September 2007
Vol. 5, No. 9

Tips & Inspiration for Organizing a Simpler Life

“Live up to the best that is in you: Live noble lives, as you all may, in whatever condition you may find yourselves.”

–Logan Pearsall Smith, American essayist and critic

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FEATURE ARTICLE: Organizing in minutes

Do you want to get organized, but put it off because you don’t have time? If you think about it, you actually have lots of time – 24 hours in every day for the rest of your life. How you use that time is determined by your priorities.

If you really, really want to get organized, you’ve got to make it a priority. Start by making a commitment to spend 15 minutes a day on one particular area or organizing task.

You can accomplish quite a lot in just 15 minutes a day because guess what? 15 minutes a day adds up to one hour and 45 minutes a week or seven hours a month.

I bet you couldn’t find seven hours a month in your schedule if you tried, am I right? But it’s not all that hard to set aside 15 minutes a day and honestly, what often happens is that some days you will want to keep at it longer.

Start by making a list of organizing projects. Then, for 5 to 15 minutes each day, work on one project until it is done and you can check it off your list.

Just to give you an idea. . . here are two things you can do in 15 minutes or less: * Tackle a pile of papers. Grab a half-inch stack of papers. One by one, make a decision to either File, Act (for example, pay a bill), or Toss it. Make piles for File and Act. Have a trash can handy for items to toss.
If you’re undecided, ask yourself: Could I get this information again pretty easily if I need it? If yes, toss it.

* Give your kitchen or office an instant makeover.
DAY 1: Clear your desktop or kitchen counter. Put back only what you use daily.
DAY 2: Find a new home for everything else. If you don’t have room to store that stuff in nearby drawers and cabinets, do a quick purge. Pull out anything you’ve haven’t used in a year or more and toss it in a box.

DAY 3: Put the box in your car and drop it off at Goodwill or The Salvation Army on your way to or from work.

Now, let’s say that you can spare only 5 to 10 minutes for organizing. What can you possibly do in that time? * Well, you could spend five minutes picking up and putting five things where they belong.

* Or grab a garbage bag, and start tossing in everything that is clearly garbage: out-of-date coupons and flyers, stretched out socks, permanently stained clothing, expired medicines in your medicine cabinet, and broken items that have since been replaced, for example.

* Or toss the piles of junk mail and catalogs. Don’t worry
– you will get more. Trust me. Of course, if you don’t want more, you can write to the Direct Marketing Association and ask to be taken off their mailing lists. You’ll find that address in my books.

Got a minute? Make it an organized minute! * In one minute you can make an organizing appointment with yourself. Block out 15 minutes every day. Write it in your daily planner and honor that appointment as you would any other.

* Do you have a six-month backlog of newsletters and magazines to read? In one minute, you can catch up on your reading. Toss the whole pile and vow to keep up with your reading from here on out. Maybe it would help to schedule reading time.

* When you file a paper, take a minute to flip through the folder, looking for papers that are outdated. Toss or shred them.

You say you have absolutely no time to get organized? * Bring little projects with you to work on during your lunch break or while waiting for a doctor appointment or to pick up your kids. Write a thank you letter, pay bills, or sew a button on.

* Here’s my favorite organizing tip for people who would rather watch TV than organize. Do both. Just pull out a drawer and bring it into the family room. During commercials, dump the drawer out and start sorting things into piles.

Remember. . . the hardest part of getting organized is getting started. Ready? Set a timer. And GO (get organized)!

Next month: Turning clutter into cash

FREE SHRED-A-THON: Phoenix area

One way to protect yourself from identity theft is to shred all files with your name and address and account numbers.

The Gilbert Police Department and Maricopa County Attorney’s Office are hosting a Shred-a-thon. Bring up to five boxes of paper for free shredding.

Date: October 13, 2007 Time: 9 am to noon Location: Sam’s Club, 1225 N. Gilbert Road, Gilbert, AZ

More info: http://www.endidtheft.com

SURVEY RESULTS: To organize now or later

Last month, I asked: Is it harder to keep up or catch up?

As promised, here are the results of that survey. . .

10% said: Organize and keep up with everyday stuff 50% said: Unclutter and clean up older messes 39% said: Both 1% said: Neither/other

Most people find it easier to keep up than to catch up and my readers are no exception. If you want to get organized, it helps to start by organizing the everyday stuff like mail. Set up a system for handling mail. Work on making it a daily habit to sort through your mail.

The next step is to organize the visible stuff: desktops and countertops, entry ways, and other public areas. Once you’ve got that under control, you can begin to sort through and organize what’s behind closed doors.

Hint: Uncluttering first makes it much easier and faster to organize. Give yourself permission to let go of the stuff that’s just taking up space. If you don’t love it or use, lose it.

NEW SURVEY: What’s stopping you?

How long have you been feeling the need to get organized?

a. Just recently (less than one year) b. For a while now (last few years) c. Since a major life event (move, divorce, baby, death, etc.) d. Most of my life e. I don’t feel the need (I just do it!) f. Other (please explain)

TO RESPOND TO THE SURVEY, click the following link editor@unclutter.com or send email to editor@unclutter.com with the word “Survey” in the subject line and the letter that corresponds to your answer. Feel free to add comments in the body of your email. I love reading them!

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

READERS WRITE: Work backwards

My tip for a working mother of young children who needs to get out the door without meltdown is to work backwards.

Work out what absolutely MUST be done for you to all leave and do those things first. That probably means a weird order, like getting completely dressed first and collecting the bags and all the stuff that you all need to take with you and putting it by the front door.

If you still have some time left, then do all the other stuff that you’d like to do. Getting the essentials done helps you keep your sanity and means you can all get out the door without last-minute panic.

I discovered that on a really frantic morning, the daycare could feed the children breakfast and supervise teeth cleaning, probably better than me. Meanwhile we had a much calmer early morning at home.

–Submitted by Lee W., Wellington, Australia

WRITE TO WIN an autographed book!

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 book, The One-Minute Cleaner Plain & Simple. Check it out at http://www.unclutter.com/books.html

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


Anyone who knows me has probably heard me say that writing a book is like a having a baby: You conceive of it, you have a due date, you go through a lot of labor to deliver it, and then it’s your job to nurture it.

So you better believe I am proud of my “babies.” I know I shouldn’t play favorites, but I am especially proud of The One-Minute Organizer, which has been the number one selling book in the house and home section at Barnes and Noble for the last few weeks. (See “Got Books?” below.)

If you’re up for a little extra reading this month, please check out my article on Time-saving strategies at LifetimeTV.com:


And for a little help with your cleaning, check out this article in The Detroit News called Down with Dirt:


And if you want to learn a little more about me (and find some personal renewal tips, check out the Westin’s renewal site:


On the newsstands this month, look for these magazines with articles that include tips and quotes from me:

Real Simple – September 2007 Excess baggage (Organizing your purse) Parents – September 2007 Cleaning baby stains Modern Bride – October/November 2007 Living together (Your Stuff, His Stuff: 4 Ways to Deal) Better Homes & Gardens – September 2007 Clutter busters Woman’s Day – September 2007 50 best tips for cleaning, organizing, saving and more


For nitty-gritty cleaning tips and techniques, look for Cleaning Plain & Simple in your local bookstore. If they don’t have a copy, please ask them to order one! For quick tips, look for The One-Minute Cleaner, an abridged version of the big book that was just released in February 2007.

If you are looking for organizing tips, look for The One- Minute Organizer and Organizing Plain & Simple in bookstores everywhere (including online bookstores) and in select Target, K-Mart, Staples, Discovery Channel, and Storables stores.

If you feel a need to simplify your life, check out Unclutter Your Mind: 500 Ways to Focus on What’s Important.

Want a signed copy of one of my books? You can order directly from me: http://www.unclutter.com/books.html

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.