Friday, June 26, 2009

One-Minute Motivations

An affirmation is a strong, positive statement that something is already so.

-Shakti Gawain

Guess what? I found another clutter control book at home! This one is called The One-Minute Organizer: Plain and Simple also by Donna Smallin (Pownal, VT.: Storey Books, 2004). Throughout this book, she has interspersed affirmations that can help motivate. I would like to share a few and continue to do so weekly for a while. You may want to put the ones that speak to you on the top of your calendar or on the start-up screen of your computer to help you daily strive to lead a clutter-free day.

“You don’t have to stop everything to get organized. You just have to START. Make organizing a part of your daily life. Do it first. Do it fast.” (pg. 11)

“Yes, organizing is work. But there’s nothing all that difficult about it. The hardest part is getting STARTED.” (pg. 16)


“Our experience is driven by our beliefs. If, for example, you believe that nothing you do makes a difference, that will be your experience. See if you can pinpoint one belief that may be limiting your ability to get organized.” (pg. 23)

We can share some of our beliefs and experiences at the next meeting on July 2nd. Jot down some of the things you are thinking about the task and we can help each other dispel negative thoughts.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

How did I get here?

I have found another clutter control book in my clutter at home. How many of these books have we bought over the years? If you are like me, they are all appealing because of the promises they make to rid your life of stress and disorganization, but the reality is often quite different. And, not surprisingly, they are all very similar in the message they deliver.

In this one, called Unclutter Your Home: 7 Simple Steps, 700 Tips and Ideas by Donna Smallin (Pownal, VT.: Storey Books, 1999. pages 11-13), the author gives a nice list of the Top 10 Reasons Why Clutter Collects. Here is her list:
1. You think you’ll need it someday.
2. It has sentimental value.
3. You’ve got a big house.
4. You’ve got a small house.
5. You are chronically disorganized.
6. You leave stuff out because you’re afraid you’ll never find it again.
7. You feel guilty about throwing things away.
8. You feel like you never have time to get organized.
9. You were brought up by pack rats.
10. You’re stuck on the “work, shop, spend” treadmill.

I don’t know what was the source she used to determine that these are the top ten, because she mentions other reasons that seem to me to be equally at the root of the problem: our lives have become increasingly complex; gathering clutter compounds the problem, causing many to buy larger houses that then leave us less time to deal with the clutter; we develop emotional attachment to stuff; clutter develops from an instinct for self-preservation and feeling of insecurity; we are indecisive in how we deal with clutter; and she says that the main reason is because we don’t know where to start!

Knowing these reasons might be useful in our effort to conquer clutter. We should examine these reasons (or excuses) and try to eliminate any stumbling block to our success!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I put that in a safe place...

How many things have we put "away" over the years where we say either, "I'll put this where I can easily find it later" or "I'll put this in a safe place?" And how many times have we later said, "Now, where did I put that...?" Do the numbers of times come close to being equal?

Bill Adler, Jr. in his book Outwitting Clutter (Globe Pequot Press, 2002) has a great suggestion as to where you can store the location of the safe places and other important information. He suggests that you use your address book, either physical or electronic, because you are not likely to misplace your address book! He suggests putting the "safe place" locations under S, or perhaps list the specific items under the name of the item, such as the location of your will under W. He also proposes that you store passport numbers, driver's license numbers, your children's locker number and combination, credit card numbers and the specifics of the contents of your safe deposit box (including serial or certificate numbers) in your address book but make sure that you don't keep your PIN or passwords in the same location, particularly if you are using an electronic address book. Those numbers and words should never be listed in the same place as the account numbers and never in any device that is connected electronically to other devices, be it computer, PDA, cell phone, etc. People who know how to use the Internet for illegal purposes are very good at finding the information they need!

If you use a paper address book, you may need to add some pages to hold this additional information, but it would be well worth it to have all of this important information in one location.

Remember our goal of accomplishing three things before our next meeting on July 2 at 7:00. It can be anything, even counting coming to the next meeting or reading this or other blogs. We have to remember not to be hard on ourselves...the clutter didn't accumulate in one day, or even one week or one year, so it is not going to disappear that fast either! We should concentrate on changing some behaviors as much as we worry about the progress we make against the clutter. See you next month.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Professional Organizers on the area

I am working on your request to have another speaker (or two) to give a presentation at the library. Thanks to those who have made referrals of organizers they know...I will be talking with all of them about what programs they offer and bring my findings to the group to discuss. I will also make a copy of the contact information for organizers in the area in case anyone wants some help. If anyone else has a referral to make, please bring the contact information to the meeting and I will add it to the list. I won't be able to say if these people are qualified or make any recommendations, but the Online Organizing site that I mentioned yesterday has a nice checklist to use if you want to hire an organizer to make sure that you ask the right questions. Here is a link to that checklist:

According to the Online Organizing website, there are two recognized organization to which professional organizers can belong: "The National Association Of Professional Organizers or NAPO has been around the longest and is the most recognized name in organizing. The newer International Association Of Professional Organizers or IAPO is another organization dedicated to improving the professionalism of the industry. Both accept members from around the world. There is also a group called Professional Organizers In Canada -- and look for more overseas groups to start up in the coming days." (from FAQs on being an organizer)

But don't feel that you need to hire someone to help. I hope that our group can provide the motivation that we all need and all of the resources that we have at the library and online and tips we can gain from sharing our successes should allow us to be able to tackle this on our own and, as Jamie Novak said in her presentation, "without spending a dime."

Friday, June 19, 2009

Get Motivated

In my search yesterday, I found a great website for organizing and de-cluttering tips. It is called Online Organizing: A World of Organizing Solutions. I suspect many of you have seen this site at They have a blog, free newsletters, great tip sheets and links to products and services that can help us in our quest to live a clutter-free life! The one tip sheet that I found to be quite handy is The Clutter Control Checklist written and submitted to the site by Ramona Creel. It helps to prioritize some of the things we have discussed such as where to start and how much to retain and how much to throw away. You are able to print out this and other resources but be careful not to add to the clutter by printing too much. It may be better to look at sites like this as motivation tools to get you up and doing. Read as much as you want but don’t worry about storing the information in your cluttered office, or in your cluttered memory! Just like the library, the information is there should you need it but the storage and upkeep of the information is left to someone else! Enjoy!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Clutter Control Experts and other resources

We have talked a lot about weeding and throwing away clutter that has accumulated around our houses, but it is also essential not to allow new clutter from entering our lives and re-cluttering spaces that we have worked so hard to clear. We need to develop as much discipline to stop the incoming clutter as we have devoted to strategies to rid ourselves of what we already have.

Yesterday I quoted some tips from Outwitting Clutter by Bill Adler Jr. (Lyons Press, 2002). I like a lot of what I read in this book, so I went to the Internet to see if Bill Adler was a clutter control expert, like Jamie Novak. I found out that Bill Adler is part of a company called Adler and Robin Books, Inc. who do a series, not of clutter control books, but a series of "Outwitting" books! He has written books such as Outwitting Squirrels, Outwitting Toddlers, Outwitting Neighbors, Outwitting Mice, Outwitting the Adoption Maze, etc. Bill Adler Jr. seems to be an expert on outwitting all of the annoying, complicated or challenging things in our lives. As he says on his webpage: "Outwitting means coming up with some clever new tricks, looking at the problem from an offbeat perspective; in today's business jargon, 'thinking outside the box.'" ( I like these descriptions when applied to our mission to fight the clutter in our lives - using new tricks, offbeat strategies, etc. Bill Adler himself describes our goal as "the battle over clutter. " He says that "warfare is a good metaphor to help you achieve your goal. You must never let down your guard. Don't let clutter sneak up on you. Clutter is cleaver - it will often disguise itself as something benign." He points out that saving things for an eventual need, that are easily gotten when the need arises, should be avoided. He also cautions against buying the super-sized supply of essentials in bulk if you don't have enough super-sized storage space in bulk. The savings overall are often not worth the cost that having these items around and under foot bring you in terms of added stress and diminished time. He identifies another class of clutter as the things that come into your house unbidden such as the glass vase that comes with a gift of flowers. He reminds us that we rarely get flowers without another of these vases and if we should get fresh cut flowers, we probably all have a much nicer vase that we would rather use than one that came free. He gives us permission to just discard these items he calls "Trojan Clutter Horses" and he says we should "aggressively, even ruthlessly, defend our homes against them!"

If you can't bear to just throw away "a perfectly good vase" or the extra rolls of toilet paper beyond what we could possible use in our lifetime, you should find ways to quickly donate them. I know that some churches divide large flower arrangements that decorate the sanctuary on a Sunday morning into smaller arrangements that are delivered to shut-ins. These churches will often welcome vases that they can use to make up these smaller, deliverable arrangements. And many charitable organizations like food banks, pet shelters and daycare centers will certainly take any extra paper towel rolls or jumbo sized boxes of trash can liners that you may have been tempted to buy by the gross only to find that you really don't have room for them. You can make up a receipt including the approximate cost of these items and have the organization sign the receipt for you to use for a tax deduction at tax time.

Be vigilant and you will soon be victorious over the clutter!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Hi Fellow Clutter Free Friends of the Future!

Did anyone make any progress over the past weekend on a task? I have heard from a few of you that you have begun to set new habits! Remember, the clutter didn't accumulate in one day so you can't expect to get rid of it in one day! Dedicating just 18-20 minutes at a time; that should be possible for us all every day!

In his book Outwitting Clutter that I passed around at the meeting, author Bill Adler reminds us that the stress-free goal that we are seeking by un-cluttering our lives should not be diminished by the way we reach that goal. We should not drive ourselves to burnout with an all-or-nothing, perfectionist attitude but rather we should get something out of the process. He suggests looking of the process of de-cluttering in a positive light. "Outwitting clutter puts you in a zone of reflection, self-awareness and purification." He goes on to say, "Decluttering needs to be done at a calm, steady pace. Let yourself enjoy the act of decluttering. Don't look at outwitting clutter as a chore, but more as a way of ascending to a better state of being." (pg. 6)

If you don't buy into that concept, he also offers the following: Use the process of decluttering as a form of exercise. "Incorproate large, sweeping body movements whenever you can. The more moving the better." (pg. 7) I would add that a few trips up and down the stairs, if you have some, can burn a few calories as well. Just don't hurt yourself in the process; you don't want the positive experience of de-cluttering to be associated in any way with pain!!

So you see, we can improve the quality of our lives through working to achieve a clutter-free environment. Keep up the good work and don't forget to share your successes with the group on this blog and/or at the next meeting at 7:00 p.m. on July 2nd at the library.

Friday, June 12, 2009

End the week with a success

Here we are at the end of another work week and we have a lovely weekend ahead. Why not plan to end the week and start the weekend with an 18 minute de-clutter success? When you get home tonight, set your timer and take just 18 minutes to de-clutter one little spot in your life. Choose something that can be done in the 18 minute time period and that you can see and appreciate for the entire weekend. Once you have accomplished that one success, you can free yourself to relax and just enjoy the weekend, or you can be motivated to conquer more 18 minute projects. But, whether you finish just one little de-clutter task or spend the whole weekend doing an area or task much larger, stand back when you are done and congratulate yourself on a job well done. Share your success with us on this blog. I have set you all up as authors on this blog, so you are free to post anything you want to share with the group.

I once attended a motivational speaker who suggested that we should periodically give ourselves a standing ovation. You should stand and look at your success or look yourself in the mirror, and give yourself a full minute of actual applause! "A minute is enough," she said, "you don't want to get a swelled head!"

Bravo - enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Jamie's Conference Call

I tuned in to Jamie Novak's conference call last evening and I know that at least one other in our group was listening as well. If you weren't listening, I will give you a brief summary of the way it was conducted, which I think is a good way for us to consider for our group meetings.

Jamie started by having people share their successes, no matter how small or how large. She was great to give very positive feedback and praise to the person who had achieved the success and still give encouragement to those who may not have completed their goal. Unfortunately, the mechanics of the conference call, where more than one speaker would cut out all other conversation, did not allow the entire group to add their kudos, but we were all applauding in spirit. I think that is an important part of why we will meet, to share our progress and give our support. The next segment of the meeting was the part where Jamie encouraged people to share their ideas on a particular topic with her providing additional information and advice. The topic that Jamie wanted to focus on last night was emotional attachment to the things that we have in our lives that contribute to the clutter. She had some good advice: to determine exactly what we collect and why it is important to us and then decide how much of these items are necessary and how best we can store them and use them or how to donate or discard them. She stated that a good goal to strive for was to reduce everything by at least half! She also encouraged us to really consider if these things are really necessary and to consider that if we can give them to a good cause or someone that may give these items a new life, that we would have a good feeling about moving them out of our lives! There were some great suggestions, particularly about magazines and newspapers, clutter that many of us accumulate. One person who loves to read the newspaper has purchased a Kindle (an electronic wireless reading device that is sold by on which she subscribes to her favorite newspapers and magazines. This saves her from having to deal with the paper and recycling that a hard copy subscription brings. Another caller brings the magazines she believes are of interest to her doctor's waiting room and leaves them for other's enjoyment. We all know that this would be a great benefit for us all as a replacement for the often old and tired magazines that are usually found in waiting rooms. My advice is to remember to remove your name and address from the magazine before you leave it somewhere. I would also like to add that the library carries a subscription to many good magazines and has a copy of each of the local papers to read for free - no recycling necessary. We also have magazine article databases that can be used to find specific information that is published in magazines, so that you don't need to keep a hard copy of an article about how to fix things that aren't yet broken; you can use the library to find all of the information you will ever need if and when you should need it! And the databases are available on our website 24/7 and you will never have to dig for hours to find that article you remembered seeing! Check out the databases on

The final segment of the call was a Q&A period, which Jamie is qualified to run since she has the knowledge and resources to answer most people's questions. If we have this segment, the answers will have to come from our collective knowledge or we will have to leave the meeting with an assignment to find the answer for our next meeting or to share on our blog!

I hope we can use this advice from last night's mini-class to make our group as useful as possible.

If you were also listening in, let me know what you may have gotten from the phone call.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Today is the first day...

Today we begin our journey to clutter control! Don't forget tonight at 8:30 - Jamie Novak's free "Bite sized organizing class by phone." Join in the call and get more practical advice to get organized. Visit her website for details: Jamie Novak's seminar at the South Brunswick Public Library last month was a great opportunity to hear first hand many of her organizing tips and solutions; many thanks to the Friends of the Library for sponsoring this event.

Today I was reading The Get Organized Answer Book (Jamie Novak, Sourcebooks, Inc., 2009, pg. 19) about bad habits. Jamie reminds us that "...disorganization is not solely a product of bad habits; you can have great habits and still have clutter. Organization systems that work for you in conjunction with good habits are the keys to success." We will be working on organization systems in our De-Clutter Club, sharing what works and what doesn't. Bring your ideas about how to organize some specific type of clutter - junk mail, clothes, children's toys, magazines, etc. Pick something that is particularly difficult for you - something that you may have had some success with in the past - and share with the group organization solutions you may have tried, whether you have had success or not. We will get through as many of these ideas as we can and continue on this blog or at later meetings.

Join me again here tomorrow and share what is on your mind.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

This is the new blog for the South Brunswick Public Library's DeClutter Club. Look here for daily information on de-cluttering your life, your home, your office, your environment and your world. Members of the group are welcome to post their suggestions and discoveries. Let's get organized!