Simply Put Organizing

Clutter Control

Clutter has a funny way of expanding to fit any undefined spaces in your home. For that reason, it is very important to assign a purpose for each room, cabinet and closet you have. Once spaces are assigned a definite purpose you can go about the job of relocating items in your home to the places they belong and remove the excess as you go. I once had a boss who taught his employees to never walk anywhere in the restaurant empty handed. He knew there was always something to be relocated and put away. He didn’t know it then,but he helped me develop a lifelong habit that has helped me save time in everything I do. Below you’ll find more useful tips and inspiration to help you clear the clutter everyday and reclaim your spaces.
Food for thought

Determine your priorities in life: It is impossible to know what you don’t need if you haven’t determined what you do need. For example, I need more time. I had to take a look at my time wasting habits. I have decided that I don’t need to tear out and save pages of things I want to buy from magazines anymore. If I tear something out of a newspaper or magazine it becomes a to-do. I don’t need anything else to do. And if I really need that thing so badly then I won’t forget to get it. It has been so liberating to flip through a magazine and enjoy it without feeling the need to tear and manage all that paper and to make a trip to the mall to get the thing I thought I had to have in the magazine. This small tweak in my habits has saved precious time, mental energy, and, most likely, a lot of money.

Determine your priorities and what you are willing to spend time on and what you’re willing to give space to in your home.

Clutter is a delayed decision: Take a look at any cluttered areas in your home and you will see that each item there is really a delayed decision. Maybe you just didn’t decide where the item should be located in your home or maybe you haven’t decided if you will ever wear something again or use something so it has been relegated to a spare closet until a decision can be made. Make decisions on the things in your home right away. Choose if it stays or goes and, if it stays where will it ‘live’. If you have given thought to what you really need to support your values and priorities this becomes very easy.
Make a Plan

Choose a charity: For many of us, it is easier to let things go if we think it is going somewhere where it will be appreciated and put to good use. However, sometimes finding the right place can be paralyzing so you stay stuck in your stuff. can help you find a charity in your area you can to be good stewards of your things. Set up a donation receptacle to make it easy to unclutter your home on a daily basis.

Schedule regular decluttering sessions: whether you are drowning in clutter or just a little it is important to assign a time each day or week that you will devote time to relocating items and clearing clutter. It could be 10 minutes a day or 1 hour each weekend. Whichever works for you, it is important to be consistent with the commitment.

Create a landing spot: Organization is about everything having a place. A landing spot is the place where you unload things as you come in the door. Clutter happens when we put things down in random places and then become too busy to go back and put them away. Your landing spot should be located near the entrance you most often use. It needs a designated place for mail, purse, wallet, keys and an area for any shopping bags or other things you may not have time to put away at the moment. In having it all in one spot-it is easier to go back and clear it as time permits. Caution: don’t fill up your landing spot and then make a new one. Take time each day to process what has accumulated there.
New Habits
Set goals; Daniel Hommer M.D., is an expert on brain imaging and motivation. He shared in Real Simple magazine that there is a phenomenon called delayed discounting. If it takes a long time to reach a goal we value that goal less then one we can reach quickly making it harder to get started at all. The solution is to make projects small and rewards immediate. For example, if you clear off a surface, dress if up with something you love keeping in mind that eventually your entire home will be that orderly and beautiful.

Don’t bring it home: Walk away from bargains. Just because you can buy three for the price of one doesn’t mean you should. Ask yourself: Where will I store it? Will it expire? If you find yourself accepting a freebie there’s nothing wrong with putting it in the donation bag straight away.

Put it away immediately: We all have good intentions to do things later. The problem arises when “later” creates piles all over our home. Put things away right away or, at least, the same day. Remember it’s all contained in your landing spot.

Give yourself time: If organizing doesn’t come naturally to you putting things back where they belong is not going to happen overnight. According to Charles Duhigg New York Times reporter and author of the book ‘The Power of Habit: Why we do what we do in life and business’, habits are hardwired into our brains. They are our brains way of simplifying our lives, saving us stress and energy. The trick is not to focus on undoing the habit but to replace the bad behavior with a better one. If each time you walk in your kitchen you drop everything you are holding on the counter think of the better habit of putting things away where they belong or using your landing spot to hold them until they can be put away. The reward: clear kitchen countertops.

Paper, Paper Everywhere!!

The most important thing to remember about paper is to decide what you need to keep and define spaces to process it or to file it. If you haven’t decided what you need to keep it is very easy to just throw it in a pile to deal with “later”. Take the phrase “I’ll do it later” out of your vocabulary!!! It takes minutes to process paper on a daily basis and saves hours of work sorting through piles. The bonus: No stress from seeing paper piles laying all over your home or office.

Take the time to really think about the things you need to save. Remember if the paper doesn’t come into the home it doesn’t have to be processed. Resist printing information from the computer for future reference. Instead keep a journal of your favorite websites to refer to as needed.

The second most important thing is to create ONE central place to process all incoming paper and assign the task to one family member. If more than one person is in charge of bringing in the mail it is easy for systems to disintegrate.

Once paper is brought into the home make a decision on it immediately if possible but always within 24 hours. Get rid of unwanted paper immediately. I throw my junk mail away that is addressed to ‘Valued Customer’ or ‘Resident’ at the mailbox garbage. Keep a shredder close to your paper processing center to deal with identity theft concerns. Staples has a great tabletop shredder that is small and efficient. A stapler is also needed to attached multi page documents. Recycle envelopes and inserts.

There are three categories of paper that exist: Action, Reference and Trash. We have discussed the trash, the tips below cover the action category.

Using table top shelves create an action center to define a space for priority items and items that are not time sensitive but still need to be done. You can see the shelves I use on my desk by linking this paper management video . You can buy the shelves at Office Max. They come in silver and black. They are not the most attractive but they are the best thing that has happened to my paper.
Check high priority items on a daily basis and process as needed. This group can include bills to pay, permission slips, RSVP’s and anything else that is time sensitive. If you check it daily, you won’t forget anything.
Check the lower priority items, the “to do later” category, weekly. You can put items in this category that you want to do six months from now. If you check it weekly you will not forget them. Each week, make a decision on these papers. They might stay in the category, they could be moved into the higher priority shelf to be processed or they might become trash if they are no longer relevant.

Reference papers are those that are saved for legal reasons, tax reasons, warranties and certain receipts needed for proof of purchase and should be filed. Resist filing articles you have printed or torn from magazines. They are rarely referred to and clog up filing cabinets making filing more of a chore than it needs to be.

The other type of paper that tends to migrate to piles are notes to other family members and phone messages. For phone messages I love to use spiral journal to capture the info. I date the pages and refer back to them as needed. Consider creating a message board to relay information to your family. If you have enough wall space you can have a board for each family member. If space is limited use color coded post-its to stick each family members notes on the board. I love Office Max’s In Place post-its. They are super sticky, (so they won’t fall off) and come in five colors. Assign a color to each person in your family and let them know where to look for their messages. Ask them to take the messages off the board when they have received them.

I also love the idea of a central family calendar. Family members can sync their electronic devises to match the central calendar if that is how a particular person handles their schedule.

It is very important to have a family meeting and decide on a system that everyone understands.

If you have neglected your paper for a long time and have piles everywhere. Gather them up into one large bin, making sure that the time sensitive paper is separated, then make a commitment to process the paper for 20 minutes a day until it’s gone. Set a timer if need be.

Shredding is cathartic especially when done with your favorite beverage. Try it.

Family Information Centers

There are two things you need to keep in mind when managing the paper and information that comes into your home on a daily basis. First, you need to choose just one location to process it. Second, you need to process it in a timely manner. Remember, clutter is simply a result of delayed decisions.

To set up a Family Information Center keep the following tips in mind:
• it should be located in a heavily trafficked area like the kitchen or a mudroom.
• it needs to have wall space for a bulletin board or wall calendar , a surface for an action center and reference material and ideally, a floor surface for a shredder (although there are some great tabletop shredders available)
• it needs to have a file close by to file papers that need to be retained for a long period of time. Remember to file once a week. If you wait any longer the task becomes unbearable to most people.
Once you have determined a place where you will process incoming information it is important to gather all the papers that are around your home and process them. if you are completely overwhelmed, at least place all the paper in one pile and process it for ten minutes a day until it’s gone. There are three different types of paper: reference, action, and trash. Reference papers are school schedules, invitations, legal papers and such. How long you keep them depends on the importance of the paper. Papers for medical and tax purposes have to be kept for a longer period of time but are seldom looked at. These papers belong in a file cabinet somewhere in your home but necessarily in your information center. Reference papers such as sports schedules, school information and such need to be referred to on a regular basis and should be kept in a binder or folio close at hand. I love Mom Agenda’s Kitchen Folio. Check it out at Don’t forget to check out the free printables to keep you and your family on track.

Papers that require an action such as bills to pay, invitations that require a response, permission slips to sign, etc. need to be placed in an action center. I love the three tier sorter from Office Max for this purpose. As you see there is a place to label each tray. Use one for items to do that are high priority (check it daily) label the second tray for items that are not really important such as things you may want to do with your family or things you want to buy (check it weekly) and the third tray for paper that needs to be filed. File it each week.

Paper that is to be thrown away needs to be discarded before it hits a hard surface. Open mail over a trash can, recycle bin or shredder on a daily basis and quickly put items in their predefined spaces: either the trash, the action center or a file.

To keep track of schedules use an individual planner. whether you choose an electronic schedule or a paper depends entirely on your personality. There are a lot of people who still prefer paper, including me. I have used and loved Mom Agenda’s personal portfolio for years. I like to look at my entire month at a glance and the uncluttered pages of this planner make be feel like I’m in control even though there is hardly a square in that doesn’t contain something I have to do or somewhere I have to be.
I think it’s gorgeous and I love to carry it. My good friend prefers her I phone which absolutely doesn’t work for me. Decide which calendar works best for you and then input all your commitments on a daily basis.
If you have a large or busy family. I think it’s important to have a family calendar. Dry erase calendars are perfect for this. Each family member can use a different color to mark their schedules and everyone knows where to look to see who is doing what. If you prefer the computer screen you can do the same thing online. I really like the clean look of the magnetic dry erase calendar at the container store,
If you don’t have the wall space, mom agenda has come out with a home office addition planner that is large enough to capture all your important information and attractive enough to leave out.

So, if you apply the organizing triangle to your new Family Information Center. The system would be the defined spaces that your paper goes to immediately when it comes in the door. The products are the planners, folios, action centers and shredder. The habits, keep on top of things. It only takes five minutes to process your mail each day. Remember, it’s not the things we do that wear us out. It is what is left undone.

Don’t know about the organizing triangle? It is my own organizing method that I teach my clients and use myself. Find out more in my coauthored book, Get Organized Today. Available at a discount on my site


A Sanctuary for Supplies

My friend Kim recently told me about a closet in her home that never seems to be totally under control. The closet, she explained, is used for school supplies, family files, miscellaneous electronics and office supplies. It is used by her entire family. I went to her home to take a look and saw that Kim had done a great job of straightening it up, but I could see, that after a few weeks of use it would return to its chaotic state. How did I know? It’s simple, the closet lacked definition. Organizing is about eliminating excess, defining spaces and creating systems that are easily maintained. Use the picture of my very own supply closet to inspire you. Still overwhelmed? I would love to help. Just visit to find out more…

Office Supply Storage

This is an armoire, in a client’s home office that we turned into a supply cabinet. This particular office did not have a closet space to store the items needed to support her business. Her supplies were scattered all over the house which made it difficult to be productive. Duplicates were often purchased because she had no idea what she already had. My client loves beautiful things so she had the inside of the cabinet upholstered. I added baskets with custom tags to reduce the cluttered appearance of the supplies. Armoires are great for storage anywhere in the home. The key is to give them a specific purpose and then organize within based on retrieval. I’m blogging on a Sunday morning, it is so peaceful in my own office. I could do this all day. However, my daughter just woke up….

Repurpose. Replenish. Renew. Restore. Relax.