Tips & Inspiration for Organizing a Simpler Life
August/September 2016 – Vol. 15 No. 7

The only way to get started is to quit talking and start doing. ~Walt Disney

To keep or toss?

photo credit: Shurgard via photopin (license)

photo credit: Shurgard via photopin (license)

I was asked recently for “practical, actionable tips to help people separate the keepsakes/must-haves from the clutter” for this Consumer Reports article. The article is about the high cost of renting storage space.

When we sold our home and moved into our motor home, we chose not to store anything. If we didn’t love it or need it – and have room for it – we let it go. Last winter, we met up with another full-time RVing couple who decided, after eight years of paying to store their stuff, that they didn’t want or need any of it. (I gave them a copy of my book How to Declutter and Make Money Now with tips on how to turn their clutter into cash.)

Anyway, whether you pay for storage or not, there are some questions you can ask yourself to help you decide what to keep and what to toss.

My favorite question is: Would I buy this today? Think about clothing you haven’t worn for ages because it doesn’t fit. Would you buy clothing today that is three sizes too small? No. Would you buy a bread maker even though you now know that you’ll probably never use it? No.

What’s the worst possible thing that could happen if you let these things go? Well, you might lose weight and be able to fit back into those clothes. I actually did that a couple of years ago and there are a few things I wish I had saved. But the rest? I prefer my new skinny clothes. Even if you live on a limited income, think about this…

Could you get another pretty easily and inexpensively IF you need it? My rule is that if I can replace an item for under $20 and in 20 minutes or less, I let it go. Keep in mind that you may be able to purchase a used item for significantly less than the cost of new. Or simply borrow it from a friend or neighbor and give it back when you’re done with it.

If you have to think more than a few seconds about whether or not to keep something, what does that tell you? It’s probably not that important to you. By letting it go, you’ll create more space in your home for the things you love and use. And isn’t that what you want? Less clutter, more space?

To keep clutter from accumulating, apply the one in/one out rule: When you bring a new item in the front door, send at least one thing packing out the back door. Give it away, donate or sell it. Donating is the quickest, easiest way to get things out of your home. I recommend keeping a donation bag or box in your closet and another one in a central location for household items. When the bag or box gets full, drop it off at your favorite charity. Don’t forget to get a receipt so you can take a tax deduction for your non-cash donations if qualified.

Question your purchases. Do you have something at home that will work just as well? Do you have a place to put this new item? Are you buying to satisfy a want or need? There’s nothing wrong with buying something you want. But knowing that it’s a want might make you think twice about it.

If the reason your home is filled with excess stuff is because you’re a shopaholic, try buying only necessities for 30 days to break the habit of spending. Go shopping with a list and stick to it. If your purchases have created debt, make the commitment to pay cash for everything you buy.

Remember that the most important things in life are not things. Instead of spending money today on stuff that becomes tomorrow’s clutter, spend time with the people you love, doing things you love doing.

5 ways to prevent laundry pile-up

basedonamountoflaundryI “borrowed” the quote at right from a post I saw on Facebook. It made me chuckle. And it got me thinking about ways to keep laundry from piling up. Here’s what I came up with…

  1. Re-wear clothing. Obviously, socks and underwear should be washed after every wearing. The same goes for sweaty clothing as well that shirt that you spilled spaghetti sauce on. But if you throw everything you wear into the dirty clothes hamper after wearing it just once, you’re making more work for yourself. You’re also wearing out your clothes with too frequent washings. Re-wearing even once will double the life of your garments.
  2. tidepurcleanSort as you go. Rather than tossing all of your dirty laundry into one big pile, separate it into wash types. I used to sort into whites, darks and lights. Now I sort into white/lights, darks, and exercise clothing (which does not get fabric softener) because I wash everything in cold water. I’m using Tide PurClean* HE detergent which is the first USDA-certified bio-based laundry detergent. It’s designed to wash as well in cold water as hot and I love the honey lavender scent. I also love the fact that it’s more effective than many so-called “natural” detergents that are mostly water.
  3. Do laundry more often. One of my “clean smarter, not harder” strategies is to clean more often. It’s far easier to keep up than it is to catch up. When I see one basket of sorted dirty laundry starting to get full, I know that it’s time to start a load of wash. By the way, this is the laundry basket I use. The hands-free shoulder strap makes it easy to carry even when it’s full, which makes it a great choice for carrying laundry up and down stairs or to the Laundromat.
  4. Time it right. Often the reason for laundry piling up – whether it’s dirty laundry or clean laundry that needs to be folded – is that by the time it’s done, you don’t have the time or energy to deal with it. So think about what’s the best time for you to start a wash so that when it’s done, you can transfer it to the dryer. And when’s the best time for a load of clothes to come out of the dryer? Plan accordingly. If you have a tendency to forget that you started a wash, set a kitchen timer or reminder on your phone for when it should be done.
  5. Stop folding. I mentioned that folding can cause laundry pile-up. So why not take folding out of the process? I don’t fold underwear or exercise clothing. I also don’t fold sheets and pillowcases – I just put them back on the bed. I hang most of my clothes so I keep hangers at the ready and hang clothes as I take them out of the dryer. That leaves just a few things that need to be folded – and less to iron! In fact, I don’t own an iron. I do all my ironing in the dryer!

What are your best methods for preventing laundry pile-up? Please share in the comments section at the end of this post!

*I am a fabric care ambassador for Tide so of course I’m going to recommend this brand. But for the record, I grew up with Tide and would use and recommend it even if I was not a fabric care ambassador for the brand.

Favorite products and resources

As a professional organizer and certified House Cleaning Technician, I’ve used and recommended a lot of products, services and resources over the years. Every month in this column, I share new and old favorites.

Last month, I told you about one of my favorite places to sell used books and make some extra cash.sellshipbooks SellBackBooks is one of the options I recommend in my book How to Declutter and Make Money Now. What I love about SellBackBooks (and the reason why I recommend this company) is because in addition to paying some of the highest prices for books, they make it easy to get an instant quote. Just download their app for Android or iPhone and you can scan the barcode of each book instead of manually entering those long ISBN codes. What have you got to lose? Give it a whirl, free up some shelf space, and pocket some extra cash. They even pay for shipping and offer direct deposit! Click here to get started.

This month’s product recommendation is my favorite computer back-up system, Carbonite. I had the bad luck of having my first-ever hard drive crash a few weeks ago. And I am embarrassed to say that I hadn’t backed up my files in over a year. Wait…what? Yes. I have a hard drive that I bought for the purpose of backing up. But I kept putting it off, which is what I love about Carbonite…it automatically backs up your data as you create it so you never have to remember. So why wasn’t I using it? As a full-time traveler, I no longer have unlimited high-speed Internet connectivity. But you probably do and for $60 a year, Carbonite will back up all of your photos and other files. So if your computer crashes, you can retrieve all of your data. Don’t do as I do. Do as I say and go check it out. BONUS: If you decide to sign up after following one of my referral links to Carbonite, we both get a $20 gift card as a thank you from Carbonite.

Shameless promotion: Up, up, and away!

I am writing to you today from Colorado Springs where the top of Pikes Peak is covered with snow. We’ve been on the move all summer long – Oregon in June, Washington in July, and then Idaho, Wyoming and Colorado in August. That’s why you haven’t heard from me in a while. Well, that and the fact that my laptop crashed. But I have some interesting posts lined up for this month and next and for the rest of the year.

Meanwhile, if you’d like to follow our travels, you might want to subscribe to email updates at The reason we are currently in Colorado Springs is because we volunteered to crew for a hot air balloon team that we crewed for at last year’s Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. They told us then that they would be in Colorado Springs for the Labor Day Lift Off and we told them we would come and help. We had a great weekend. And guess who got to go up in the balloon today? That’s me in the orange shirt with my back to the camera. (You can click on the photo to enlarge it.)

meonballoonflightImagine my disappointment when I discovered that the camera app on my phone was not working. I thought maybe the memory was full so I deleted two apps and about 20 photos. Still no luck. So I decided to “let it go” and put my phone away and enjoyed the ride.

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 after clicking on one of these links, I will 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 know that I only recommend products that I would recommend whether I got paid or not.