December 13, 2007

The Story of Stuff

Here is another reason not to load up on stuff and to scrutinize our consumption. What shocked me was that 99% of what we purchase ends up in the trash within 6 months. Twenty minutes to change your life.

December 3, 2007

Holiday Decorations

The holidays have become so full of plastic crap. At a big box store the other day I noticed the shoppers frantically loading up on giant, outdoor plastic Santas, snowmen and snow globes. How many hours do you think it will take to purchase these holiday decorations, set them up and light them? How many minutes will it take for a big gust of wind to knock them down?

Our attics are home to holiday decorations that only see the light of day for one month out of the year. Getting the decorations out and up is a full weekend job that most people grumble about. Not to mention taking them back down again.

I think the most wonderful things about the holidays are not the lights and the wrapping paper and bows, but the things that affect the senses. Go natural this holiday with the real scent of pine, the bright red of berries and the sound of birds or soft music. A walk through the woods on a winter afternoon will show you how nature decorates itself for the holiday: in a soft blanket of peace and quiet.

November 14, 2007

Multiple Uses Rule

Unclutterer has regular Unitasker Wednesday posts about ridiculous products that can only be used for one thing...panini makers, juicers, dog strollers. When buying an item, ask yourself if it can be used for more than one thing. If it can be used for up to three things, buy it.

November 10, 2007

7 Things You Might Not Realize Can Be Clutter

1. Too many knick knacks, souvenirs and collections.

2. Walls covered with artwork, photos and other hanging stuff.

3. Too many pieces of furniture in a room.

4. Papers, magnets, and other stuff stuck to the front and sides of the fridge or kitchen cabinets.

5. An abundance of drinking glasses or plastic ware in kitchen cabinets.

6. Sample sizes of anything, especially makeup, that are not the colors or brands you use.

7. Sheet sets for sizes of beds you do not own, well worn sets, mismatched sets, or more sets than you could use in a year.

From 1000 Best Quick and Easy Organizing Secrets by Jamie Novak (great book!)

October 28, 2007

The One Hour Closet

I took one hour and ruthlessly decluttered my closet. I looked at every article of clothing with scrutiny and ended up with a pile of unwanted items that took up my bedroom floor. One hour made a big difference in how I am able to organize my clothes. I just kept thinking the whole time, "What if I have to move into a small sailboat? Where would everything go?"

October 16, 2007

Is It Worth It?

A few years ago, my husband bought what he thought would be a fun water toy: an AquaSkipper. It looks something like a bike with skis that is used to fly along the surface of a lake, provided you have a dock nearby to take off from.

Well, it's been a few years and he has yet gotten it to work correctly. It is large and difficult to maneuver, store and carry. I ask him if he is going to take it to the lake and he complains that it takes forever to put together and so it the garage...collecting dust.

It may seem a good idea at the time to buy something that might give you hours of fun or enjoyment, but is the time spent to haul, upkeep, clean or put together the object part of the fun?

My favorite possession is my kayak. Really. I see it as my escape from the world and use it as my own private island. I paddle away from trouble and enjoy the feel of sun on my face and water dripping down my hands and head. To me it's no trouble to store it, haul it onto the top of my car, drive it to a lake an hour away and haul it into said lake.

Anything that is more trouble or care than it's worth should not be part of your life, no matter how much money you spent on it.

October 4, 2007

Managing Your Tchotchkes

We all have those little collectibles that we have garnered from world travels, discount store or boutique sales, kind friends and family members. But organizing them to show them to their highest capacity, yet keep them clutter free, can be a challenge.

1. GROUP LIKE ITEMS: Put items that are similar together. Put shells and rocks in bowls or vases, put figurines all on one shelf or together on a pretty tray, plate or charger.

2. ONE IN, ONE OUT RULE: If you get another tchotchke. Another one should be donated or given away.

3. DISPLAY, NOT PACK AWAY: Your favorite items should be on display all the time. Don't pack away items "for later". Later may never come. Live life today and enjoy what you have.

September 21, 2007

Help! I'm a Hoarder

This show was on TLC a couple of nights ago and just goes to show the extreme hoarding problems that some people have. I got a better understanding of how long it can take to remedy of a hoarding problem and all the psychological aspects that go along with hoarding. People find their things to be a safe refuge from a sad, scary world.

Help! I'm a Hoarder

August 23, 2007

Organized camping

Even when my husband and I go camping, I try to keep our campsite and gear as organized and decluttered as possible. We bring only what we really need, plus a few personal items for our own comfort, like a book, soft pillow or socks, or our small camp hammock. Each thing has its own place and its own container. This is what we usually bring:

1. Tent
2. Sleeping bags, mattresses and pillows
3. A backpack each for our clothes and personal items
4. A cooler for cold foods
5. A dry box for our dry foods
6. "The Kitchen Box" which is a rugged plastic bin that holds our cooking pans, utensils, clotheslines, matches, tablecloth, oven mitt, soap and other things. Everything just gets tossed into the box (no need to be anal on a camping trip) and then immediately gets cleaned out after each trip.

We also strive to keep our campsite organized. Making sure the tent zipper is closed keeps out bugs, closing the lids on our food and kitchen boxes keeps out the birds and squirrels and keeping everything organized means we are able to find everything right away.

I have noticed other campsites in our area that are strewn with kids' toys and clothes, food is left out, and garbage piles up. If you do this in your home, no one can see it unless they come in, but in a campground your site is open to the world. No one likes to see that kind of mess, especially out in nature.

August 17, 2007

The Project Board

Another tip from Hellen Buttigieg for when your numerous projects get out of hand:

Us busy, creative people love our projects, but we don't love them when they take over our lives and we constantly flit from one to the other, none of them getting finished. A project board is a small magnetic or tack board with colored slips of paper attached to it with each project written on it, i.e. "Scrapbook for wedding", "Paint mailbox", "Knit baby blanket".

There will only be enough room for about five or six projects (four being ideal and not too overwhelming). When one project is done, take it off the board and do not add another one until the board is empty. Then start again.

Another great tip from Hellen is the Now or Never concept. When going through and purging items, have two boxes. One labeled Now and one labeled Never. The Now items are things you are using in the present and will continue using. The Never items are things that have just been hanging around and that have never been used and never will be. Be honest with yourself, and get clutter free.

August 12, 2007

What is beautiful to you?

Imagine you have to pick only the things that are most beautiful to you. These are the items that will also be most valuable to you. Why are you keeping the other stuff?

Keeping out of your mind what is purely useful (computer, office supplies, bath products) what things in your home are your most beautiful? Go around the house and touch each one and say to yourself why you think it should stay. The things you did not touch are ready to leave.

July 20, 2007

From a satisfied customer...

Organizing Advice From Christina That I Actively Use:

1. Break large projects down into smaller ones and tackling those one at a time. Finish one entire section before moving onto the next.

2. Ask yourself: Have I used this in the past 6 months? Will I miss it? If the answers are no, then it goes bye-bye.

3. Set small goals each day to accomplish - whether at home or work.

4. When you budget, make sure to pay yourself!

5. Don't keep clothes that are too small for when you will be able to "fit into them."

6. When your car is loaded up with things to donate, MAKE SURE you get rid of the stuff - do not bring it home again and think "I'll drop it off later!" Once you decide to get rid of it - get rid of it!

7. How many tank tops/t-shirts/jeans/etc. do you REALLY need? Less is more!

8. Use boxes of old bottles for garden decor to make room in the garage and to display my treasured bottles.

9. Only keep knick knacks that you love enough to not mind having to dust every week. Knick knacks are good in theory but they build dust and can make cleaning a nightmare.

10. Set time aside to sit down and pay your bills.

11. Dust BEFORE you vacuum.

12. Have clothes you can mix and match.

13. Have one good silver chain and then switch out the pendants to match different outfits instead of many necklaces and many chains in a heaping tangled mess.

14. You only need one shampoo and conditioner in your shower - not 20 half-full bottles of various hair products.

Thanks Heath!

July 3, 2007

Organizing Passwords

With most people's entire life on the Internet, we find ourselves accessing all our information with a brainful of passwords that tend to fall through the cracks. Not to mention that you really should update your passwords every three months. How do you remember them all, or keep them organized?

I've set up a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that is password protected. You should be able to find the Protection option under Excel's Tools menu. The spreadsheet holds the login and passwords for all my financial, online auction logins, etc. All you have to do is remember one password.

A few other ideas have been posted on the Simple Living Network.

June 8, 2007

Three Questions for any Item

There are three questions to ask yourself when you are not sure whether or not to throw out or give away an item:

1. Have I used this item recently? (last 3 to 6 months).

2. Does this item serve a purpose in my life?

3. Will my life suffer if this item is gone?

If you answer to to ANY of these questions, the item should go.

June 2, 2007

Travel to Declutter

Traveling is a great way to find out how much you really need. I usually travel with just a carry-on and a small messenger bag. This is for several weeks in any country! I realize exactly what I need to be comfortable, healthy and prepared for anything. It also keeps me from purchasing too much stuff that may catch my eye. Once you realize that you can live very well out of a small bag, you will need less at home.

April 29, 2007

Decluttering the Shed

My mom has a shed that is a catchall for everything she does not want in her immediate vicinity. Usually items are thrown into the shed haphazardly with no organization. Trying to find anything later on is impossible. I took about four hours one Saturday to clean out and organize the entire thing. You can now walk into it and see everything at first glance.

I put like items together in see-through bins with labels. All the magazines are stacked according to title and larger heavier items are on the floor while softer, lighter items are up high. Quite a lot of items that had not been used for years went to the thrift store.



April 19, 2007

Just Picture It

If you have an out-of-control collection, or items you just can't stand to part with and yet don't have any room for, just picture it!

Line up your items in a pleasing display, or put on the costumes you just have to get rid of and take a picture of them. Your computer can have a special folder for much loved, yet donated items that you have given away. You can also create a photo album full of photos of your cherished pieces.

I did this a few years ago with a t-shirt that I bought and had signed by the musician Chris Isaak. I love him, but the shirt never fit me and I dragged it around for years. Not to mention I couldn't wash it! I took a picture of it and to the thrift store it went.

I saw an episode of neat with Hellen Buttigieg where she took pictures of a teen's collection of a hundred well-loved stuffed animals that had to go. She put the animals in cute positions in the yard (two bears with their paws around each other) and in the bedroom and then shot them with a digital camera. She then created a small photo album just for those toys.

April 8, 2007

My Saturday Garage Job

Here is my garage before I tackled it last Saturday afternoon. It really doesn't look that bad since I wrestled with it about two years ago to get all the junk out in order for my husband and I to park our cars.

However, for my Spring cleaning jag, I decided to get rid of all the last bits of junk and get everything organized that had become disorganized over the winter. I was tired of having to step over everything just to grab a rake or a tool. I even cleaned out the toolbox!

First I moved everything out of the garage and into the driveway, throwing away trash or anything I knew for sure I was not going to keep. Any hazardous materials (oils, garden chemicals, etc) I put into a milk crate to be taken to a disposal place. I then only put back exactly what I was going to use and each item has it's designated zone.

Here's what it looked like after about 3 hours:

Not too much of a difference, but you can see that everything has it's own place now, and the floor is clutter free. All the chemicals are in their respective zone. There is a place for paint, a place for car products, a place for garden products and a box for garden games. The tools are all hung up and the sports gear are in their special corner.

A garage is a great place to tackle a decluttering job since it does not need to be perfect. It is a garage after all. I would love to have one of those custom garages with white walls and built in cabinets, but for now it just needs to be an organized place that stores motor oil and kayaks.

March 29, 2007

The Junk Drawer

I am not really a hard ass when it comes to clutter. I believe that every home should have what is the equivalent of a junk drawer. One of those places where the things that have no place to go are thrown.

This, however should not mean that the junk drawer evolves into a junk closet or even a junk room. I have seen homes where one room is designated the catch-all area. It won't be long before the clutter in that room begins to invade the rest of the house.

My junk drawer at home has those little, loose objects like extra keys, half-tubes of SuperGlue, extra stamps, nail files, etc. Understandably these items should go into their respective places, but I see no problem in having ONE drawer where these wayward items live.

March 23, 2007

Scrapbooking Madness

I don't really understand the whole scrapbooking fad. Stores are popping up in every strip mall that cater to scrapbooking. They sell everything from overpriced photo albums, stickers, stamps, ribbons, etc. all for the sake of creating memories.

For most of my life, I have kept my own version of a diary/scrapbook. They include my journal entries, sketches, notes, lists, plane ticket stubs, stickers, stamps, old letters, postcards, you name it. I have never had to go out and purchase special scrapbooking equipment. Just a journal a pair of scissors and some glue. The rest are found or already aquired objects.

I have also never been pushed out of my home by scrapbooking material. I see homes with a special "scrapbooking room" full of purchased items for making books. The thing is, the clutter gets to be so overwhelming that there doesn't seem to be any time for scrapbooking at all.

If you enjoy scrapbooking, a system is necessary for keeping your materials clean, organized and off the floor. has a great list on how to organize scrapbooking supplies.

Keeping your supplies well organized will also help you save money. You will not have to rebuy or stock up on any materials that you realize you already have.

March 20, 2007

The Simple Purse

According to Real Simple Magazine, women spend approximately 55 minutes every day searching for items. Probably about 45 of those minutes are spent searching for something in the deep, dark reaches of their purses.

I am guilty of having the cluttered purse. It is a bottomless pit, and that's what I like about it. I can sneak an entire picnic into the movie theater in my purse, it doubles as a suitcase AND a briefcase and is as tough as nails. Having something so dependable can also be a burden and it is not great for my back.

Women feel they have to be ready for anything. The contents of my own purse prove this:

1.Leather wallet with money, credit and debit cards, coins, business cards (my own and others), coupons, receipts and stamps.

2. My One Book

3. Cell phone and cell phone charger

4. 3 to 4 various USB drives

5. iPod, headphones and charger

6. Chapstick, lipstick, hand lotion and face powder

7. Gym pass

8. Sunglasses and sunglass case

9. Various pens

10. A small tape measure

11. Keys attached to a bottle of pepper spray

In all, too much stuff. But I do work on keeping it clean and manageable. Every Saturday morning as I do chores, I include cleaning out my purse as one. I take everything out and clean out all excess pennies and candy wrappers. I go through all receipts and file or shred as necessary. I check all coupons and business cards and throw out the ones that are expired or I will not be using.

It is an ongoing job, but my everyday business would not be complete without my tough, trusty purse at my side. However, I still envy men and their simple wallets.

March 14, 2007

Kill Bills

The bane of many people's existence is an overabundance of bills and other unwanted mail. The natural thing to do when you owe money to someone is to put the bill in a pile and forget about it for a few weeks.

Then the late notices appear.

Procrastinating on bill paying and not having a bill paying system can cost you time, money and frustration.

The first step is to create a "Bill Paying Center" on your desk. This can include some hanging files, a desktop filing organizer (horizontal or vertical) or a special drawer just for bills. But be careful about "out of sight, out of mind". This system will have areas categorized as "Bills to Pay", "Bills Paid" and "Checks/Bills Cleared". Also in the Center will be a desk or wall calendar to be used to mark bill due dates.

The second step is once a bill comes in, open it and throw away the outside envelope and mark the due date of the bill on your calendar. If you are not ready to pay the bill, put it in the "Bills to Pay" category or file. If you do pay the bill, with either a check, credit card on with online bill paying software, write the payment information on the bill:

"Paid 3/14/07 with check #12345" or
"Paid 3/14/07 online. Confirmation #123456"

Put that paid bill into the "Bills Paid" file. Once the bill has cleared your account, put it into the "Checks/Bills Cleared" file. These will remain in here for three months until you either shred them or file them for tax purposes. Always shred letters or bills with your personal information on them.

Having a predesignated hour or day for bill paying is helpful in getting the dreaded job done. Say every Sunday morning before breakfast. Once you have spent about three months using this system, knowing when bills will be coming in and when they are due will be second nature.

March 1, 2007

Too Many Magazines

Magazines are beautiful, I know. Whether they are your stacks of Architectural Digest, National Geographic or those ones covered with Brad Pitt, we love our magazines.

But they can be a heavy, slippery mess that collects dust. They also become dated very quickly and the information being referred to is most likely more current on the Internet.

Dedicate some time during the week to go through and really read each of the magazines you get. Keep a pair or scissors and a filing system handy to clip out information, articles or photos that you like and file them in an order that makes sense to you. Have categories such as: Financial, Architectural and Home, Recipes, News and Opinion, Sexy Hollywood Stars, etc. The rest of the magazine then should not hang around for any longer. Put it in recycling the next time you pass the recycling container.

February 22, 2007

(Uncluttered) Life with Books

Ahhhh...books. They are my downfall. Dusty, dogeared, childhood or spine-split, I love them all. I also have a very hard time parting with them. Once I get up the nerve to get rid of some of my book cache, there is a library sale or I get a gift card to Barnes & Noble.

A big problem I see with people is the collecting of books just to show the "intellectual" side of yourself to guests and other bibliophiles. But a personal library of clean, perfect unread books looks worse than not having any books at all. Finding space for all those hard to store, slippery and heavy objects becomes a problem.

Books (unless they are rare) are very hard to sell online or at garage sales. Another option is donate them to a hospital, library, senior center or school. To declutter any collection of books, boldly go through them and be realistic about what you will actually read. Books that have been with you for life, your Bible, Winnie the Pooh or In Cold Blood should maybe be put in a special place on your bookshelf that says, "Don't bother to sort. I'm staying".

Next time, we will tackle the sad disease of magazine collecting.

February 15, 2007

Make money by decluttering

Decluttering will not only help you to simplify your life and put your mind at ease, it could help you to save money...and make money.

Having your home and possessions in order and knowing exactly what you have will enable you to avoid purchasing multiples of the same item, or purchasing unneeded items. When you see an item of clothing you feel you have to have, just envision your clean and organized closet at home and say to yourself, "I have an item almost like this and I have everything that I need and want. I don't need anything else." That $50 just stayed in your wallet.

When you do realize that you have everything you need, the extraneous items that don't make you happy should be on their way out. This is where you can make money on unwanted items.

Selling on eBay is quick and easy. Setting up an account is a step by step process through the eBay website. All the postage fees, selling fees and math is done for you. All you need is a digital camera, some writing skills and the desire to give good customer service.

February 7, 2007

If you went to a party...

...who would you rather see? A room packed full of people you didn't know, or a few near and dear friends?

Your space should feel the same way. Sometimes our material possessions become strangers to us and we end up feeling disjointed and unfamiliar with our own space and home. When decluttering, keep only what you truly love and want near you. If you are not sure what you love (we think we love everything, but we don't) then ask yourself these three questions:

1.Why am I keeping this item?

2.How does it make me feel?

3.How will I feel when it is gone?

Seriously consider and evaluate your answers to these questions and you will eventually understand why you are keeping some things and not others. The items that don't bring you the most pleasure should be eliminated as soon as possible.

Or, you can use the quick and dirty method...would I grab this if my house was on fire?

January 29, 2007

Making it Manageable

My favorite word for tackling the clutter and stuff issue is not the word austere, or minimalist or even the underused word Spartan. It's the word manageable. Keeping it manageable (whatever that means to you) means keeping it under your control without going overboard.

I take at least one or two items a week to the thrift store and sell at least three items a week on eBay, and I still have loads of stuff. I try not to let it bother me since I still plan to take things to the thrift store and sell those items on eBay every week. Keeping it manageable means staying on top of everything as a daily, weekly, monthly or yearly job. Sorry to say, it never ends, but once it is part of your life, you hardly even think about it.

January 22, 2007


If mail or paperwork is taking over your life, from one of my heroines, Hellen Buttigieg, comes the RAFT concept. RAFT stands Read, Act, File, Toss. Scrutinize any piece of paper, junk mail, card or letter that piles up on your desk, bed or kitchen table and place it in boxes or a letter file that is labeled with those four words.

The Read pile needs to be read for information or work. The Act paperwork needs to be acted on immediately and then either filed or tossed. The File category is for important information that needs to be filed such as tax forms or pay stubs. A filing rule of thumb is to keep tax forms for seven years after the year they are filed. Keep important things such as mortgage paperwork or credit reports indefinately. Credit card and bank statements should be shredded after they have been cleared from your accounts. And the Toss category is a given, get rid of it if it is not important. Any personal information should be shredded.

Use the RAFT concept anytime you get a pile of mail or paperwork and that pile will disappear.

January 17, 2007

Storage is a four-letter word

The public storage unit business is lucrative. According to Tom Vanderbilt of Slate Magazine, one in eleven households rents a storage unit and the storage unit industry claims a 90 percenty occupancy of its units. The industry even has an association magazine.

Granted, a storage unit can come in handy when moving or in between homes, but when the cost of storing your stuff exceeds the value of said stuff, you have a problem.

A storage unit is convenient in that you can put all the material possessions, the unwanted Christmas presents, the furniture from college, the winter jackets, paperwork and boxes full of who knows what behind a locked door away from your immediate area. Out of sight, out of mind. However, out of sight, but not out of your wallet. The average cost of a storage shed is between $50 and $100 a month. The average time in a unit is 15 months. I know some people who stick around for 3 or more years. Do the math.

Store is a bad word. Severely question anything you feel you need to store. Do you just want it out of your sight, but can't bare to part with it? Leave it around and out of storage for a while, if you still want it out of your sight, you don't love it and it should not be part of your life. Period.

January 16, 2007

Simplicity in Nature

It makes complete sense that many people find their greatest peace and serenity in nature. The natural world is exactly what it needs to be, no more and no less. There is no excess or clutter or a lack of organization in nature. Every rock, tree, drop of water, leaf, piece of sand and animal plays its part in nature with no thought as to whether they will match the local terrain or whether they will need extra storage to have all the things they want to have.

A walk in the woods in the fall, or in the mountains by a bubbling stream, or by the roaring ocean can bring a new perspective into your own life and how it is affected by its surroundings. Our own living spaces should give us the same feeling that we get from being in the outdoors. Peace, quiet, and the time to reflect on our place in this world.

“Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.” -- Rachel Carson

January 12, 2007

Perfection is overrated

Decluttering, organizing and simplifying is an ongoing process and life sometimes gets in the way. No one is perfect and not one person can live a completely organized and austere existance unless they have an entourage of personal assistants.

No. We will do what we can, when we can. Keeping your life and your surroundings in order is a habit that needs to be learned like brushing your teeth or putting on your seatbelt. Remind yourself each day to take 15 minutes to organize and get your mind in order. Those 15 minutes will translate to a lifetime.

January 11, 2007

The One-Book Concept

No, this is not a Bible touting post. It's a way to get all your random notes, stickies, to-do lists and wish lists organized for good. The One-Book is a small notebook or calendar that holds everything from your to-do lists, shopping lists, financial notes, library lists, future plans and doodles. Carry it with you everywhere and whip it out whenever you need to jot something down, rather than carry a pocketful of sticky notes or paper slips.

I suggest making it a book you like to write in. Mine is a lovely, little book that looks like something an archeologist in a movie would use to draw an ancient map to a priceless golden statue. It is red and gold with a rubber band to keep it closed and a red ribbon bookmark. I have written everything in it from my daily purchases, my financial plans for the month, my travel lists and a doodle of a piece of furniture I'm on the lookout for.

January 10, 2007

9/10ths of the Problem...

Most of my life I have been interested in organization and the wiping out of clutter. When I was a child I would spend an afternoon cleaning out and organizing my friends' sock drawers and toy cupboards. The organizing bug has recently become popular with shows such as Clean Sweep and neat and with the proliferation of stores such as the Container Store and IKEA.

When I'm around clutter, it affects my thoughts, movements and even my pulse and heart rate. When I am clutter free, I feel 10 pounds lighter and I can sleep at night. I want others to feel the same way.

I am starting this blog to get my voice and experiences out there and to eventually begin a career as a professional organizer. I now work as a graphic and web designer (where organizing is a key part of the job), but eventually would like to phase out into my own business. Welcome and enjoy.

"Possession isn't nine-tenths of the law, it's nine-tenths of the problem." -- John Lennon