September 2003
Vol. 1, No. 7

Tips & Inspiration for Organizing a Simpler Life

Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.
–Henry Ford

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FEATURE ARTICLE: The bright side of clutter I don’t have to tell you about the down side of
clutter. The mere thought of it can make you want to turn and run away.

But there IS a bright side to clutter. And once you see it, you won’t ever look at clutter the
same way again.

By clutter, I mean all that stuff – your stuff –that’s just taking up space and creating
unnecessary stress in your life.

It’s the stuff you no longer use – or perhaps have never used. It’s what you end up with when
you have more stuff than meets your needs.

Now here’s the bright side of clutter. Having more stuff than you can consume or use can also
be described as abundance. Clutter is physical proof of our abundance!

Take a look around. If you’ve got clutter, you are richer than you think. Consider the following:

If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof over your head, and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75 percent of this world. If you have money in the bank or in
your wallet and spare change in a dish someplace, you are among the top 8 percent of the world’s wealthy. (Author unknown)

I look at clutter as an opportunity to recognize and give thanks for the abundance in my life. By
periodically cleaning out my closets and drawers and giving away what I no longer need, I am able to share my wealth and that makes me feel good. It also makes room for things that are more

Often, we hold on to things we no longer use because we paid “good money” for those things.
But what is the value of a designer suit that just hangs in your closet, getting older and
dustier every year? It’s worth absolutely nothing because it is not being used or enjoyed.

Now, if you donate that suit to a charity such as Dress for Success (www.dressforsuccess.org), a
non-profit organization that provides low-income women with business outfits, it could be worth
$20,000 a year to the woman who wears it to a job interview.

My point is this: That stuff you’re hanging on to in case you MIGHT need it someday could do
immediate good in the hands of someone who really needs it right now.

My favorite charity is a local domestic violence shelter. They accept donations of sheets and
towels, dishes, cookware and home furnishings as well as women’s and children’s clothing and toys.

Sharing your abundance (I’m talking about your clutter – not the stuff you love and use) will go
a long way toward uncluttering your home. It also sets a good example for your children. But the
best part about sharing is what you get in return– the joy that comes from giving.

NEXT MONTH’S FEATURE ARTICLE: Daring to stop the busyness

Go to http://www.unclutter.com/newsletter


The first Wednesday in September (9/3/03) is National Fight Procrastination Day. If you’ve
been procrastinating about getting organized, here are seven tips to get you started:

1)Pick a room – any room. Now pick one drawer or shelf in that room and start there. Take
everything out of the drawer or off the shelf.

2)Make a pile of things that are clearly garbage
– socks that you will never mend, unfixable stuff, expired coupons, etc.

3)Make another pile of things to put away elsewhere. Example: coffee cups in your bedroom
that should go back to the kitchen, pain reliever that belongs in the medicine cabinet, etc.

4)Make yet another pile of things that have outlived their usefulness such as clothes that
don’t fit or towels that have long been replaced by newer towels. These are things you can donate
to a local charity such as the Goodwill or Salvation Army.

5)Make a final pile of anything that you could sell at a garage or yard sale, take to a
consignment store or sell online, but only if you are likely to do that. If not, add them to the
donations pile.

6)Now put back on that shelf or in that drawer only those things that you are currently using or
absolutely love and can’t live without.

7)Throw the garbage away. Put away the stuff that belongs elsewhere. Bag or box your donations and put them somewhere for now (you can continue adding items until the bag is full). Also bag or box anything you plan to sell.

That’s it. Now schedule your next organizing session and repeat steps 1 – 7.

As you sort through your belongings, ask yourself: what’s the worst possible thing that
could happen if I just let it go? Could I get another one pretty easily or inexpensively IF
I need it someday?

For other questions to ask yourself, go to my Keep or Toss Quiz at:

Want to get organized once and for all?
Let me show you how. . .
the plain and simple way!
Check out my latest book, Organizing Plain & Simple.

“…a terrific handbook of clutter-control tips.”
–The Washington Post



Last month, I asked “If getting organized could ‘buy’ you an extra hour every week, where would you most likely spend that additional time?”

As promised, here are the results of that survey:

11% said: With family and/or friends
0% said: At work (Big surprise!)
50% said: Pursuing a hobby or interest (I say “Go
for it!”)
22% said: Exercising or weight loss activities
6% said: Learning a new skill/taking a class
6% said: Rest and relaxation
6% said: Redecorating or remodeling

NEW SURVEY: Nature or nurture?

Is organizing a “natural” or “nurtured” skill?
You tell me! Please answer BOTH of the following

1. Do you consider yourself:
a) More organized than disorganized?
b) More disorganized than organized?

2. When you were growing up, were your parents:
a) More organized than disorganized?
b) More disorganized than organized?

this message. Send an e-mail to
donna@unclutter.com with the word “Survey” in the
subject line.

I will share the results of this survey in the
next issue.

READERS WRITE: About bills and record keeping

Last month, I received two very similar questions about how to reduce finance-related paper

Q. My husband and I are very disorganized with our record keeping, and I am trying to remedy
this. What is important to keep and what we can dispose of? I don’t want to toss anything
prematurely and then regret it. I know our tax stuff and bank statements need to be kept for
seven years – am I correct? But what about monthly bills, credit card statements, and
receipts for major purchases? My husband doesn’t like to throw anything out and insists that ALL are important to keep, but it’s getting insane.

What is the length of time you should keep paid bill stubs, insurance records, receipts, and
miscellaneous paperwork on file? I know you should keep three years of tax documents, but I’m
not sure about the rest and I’m nervously keeping too much paperwork that is out of control! I
can’t get a system going and have piles everywhere, which of course stresses me out.

A. You should keep AT LEAST three full years of tax returns and supporting documentation. If you feel more comfortable keeping all of your tax records, by all means do so. They really don’t
take up that much space. Just move them to a more remote storage location than your current files. I store my tax records in a box on an upper shelf in my office closet.

As to exactly what records you need to keep and for how long, please refer to the IRS Web site:

If you don’t have Adobe Acrobat Reader, you will have to download it, but it’s free.

Some things that you won’t find in the IRS document but may be helpful include the

* Keep ATM and debit card receipts until you have received your bank statement and everything
checks out. Then shred them.

* Keep credit card receipts until you receive your credit card statement and everything checks
out. Then shred them.

***EXCEPTION 1: If the purchase is a business expense, you need to log the expense and save the debit or credit receipt for your income tax records. It is generally advised to file receipts
by expense category such as electricity, office expense, advertising, etc. Why? Because if you
get audited, the IRS probably wants to take a closer look at a particular category.

***EXCEPTION 2: You may want to save all purchase receipts for a few months in case you decide to return something to the store. Just create a folder or envelope labeled “Current Receipts”. File the newest receipts up front and, while you’re at it, discard some of the older receipts.

***EXCEPTION 3: You may also want to save receipts for more expensive items that come with a warranty. I staple these to the warranty or owner’s manual and file them in a file labeled
“Warranties & Receipts.” If a single folder is not sufficient, create separate folders for each
room in which the warranty items “live.”

* Unless they are business expenses, some bill receipts can be thrown away as soon as they are
paid: cable, water, sewer, telephone, electric. There is no legal or tax reason to save these
billing statements as they do not prove payment. Your cancelled check proves payment. Even
personal credit card statements don’t need to be saved unless to prove a business expense.

* You mentioned insurance records too. I keep only the most current billing statement for my
information (account number, customer service telephone number) and discard the previous year’s policy when I receive the current year’s policy.

One final note: do be sure to shred or burn personal financial documents to prevent the
possibility of identify theft.

ENTER TO WIN an autographed copy of my most recent book!

Do you have a question about uncluttering or organizing? Or a really great organizing tip that
you would like to share with other readers?

Send an e-mail to donna@unclutter.com with Readers_Write” in the subject line. (Please DO
NOT REPLY to this message.)

If your question or tip is used in a future issue of this newsletter, I will send you a free
autographed copy of my latest book, Organizing Plain & Simple. Check it out at

Congratulations to this month’s winners, Audrey H. and Lynn M. for asking about how to simplify record keeping and reduce paper clutter. Great question!

SHAMELESS PROMOTION: Nearly a quarter million copies sold!

Since 1998, I have written three books on uncluttering, organizing and simplifying life.
And I am happy to report that these books have sold nearly a quarter million copies in five
languages. Obviously, you are not alone in wanting to get more organized!

If you can’t find my books at your favorite store, please ask for them.


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