Tips & Inspiration for Organizing a Simpler Life
December 2015 – Vol. 14 No. 8

Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better. ~ Maya Angelou.

6 ways to reduce daily clutter

“What you do every day matters more than what you do every once in awhile,” says Gretchin Rubin, author of The Happiness Project. That’s especially true when it comes to decluttering. And that’s why, when people ask me where they should start, I suggest getting today’s stuff organized before delving into yesterday’s stuff.

How would it feel to not see that overwhelming pile of mail on the dining room table or kitchen counter? Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to get dressed in a matter of minutes because you feel great wearing anything you pull from your closet and drawers? Or always have basic food staples on hand so you can make a healthy dinner instead of spending money going out to eat?

Here are six simple things you can do to start getting your everyday life under control:

1. Quick-sort your mail. Take 20 seconds to sort mail into five categories:1) Important (like bills to pay, letters that require follow-up on your part), 2) To File (statements, insurance policies to file), 3) Not Mine (mail for other family members), 4) To Read (magazines and catalogs, for example), and 5) Junk.

You know what to do with the junk – trash or recycle it all. Don’t give it a second thought because more is already on the way. If it doesn’t have a first-class stamp, it’s probably junk. Also trash all of the outer envelopes and inserts that come with statements and bills. This will reduce the volume of paper by about 75%. Better yet, sign up to get paperless bills and statements and eliminate the paper altogether!

Create a place to put your incoming mail until you are ready to to sort it – a basket or bin perhaps or this stackable organizer. Use the top basket as a temporary storage place for unsorted mail and label the other baskets for mail you deem “Important,” “To File” and “Your Spouse’s Name” if applicable. Or just use labeled folders that you keep together in a vertical organizer. Take items “to read” to the place you are most likely to read them – your nightstand, favorite chair, or briefcase.

2. Do the dinner dishes.  It’s tempting to leave those dirty dinner dishes until tomorrow, especially when you’re so tired after a long day. But waking up to yesterday’s unfinished business is a real drag. My mother started delegating the washing up to me when I was 11 – is there anyone you can delegate to? If not, time how long it takes you to do dishes tonight.

Sometimes we put off tasks we don’t like doing because they SEEM to take forever. It’s easier to get started when you know you will be done in just “x” minutes. Try it – time how long it takes to do the dishes, unload the dishwasher, make your bed, or vacuum your home. Then remind yourself how quickly you will be done if you start right now.

3. Clean out your pantry.  I once organized a pantry for a family that had 13 cans of green beans – and no one in that family even liked green beans! Now is a great time of year to donate (unopened) food you’re not likely to eat because you don’t like it, it’s close to the expiration date, or you don’t remember why you bought it in the first place.

Toss items to donate in a grocery bag and put them in your car to drop off at a food pantry. (Click here to find a food bank in your area). Then think about the five meals you make most often (or would if you had the ingredients on hand). What ingredients do you need to purchase to make those meals? Make a shopping list.

I found this nifty free grocery list online – and it’s editable so you can customize it for your family (I had to save the file before I could open it as an editable PDF file). I love a grocery list form because you can print it out, tape it to the inside of a pantry or cabinet door to check off what you need as you run out or run low, and then take it to the store.

4. Start a donation box. The next time you try on a piece of clothing and decide not to wear it because you don’t like how it fits, looks, or feels, drop it in your donation box. When the box gets full, bag up the contents and deliver them to the nearest clothing donation bin. You may want to consider setting up a family donation box for non-clothing items as well. Hint: You can use it as a strategy for little ones to put away their toys or you will put them away in the donation box!

5. Make an appointment with yourself. Carve out 15 to 30 minutes one day this week for a decluttering session. Record this appointment on your calendar and show up for it as you would any other appointment. Set a timer. If you feel like continuing after 15-30 minutes, go for it! The important thing is to show up.

6. Give yourself a gold star every day! Start marking your calendar with a star for every day that you do ANY amount of decluttering. Make a promise to give yourself a bouquet of flowers, warm bath, or guilt-free relaxation time at the end of each week or month or both. Write that gift on your calendar where you can see it every day.

How to beat the holiday blues

I was interviewed a few weeks back for an article about simplifying the holidays as a strategy for staving off the blues that are sometimes part of the package. The article is titled “7 Simple Ways to Fight the Holiday Blues” and if you’re interested, you can hop over to the Psychology Today blog to read it.

Favorite products and resources + giveaway

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.

5pack-PhotoThis month, I’d like to introduce you to the Scrigit Scraper. This is one of those products you don’t realize you need until you try it. I used it last night to scrape price stickers off the bottom of a couple new beverage glasses I purchased over the weekend. Wow. That was easy – so easy that I decided to try it on a mug that’s had the remnants of a sticker on it for nearly a year now. Gone in seconds without sacrificing my fingernails!

The Scrigit Scraper is a quick, safe and convenient way to remove small amounts of common substances such as food, candle wax, soap buildup, paint, adhesive labels, even bird droppings and pine tar from windshields. It’s actually two scrapers in one. The flat edge at one end is best for flat surfaces, larger areas, tight edges, plumbing putty, and shower door tracks. The rounded edge is best for curved surfaces, smaller spots, crevices, sinks and toilets, labels and tape.

You’ll find lots of uses for this versatile tool at I’m not associated with this product in any way – I just think it’s a cool product and a clever stocking stuffer idea. And I wanted to help out the inventor by spreading the word. Enter below to win a pack of Scrigit Scrapers! First prize is a 5-pack of Scrigit Scrapers plus a $10 Amazon Gift Card! Second and third prize winners get a 2-pack of Scrigit Scrapers plus a $10 Amazon Gift Card. No purchase necessary.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Shameless promotion: Clutter-Free Holiday Gift Guide

holiday gift guideWhether your holiday gift budget is zilch or ends with a number of zeroes, the last thing you want to do is give the gift of clutter, right?

Check out my Clutter-Free Holiday Gift Guide for some ideas and please feel free to add your own in the comments!

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.