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: