Tips & Inspiration for Organizing a Simpler Life
October 2014 – Vol. 13 No. 7

I try to take it one day at a time, but sometimes several days attack me at once. ~ Ashleigh Brilliant

Home sweet organized home for the holidays

Thanksgiving Table

Cartoon courtesy

Okay, I know that we are still anticipating trick-or-treaters and I’m not one to rush the seasons. But there are some simple things you can do right now that can make the difference between a stress-FULL or a stress-FREE holiday season this year.

If you do nothing else, declutter your kitchen.  It’s the hub of activity in your home all year long, but especially during the holidays. Give yourself more room to work and entertain by doing a quick declutter of your kitchen countertops.

I say: If you use it every day it gets to stay, otherwise put it away. So your toaster and coffeemaker are probably okay, but that breadmaker you haven’t used in forever? Find a new home for it, which might be someone else’s home! Seriously, consider donating it if you’re not using it.

But what about the paper that collects on your countertops, you ask? Ah, yes. I have two suggestions:

1. Designate a large basket for corraling all your papers. That way, if you’re looking for something, you know where to find it.

2. Use the inside of your cabinet doors. I use this Post-It(R) Self-Stick Wall Pocket to stash things coupons for takeout restaurants, meal plans, and other papers.

While you’re at it, make some room in your pantry by donating food you’re never going to eat.

Another must is a holiday planner. Get a small notebook and some sticky page tabs from your local office store to create three sections:

Holiday Gift Giving – Use this section to make a list of the people you want to give gifts to along with gift ideas. Don’t forget to add a page for your own Christmas wish list!

Holiday Entertaining – In this section, jot down party menus and items you need to buy such as festive napkins and plates.

General Holiday To-Dos – Make notes here to remind yourself of things you need to do – and by when like write holiday cards, bake cookies, get tickets to your favorite holiday show, send dinner invitations, stock up on adult beverages – that kind of thing.

Tip: Keep your holiday planner in your purse or briefcase so you’ll always have it with you to jot down ideas as inspiration hits or pick up items on the fly.

Get ahead of the game. If you’re planning to bake cookies, why not mix up a batch or two of cookie dough now and freeze it to bake later? Or bake now and freeze the cookies. Another thing you can do: clean your guest room 2-4 weeks ahead. Set your holiday table a day or two before. And instead of pulling an all-nighter wrapping presents, spend 15 minutes each night. By the way, a great place to hide presents is in a locked suitcase because you know, every home has at least one snoop!

Get in the habit of taking 5 minutes to clear clutter every night. I recommend using a laundry basket for nightly clean-ups and for quick clutter clearing when company’s coming. This is the laundry basket that I use. It’s got a handy shoulder strap, leaving both hands free to clean up twice as fast! A laundry basket is also handy for carting holiday packages to/from your car.

Make the holidays brighter for a family in need. Now’s a good time to donate some of your kids’ old toys and games – and some of your own stuff. As you open drawers, cabinets and closets over the next few weeks, be on the lookout for things you no longer use, including holiday decorations and pantry items. Bag them up and drop them off at a donation center. Or schedule a pick-up by the Vietnam Veterans of America at

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. And don’t feel that YOU have do everything. Reserve a couple of little tasks that your guests can do when they arrive – they’re going to ask, right? And the chance to help out will make them feel more comfortable and at home.

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.

neatdeskLast month, I suggested that you take a look at the Neat Desk scanner. If there was a fire, or a flood, or even just a power surge that fried your computer, would you still have your valuable files for your home or business?

With a Neat Desk scanner, you can protect your tax documents, financial information and other valuable information. It scans up to 24 pages a minute so you can turn those piles of papers into organized digital files. Then use it continue to scan incoming receipts and other papers and never have to file paper again. It’s a much easier alternative to scanning individual pages on your printer scanner (if you even have one). Plus it’s less expensive to buy the scanner and do it yourself vs. paying someone to scan all your documents. Plus, scanning gets rid of all those paper piles! Learn more here.

cover-images.nominationThis month, I encourage you to take a look at the only magazine dedicated entirely to getting organized, aptly named Getting Organized. Check out this sneak-peak article on photo organizing. (Give it a minute to load – it’s a sizeable article.)

I just finished reading the current issue and I really enjoyed the article on organizing a clothing swap written by a woman who spends about 20% of what the average family spends on clothing. I also learned about a new app called Pocket that I have already downloaded and look forward to using.

Getting Organized is published quarterly and it’s available in print or digital form. Should you decide to order now (or ask for it as a holiday gift!), be sure to use the special coupon code GETORG2014 to get a 15% discount off your first year’s subscription (for new subscribers only). Plus, get a free ebook with your subscription: 5 Painful Time Management Mistakes That People Typically Make.

Six videos, dozens of cleaning tips!

Have I told you lately how much I love my work? I do! A few months ago, my friends at Better Homes & Gardens invited me to share some cleaning tips and oh, what fun we had filming these quick videos:

1. The Dirtiest Places in Your Kitchen

2. Clean With What You Already Have

3. The Trick to Cleaning Faster

4. Cleaning Hardwood Floors: The Tricks That Work

5. Are You Cleaning It Wrong?

6. Sneaky Ways to Clean Your Home Less Often

Shameless promotion: Upcoming seminar in San Diego

While in San Diego, I thought it would be fun to organize a seminar on how to turn clutter into cash. If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll plan to join me on Saturday, November 8. In this 60-minute presentation, you’ll learn what sells, where to sell it, and how to get top dollar for stuff that’s just taking up valuable space in their homes. You can read more about this event and reserve your seat here.

If you’d like me to come and speak in your area, let’s make that happen! Maybe your employer would like to sponsor a “Lunch and Learn” seminar. Or maybe your church or non-profit organization would like to host an event in which we share the profits. If so, please email me at, okay?

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

FULL DISCLOSURE: Some links in this post may be affiliate links, meaning if you make a purchase through one of these links, I may earn a small commission which goes toward the continuation of this complimentary newsletter. Please note that I only recommend products that I would recommend whether I got paid or not.