Thursday, December 3, 2009

Meeting Tonight

We are having issues with the Internet and our email here at the library today so that I am unable to email you all with a reminder about tonight's meeting. I thought we might talk a little about any strategies you may have in order to get through December with calm and serenity. I would also like to ask everyone a few questions about how everyone does standard everyday tasks to see if we can glean any insights from each other. Consider your strategies about handling everyday paperwork like bills, etc.; how you organize the items in your kitchen including the refrigerator; how you deal with seasonal items like summer clothes, winter coats and yard equipment; organization of hobbies including books; organization of remotes and rechargers for your electronics; photos from your camera and your phone; computer files and sent and received emails; and any other clutter problem areas in your life.

I hope you are being kind to yourselves and not trying to accomplish giant projects around the house as you are preparing for social gatherings and visit from family and friends that often occurs at this time of the year. I would love to hear if anyone has changed a behavior to reduce the amount of time that the holidays can take, like sending online greetings or eating your holiday meals at a restaurant or having them catered.

Also, bring any concerns you have or any suggestions you may have heard about or any solutions that you have tried and whether they have been successful or not. I will share any insights we discover in my blogs over the next several weeks.

I hope to see many of you this evening at 7:00 in the Quiet Study. Bring a sweater; I understand the library is cold today.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

De-clutter Club Meeting Tonight

Things have gotten very busy here; sorry I have not written in a while. I hope everyone is doing well on all the projects you have planned to get some control of your clutter. The silly season that surrounds the holidays is almost upon us. I am no expert, but common sense says that worrying about de-cluttering, with all of the other stuff that occupies your time and your mind during the holidays, is probably not a good idea. If you have a little time between now and Thanksgiving, I would suggest you carefully pack up any de-clutter project you may have started and not yet finished and leave it go until the new year. If it is small enough to finish, go ahead, but don't take on anything big...

We have our De-clutter Club this evening at 7:00 p.m. in the Quiet Study in the library. I hope to see many of you there. Bring your holiday preparation problems and solutions. We can discuss the way we can all get through the next few months and remain cool, calm and collected.

Jamie Novak has a phone-in de-clutter group coming up. I will give you the details this evening or post them on this blog tomorrow.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

More Hints from Heloise

In my last blog I promised to give you the other half of Heloise’s article from the September 2004 Good Housekeeping called “Take Control of Clutter.” Here it is and you can also check out some of her other de-cluttering tips on how to store specific items like art, china and glassware. Links to these topics can be found at:

Last time I gave you her things to do if you only have 5 minutes; here are some suggestions if you have a little more time.

If you have one hour...
When serious decluttering is in store, try the ABC method. Select a cabinet or closet that's been bugging you. Take everything out and arrange items into three piles:

A: always used
B: used during the holidays and special occasions, or seasonally
C: not seen or used in a year or so

Then do a final sort:
Step 1: Toss or give away C items unless they are valuable or have sentimental worth.
Step 2: Return B items to the back of the storage area.
Step 3: Place the A team in the front of the space so those items will be handy for immediate use.

Develop an organizing system — and stick with it. Try these approaches:

Oh, give me a home!
Always put things back in the same place: Children's papers belong in a basket in a central location. Bicycles and sports gear go in the designated rack or spot in the garage. Coats belong on a coat tree or in the front-hall closet. Toys should be placed in a chest or bin every night; teach kids this bedtime ritual.

Keep stuff in plain sight.
Don't let milk, eggs, and other foods with a short shelf life get pushed to the back of the fridge. Put these items up front, where you can monitor expiration dates. Place the tools you use often (say, a screwdriver or a hammer) at arm's reach on a pegboard; other tools belong higher up. Hang the clothes you wear to work front and center. To save more time: Pick your outfits for the week on Sunday and place each one on a single hanger.

Let no box go unmarked.
Use masking tape, a label maker, or permanent-ink pens. I like to tape an index card to the outside of a container. Or, take snapshots of what's inside.My favorite cheap storage helpers are plastic or metal garbage cans with lids, see-through plastic bins, wire baskets and utility shelving, and pegboard and metal racks.

Here's what to use in your...

•Attach narrow racks inside cabinet doors for lightweight items — pot lids, paper rolls, plastic bags, etc.
•Store veggies and fruits in hanging three-tier wire baskets. Keep leftovers in see-through containers (I love glass mayonnaise and spaghetti sauce jars). Label the container with the date on top.

...Living Room
•Use large baskets to corral magazines, books, or TV and stereo remotes. Put skirts on side tables so you can store things underneath and out of sight.
•Place a big, handsome trunk in front of the couch or along the wall. It can serve as both a table and a storage bin.

•Keep linens or off-season clothes inside plastic containers with wheels, rolled under the bed.
•Assign one bowl to hold everything that comes out of a purse or pocket. Use an over-the-door shoe rack for organizing small purses and accessories. Put a pretty box or covered basket on your bedside table as a home for your nail file, scissors, hand lotion, ear plugs, etc.

•Place a lazy Susan in your under-the-sink cabinet to organize bathroom items like nail polish or small bottles, etc.
•If space is tight, hang sturdy shelves above toilet to hold towels or bath accessories.

...Laundry Room
•Keep at least two hampers — one for whites, the other for darks. Station clothing trees, a basket for clean laundry, and garment racks near the ironing board.
•Store supplies in a large plastic shelf basket to contain spills.
•Set up a counter for sorting and folding clothes.

•Use utility racks geared specifically for storing sports equipment or bikes. Store rakes and other gardening tools inside plastic garbage cans with wheels.
•Install pegboard on walls to hang and organize small items.

•Create specific storage zones — holiday, vacation, clothing, school. Mark the floor with tape or paint to remind you which area is which.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Hints From Heloise from Good Housekeeping

This is an article from the September 2004 issue of Good Housekeeping magazine by Heloise. The title of the article is "Take Control of Clutter" and is available online. This is what Heloise has to say about decluttering.

"Getting rid of stuff seems to be the chore we all dread. But when closets are crowded, drawers are jumbled, and shelves overflow, it can really slow you down. Every day I try to focus on just one or two areas (like kitchen counters) that drive me crazy. These clutter-busting hints will help you dejunk your space — which will save you time and stress."

The following list actually comes at the end of the article but it seems to me to be a good place to start. It is a list that includes red flags that let you know when clutter has become a problem that is affecting your life and quick tips to get started and gain some control.

1. If you can't find what you need within minutes, it's time for a reality check.

2. Get everyone in your family on the decluttering/organizing bandwagon.

3. If the countertop or table surface isn't visible, take action ASAP.

4. Establish a specific place for the things you use every day — hooks for keys, a basket for catalogs, etc.

5. Always give the living room a quick pickup before bedtime.

6. Be relentless in tossing out papers — newspapers, magazines, junk mail.

7. Make lists of household staples, with their expiration dates, so you'll know what you really need.

8. Every time you bring something new into the house, try to make sure something old goes out.

9. On a regular basis, deal with your garbage gremlins, such as grocery bags, takeout containers, chipped drinking glasses, soap shards, dead batteries, rubber bands, and dried-up pens.

10. If you aren't using it, get rid of it!

The article includes a few lists of what you can do based on the amount of time you have to declutter. Today I will give you the things Heloise suggests you can get done if you only have a few minutes. The section is called: Finding Time to Toss It!

If you have five minutes...

1. Chuck crummy sponges and outdated cleaning products lingering in your kitchen; clear old leftovers out of the fridge and pitch any expired foods found in the pantry.

2. Do a TV-room makeover. I call this method "TVC": During TV commercials, quickly tidy up the room you're in. Gather all the magazines, newspapers, and bits of trash and put them in the garbage. Straighten pillows and refold throws. Organize your worktable. On the next program break, you can even give the den a quick vacuum.

3. Throw away old cosmetics and expired medicines in the vanity drawer or the cabinet over the sink. Sort bath towels and washcloths for laundering or the rag bag.

4. Weed out toys and games that haven't been used recently. If they are in good condition, you can donate them to a shelter, a hospital or a school.

5. Gather misplaced belongings in a holding basket; later, ask family members to claim their possessions and put them away.

Find this article at:

In my next blog I will include the remainder of the article which gives you some one hour tasks.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Clutter Perceptions

"Walking your talk is a great way to motivate yourself. No one likes to live a lie. Be honest with yourself, and you will find the motivation to do what you advise others to do."

-- Vince Poscente

This quote rang so true to me that I had to spend some time analyzing it relative to my situation. Please forgive my ramblings today but maybe there is someone else out there that feels the same and will be motivated by what I share.

Here I am writing a clutter-control blog, giving advice to others while I am drowning in clutter around me both at work and at home. Being honest with myself will make me admit that it is a daunting and intimidating task for me to consider controlling the clutter; one that I would rather avoid all together. I know that motivation is definitely one of the qualities I lack. At a recent meeting I showed you the picture I have pinned to my bulletin board of the Noble Prize winning professor peering out from behind huge stacks of papers. I keep it there to make me feel as thought I am not too badly in need of help since I don’t have half as many papers around me and none of my piles come close to the height of his. For motivation, I think I am going to look for some pictures of restful, clutter-free spaces. I need to be able to visualize the goal since I have never actually seen it myself in any of my spaces except at the very beginning, before I moved in my stuff.

I think I may have mentioned at one of the meetings a time when I faced a similar situation and what I was motivated to do. My husband and I, many years and two houses ago, reserved a cabin on Deep Creek Lake in western Maryland for a week’s vacation. The cabin was designed to accommodate 8-10 people and we rented it just for ourselves. Of course, as a vacation rental, the house was fully furnished and appointed but definitely spacious and clutter free. All of the closets and drawers were completely empty! We spent a week of shear relaxation with nothing for us to do but enjoy life – reading, cooking, hiking, and napping…all the good things in life. After the week was over and we returned home, we were not only confronted with the stress of being back to work, but we realized how much stress our living conditions were adding to the whole. At the time, we lived in a small house in North Plainfield and we were definitely bursting at the seams. As I look back, the stuff in our house at that time, since there was less of it, was very well organized but there was just too much of it for the space that it occupied. Clutter does not have to be disorganized to be a problem. Instead of de-cluttering like we should have done when the task was manageable, we looked for a newer, bigger house to solve the problem.

Unfortunately, getting the new house only solved the problem temporarily since it is human nature to fill the space that you have. Within a few years, we were back to an organized but overwhelming quantity of stuff. Since everything was organized, (and we didn’t treat ourselves to a week in a clutter-free environment again) we were lulled into thinking that we had spare time to take on some volunteer activities – things that clutter your calendar and sap you of free time to enjoy those good things in life. When free time became scarce, it became harder to keep the stuff organized and then, the quantity became an even bigger problem, which is where I find myself now. We are in yet another house, not necessarily bigger but configured very differently and now I don’t have the time to de-clutter and get things organized. We hit the ground running when we moved into this house and after four years, we are still sitting with almost half of the stuff still sitting in the moving boxes, piled into the basement and the attic. We didn’t have enough time to de-clutter before we packed (a situation that cost us dearly in moving expenses) and now we are overwhelmed by the idea of sorting everything out into new and different locations. I suppose in some ways we are attempting to live a more clutter-free life by keeping all of that extra stuff packed up and out-of-sight, but it is not out-of-mind. Now, don’t get me wrong, we enjoy the volunteering and feel good about helping out, but, like possessions, too many “things,” including commitments, are not admirable or beneficial to your health and well being. I feel that the obligations on my time are as dangerous to my psyche as are the possessions that seem to control and overwhelm me. I guess what I need to learn is “moderation in everything.” I need to de-clutter my life physically, metaphysically and mentally! Which comes first – clearing my surroundings or my very existence? These are very deep and mind-cluttering ideas…is it time to move on?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I was sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office yesterday only slightly paying attention to whatever was on the large screen television they provide. Lo and behold, there was a de-cluttering segment on organizing a kitchen. It was pretty impressive to see the cabinets all organized with clear air-tight food storage containers and all the appropriate wire racks and shelves for your china, glasses, pots and lids. It turns out that the Early Show on CBS is doing a series on de-cluttering and organizaton. Today’s segment was on clutter control in your clothing closet and can be viewed online at The series is called “Early Gets Organized” and it is being done in conjunction with Real Simple magazine. Kate Parker, a design expert and contributor to the magazine, is sharing some basic suggestions and organizational products each day that she says can help you make-over all parts of your home. In today’s feature, “Tossing is Key to Clutter-Free Closets,” she reiterates what we have been saying all along that the essential ingredient for any successful de-cluttering and organization project is “editing” the contents before you start organizing. This series also features recommendations for products: storage boxes, racks, containers and more, from stores and online outlets like Bed, Bath and Beyond (, Kangaroom Storage ( and from my favorite, The Container Store (

But Jamie Novak cautioned us not to go out and buy products to organized until you de-clutter. When you finish with the throwing away, you will have a better idea of what you need to store and shopping for varieties of storage solutions online could help you find just the right container for exactly what you need to store! Think of it as your reward for getting the job done to treat yourself to a new container.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Garage Revealed

"Take a deep breath, count to ten, and tackle each task one step at a time."

-- Linda Shalaway

This morning I got another email from They had a listing of all of the items in their “catalog” that are on sale until the end of the month. There were many interesting items on all aspects of organizing, from physical file sorters, to organizing software, to books on organizing and being an organizer as a career. I found among the items for time management a note pad printed with an organization scheme for a To-Do List where you can enter the tasks, errands, correspondence and notes for the day. Since the file folder idea that I attempted a few weeks ago did not end up working for me, I decided to try something else. I am not going to order the pad, which is approximately $8.00 +shipping and handling for a 60 sheet pad. Rather, I created a similar sheet on my computer and printed a copy to experiment with. That way, if it is not a help, I won’t have wasted the money on the purchased item. I will bring a copy of the sheet that I created to the next meeting in case someone else might find it useful. So far, today, it seems to be working. Writing my de-clutter blog is listed under Tasks and soon I will have my first “done” checkmark!

As to how I am doing on any other de-cluttering or organizing tasks, I am miserably no more into de-clutter than I have ever been. I did do a little tossing and organizing my desk at work, but it resulted in a small pile of stuff that I still need to determine where it goes. On the other hand, my husband is setting a perfect example of what I should be doing and how this stuff gets done. He has moved his energies inside from the garden and has begun tackling the enormous job of cleaning out the garage. He has had three good days at it and is about one half to two-thirds the way to completion. I wish I had half his energy. We had purchased some storage units a few years ago that were to be put in the corner of the garage to organize the clutter that accumulates there. Until now, they were part of the clutter. The problem that kept the units from getting installed was the fact that the garage had never been painted by the builder when the house was built. The raw drywall with the lines and patches where it was taped and spackled added visual clutter to the actual clutter. My husband doesn’t believe in doing anything half-way, so he is cleaning (removing cobwebs, dust and dirt) and painting the entire garage including the ceiling 16 feet over his head before he puts in the storage and stows the clutter. He painted the first bay of the three car garage on Sunday and was able to assemble and hang the cabinets in that bay yesterday. He was so successful that he was able to paint the next bay because he was able to store the clutter from that bay in the new storage cabinets. He was insistent that the storage units that we bought would be closed with doors, so that the items would be out of view and somewhat protected from the dirt and dust. We purchased these units from Sears, and he is right about the closed doors; it really makes the garage look neat and tidy and keeps stray stuff from just accumulating on the open shelves we have had there until now. The cabinets are the industrial looking cabinets with doors that look as though they are made from diamond plate. Did you know that Sears sells a diamond-plate fronted refrigerator to match? We didn’t go that far. We purchased two full height, double door storage cabinets with shelves, two rolling drawer cabinets and two overhead bin cabinets that needed to be hung on the wall, hence the need to paint first. All of these items are lockable so that no clutter can find their way in!!

Since the garage is the first part of the house that I see when coming home from work, it is a treat for me to see this get cleaned out and organized. I am so thankful that my husband has taken this on and it is a real inspiration to me to get my parts of the house cleaned out. He is throwing away the items that are broken, damaged or no longer used and putting the tools and other garage items away in the cabinets. Another few nice weekends and he will be done! Perhaps I can ask him to lend some of his energy and motivation to me so that we can tackle the remaining areas of clutter around the house.

For now, I can check one item on my to-do list as DONE! Until later in the week, be productive and organize!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Making Time for the Holidays

Today in my email, I received a link to an article titled “Beating the Holiday Blues” by Kathy Gates that was published on which is a great website with practical information on organizing, de-cluttering and working as a professional organizer. The article is reproduced here in my blog with permission from the publisher.

Rushing around in a blizzard, buying gifts, putting up lights, planning dinners, attending parties, and preparing for Grandma all in the week before Christmas Day may be your idea of fun -- who am I to judge? But, I honestly never really believed people who claimed they waited to do those things intentionally in the Spirit of Christmas. It always seemed to come out more like the Spirit of CRANKINESS to me.

Holidays can bring out the best, or the worst, it seems: thoughts of what could or should have been; thoughts of money problems or relationship problems; or being lonely in very personal ways. But the season also brings with it the joy of giving, of helping, or reconnecting with others. This DICHOTOMY can create a sort of imbalance in our lives.

One thing for sure is that the holiday season takes up a lot of ROOM in our lives, physically, emotionally, spiritually. And that squeeze on your time, energy, space and money can bring on the Holiday Blues. But there are definitely ways to help keep the blues to a minimum. Try these ideas:


The holidays generally bring to mind EXTRA -- food, gifts, sales, drinks, parties, people. By making a conscious choice to clear up your schedule, clean up your space, and dust off some old attitudes and habits, you can easily make room for a happier holiday season. Physically box up and store (if you just can’t bear to toss it) anything that you don’t need access to for the next couple of months. Streamline your pantry and refrigerator. Check your schedule and put things on HOLD that aren’t vital right now. The idea here is not to shove things into a corner, but to feel the lightness that comes from actually removing things. Give the holidays the room it needs for a holiday spirit to enter your home, your mind, your heart, and the blues will be chased right out the door.


I know this is not popular, and who wants to count pennies in the Spirit of Giving. But if you didn’t start last year to put away money SPECIFICALLY for the Holidays, then you can bet from past experience that the holiday blues will catch up to you. The biggest culprit of holiday ANXIETY is overspending, and the root of overspending is not planning. To totally eliminate this problem next year, decide how much you need, divide that by 48 weeks (skipping December), and purposefully save that amount each week. I like the physicality of actually putting $20 in a little Santa jar in my closet; but a separate savings account at the bank will earn you a little interest too. Whatever works for you is what works. When Christmas rolls around next year, you’ll be set. But if you didn’t do that for this year, the easiest way to keep the anxiety and credit card consequences under control is to be honest about it. Make that list, just like Santa does -- this eliminates impulse spending, spending too much on one person, not enough on another. This way you won’t still feel SQUEEZED by the holidays when spring flowers are coming up.


Try giving charitable gifts of TIME instead of money. Offer to baby sit on a particular day, or run an errand for a busy working mother. A word of caution, however -- I had a friend who tried this and felt blindsided by the requests later. So I suggest that you put some parameters around it. Example -- “Lil: 5 hours of babysitting on Saturday night Feb 14 (Valentine’s) so you and John can have a romantic night out.” “Karla -- 3 pickups of kids from school plus 2 hours of after school care during your busy Tax Time in April.” “Bob -- 2 hours of yard work assistance when you plant your garden in March.” These all show your special knowledge of the person, and that’s the best gift there is. You could also choose a birthday or an anniversary. Be sure to put it in your own CALENDAR so you don’t get caught off-guard.


Holidays don’t have to bring the blues with them. Beat the Holiday Blues by making some DECISIONS early about your time, space, and attitude, and being creative in how you handle the special situations the Holidays bring.

Kathy Gates is a Certified Emotional Intelligence Coach in Scottsdale Arizona who specializes in finding happiness in daily life. She will coach you via email or telephone, your choice. Vist her website at

Content provided by -- offering "a world of organizing solutions!" Visit for organizing products, free tips, a speakers bureau, get a referral for a Professional Organizer near you, or get some help starting and running your own organizing business. Visit their website at

Friday, October 2, 2009

Resource Update

The De-Clutter Club met again last night. We had a lot of new faces; thank you all for joining us – I hope to see you again at another meeting. The next meeting will be November 5, 2009. If you have a topic you would like to discuss, you can email me before the meeting and I will make sure we discuss the topic, or you can just bring your questions to the meeting to ask the group.

Last night, for the benefit of the new members, we went over some of the helpful resources that we have shared at past meetings. We had a brief discussion about Freecycle and the publicity it has gotten recently in the local press. One member shared her success with using the online service. Freecycle is a regionally based not-for-profit recycling network where people list items they have that they would like to give away (rather than throw away) to someone who has use of the item who would be willing to pick it up and take it away. The website is You can also use the network to find things that you might have a use for, but most of the de-cluttering experts tell you to try to avoid looking at the items available if your goal is to rid your life of stuff. Giving and not getting is perfectly acceptable with Freecycle. We also discussed the consignment shops in the area.

The same member who has had success with Freecycle has also given items to Greene Street Consignment Shop in Princeton and they have been able to sell the majority of the items in a short amount of time. Greene Street also has stores in Lambertville, Bryn Mawr and Philadelphia. If you are thinking of using this service, visit their website for locations, hours, rules and terms. They say that no one makes it easier to sell, but they do seem to have a lot of restrictions, which is probably why the stores seem to turn over merchandise quite quickly - they don't accept junk. They only take adult men’s and women’s clothing in a range of standard sizes and they are particular about labels and, of course, condition. They have a 10 item minimum and recommend that you bring more than 10 items in case they reject an item or two. They only require an appointment for women’s plus sizes and that is only in the Bryn Mawr store. Like most consignment organizations, they take a steep commission on what they are able to sell; you get a receipt for the items when they are dropped off and you are sent a 40% commission check at the end of the consignment period (60 days) for what they are able to sell. There is no annual fee if you agree to take back the items that don’t sell within a reasonable time. According to what I have heard from others who have sold through consignment stores, they will often try to cheat you by saying that they were only able to sell a few of the items you gave them and that they donated or discarded the rest, giving you commission only on a small number of items, when they may in fact have sold all of your items. Without the promise that you can have what doesn’t sell back, you have no way to prove what sold and what didn’t. Then again, once it is out of the house, you may not care as long as you get a few dollars to make the memory of how much the items originally cost not seem so painful.

If you want to save yourself the hassle, donating to rummage sales, like the large annual sale that the Princeton Hospital holds is far easier but they too are somewhat particular and won’t take items they think they would not be able to sell.

Responding to the group’s consensus that dealing with all of the paper clutter in life was the most pressing problem, the last discussion we had was about online banking. Some security concerns were raised, so I will attempt to do some research on the subject and report to everyone in my next blog. I will also repeat the resources you can use to eliminate the junk mail and catalogs coming to your mailbox in the first place.

One last reminder is for the Middlesex County Mobile Paper Shred Events. The next time the shredder truck will be in the area will be tomorrow, October 3, in the Borough Hall Parking Lot in Helmetta, at 60 Main Street at 9:00 a.m. It is advised that you arrive early since they leave as soon as the truck is full. The truck will be at the Senior Center parking lot in Piscataway on October 10 and at the Municipal Building parking lot in South Amboy on October 24. A schedule of all of the dates for 2009 with directions to the individual locations can be viewed (or printed) at the Middlesex County Division of Solid Waste Management website at:

Friday, September 25, 2009

Turning Your Trash into Cash

"It isn't sufficient just to want - you've got to ask yourself what you are going to do to get the things you want."

-- Franklin D. Roosevelt

I went out to the magazine section just for curiosity to see how many magazines had articles about organization or de-cluttering advertised on their cover and to my surprise, there was only one! Perhaps the fact that it is fall and not time for spring cleaning could explain why I wasn’t inundated by tips and tricks from the experts. The articles in the current October issues were more about comfort food and the up-coming holidays of Halloween and Thanksgiving. There were organization articles in several of the magazines but they were filler rather than feature articles. There was even a short piece in Cooking Light on how to organize your herbs and spices. Not surprisingly, the most popular "teaser" was about investing which appeared on as many as a dozen covers.

The one feature article is in Ebony and it is titled “How To Declutter and make Cash.”

The article, written by Margena A. Christian, starts with a discussion about having successful garage sales. She uses Elena Jackson of Los Angeles as an example of someone who has turned garage sales into a successful sales business where she has developed a base of loyal customers that are anxious to see what she has each month on display. Ms. Jackson not only sells the items she has de-cluttered from her home, but she also reconditions, repairs and refinishes items that she finds in the trash or that are under-priced at other garage sales or junk shops. The tips the author gives about having a successful sale are the following: Obtain a garage sale permit if required; tag the items with prices and a brief description if the item needs explanation (i.e.: works great or newly serviced); categorize items by putting like items together; make sure all items are clean and neat – presentation makes a difference; and be friendly. Let customer’s know if you don’t deliver. If you do, be clear on the charge. Do not post signs on city property; you could be ticketed and have plenty of change available.

They also discuss the merits of selling your stuff on eBay – “The World’s Online Marketplace” or on Craig’s list, a similar online marketplace like eBay only with a local customer base saving you the time and expense of shipping. Research shows that every person has approximately 50 items they would be willing to part with that could be sold on eBay. They say, “There is a buyer for everything. You may think that no one wants it. You’re wrong. There is a buyer for it on eBay.” We have held several seminars here at the library, offered by the Post Office, on how to sell on eBay (and ship using the U.S. Mail) and the library has available for check-out several copies of the DVD handout showing just how to get started, how to write an effective add and how to make money. Craig’s list is similar, but there are no costs associated with an ad placed on Craig’s list. The Ebony article tells how to get started on Craig’s list. The website is If you are going to post multiple items or you think you may have to repost the item if it doesn’t sell, it is worth creating an account. It makes it easier to copy and paste from a previous ad and if you want to see more. You can post anonymously and still get the buyer information sent to you. You choose the city you are closest to, the category of what you have to sell, and then you post the title and price of the item(s) you have to sell. You can post an item for either 7 days or 30 days and you can repost the item if it doesn’t sell.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Chronic Disorganization and Adult ADHD

This week I should be able to write the de-clutter club blog more frequently; however, now that the fall schedule is in full swing, I am going to be posting information only two to three times a week, rather than daily.

I have been doing some more reading on the issue of organizational skills for people with ADHD. I have just gotten a new book from the library, Is It You, Me or Adult A.D.D.?: Stopping the Roller Coaster When Someone You Love has Attention Deficit Disorder by Gina Pera (San Francisco: 1201 Alarm Press, 2008). This is a very well written book on A.D.D. and ways that partners of people who have been diagnosed with Adult A.D.D. can cope with behaviors that can cause friction in the relationship. The author points out that the areas in which the person with ADHD has difficulty functioning are often areas of sensitivity between couples such as communication, finances and performance. Sufferers of ADHD have difficulty forming goals, planning their execution, carrying them out effectively, changing course and improvising in the face of obstacles and being successful in the absence of external direction or motivation.

I thought about these traits relative to the goals we have been working on and realized that these are all critical to master in order to de-clutter and organize your life and lacking these skills brings enlightenment as to why people who exhibit ADHD symptoms need to find alternate methods to accomplish what others seem to be able to do effortlessly. I know that several of us have expressed or implied that there is a disconnect between our ability to de-clutter and maintain the newly cleared spaces and our partner’s (spouse or family member) perception of the issue and expectations. The author cautions to not use ADHD as an excuse for inaction but letting those you live with understand that chronic disorganization may not be a matter of laziness or incompetence…it may be a symptom of an even greater issue. This particular book, gives suggestions as to how to let others, particularly those you love, help you devise your goals and carry them out to completion. Understanding that there is not a universal right way or a wholly wrong way to do things and to recognize the different methods employed to reach a goal that are helpful to each individual will make the way smoother and less stressful for both parties.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Having a clutter-free vacation

I got back to the library yesterday, fresh from my vacation, and spent the day de-cluttering my email inbox. Between getting ready to go and then getting back into the swing of things, you end up needing another vacation!

I used some of the information that I have read and shared with you in this blog about packing and unpacking for vacation and it was very successful. I started with the suitcase out much earlier than I would have in the past, and was able to toss things into it as I remembered I would need them. I had some business to attend to while in San Diego for a group for which I volunteer. We had our bi-annual convention last week and I needed to make sure that I brought along some critical items for the event. I had put them aside earlier in the summer but having the luggage allowed me to bring them all together sooner so that I wasn’t running around like crazy at the last minute.

The one thing that I did not get accomplished is to make a master list of all of the things that I need to pack for every vacation. This is the list that the experts suggest you leave in the suitcase for the next time you pack. Perhaps I can get a minute to compile that list while my memory is still fresh. I had read somewhere to pack clothing items in a similar color scheme so that you can mix and match different garments to make a variety of outfits. Of course, I always knew this, but this time I made a concerted effort to do this. When I looked at the airline scales on my return trip, even with paperwork that I picked up at the convention and souvenirs (and two pairs of shoes) that I purchased, my suitcase only weighed 32 pounds. These days, that is a critical thing to keep in mind since I have seen where airlines charge as much as $150 for bags over 50 pounds and will not accept (at any cost) bags over 72 pounds! You might as well throw away your oversized bags that are capable of holding an excess of 72 pounds unless you want to use them for moving or for storage. I am still not at the point of where I can bring clothes that I can throw away along the way, but there were times during the week that I could see the benefit of it!

As to unpacking, I followed the advice that the dirty clothes go straight into the laundry and the clean clothes, if there are any, go back in the drawer or closet. Technically, if you did a good job packing, there should be no clean clothes. If you have unworn clothes at the end of a trip, you have over-packed! I put all of the other things away and got the bag emptied in less time than I was away, although I noticed that my husband has not had the opportunity to empty his bag yet…he has a few more days.

I hope you are all working hard at whittling your piles of stuff. Our next club meeting is October 1st at 7:00 p.m. in the Quiet Study. Write to me about your successes and I could use some suggestions about the areas of concern you have and what you would like to read about or discuss at the meetings. My email is

Friday, September 4, 2009

Tips to last a lifetime

In the last two postings, I shared the three steps that Elizabeth Fenner developed to help make time for fun in your schedule (“More Free Time,” Real Simple, July 2008, pgs. 147-152). At the end of the article, Fenner gives some tips to help you rearrange your schedule and your life and to make sure that you stick to it. 1) Take a tiny bite out of the task you most often avoid, even if you spend just one minute. When you realize how much anxiety is wasted over nothing, you will find the energy you need to get the task out of the way entirely. 2) Fight procrastination. A recent Real Simple poll reveals that six out of 10 women confess that procrastination is a major reason why they don’t get their work done. Put up a Post-it note that asks, “Are you inventing things to do to avoid what is important?” 3) Break projects onto pieces. 40 to 90 minutes is the optimal amount of time to spend on any one task. After that you need to schedule a break. If you have scheduled start and stop times, you are less apt to allow one task fill your day. 4) Take rest seriously. Sleep deprivation (having less than 8 hours of sleep per night) can make you feel more scattered, causing you to think you don’t have enough time to get everything done. Getting the proper amount of sleep to feel rested makes you better able to focus and get your work done. 5) Don’t worry, be happy. Fenner cites some additional statistics from another Real Simple reader pole, this time on happiness and they found that 65% of women who say they are “very happy” make time for themselves while only 39% of the women who are “somewhat happy” give themselves the same benefit. She concludes that “The odds are good that the more time you make for yourself, the happier you will be.”

We missed many of our regulars at the De-clutter Club meeting last night. We reviewed individual successes, discussed Suzanne Neilson’s presentation from Thursday night and shared some ideas for where to get started and how to stay motivated. I am on vacation from September 6 through September 14. I will be back in the library and back to posting to the blog on September 15. Enjoy your Labor Day holiday and if anyone else feels like posting some information on the blog, be my guest. You are all authorized.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Next Steps

Step 2 proposed in Elizabeth Fenner’s article “More Free Time” (Real Simple, July 2008, pgs. 147-152) is: See what you can give up. The author admits that this is the hard part but she also says that “Devoting more time to what you love can help you get more done overall.” Neil Fiore, psychologist, exercise coach and author of The New Habit (Penguin Group, 2007) says, “Research shows that to be productive and creative, you must make time for recreation and relaxation. Trying to skimp on them hurts your motivation and often leads you to procrastinate.” Elizabeth Fenner adds, “being a little selfish will keep you from becoming resentful, burned out, or cranky.” She suggests you find ways to free up time by looking at your diary and determining 1) What you can delegate – household chores to your spouse or children or give junior staff at work assignments that will challenge them; 2) What can you outsource – housecleaning, lawn and garden care, laundry and cut back on some luxury expenses to be able to afford these services – your time is more valuable; 3) What can you do less well (at least sometimes) – when something you are working on is good enough, stop; 4) What distractions can I limit, if not eliminate - don't constantly checking your email while you are at work, give your PDA a rest when you are home and curtail your television watching only to the shows you love and then turning off the set. “You will get more psychological benefits from choosing other forms of fun.”

Step 3 of the program to free up more free time in your life for fun, according to Fenner, is to re-schedule your schedule. Decide what you want to spend your time doing and put time for those activities into your schedule as “non-negotiable” commitments. Then you can make up the rest of your schedule insuring that you have the time to do what you want. Just like the axiom that you will full up the space that you occupy with possessions, no matter how much space you have; you will fill up your time in the same way. Consider how much you can get done in a day when you want to leave work early or when you have to get out of the house for a doctor’s appointment. Contrary to some of the suggestions we have had about lists of tasks, Fenner challenges you to create your to-do list on a 3 x 5 index card, writing only the things you can accomplish in a day (3-5 is doable). Make sure that at least one item from your wish list is scheduled (in ink) during your week. Schedule a quick and brainless task first to get something out of the way which will start you off feeling accomplished and then put your most onerous task second. That way you will get it over with early. Challenge the validity of the list by trying to cross something off – sometimes that is all it takes! Gina Trapani from makes a weekly schedule and evaluates it on a weekly basis saving the time that it would take to do this daily.

If only this were all easy...I will share her concluding thoughts in tomorrow's posting. Hope to see you all tonight at our September Clutter Club meeting at the library at 7:00.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

More Free Time

I was looking through the issue of Real Simple that I brought to the last meeting and found an article on how to have “More Free Time.” It was written by Elizabeth Fenner and it starts on page 147 of the July 2008 issue. The article begins by considering the results of a recent Real Simple survey. The survey revealed that 93 percent of their readers who responded to the pole didn’t think they had time for fun. That is a very sad statistic and I will admit that I am part of that majority. The problem I think that most of us face is that in our fast-paced, got-to-get-ahead society, we feel too guilty to add fun to our day.

The article says that “with the help of a dozen psychologists, researchers, and coaches…they have come up with a three-part plan to re-seize the day.” They add that how you spend that time is entirely up to you. My recommendation is that if you use these strategies to add some free time to your schedule – make sure you use it for fun!

Step 1: Step back (for a second). Figure out why you want more free time. This is the same recommendation that we have read in all of the books by our “experts” – setting a goal makes it easier to accomplish the task. This is true for why you want more free time as it was for why you want to clear the clutter from your life. What is it you want to be doing that you are not doing now.

Make a wish list. This is a nice way to think about your list of life goals – as a wish list. I think a wish list is more apt to include things that you might think are unattainable than what would be included on just a list of goals – and it is possible to make all things come true with some effort and desire. I apologize for bringing up an overused cliché but “think outside the box.” The author suggests to “write down activities that you long to do more of – things that make you happy, relaxed or sane (or all three).” She suggests ranking the items on your list in the order of importance to you and then picking the top one or two to focus on first – the rest you can come back to once you have had success with the first few.

Then she suggests keeping a diary of how you are currently spending your time. You may have already done this earlier in our process; Suzanne Neilson, our time management coach, suggested this last week. I believe this is really a good idea and maybe you will be motivated to keep the records more by the idea that this will help you have time for fun rather than helping you have more time to de-clutter…no one can say that de-cluttering is fun! Real Simple has some time diaries for three of their readers posted online ( You can compare your day against theirs to see if you are over or under scheduled!

The article cites Randy Pausch, author of The Last Lecture (Hyperion, 2008), professor at Carnegie Mellon University and father of three ( Sadly for Pausch, it took a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer to bring him to the realization of “how little time we spend doing the things we love most.” In his crusade to urge others to live every moment, Pausch adds, “the key question to keep asking is, ‘Are you spending your time on the right things? Because time is all you have.’” We should be able to change our behavior without having a fatal disease become our wake-up call. I think I told you about the time management coach who asked the question, “If you knew you only had three months to live, what would you change in your life?” And then he added this sobering reminder, “What makes you think you have three months?”

I will continue tomorrow with Step 2.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Organizing versus De-cluttering

“Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens” - Carl Jung

One of the reasons that de-cluttering books show up in multiple locations in the library is that theoretically there are subtle differences between the content of each of the books. The books that are more specialized, such as a book for those with ADD or one that addresses the home and the office, will find their way to more specialized numbers in the Dewey Decimal System like heatlh and business respectively. This made me wonder if there really was a difference in the approach of these various resources or were they all separated just by the catchy title that the author and their agent applied to the manuscript. I got another book by Julie Morgenstern through Interlibrary Loan and she had made some observations that clearly define for her some of the differences.

On page 12 of Julie Morgenstern’s Book SHED Your Stuff, Change Your Life (Simon and Schuster, 2008), the author starts a section titled “SHED is Not a De-cluttering Crusade.” She says, “…organizing is not about getting rid of things. Organizing is about identifying what’s important to you and giving yourself access to it.” Ms. Morgenstern’s SHED is a mnemonic device she uses to represent her four step process: 1) Separate the treasures 2) Heave the trash 3) Embrace your identity and 4) Drive yourself forward. She claims that all of the well-meaning people that counsel you to be tough and just rid yourself of your accumulation of “junk” don’t take into account the emotional attachment you may have to these objects and do not give you a reason to part with them permanently. She claims that her SHED principle will “help you avoid the most common pitfalls of de-cluttering: 1) By ensuring you are doing it for the right reason – ‘to get unstuck’ rather than to get organized, 2) By teaching you what you do before and after getting rid of things to make sure your effort lasts and 3) By changing your view of clutter from ‘just junk’ to what I call a Point of Entry – an opportunity for real transformation.”

She has a free online tool (on her website at where you can determine your SHED Profile.

This is Ms. Morgenstern’s philosophy, although her book on organizing shows up in 648 with the other de-cluttering books, not in 640 with the other books on organizing. So much for my theory…

Friday, August 28, 2009

Professional Organizer's Presentation

An audience of about 30 attended the presentation on Time and Paper Management given by Suzanne Neilson, professional organizer. Thank you to those who attended; I hope that her advice will be helpful. I will try to summarize what she said for the benefit of those who were unable to attend.

The topic of time management was covered first and Suzanne said that she was going to present just generalizations – there are as many different ways of doing something as there are different people in the world and you need to discover, on your own or with the help of a professional organizer, what works best for you. To get started, it is important to determine how you are currently spending your time. Like when you start on a diet, Suzanne recommends carrying a little notebook and keeping a diary listing everything you do in a typical day and how long you spend at each task. Every task that takes longer than 5 minutes should be noted. This will help you discover what you spend your time doing.

The next step is to set some goals – both short term and long range – so that you can take control of how you spend your time, making sure that you are doing what you want in life. You need to make your long-range goals as specific as possible, listing the steps that will be necessary to accomplish each goal and the estimated time it will take to complete each step. For short term goals, you should list the things that are the biggest issues you face every day. Once you have the lists, you need to prioritize the goals (using A, B, C or numbers) determined by considering what task is bothering you the most or causing you the most stress.

Suzanne recommends that once a draft of your goals is completed that you rewrite the list in the proper order. I would add here that the idea I mentioned in yesterday’s posting of making a to-do list with sticky notes, would make this prioritization easy and would save you having to rewrite the list. I will add the time that I estimate that the task will take to my notes, and add a column to my master folder marked “today” where I will line-up the notes for the tasks I want to accomplish that day.

Suzanne warned about having too many items on the list or having too broad a list – no more than 10-20 items. I would say that the size of the list is up to each user. She says the best way to control your time each day is to use this list of goals to create a daily to-do list and follow it. Each task should be assigned a start and stop time and the total time allotments should not exceed the amount of available time you have in the day. Do not make each task or the list so long that you work until you get exhausted. Be realistic and allow for rest periods and time at the end of the day (at least 15-30 minutes) to wrap-up, consider what you got done and to start to plan the next day.

She says that to avoid procrastination, start the list at the first task and work on it until it is done (or until you get enough of it done to be able to move it further down the list.) Completing a task alleviates a lot of stress. At the end of the day, the things that did not get done should be put at the top of the list for the next day. Having a start and a stop time is critical and should be monitored with the use of a kitchen-type timer. This kind of scheduling will keep you from getting lost in your email or immersed in a task so long that you lose track of time.

Be disciplined; avoid interruptions. Don’t plan to check your email more than 3 times a day; disable the inbox alert feature. Turn off your phone; close the door. If you are frequently interrupted by family members, announce that you need a few hours of uninterrupted time so “get your questions asked now” because after this, you will not be available for your pre-set amount of time. Ask your spouse or partner to assist you in eliminating the interruptions. Be disciplined also in avoiding distractions. Distractions are interruptions that are caused by your own inattention. Stay on task and get the job done.

Suzanne cautions about any system or method you try; if it doesn’t work for you after a few days (and you will know) throw that idea away and try something else. Don’t keep laboring under a system that you will never assimilate.

The next topic Suzanne addressed is paper management and her prime recommendation about managing the paper in your life is to reduce the volume of paper that enters your life in the first place. To get off direct mail lists, contact Mail Preference Service, Department 8067068, Direct Marketing Association, P.O. Box 282, Carmel, NY 10512. Give them your name and address, tell them that you don’t want any more junk mail and sign the letter. She has also used the postage paid envelopes that are often included with a solicitation to send the material back with the message, “Please remove me from your mailing list.” This will generally stop the mailings, since they don’t want to have to pay for returns. The website is where you can request to stop delivery of particular catalogs or you can call the 800 numbers of the retailers themselves and ask to be removed from their mailing list. To end credit card offers, call 1-888-5OPTOUT (567-8688) or visit their website at Consider canceling (or not renewing) magazines that you don’t read regularly and every time a new magazine arrives, you should discard the oldest one.

Since the daily mail is where the majority of the paper enters your home, she recommended setting up a recycle bin (or shredder) in the garage or near the front door where you can deal with the junk mail before it enters your home. Immediately throw away, unopened, promotions, sales brochures, fliers, catalogs that you don’t look at, etc. Tear up or shred all credit card offers. This will probably reduce the quantity of the pile of mail by half. After entering the house (and putting your keys in the spot you have designated for keys) deal with the remainder of the mail before doing anything else; make it a habit to spend 15 minutes putting this information where it belongs. As Marcia Ramsland said in her book Simplify Your Space (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007) “Remember, one pile sitting out is the potential beginning of a complicated life. Keep your life simple, and put the pile away.” Sort items into folders or baskets designated for a specific purpose. Pay bills immediately or open them and file them in order of the date they are due. You should put bill paying in your schedule and plan to pay bills every two weeks or set up automatic bill paying online for your routine bills like water, trash, cable, etc. Have a folder for items you need to act on (such as invitations and personal correspondence) and one for items you are considering (such as promotional offers). Have two separate containers (baskets, racks, trays) to sort magazines and catalogs. These should be kept where they can be read or browsed at your leisure or in time you have designated for the task.

Suzanne has a “locations list” where she records the designated location for where items are kept and says that the key is to store all like items together. Have a fire-proof box where all of the important documents are kept – will, birth certificate, marriage license, social security card, etc. Tax records need to be kept for seven years, and receipts for all home improvements (not maintenance) need to be kept until the sale of the house. If you don’t deduct the money paid for certain bills, then throw them away after verifying the amounts and paying the balance. Retirement information and a record of your stock purchases need to be kept in order to know the cost basis when you go to sell. There is no need to keep the ATM receipts after they have been checked against your bank statement.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Making Strides Against Clutter

Don’t forget that we have a guest speaker this evening to talk to us about Time and Paper Management. The program is free (thanks to the Friends of the Library) and starts at 7:00 in the Meeting Room. I hope to see you all there.

I have just found a good quote in the book Simplify Your Space by Marcia Ramsland (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007). It is a Finnish proverb that says, “Happiness is a place between too little and too much.” How do you react to that? Does that ring true to you? It is interesting that every book about de-cluttering tells us we have too much and I guess if we don’t have a place to put everything away, then we have too much. So I guess our goal is to reduce ourselves and our lives to that place between too much and too little and strive to stay right there. A report on the Today Show this morning from an editor of Prevention Magazine said that having a positive attitude and leading as stress-free a life as possible could give us as much as another 17 years of quality life! There’s an incentive!

I have actually made some headway, in little increments, this summer. Yesterday I employed the trick of taking photographs of things I want to remember and keep the photograph, rather than the object. I have for years kept some t-shirts that I have picked-up along the way from vacations, conferences, fairs and the like. They are all practically brand new because the fact of the matter is, I don’t wear t-shirts with writing on them. I find I really don’t like being a billboard. So, I laid each one out on the bed and took a digital picture of each one, front, and back if needed. I have put them all (well, almost all) of them either in my pile of clothes to give away to a good cause or in the drawer that we keep for gifts we have bought for others. I have a few nieces and nephews that wear t-shirts that may appreciate a few of them. One of my personal favorites is a black shirt with the sentiment, “What if the hokey-pokey is really what it’s all about?” That one is very hard to part with, but I can use the sentiment without having the t-shirt take up room in storage. I have a nephew that I am sure will appreciate the sentiment! These t-shirts have taken up over half of a large Rubbermaid tub that I use for swapping out-of-season clothes. I now have room to get another few sweaters put away in the summer or more of my summer clothes once the weather turns cold.

I also started a “system” that was recommended in one of the books on organizing for the chronically cluttered. It suggested that instead of making lists upon lists of things to do, make a to-do list out of sticky notes that can be added to, removed and rearranged. They recommended laying these notes out in the inside of a file folder, but I have a friend who also does this successfully in her calendar. I am really working hard on avoiding little scraps of paper everywhere. At work, I have a steno book always handy where I record all of the phone calls I get, including the date, the phone number and any pertinent information I think I may need. In order to get my work done, I have been trying to let my calls go to voicemail so I don’t get distracted from the task at hand. I have the steno book ready when I retrieve my messages so that all of the information is available should I need to refer to it in the future.

These little tasks are not much, but they feel like a big hurdle to me! I am at least starting to do something more than gather resources! See you all either tonight or next week for our September meeting.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Organizing Expert's Advice

"Remember that fear always lurks behind perfectionism. Confronting your fears and allowing yourself the right to be human can, paradoxically, make you a far happier and more productive person."

-- David M. Burns

The above quote was emailed to me over the weekend from a daily quotation site I subscribe to. “Allowing yourself the right to be human” is a good lesson when applied to de-cluttering as well. No one is perfect, so your mastery over clutter will never be perfect. Don’t put off the task because you have feelings of having failed to achieve perfection in the past or over the fear that you won’t ever have the perfect, clutter-free house!

Since we have a program this Thursday evening, August 27, at 7:00 on "Time and Paper Management for the Chronically Clutter Challenged," I thought I would share some of the information that Suzanne Neilson, our presenter, has written for the local papers. One article that she wrote for U.S. 1 brings up the issue I discussed in my last posting, the concept of being chronically cluttered. She suggests that there are certain personalities that live chronically cluttered lives such as creative, concept oriented individuals. She identifies the personality type of the individuals that become professional organizers like herself as being detailed types “who can see through the physical and mental clutter.” These differences most likely keep her calendar full.

She recommends, like many other clutter-control professionals, breaking the task down into manageable time allotments (15 minutes at a time using a timer). She says about de-cluttering for just 15 minute increments, “you can stand it for 15 minutes.” I like that way of looking at it. Just think how often you wait in line for 15 minutes when you are in a hurry, or wait for your food to be served in a restaurant for 15 minutes when you are hungry. You can stand anything for just 15 minutes. And then you can probably stand another 15 minutes after that!! These allotments of time, applied on a regular basis, will help you achieve your goal.

She has some very basic principles that come up in many of her articles – “keep like items together in a way that makes most sense to you” and be ruthless in what you throw away. The first principle is easier if you live alone; deciding how things should be organized based on your own logic. If you live with others, the sorting you do to make sense to you may have to be explained to anyone in your household who does not think like you. If not, you may spend a lot of time moving things back to where you think they should go! This idea of deciding for yourself what makes the most sense it very sound advice. You can try very hard to make yourself conform to one of the systems we have discussed from the many books on the subject, but if it doesn’t make sense to you, you will never be able to stick to it. Give there decisions some thought, but don’t labor over it. Suzanne recommends on your first pass through the piles of clutter, just sort items into labeled piles of like objects and ruthlessly throw away the stuff you no longer need. If you are indecisive, you can put the items you think you might “need some day” together in a box dated six months in advance. Put that date on your calendar and when the date comes up, throw the box away unopened. She points out, “if you haven’t missed anything yet, chances are you never will. And if you do miss one thing, so be it. Life will go on without it.”

After you have done the sorting, you can see what piles you have created and it should be easier to decide where these things should reside permanently. Things should be stored closest to where they are used or needed and in a manner that will be easy to maintain in the long run. Then you need to make it a habit to continually put these items in their designated locations. In an article Suzanne wrote for The Princeton Packet where she talks about ways to avoid spending time searching for things like keys or glasses, she stresses that once you decided where things are to be stored, “self-discipline and training are required, as you actually have to think about this every time and allow yourself no choice other than to set [the items] in their spot first and foremost. Follow that plan and right off the bat you will save yourself a great deal of time and frustration throughout your days.”

Thursday, August 20, 2009

More Resources!

I can’t believe it…I found another cache of de-cluttering/organizing books in another location in the library. There is an assortment of books in the very beginning of the 640s, which is considered, in the antiquated Dewey Decimal Classification System, the Home Economics subdivision of the Technology section (600s). The cookbooks are also in the 640s. The books at the beginning of the section are general books on household management like Hints from Heloise and there I found a newer book called It’s All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff by Peter Walsh (Free Press, 2007), a professional organizer from TLC’s hit series Clean Sweep. There was also the book Simply Organized: How to Simplify Your Complicated Life by Connie Cox and Cris Evatt (Perigee Books, 1986) and the ubiquitous Organizing for Dummies by Eileen Roth, “Renowned Organizing Consultant," (IDG Books Worldwide, 2001). I can’t believe that I didn’t see these books before. There was also another book by Donna Smallin, Organizing Plain and Simple (Storey Books, 2002). And, I found an organizing book in 650, which is the beginning of the Management section. This one is called Conquering Chronic Disorganization by Judith Kohlberg (Squall Press, 2006). This book led me to another class of de-clutter books that are directed at specific groups and the ones that interested me most are the organization books that have been written specifically to help adults with Attention Deficit Disorder! I put several of these books on hold since we do not own any copies here in South Brunswick. When they come in, I will let you know if ADD sufferers are any more prone to clutter and any different in terms of a cure! Anyone else who is has ADD, like I do, might have an excuse, but the end goal is still to get rid of the junk, permanently.

In Judith Kohlberg’s book, she considers the difference between disorganization and chronic disorganization. The dictionary definition of chronic is persistent, constant and enduring. On page 7, Kohlberg says, “Chronic disorganization is disorganization that has a long history.” She recognizes that for some people, no matter how many times they get organized, they will soon fall back into their old patterns. She gives a short checklist to determine if you are chronically disorganized. On page 9, she offers the following three questions: “1. Has getting organized been a challenge most of your adult life? 2. Does being disorganized negatively affect the quality of your life in some way every day? 3. Have you been unable to sustain organization?”

According to all of the other books we have read on the subject, the issue raised in the second question is always given as a reason to make de-cluttering a priority. I suppose the difference here might be the adding of being negatively affected EVERY DAY. Her conclusion to her observations about people who are chronically disorganized is that these are people who think in non-conventional ways and therefore have difficulty conforming to conventional organization methods. According to Kohlberg, her little book offers ways to organize for non-conventional thinkers. I have not had a chance to read through this yet, but it does seem to be the first book I have seen that offers a different approach than all of the other books, so I will let you know.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Unpacking Challenges

Bill Adler, author of Outwitting Clutter (Lyons Press, 2002) gives some advice that is needed at the end of your vacation when you come home and are faced with the task of unpacking. I have a friend who says she can always tell whether her husband enjoyed the trip or not by the speed at which his luggage is unpacked – the longer the time it takes to dismantle the travel experience and unpack, the more he enjoyed the trip. After tedious business trips, he is unpacked in a flash!

Bill Adler calls the lack of inertia to unpack, “Post-Traumatic Travel Stress Syndrome…otherwise known as laziness.” He is blunt about our reasons for non-action! He also notices, however, that the task seems to be more daunting by the fact that the contents of your suitcase is comprised of a mix of items that get disbursed to many locations in your house, making it seem like you had to walk home from your destination by the time you get everything back in its proper place. He recommends doing this task with as little effort as possible by breaking down the contents into manageable units to be handled in a predetermined order over a period of days. He suggests “setting yourself and easy-to-follow, even leisurely schedule of what unpacking you will do on which day of the week…” However, he cautions to not let your unpacking take longer than the vacation itself! He suggests putting away clean clothes first. Next do the dirty laundry. Notice that he doesn’t say, “put the dirty laundry in the hamper.” Do it right away and then it will be done! Next he suggests taking care of your film followed by souvenirs. Since a lot of people are taking digital photos these days, getting film in to be developed is not so important, but if you do still take vacation photos with a film camera, get the photos off to be developed right away, (or download your digital images) so that you can label them and add them to your photo storage system while you still remember the names of the places and the dates of the visit. You will want to share your photos with friends while the vacation is still fresh in your mind. As for dealing with the souvenirs, get the ones that you bought for friends given out while your friend still remembers or cares that you went away and get your personal souvenirs to their final destination, whether it is set out on a display shelf or hung on the wall. Don’t buy souvenirs if they are not usable objects that can be put immediately into service or if you don’t have the place in your house to put them out for display. There is no point buying something that will just go into a drawer and become part of your next de-cluttering garage sale!

But Bill Adler gives the best piece of advice about making the unpacking process easier: Don’t pack a lot of stuff in the first place! “Unpacking is a lot faster and easier when all you have to put away is the barest of essentials.” Disposable items like plastic rain ponchos can be discarded when you are done with them. If something is ruined during the trip, throw it out and don’t carry it home. When I was in Alaska last year, I found that a particular pair of shoes that I brought for hiking hurt my feet so badly that I knew I would never wear them again. I took them to a clothing drop and left them for someone in Alaska to make use of. Sometimes you can even leave them at the hotel and someone on the staff can find a home for them. This is similar to what was suggested in one of our clutter club meetings by the member who said she packed clothing (t-shirts and even underwear) that she was ready to get rid of and then she threw the items away at the end of every day, lightening her load along the way.

What ever you do, don’t spoil your wonderful vacation memories by sweating the unpacking and don’t jeopardize the de-cluttering that you have accomplished by loading yourself down with new stuff.

Don’t forget that we have Suzanne Nielson, a local professional organizer, coming to talk to us about time and paper management. Her presentation is next Thursday evening, August 27, 2009 at 7:00 p.m. in the library meeting room. I hope to see you all there.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Vacation Planning

Summer is a tough time to get motivated to do large scale projects. Spring is when everyone thinks about cleaning; summer is when everyone thinks about vacations and relaxing. However, if you are planning a vacation, you can do a few things for yourself that will make you feel as though you accomplished some organizing in the process. Do you make a list of the things that you don’t want to forget when you are packing to go away? Many clutter control experts suggest that you do that once and reuse the same list every time you go away; keeping a copy of the master list right in your suitcase. I think this sounds like a great idea. Mostly, you need the same things when you leave home, whether for the weekend or an extended trip; you just need to adjust the quantity depending on how long you are going to be gone. You can keep the list generic and not specify specific clothes, shoes or outerwear, or you can have a blank form with places to fill in the specifics if you need them. You could also add some sticky notes for particular items you may need only for the current excursion or you can make a second shorter list of items over and above the master list. No matter how you plan to do the list, don’t fail to make a plan. The best way to spoil your vacation is to lug too much baggage around with you or to forget something important only to find that you can’t replace it where you are traveling. And, there are some things that you don’t want to buy twice because the extra item becomes clutter when you return home. Start planning early and carry a notebook or sticky note pad around for a week or so before you leave on which you can record any item that you remember that you want to pack.

Also, I think it is a good idea to keep a kit of toiletries and essentials in a travel kit and keep that somewhere ready to grab and go. You can fill it with the extra soaps, small bottles of shampoo and a spare toothbrush that you found when you cleaned up and de-cluttered the bathroom! Although some experts suggest leaving this kit in your luggage with your master packing list, I don’t think that is a good idea if it contains any liquids that my leak out while the suitcase is in storage, particularly if you store your luggage in a hot attic or a damp basement. You also need to remember as you unpack to refill any products that you used up while away or remember to check quantities before it gets packed for the next trip. If you are traveling with a companion, share the burden and only bring one of basic items such as a hairdryer or bottle of shampoo, or better yet, find out if the place you are going has hairdryers and basic toiletries and use them. Most hotels these days have hairdryers in each room or you can get one from the front desk to use while you are there. But whatever you do, don’t bring the extra bottles home unless you are very good about using them up at home, need them for the guest room or plan on giving them to a shelter or other needy cause. You can take one small bottle of shampoo you like to use in your toiletry kit for the next trip, but you probably don’t need any more shampoo and you certainly don’t want to drag it around for the rest of your trip.

Find out the weather forecast at your destination and pack only what you need. Pack only things that go with everything else in your suitcase. In other words, coordinate the items of clothing and shoes you pack so that you can make up several outfits using individual pieces or layer them if necessary for more warmth. Plan to layer rather than pack bulky sweaters or jeans. If you are going someplace cold, consider a pair of lightweight thermal underwear so that you don’t have to pack your heaviest articles of clothing. If you are going to be away for a while, plan to find a laundry facility mid-way through the trip so that you only have to pack half as many clothes. If you plan to do some laundry, pack a small quantity of detergent and a dryer sheet so that you don’t have to purchase these items – laundromats often over charge for the single pack of detergent if they have them at all.

One of the books I have read suggests bringing a spare cotton pillowcase in your luggage to use for dirty clothes and recommends putting a dryer sheet in that pillowcase to keep your dirty laundry from stinking up your suitcase until you get home or find a washer and dryer.

I always pack some kind of collapsible tote bag or carry-on in which to bring home anything I may acquire on my vacation that doesn’t slip easily into my suitcase.. I have found some compact ones at places like Brookstone or the Container Store, but I try not to rely on using them and adding to my burden. And don’t get a really big spare bag, because you will be tempted to buy too much which will add to your clutter. Think about deciding on a particular kind of souvenir before you go. Decide an item that is lightweight, useable and easily carried that you can always bring home from each vacation (like socks, dish towels or pencils) or something that is useful and representative of the destination would be best and then it becomes an adventure shopping for and finding just the right item rather than bringing home a bunch of clutter. If you feel you must bring something for your friends or family, consider something edible. Food items can usually be bought at the airport as you head home, or even the airport at home, so that you can avoid loading down your luggage with souvenirs as you travel. I have a friend who has been known to purchase very heavy items like lava rock bowls or solid wood carvings. These make lovely, unique souvenirs (unique because most people are smart enough not to purchase rocks while traveling) but heavy items not only make running for a train or plane more cumbersome, they might end up damaging something else in your bags.

Don’t pick up other travel literature along the way, like guidebooks, event calendars, maps and brochures unless you think you will revisit that destination soon or add the item to a scrapbook. If you are planning a scrapbook or travel journal, be selective about what you bring home by tearing out useful pages or photos and throwing the rest away. You may be able to leave a few brochures or maps behind in a hotel drawer for the next occupant of the room. Most of the information you will need about places to visit can be found online and the likelihood that a brochure will still be current by the time you need it precludes the need to collect it and save it. By all means, jot down the name of the location and the website if they have one for future reference.

Bring an assortment of zip lock storage bags to hold miscellaneous items in your suitcase. Snack bags can be used for cotton balls, Q-Tips, jewelry, batteries, sewing kit, medicines, etc. and the larger ones come in handy if you have a wet bathing suit or some handwash that is not quite dry by morning. You can even use plastic bags to organize smaller items in the suitcase like socks, underwear or t-shirts. A friend of mine makes small bags of sets of jewelry (rings, earrings, bracelets and/or necklaces) and packs them into the suitcase right next to the appropriate outfit, but an easier method would be to just bring (or wear) some comfortable “goes-with-everything” costume jewelry that you won’t mind if it gets lost or stolen.

You should travel with a list of important numbers for things like credit cards (and the phone number to call in case of loss); passports; traveler’s checks and prescriptions. This list should be kept somewhere not too obvious and could perhaps be carried by more than one traveler in your party. Lori Baird, ed., Cut the Clutter and Stow the Stuff (Yankee Publishing, Inc., 2002) suggests printing all important numbers out in a small clear font from the computer and taping the list inside a plastic (non-zip lock) sandwich bag under one of the insoles in your shoe. This seems a bit overkill, but I have been robbed on vacation so whatever precautions you feel are necessary will make you enjoy your vacation more in the long run.

Bill Adler, author of Outwitting Clutter (Lyons Press, 2002) has some suggestions about unpacking that I will share tomorrow.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


I don’t know if you all keep a calendar or not, but I could not live without one. Every year, at about this time I start my search for next year’s calendar, after all, a good calendar can help keep you organized, store important data and keep you on time for all meetings. Properly used you can keep track of your bills and expenses, you can maintain an ongoing to-do list, you can keep a shopping list at hand for small and large items and you will never miss acknowledging another birthday or anniversary. I have a rule that I have only one calendar where I keep my appointments. If you have more than one calendar, you are bound to miss meetings and you will drive yourself crazy trying to figure out on which calendar you entered a date or a phone number. Because I keep only one personal calendar, it needs to be of a convenient size that can fit in my purse or bag without adding too much weight or bulk. This is not to say that I don’t have wall calendars for reference by my computers, and I do have a household calendar by the door to the garage where I enter the trash and recycle days and record when the lawn is cut and so forth – dates that I don’t need to have cluttering up my personal calendar. I also keep a small calendar in the bathroom that indicates when I should throw away my disposable contact lenses and start a new pair. I certainly wouldn’t want to have to carry my personal calendar into the bathroom!

There are several key criteria I have for the calendar selection process. As I have said for my personal calendar, it needs to be of a size that makes it convenient to carry. That is not to say that I could survive with the little pocket sized calendar that Hallmark gives out every year but I have seen people do this. They have to write really small! I use my calendar as a filing system for all kinds of miscellaneous data so it needs to have about a post-it sized place for every day of the week and preferably a place where just notes can be written. I also like to have reference calendars on every page showing as many of the months of the year as possible, both past, current and future and larger reference calendars at the back that show the past current and future years. I think I have tried every calendar system known to man: Day-timer® (a super organized but pricy system that has file boxes, insert pages and a nice leather refillable cover); various kinds of picture diaries from museums and places I have traveled; all kinds of daily, weekly and monthly variations of the At-a-Glance variety and I even used a PDA for several years, but all have been a disappointment in the end.

The systems like Day-Timers® (Filofax®, Steven Covey, Day Runner, etc.) are amazing systems for organizing your life. There are diaries for dates, addresses, expenses, ideas, etc, (there is even a separate booklet in which you can keep a running to-do list) all stored in a lovely plastic file box with folders for receipts and papers, but you have to be very organized to take advantage of these tools. I used the junior size thinner wallet which required a separate little diary for each month and I invariably forgot to change the booklets and never got into the habit of using the organizing options for expenses and other data. The little plastic boxes are so nice and useful looking (they even come with a little book of instructions on how to use the system), that I can’t bear to throw the material away, even though, I hate to admit, it has been 20+ years since I used it. Every so often I think that maybe I will start up with it again, but when it got right down to making the purchase, either the cost or the amount of decisions you need to make about format and content would stop me. I bought a picture diary with beautiful photos of Alaska on our cruise last year to use for 2009, but did not end up using it because the amount of space allocated to each date was too small.

The PDA I had was one of the first versions of Palm Pilot. It worked for several years for many reasons: I had games to play while I waited for an appointment and it could hold an incredible amount of data. I loved the fact that you could enter an address and include driving directions and other information attached to that record. Everything was pretty much in one place. But the overall view of an entire month of appointments frustrated me because everything you have entered on the day screen shows up as a dot on the monthly calendar with no way to be able to distinguish or select one dot over another. If you want to see when you made your next dentist appointment, you normally would go to the month view but all you saw were little dots on the calendar; the only way to call up that appointment was to page through every day until you came to it. There were probably ways to put those appointments in as a particular category and then call up all of the dates in that category, but that was way to fussy for me when I was standing in the dentist office writing down the date. I am sure that the newer Blackberries have fixed many of those problems and if I had used my PDA better in conjunction with an electronic calendar on my desktop computer, I may have been able to keep it going, but the “Graffiti” writing system you used to enter data and the need to keep it charged were ultimately the end of my days with the Palm.

This past year, I used a freebie that the director got and passed on to me. It has the library’s name printed on the cover but that is about all it has going for it. It is a straight unadorned, no-frills monthly calendar. I have survived the year but just barely. It has no tabs to get you to the current month (or any month) so I clip the top right corner at the end of every month to make it easy to at least turn to the current month. (That is a little trick I have carried over from Day Timers, where the corner is perforated to make it easy to remove.) It has decent enough boxes to write in (I have spilled over less than 10 times this year) and there are usually boxes at the beginning and end of the month in which I can write notes. The biggest problem with this calendar is its size. The pages are fine, but there aren’t enough of them! It is so thin that it could (and does) easily slip into a file folder or a stack of papers. I have spent a considerable amount of time searching for it in the canvas bag I use as a briefcase or on my desktop and I have frequently left work without it because it was hiding and not easily noticed. I have tried to make this one more useful by using a system I saw a friend of mine use very successfully. She uses post-it notes on the page for the current month and lists all of the things she .

With every failure, I keep coming back to the one calendar that works for me, the “QuickNotes® Weekly/Monthly Medium sized Self-management System” from the At-a-Glance company. It has everything I need and I sometimes wonder why I don’t end up with one every year. Each page is divided into fourths, one equal sized section for every day plus a QuickNotes® box, in yellow, where you can record data or make a note of something. It has tabbed pages for each month and on that page is a full page calendar where you can see the whole month. At the top of the left hand page is a small calendar of the current month, with the current week highlighted in red. On the facing page are calendars of the previous month and the following month. It is made from some recycled materials, it is spiral bound and this year, it includes a storage pocket! The medium size measures 4 7/8” x 8”. Perfect. And my new 2010 QuickNotes® Weekly/Monthly Medium sized Self-management System is already tucked into my purse and already filling with dates.

My love (or hatred) of calendars is more complicated by the fact that I keep the main meeting room and event calendar for the library. For the work calendar, I have another set of criteria that are not so easily solved. I have not found that perfect calendar to use at work and I probably spend more time in that calendar that I do in my own. The biggest problem I face every year is that business type calendars don’t contain any room for a Sunday. Hello! People do have dates on Sundays and in the case of the library, we are open every Sunday and have programs that need to be scheduled. I have four meeting rooms that I schedule plus the showcases and the display panels, so I need a full day, every day, so that I can list simultaneous programs on the same day and keep track of ongoing activities like the displays. A daily calendar might be an option, but the activities of the week and the month and how it works in terms of staffing, shared spaces, etc, is critical, so a daily calendar is really too much. Another option that would be great would be an appointment calendar for a multi-staffed medical or legal office but they never have a Sunday! I found one calendar last year that worked fairly well; it had equal spaces (although smaller) for Saturday and Sunday, but those are short days, so it has worked pretty well. It has tabs and a monthly two-page planning calendar (at the tab) that I can use to schedule the showcases and display panels. It has a few nagging little short comings. The reference calendars on the weekly page are for the previous month and the following month, but not the current month and the reference calendar for the years is at the front of the book. When I need to see the month, I have to remove that paper clip I keep on the pages that have past and turn all the way back to the beginning. Doesn’t it seem logical that you would put the next year’s calendar, which is the one you refer to more that the past, at the end of the book? But the biggest shortcoming by far is that it doesn’t seem to be available for 2010. I have checked online and in the stores and did not find it and had to settle for a similar one that has a tiny little corner for Sundays. Oh well, we will get by!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Organizing Systems

Being a librarian, books are of interest to me, even though they can add to the clutter if you are not careful. In the list I gave you Wednesday about the seven types of people and their problems with getting organized, I am most like the first type, someone who collects organization tools, references and ideas but never gets around to implementing them! I don’t need any more clutter control books, but I was curious just how many of them there might be out there. I did a search in on “clutter control” and 840 books came up for that subject including 7 e-books for their new Kindle! A search on “organizing” came up with 272,264 hits! Yikes! I could be in much worse shape!

Over the years I have collected a large variety of organizing systems that I have started to use but for one reason or another, I have abandoned in favor of something else. Finding just the right system is as expensive and frustrating as trying to find the best book on clutter control (even thought they are pretty much all the same). You should be careful when you evaluate a system you have bought into; make sure you are not being too much of a perfectionist and see if there isn’t some way you can modify the system you have (or your behavior) to make it work better. Or, if you are waiting to organize some collection or pile of stuff, don’t hold back until you have the perfect system. If you can make do with something you already own, you will at least get the clutter under control and then you can take your time considering the organization problem and find, or devise, the system that will work for you.

There is a series of four free (somewhat amateurish) videos on another clutter control website that I found called The Organized Times ( that describes a way to sort recipes. In the video, Flo Feldman describes using a shoebox, with self-labeled manila folders, (helped to stay upright by using the tissue paper that comes in the shoe box) as an organizing system. Folders and shoe boxes are probably items that you may already own and setting up this simple filing system will allow you to at least sort and categorize a collection of papers until you decide if something more formal will be needed. You may decide in the end to just throw all of the information away!

I have not taken my own advice over the years, mostly because I love stationery stores, containers and all things made of paper but also I am a perfectionist (number 7 on the list)! I have purchased many organizing systems that run the gamut from calendar organizers to file systems to storage system for sorting notes, recipes, etc. to address books and birthday calendars. But I have found the perfect system for only a few of the many clutter categories that need organizing in my house. This will sound crazy, but I have a good system for organizing greeting cards, craft supplies (particularly sequins and confetti), powdered sauce mixes in the kitchen and writing implements. (Not many!) The only problem I have with these systems is that none of them are large enough and they are not easily expanded.

For greeting cards, I have two file boxes with dividers into which I put cards I like as I find them and then go “shopping” in the appropriate file box when I need a card. I have two boxes because I love cards so much! One box is for birthdays and anniversaries. It has dividers for each month on which I have written the names and the dates that I need to remember for each month and some dividers for the general categories of birthday, child’s birthday and anniversary. When I find a card for a specific person, for a specific event, it goes in behind the divider for the month that I will need to send it. With this system I can buy cards any time of the year when I see just the right one for a particular person. Once a month I look at the divider and send the card if I have one or pick one from the general folders in the back. (Don’t ask me, or my friends and family, if I manage to do this every month.) The other box has other categories that make sense to me. There are standard ones for New House, Wedding, Shower and Sympathy, but there are also folders for cards from me to my husband and visa versa, postcards, blank notes and my favorite category – “Girl Power.” That is were those great cards go that have humor that women in particular will appreciate! Sometimes the cards stay in the box so long the envelopes get yellow. This either means that I no longer like the card and I throw it away (not often the case) or that I like the card too much to send and I have to move it to another spot where I keep cards that I really like - either blank, or those that have been sent to me. I did say that I love cards, didn’t I? The silly thing is that I have a room full of rubber stamps and other paper crafting supplies with which I am supposed to be making my own greeting cards! I need to do this on a regular basis and fill the sections in the box by topic because I never have the time to make a card when a significant date approaches.

Those craft supplies I mentioned are all stored in clear plastic containers that are labeled as to the contents. Like supplies are stored together which makes them easy to locate. I have some strange categories that only I understand like things that erase, things that stick or glue, small parts, etc. We have a room set aside in the house that we use as an art studio. There are built-in cabinets, with doors, in that room to hold all of the plastic containers. This room has been very slow to get set up since our move to a new house several years ago. My confetti and sequins are stored in a spice rack (with matching bottles) that I abandoned years ago when I decided I didn’t like having to transfer the spices from their original containers. The size of the containers were never equal which meant I had to save the remainder of the spice to refill the uniform ones that sat out for view. I now only need to store the container that the spice comes in and I have a pull out shelf cabinet in the kitchen for that specific purpose. The old spice rack comes in handy to sort those little decorative confetti (that I often shake into greeting cards) and sequins.

My powdered mix envelopes (like Knorr and Campbells) are sorted in the pantry in a small upright letter sorter, the kind you get in the stationery store. This keeps them upright where I can see what I have and easily grab one without having to sift through a pile or a drawer. You will be happy to know that I stop short of alphabetizing them!

As to writing implements, because my husband and I are both artists, we like to have the right pen or pencil for each task. I have found a use for all of the spare mugs I have gotten over the years that I don’t really want to use when someone comes to visit. I have a cluster of them on the countertop in the studio, adjacent to my computer, on the desk top and even on a shelf in the kitchen. There are usually at least two to separate the pencils from the pens and I also include a letter opener and a pair of scissors at each location. Mugs work well for this purpose because they are short and wide making them very sturdy and not easily knocked over when grabbing a pen.

I’m sure that none of these storage solutions are unique or earth shattering, but I have been able to maintain them for about 10 years, so for me that is a good system! Tomorrow I will discuss calendar systems and the problems inherent with choosing the best one for the year.