September 2006
Vol. 4, No. 7

Tips & Inspiration for Organizing a Simpler Life

“Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s your determination and commitment to a goal – your commitment to excellence – that will enable you to attain the success you seek.”

— Mario Andretti, legendary race car driver

Thank you for subscribing. . .

I hope you enjoy reading Organizing Plain & Simple Monthly as much as I enjoy writing it.
If you find this information valuable, please pass it on to a friend.

If you received this issue as a forward and would like to receive your own free subscription, you can sign up at: http://www.unclutter.com

EDITOR’S NOTE: September is National Preparedness Month. Following is a guest article on how it pays to be prepared for unplanned events.

FEATURE ARTICLE: Making a household inventory list can save time and money

By Julian Block

Did you know that the tax code allows you to claim tax deductions for household damage caused by thefts, vandalism, fires, floods, hurricanes and others kinds of casualties? But the law imposes several restrictions.

Relief is available only for uninsured losses. They must be reduced by any settlements you receive, or expect to receive, from your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. Nor do you get any write-off for the first $100 of each theft or casualty loss.

The major limitation is that total losses generally are allowable only to the extent they exceed ten percent of adjusted gross income, the amount listed on the last line of the first page of the 1040 form. The general rule is subject to an exception. No reductions of $100 or ten percent for losses caused by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma that battered the Gulf Coast in 2005.

IRS sleuths learned long ago that most people with hefty deductions are unable to substantiate their losses because they neglected to keep adequate records and have to rely on what, at best, are estimates, assuming they are even able to recall, for instance, all those valuable and not-so- valuable belongings stored in their closets. So the ritual response of the feds is to throw out or trim unsupported estimates, a strict approach that has been sustained by the courts in countless decisions.

Nevertheless, an understanding IRS wants to ease the burden for people who need to figure their deductions in the event of thefts, casualties, or disasters. The agency offers a free guide, Publication 2194, Disaster Losses Kit For Individuals, available at www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p2194.pdf. Or call a toll-free number, 800-TAX-FORM (829-3676).

Publication 2194 includes a handy workbook with schedules for listing, among other things, clothing, jewelry and a residence’s contents on a room-by-room basis. The schedules for rooms and other areas have separate sheets for the entrance hall, living room, dining room, kitchen, bedrooms, garage, and other sections. Each sheet lists belongings generally found in a specific area.

As an example, the entrance-hall sheet lists chairs, clocks, draperies, lamps, mirrors, pictures, rugs, tables, umbrella stands and wall fixtures, with plenty of space to enter additional items. Alongside each property item are seven columns in which to record the following details: the number of items; date acquired; cost; value before the loss; value after the loss; decrease in value; and amount deductible as a loss.

Yes, you might never need to calculate deductions for casualty or theft losses. But Publication 2194’s workbook will help you inventory your household goods and personal property. That list can prove to be an indispensable source of information when, for instance, you want to reconsider the adequacy of your insurance coverage, file insurance claims, or simply plan to move.

To be sure, it is a disheartening project to list all your possessions, their cost and other information. Still, a compilation beforehand is incomparably easier than trying to remember all those details after property is stolen or destroyed. Whether the inventory is a first-time task or one to bring data up to date, it is prudent to keep a copy of the list outside of your home in a safe deposit box or some other secure location.

Julian Block is an attorney, syndicated columnist, and former IRS special agent (criminal investigator). He has been cited as “a leading tax professional” (New York Times) and “an accomplished writer on taxes” (Wall Street Journal). This article is excerpted from “The Home Seller’s Guide To Tax Savings: Simple Ways For Any Seller To Lower Taxes To The Legal Minimum.” To order the book, send $19.95 for a postpaid copy to J. Block, 3 Washington Sq., #1-G, Larchmont, NY 10538. For information about his other books and more articles, go to his Web site, www.julianblocktaxexpert.com.

Next month: 10 simple ways to unclutter your mind


You can help to rebuild New Orleans while you unclutter your home.

Donate your used books to the New Orleans Public Library. They are accepting hardcover and paperback books for readers of all ages.

Please send your book donations to Better World Books (BWB). This company can process and sell many more books than can NOPL, and will give NOPL a share of the proceeds.

BWB will accept all pre-paid book donations, but they encourage you to follow its guidelines at http://www.betterworldbooks.com/programs/RebuildNOPL.aspx

Send to: BETTER WORLD BOOKS Attn: Rebuild NOPL 55740 Currant Road Mishawaka IN 46545

For more information, go to the FAQ page about book donations at the NOPL Web site: http://nutrias.org/~nopl/foundation/donationsfaq.htm

Helpful hint: Tell the post office clerk that you are donating library books and they’ll charge you library rate instead of the more expensive book rate.

QUICK TIP: Simplify everyday living

Limit the number of daily decisions you have to make. Two examples:

What’s for dinner? Plan weekly meals in advance and post the plan on the refrigerator. At www.AllRecipes.com, you can search for recipes by ingredient or category, create a personal recipe box, and automatically generate a shopping list for your weekly meal plan. It doesn’t get any easier than this.

What am I going wear today? Select outfits for the next few days. Iron anything that needs to be ironed and hang each entire outfit on a hanger along with accessories.
(If you need to wear the same belt or jewelry, hang it with the next day’s outfit when you take it off.) Put the shoes you are going to wear on the floor below the hanger.


Back-to-school time is a good time to think about organizing family life.

Reduce paper clutter and organize family information and activities with Family Facts: The Family Life Organizer & Planner – a comprehensive , easy-to-use paper-based organizational system with sections for calendars, school and camp, telephone numbers, activities, health, home and auto, party and travel.

Check it out at www.family-facts.com. Family Facts is also now available at Barnes & Noble stores.

SURVEY RESULTS: Organizing e-newsletters

In the last issue, I asked: How many organizing e-newsletters do you currently subscribe to?

54% said: 1 27% said: 2-3 13% said: 3-5 7% said: More than 5

The correct answer, of course, was “1”. Just kidding! There are plenty of helpful e-newsletters out there.
Thanks for subscribing to mine and for all your kind comments. Keep up the good work!

NEW SURVEY: Rating your organizing skills

On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being super-organized, how would you rate your organizing ability?

a. 1-2 Poor b. 3-4 Okay in some areas; not so good in others c. 5-6 Fairly good when I put my mind to it d. 7-8 Very good with good results most of the time e. 9-10 Excellent

TO RESPOND TO THE SURVEY, click the following link editor@unclutter.com or send email to editor@unclutter.com with the words “Survey” and the letter of your response in the subject line. Feel free to add comments in the body of your email. I will share the results of this survey in the next issue.

READERS WRITE: Organizing the pantry

In my pantry, I keep medications as well as pudding mixes, soup mixes, bags of beans and rice. These items were laying all over the place on two shelves.

I bought three containers with three drawers – the type of organizer often used for craft items, but a little bigger.
I can fit all three on one shelf.

One three-drawer organizer holds medications – each drawer is labeled with the type of meds such as stomach items, cold relief items, general pain relievers. The other two containers I use for soup mixes, puddings, taco and gravy mixes, etc.
Again, each drawer is organized by category and labeled.

It is so much easier to know what I have and easier to grab items as well!

–Contributed by a reader who has yet to send me her address so I can send her an autographed copy of my book!

WRITE TO WIN an autographed copy of one of my books!

Do you have a really great organizing tip you would like to share with other readers? Or a question about an organizing challenge you have?

Send an e-mail to editor@unclutter.com with “Readers_Write” in the subject line.

If your question or tip is included in a future issue of this newsletter, I will send you a free autographed copy of my bestselling book, The One-Minute Organizer Plain & Simple. Check it out at


PLEASE NOTE: I get a lot of questions and it’s impossible for me to respond to them all. Please know that I do read them and try to answer as many as I can.


While you’re waiting in line at the supermarket checkout, check out these magazines for some of my organizing and cleaning tips:

Women’s Health, October 2006 Time management article by Caroline Tiger

Woman’s Day, September issue (sorry, don’t know which issue) Organizing strategies article by Diane Harrington

For more tips, check out the online versions of these newspaper articles that appeared last month:

Scottsdale Tribune August 12, 2006 Ways to keep your home office clear of clutter http://www.eastvalleytribune.com/index.php?sty=71541

Seattle Times August 20, 2006 Battle of the bag: purging hefty purses http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/living/2003208886_lifpursepurge20.html

Find some of my cleaning tips at THE site for newlyweds: The Nest http://www.thenest.com/articles/article_living.aspx?articleid=A60817080146

In other news, my second book, 7 Simple Steps to Unclutter Your Life, which is now out of print, was re-released this month with a new format under the title Unclutter Your Mind: 500 Ways to Focus on What’s Important. In this book, you will discover simple ways to clear your head, reduce stress, and simplify your life. Look for it at your local bookstore!


For plain and simple tips for cleaning everything in and around your home, look for my book, Cleaning Plain & Simple, in your local bookstore.
If they don’t have a copy, please ask them to order one.

Note: Cleaning Plain & Simple and Unclutter Your Mind will be available on my Web site Soon. I will be sure to let you know.

If you are looking for organizing tips, look for my books in bookstores everywhere (including online bookstores) and in select Target, K-Mart, Staples, Discovery Channel, and Lowes stores.

Want a signed copy of one of my books? You can order directly from me:


Click on the SignedCopy.com logo to have a signed copy sent to you.

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