March, 2010 browsing by month


A Bit of Wisdom

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

To be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved. –George MacDonald

The thing about trust is that it is based on past performance. Like a chair that has been sturdy enough to hold weight in the past, I will place my trust in someone who has already proven himself worthy.

Love, on the other hand, is more dependent upon the qualities of the giver than those of the receiver.

Image: powerbooktrance/Flickr

ThuRsday Recycle and Reuse: Bicycles

Thursday, March 25th, 2010
ThuRs Recycle and Reuse

ThuRs Recycle and Reuse

My daughters (who shall remain nameless) loved her pink banana-seat bike with the huge handlebars. She named the bike “Rosie” and couldn’t bear to part with it. We stored it for her until she moved into her first apartment upon college graduation. I have no clue where it is now.

A better idea might be to donate the bike while it is still fairly rust-free. Charitable thrift stores are a good place to start. Even bikes that are not serviceable can be used to scavenge parts. New parts add up quickly for a non-profit organization.

Several other agencies that accept bikes to refurbish are:

  • Bikes for TykesBikes for Tykes is dedicated to providing a pre-loved bicycle to every deserving child in America. There are over 25 Bikes For Tykes chapters around the U.S. and in Canada.
  • The International Bicycle FundIBike’s mission is to promote bicycle transportation and international understanding. Recognizing that sending a bicycle to another country is not particularly feasible, IBike has three lists filled with organizations to help you find a local donation center for bikes, parts and accessories.

Think of donating these bicycle related items also: helmets, tools, parts, shoes, reflectors, flaps, tires, pumps and locks.

When I lived in Manassas, VA, there was an artistic gardener who spray painted over 15 bicycles white and used them as a kind of picket fence. I don’t think the neighbors appreciated it. It was an original idea! All the same, it still might be a better idea to donate the bike.

More posts in this series:

A Bit of Wisdom

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude. –Cynthia Ozick

What came to mind first when you read this quote? The answer can tell you a lot. What is it you are most grateful for and assume will always be there to enjoy? Take time to express your thanks today.

Image: djcodrin /

Maybe Not Paperless, Definitely Less Paper

Friday, March 19th, 2010

As a professional organizer, I want to communicate how organizing makes life simpler. I often speak at community events in libraries, Mom’s groups, and civic organizations. Most often I am asked to talk about organizing home or office spaces. However, during the closing Q&A portion, someone inevitably chimes in with, “What am I supposed to do with all the paper I am bombarded with?”

I have to laugh. Never do I say what I am thinking, “I could have spent the last hour giving you a system to help with that.” Instead I ask for one specific area where paper is a problem and try to give a tip or two.

We all struggle with the ubiquitous paper piles.

The piles pop up everywhere – in the kitchen, on the dining room table, on our desk in the office or at home. These are some startling facts about paper that do not even surprise us anymore:

  • The world consumes five times more paper now than in 1950.
  • Each person in the United States uses approximately 750 pounds of paper each year. This equals approximately 187 billion pounds per year.
  • The average American receives 49,060 pieces of mail in their lifetime; 1/3 of it is junk mail.
  • The United States annually consumes 4 million tons of copy paper, 2 billion books, 350 million magazines and 25 billion newspapers.

Perhaps the most telling statistics about the proliferation of paper are those describing the meteoric rise of the paper shredding industry.

In 1982 there were about two dozen document shredding companies. That number grew to between 500 and 600 in 2002 according to the Petersburg Times, Feb 2002.

As of 2008, the National Association for Information Destruction (NAID) reported that document shredding was a $1.2 billion a year industry in the U.S. and is growing at a rate of 35 percent per year. NAID membership grew from 150 to more than 1,000 in the span of five years. (Sacramento Bee, May 2008)

What does this rise in paper generation mean on a day-to-day basis?

The average desk worker has 36 hours of work on his or her desk and spends 3 hours per week sorting piles trying to find the project to work on next. (Richard Swanson, The Overload Syndrome)

The paper piling problem is not limited to the average Joe or Jill.

Studies have shown that some executives will pick up a single piece of paper from their desk thirty or forty times before acting on it. “Don’t use your desk as a storage place for items awaiting action. If you can’t dispense with it immediately, at least keep a follow-up pile.” (Michael Woolery, Seize the Day)


Without a plan, paper will win.

We can be overwhelmed, finding ourselves debating which information to act on first, crippled by visual and mental clutter. The best defense is a good offense. These are three strategies every office and household must plan and carry out to eliminate paper piles.

  1. Establish a paper flow system with standard operating procedures (SOP) for the three main categories: reference, action, and junk. When you make decisions ahead of time on how to deal with incoming information, you don’t have to think so hard or reinvent what to do with that everyday-the-same-old-stuff paperwork.
    Get more in depth instruction and a step-by-step system to get the mountain of paper under control with the e-Book [intlink id="1090" type="page" target="_blank"]7 Must Have Tools to Conquer Paper Piles Forever![/intlink]
  2. Schedule regular times for follow-up activities. Some actions are never ending: to phone, to write, to email, to delegate, to discuss. Make standing appointments with yourself to “bundle” like actions into one time slot for completion. This approach can save you a bundle of time!
  3. Reduce the volume of incoming paper as much as possible. Let friends and colleagues know you much prefer an email to a written note or a phone call (where you have to take notes.) Cancel magazines and newspapers you do not read.
    Use these websites to cut down on unsolicited advertising and credit offers:

The information age has changed the way we think and live. Like any tool, ready access to information can be a good thing when we are careful to wisely regulate its use. Take steps now to implement these three strategies to be more productive… and to maintain your sanity!

ThuRsday Recycle and Reuse: Eyeglasses

Thursday, March 18th, 2010
ThuRs Recycle and Reuse

ThuRs Recycle and Reuse

If you are like me, your eyesight keeps changing and you have to get new glasses once every two to three years. The bad news for us is that the new glasses cost money. The good news is that our old glasses can help someone who does not have the resources to purchase them.

According to the World Health Organization, “153 million people are visually impaired because of uncorrected refractive errors (near-sightedness, far-sightedness or astigmatism.) Almost all of them could have normal vision restored with eyeglasses, contact lenses or refractive surgery.”

The process to donate is simple. Call 1-800-CLEANUP and enter “eye” to find the nearest drop off point for you. On the web, will point you to a donation center as well.

One of the largest recyclers of used glasses is One Sight. Three major vision charities – Give the Gift of Sight, the Pearle Foundation, and community I-Care in Australia – merged into One Sight, a global foundation.

To give to One Sight, “drop off your old eyeglasses or sunglasses at any LensCrafters, Pearle Vision, Sears Optical, Target Optical or Sunglass Hut store, or Lions club to help someone in a developing country experience a brighter future. We will clean, repair and classify your glasses by prescription, then personally deliver them on Give the Gift of Sight international optical missions.” To find a convenient drop off location, use the OneSight store locator. Glasses collected by OneSight will benefit fifteen global clinics scheduled for 2010 alone.

New Eyes for the Needy is another group that distributes used glasses where they are needed most.

New Eyes for the Needy provides recycled prescription eyeglasses, sunglasses, and eyeglass cases to many different organizations and individuals for distribution in developing nations. Last year, New Eyes distributed eyeglasses through Physicians for Peace, Feed the Children and the Tree-Land Foundation. These international charitable organizations test and inventory glasses from New Eyes and distribute them to the poor in professionally-staffed vision clinics.

A quote from the Lions Club on their website sums up how important the gift of sight can be.

For children, vision loss can lead to failure in school, delays in development, learning disabilities and even juvenile delinquency. For adults, uncorrected vision can lead to unemployment and the inability to support a family. Seniors with vision loss are limited in performing daily activities, depriving them of an independent lifestyle.

Doesn’t it feel good to know we can help? Gather up any old pairs of glasses and send them on to folks that are in need.

More posts in this series:

Is Your ADD Showing at Work or at School?

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

The tickler for the latest ADDitude magazine article  caught my eye: “When the System is Against You, Overcome ADD Obstacles at Work and at School.” Some of the best people I know have ADD.  I often work with folks who have organizational problems as a result. This was information I wanted to have in my tool kit.

The article gives strategies for working through ADD, how to manage with and without medication, and highlights the hidden benefits of a limiting condition.  Better still, this advice comes from five top executives who persevered despite being labeled as losers in school. I couldn’t stop reading the personal stories of  David Neeleman, founder of JetBlue Airways; Paul Orfalea, founder of Kinko’s; Diane Swonk, economist and author; Alan M. Meckler, Chairman and CEO of Jupitermedia; and Charles Schwab, founder and chairman of Charles Schwab & Co.   Each overcame their ADD obstacles to make a difference.

Very inspiring stuff!  Read the entire article here:

Jill’s Story, Behind the Scenes Coaching on De-Cluttering

Friday, March 12th, 2010

You want to soar, stuff gets in the way

You want to soar, stuff gets in the way (neoliminal/Flickr)

Over the last month or so, Jill and I have been emailing back and forth. She shared that she is finally motivated to let go of all the paper she has been storing with her business.  I hope you will be encouraged by her story. I asked Jill if I could share our email correspondence. She was surprised that I thought she could be of help to someone else, but agreed graciously.  I will post her “Before” pictures soon. Jill has promised to show us her “After” pictures when she gets more work done. I think she has come a very long way already!

Hello Martha:

I have enjoyed reading your 60 tips.  Nice to know that I am on the right track and not as bad as I thought!!!

I have my own business as a graphic designer/marketer/printier and I am a paper hoarder.  I save samples of my work, sayings, books, reference materials, magazines, business journals, catalogs, postcards, etc. I have the thought of “just in case”

In my office, I have 5 file cabinets with 15 drawers, book shelves, cabinets, etc.  with these items stored.  I even have the paper piles on the floor in my office which I can’t seem to get through and is driving me crazy….I know it is a bit of OCD. …but I am trying to plow through.

Here is my Serious question:  How do you deal with samples, catalogs, etc.?  I have had them on file for their information and use as photos of an item, like a magnet, shirt, signage, etc.  Do I input all of the info about the catalog/company in a database and pitch the catalogs?  Keep them?  ETC?  I was just trying to make room in my files for other info and to reduce the weight on my floor!

Help!  I could really use your advice.  Thank you so much.


Hi Jill!

I am so glad you found the report helpful.  Yay! You have systems in place already!

It sounds like you have a filing system for your work-related papers. Before I answer your question of  “How do you deal with samples, catalogs, etc?” I want to get a little clarification:

  1. How often do you use what is in the files in your present projects?
  2. Are you able to find what you need when you go to look for it?
  3. Do you replace the old catalogs with the latest version when it comes?

In principle, you probably use only 20% of what you have.  The only trick will be to figure out what that percentage represents in your mix.

I may be able to get some hints from your answers to the questions.

You are brave to ask the questions, Jill.  Kudos!

Martha Clouse
Professional Organizer and Speaker

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