalists asked us: How might your life be better if you owned less stuff? What if you removed just one item each day for 30 days?

I like that strategy because it’s SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Plus, I always say that the hardest part of decluttering and getting organized is getting started. Chances are, if you make a commitment to remove just one item each day, you may end up removing two or three or a maybe even a dozen.

If you don’t know where to start, how about starting with your closet? Make a decision to donate anything you didn’t wear last fall and winter. I just did that over the weekend and pulled enough items from my closet to fill two bags. And I thought I was a minimalist before!

Of course, minimalism isn’t just about the stuff. It’s a way of life that hinges on being more deliberate with our decisions about how we spend our time, energy and money. It’s about figuring out what’s really important, choosing to retain only what adds value to our lives and getting rid of the rest. Ultimately, minimalism as a way of life is a way to unchain ourselves from the ideas, expectations, and things that prevent us from being free to live a happier, more meaningful life.

Inspired reads about cleaning out your closet

I read an article on Sunday that sent me running to my closet, determined to pare it down to just 37 items, including shoes! I didn’t quite succeed, but my goal is to create what is known as a capsule wardrobe. I highly recommend reading Why I Got Rid of My Wardrobe.

This morning, I read a blog post written by my friend, Joshua Becker (another minimalist), on 8 Reasons Why Successful People Are Choosing to Wear the Same Thing Every Day. It reminded me of my old school uniform. I hated it back then, but it really did make it easy to get dressed!

In that article was a link to a Forbes article entitled The Real Cost of Your Shopping Habits. Another must read for the stats alone — or if you secretly know that the reason you have too much stuff is because you spend so much time at the mall.

Favorite organizing products and resources

As a professional organizer for the last 14 years, I’ve used and recommended a lot of organizing products, services and resources. Every month in this column, I share my favorites.

Purse Perfector

Purse Perfector

Last month, I shared one of my all-time favorite organizing products. If you’ve ever wished for an easier way to change purses, check out the Purse Perfector. It’s an insert with pockets and compartments to help you organize everything from business cards to lipsticks that fits neatly into any purse and can be transferred to another purse in a snap. But don’t take my word for it — check out the testimonials at Purse Perfector.

schoolaThis month, I want to introduce you to a way to clean out your closet and help out your kid’s school at the same time! Schoola was created to raise money for schools. Register at Schoola so you can donate clothing to be sold on behalf of your school. You’ll receive a bag that you can fill with your children’s gently used clothing and send back, free of charge. Schoola resells donated clothing on their web site for 70% of the original cost and donates $2 of every $5 to the school of your choice. And right now, for a limited time, Schoola is offering free shipping on purchases with no minimum! Plus, if you “like” Schoola on Facebook, you’ll get a $5 coupon (through 4/30/15). But any time is a good time to purchase children’s clothing from Schoola, save money, and help your school.

Shameless promotion: People are saying the nicest things!

This may come as a surprise to you, but when I write a book, I have no way of knowing how well it is selling until I get my royalty check. Meanwhile, I am loving the many nice reviews of my latest book Clear the Clutter, Find Happiness!

Check out this review just posted by Lapdog Creations – she’s raffling off a copy of my book here. (If you like dogs, you may also want to check out her Etsy store.)

Roz Warren aka The Funniest Librarian wrote this amusing review entitled Housecleaning Mantras and Random Acts of Organizing. (I am just starting to read her newest book Our Bodies, Our Shelves: A Collection of Library Humor.)

And here’s a quick review from the San Francisco Book Review that really made my day.

Clear the Clutter, Find Happiness is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats and in bookstores everywhere. If you read it, I hope you will do me the favor of writing a review to tell me what you liked about it. Thank you so much!

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

FULL DISCLOSURE: Some links in this organizing tips newsletter may be affiliate links, meaning if you make a purchase through one of these links, I may earn a small commission. These earnings go toward the continuation of this complimentary newsletter which is free to you, but does cost to distribute. Please note that I only recommend products that I would recommend whether I got paid or not.