Tips & Inspiration for Organizing a Simpler Life
October 2016 – Vol. 15 No. 8

Order is never observed; it is disorder that attracts attention because it is awkward and intrusive. ~ Eliphas Levi, French occult author and magician

Organizing mistakes people make in small spaces

photo credit: Axiz Photography Come Snail Away ... via photopin (license)

photo credit: Axiz Photography Come Snail Away … via photopin (license)

Having lived in a 350-square-foot home for nearly 3 1/2 years now, I consider myself a small space living expert. Of course, much of what I do to keep my small living space organized is what I’ve always recommended to my followers.

Following are six of the most common organizing mistakes people make in small spaces.

Keeping too much stuff

Believe me, it’s easier to find space for everything when you have less stuff! William Morris said: Have in your home only those things you know are useful or believe to be beautiful. I say: If you don’t love it or use it, lose it. Apply this umbrella rule to every area of your home.


It’s a lot easier to keep up than it is to catch up. Apply the 2-DO rule: If it takes 2 minutes or less to do, do it now. Make your bed, hang up your clothes, empty the dishwasher, clean out your purse, put your keys where they belong. Your future self will thank you.

Not purging regularly

Decluttering is not something you can do and never have to do again. You’ve probably heard about the one-in, one-out rule: For every new thing you bring in the front door, send one thing packing out the back door. New dress? Make room by donating another item of clothing you have not worn in some time. You can do the same with paper including catalogs, monthly utility bills, and new insurance policies. Make it easier on yourself by reducing the amount of incoming paper – request paperless statements via email for checking and credit accounts.    

Allowing wasted space

Most cabinet shelf space and closet space is underutilized. In pantries, cabinets and linen closets, you can maximize space by adjusting shelves to better accommodate the contents. For example, if you don’t need much height for a shelf of baking staples, raise that shelf to be closer to the one above, making more space for taller contents on the shelf below. You can also use stacking bins to contain like items such as nuts and dried fruits, crackers, cookies in a pantry or first aid supplies or toiletries under the bathroom sink.

Not using vertical space as storage space

Add hooks to the back of your closet door or on the back wall of your closet. I like 3M Command adhesive hooks that you can stick anywhere and remove at any time without marring the surface. Or hang a shoebag organizer on the back of a door to hold pantry items, cleaning supplies, even socks and underwear. Use a magnetic strip on the wall to hang kitchen utensils and knives. And instead of posting things to the front of your fridge, post inside kitchen cabinet doors.

Mixing seasonal/occasional use items with items used every day

If you only use your suitcase occasionally, don’t give it prime storage space in your closet. Store it under the bed or in the basement or garage. Keep in your everyday closet only those items that you can wear today – they fit and they’re in season. Move everything else to another area of your home or donate/sell. In your kitchen and bathroom, on the counters, here’s my mantra: If you use it every day, it gets to stay, otherwise put it away.

Clear the clutter fall cleaning checklist

Most peopfallle at least think about spring cleaning — even if they never get around to doing it. In some ways, doing fall cleaning makes more sense because who wants to be cooped up in an unclean house all winter?

I pulled a few cleaning tips from my book Clear the Clutter, Find Happiness that you might find helpful:

Page 76 – Make cleaning more fun! Buy sponges in bright colors and cleaning products in scents you love (three of my favorites are citrus, lavender and clean linen) Do some cleaning for 15 minutes, then take a break to read an article in your favorite magazine or one chapter in a book (just one!). Repeat until the job is done.

Page 80 – Timesaver: The easiest way to clean your microwave is with steam. Place 2 cups of water in a microwave=safe bowl (add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract or lemon wedges to the water for a fresh scent). Microwave on high for 5 minutes. The steam will soften cooked-on gunk. Wipe with a paper towel for a quick clean.

Page 115 – Plan a purge. Once a year is good. Twice a year is better. Or do regular mini-purges of specific areas such as kitchen and pantry, bathroom, or storage areas or categories like files or sporting equipment.

Page 119 –  Resolve to surround yourself only with things you find useful or beautiful. Let go of the rest.

Page 123 – Tackle a pile of papers. Start by flipping over the pile. Because the items on the bottom are older, many are outdated, making it an easy decision to toss them.

Page 134 – Toss those toiletries! Go through the cabinets and drawers in your bathroom and get rid of makeup more than one year old, sunscreen more than two years old, perfume more than three years old, anything past its expiration date, and any toiletries you no longer use.

Page 245 – What’s that in your junk drawer? Sell that old cell phone! Check out to find the best offer for your old phone.

Page 286 – Only what gets scheduled gets done. Block out time on your calendar to clear clutter. Then show up for your appointment.

If you like these tips, grab a copy of Clear the Clutter, Find Happiness for more!

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 encouraged you to check out Carbonite as a solution for automatically backing up your hard drive. I had the bad luck of having my first-ever hard drive crash back in August. 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.

This month, I want to introduce you to a company that purchases pre-owned designer handbags. Rebagg pays top dollar for luxury brands such as Hermes, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and more.unnamed

Simply download the Rebagg app or visit to upload photos of your bag, and receive a offer within one business day. You can then request a free prepaid shipping box to ship your item(s).

Once they receive your bag, they verify its authenticity and condition and you get paid by check or direct deposit within 2-3 business days. Rebagg will then re-sell your bag, but you get paid outright with no consignment hassles, no waiting.

Personally, I’ve never owned a handbag that cost more than $200. But if you have one or more high-end designer bags, Rebagg will pay you to clean out your closet!

Shameless promotion: Book-of-the-month club video

CleartheClutterCoverRevise2A fellow professional organizer by the name of Olive Wagar in Troy, Ohio recently selected my book Clear the Clutter, Find Happiness for her organizing book club meeting. I was so honored that I offered to videotape a self-interview using questions she sent to me via email.

I decided to share this video which is about 27 minutes long. I also saved it as an audio only file if you prefer to just listen.

Here are just a few of the questions I answered in this interview:

What area of the home do you most enjoy organizing?
How did you become a cleaning expert?
What classic cleaning tips do you use in your weekly routine?
Your decision to downsize from a large house to a 40 ft. long home on wheels sounds like an exciting adventure!! How long did it take to make the transition?
What are your favorite charities for donations?
What is your favorite reward for completing a decluttering activity?
What kinds of items have you successfully sold for cash?
What are your favorite items to repurpose and reuse?
What decluttering rule do you use most often?

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.