clutter browsing by tag


Product Review: My Favorite Weapon

Friday, October 28th, 2011

Those of you who have been in my small group Clutter Management Program, or have been a Simple Changes reader for a while know that I LOVE the Freedom Filer paper management system.

I have helped quite a few clients set up this system in their home to corral paper so they can find what they are looking for in 10 seconds or less. It’s kind of a “no brainer”. You purchase, set it up like in the picture, and it is so easy to use you don’t have to think. Love saving those little grey cells…

The best part is the “maintenance free” or as I like to call it “self-purging” aspect of this system. The color-coded categories not only tell you when to purge, but practically force you to do it!

What I usually do with clients is have them purchase the system online. I put the basic system together, then show up ready to customize and train on how to best use all the additional features. The client hands me the copy he/she ordered and pays only for materials and the training time.

The benefit of ordering directly from Freedom Filer is that the company will then email you reminders on when to update and purge. Love it!

Make the decision today to break free!

7 Mistakes that Lead to Paper Clutter, Part 2

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

In the first part, you met 3 personalities who struggle with paper piling issues: The Visualizer who wants to keep everything in sight, The Generous Shopper who is now the best friend of charities and catalog vendors, and The Librarian who feels compelled to gather information.

The ethics of my profession require that I keep all client identities and foibles confidential. If that were not so, I would be able to describe the clients I have worked with who match these descriptions. I am not making this stuff up!

Perhaps you have already said to yourself, “How did Martha know to describe me so well?” The reason I can do that is you are not alone in your struggle with paper, or the underlying causes. If you haven’t recognized yourself, you may be one of the remaining 4 personalities.

  1. The Go Getter has many projects going on simultaneously. He doesn’t want to put away the projects he is working on because he “will just have to drag it all out again anyway!” Supporting documents become lost in the shuffle. Many times work is delayed because a vital piece has gone missing. Duplicated effort is required to get the project back on track.
    Remedy: First, ask the question – are you able to do an excellent job on all the projects, or are some slipping through the cracks? Which projects are you the best at and will generate the most value? Keep those, delegate others to the person who is better suited, and let the rest go entirely.Second, to keep current projects separated [a project is an activity that has a definite beginning, middle, and en end] use colorful, distinctive and roomy file jackets. Scoop all supporting documents for each project into its file each time you take a break for more than 20 minutes. Use an incline sorter on your desktop so you can find any project file at one glance.
  2. Scarlet O’Hara says “Tomorrow is another day.” She puts off deciding what to do with mail offers, when to pay the bills, what to do with important papers. Because she has no system, there are no homes for paper to land, and she can never find what she needs when she needs it.
    Remedy:A paper management system is simply making decisions ahead of time about homes for the three categories of paper that arrive in your mail/inbox:

    • Action – you have to do something with the information.
    • Finished – all action is done and you NEED this info in the future, so is reference material to be filed.
    • Shred/Toss – done, don’t need it, get rid of it.
  3. When you don’t have a system for paper flow in place, you will essentially be asking yourself this same question over and over, “Where should I put this so I will know where it is?

  4. The Seeker wants to keep on top of the latest breaking news. He has too many subscriptions, no time to read all of the information that pours in, so it piles up. He intends to read each magazines, newspaper, or professional journal, but finds himself 2-4 months behind (or more!)
    Remedy:For non-professional material, decide on a set number of months of magazines, days of newspapers you may keep. I suggest two months per magazine and no more than a week of newspapers. On the first of every month go through your stash and recycle old periodicals. Better yet, if you never get around to reading that magazine, cancel the subscription.Professional material is a must-read, but contains advertising and reiteration. Scan each periodical when it arrives, remove the articles (with small exacto knife) that are key to keeping current. Make a “To Read” folder that you can put in a briefcase, or grab on your way out the door on a slow day.
  5. The Bottom Line Watcher refuses to take the time to deal with paper since there is no money or distinct benefit attached.
    Remedy:Take the time to calculate how much time you waste daily looking for papers you can’t find. (In a survey, executives admitted to wasting 6 weeks per year looking for documents.) Now multiply the time you waste by your hourly rate. Does that make solving your paper clutter problem a higher priority?If you can afford it, hire someone else to set up the system and come in regularly do the filing/follow-up. If you are IT, schedule appointments with yourself to do 30 minutes of filing 3x/week. Start with the current piles – on desk or counter – until they are gone. You can be much more productive on other tasks when that visual clutter no longer effects your concentration!

Paper is ubiquitous – it’s everywhere! You can win, with the right tools and mindset.

Drop me an email to let me know what your paper personality is and how you have cut your piles down to size. I love hearing the success stories!

7 Mistakes that Lead to Paper Piles, Part 1

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

7 Mistakes That Lead to Paper Clutter

  • If the entire surface of your desk, kitchen counter, or dining room table is covered…
    you just might be a paper piler!
  • If you have magazines you haven’t read from a year ago…
    you just might be a paper piler.
  • If your filing system consists of “more recent” and “older stuff”…
    you just might be a Paper Piler!
  • If you put the event tickets in plain sight see so you won’t lose them, but now you can’t find them because they are totally covered…
    you just might be a paper piler.

Piles of paper are the symptom, not the underlying cause of this frequent clutter problem.

We can try to blame the information explosion or the 49,060 pieces of mail we will receive in our lifetime.  To find a lasting cure, however, we must look closer to home.

What is your personal relationship with paper?

This is Part I of 7 Mistakes That Lead to Paper Clutter. See which one(s) best describes the way you relate to paper. Use the tips below to find a solution that works for you.

  1. The Visualizer is afraid that out of sight will mean out of mind.
    Bills to pay, party invites are left where you can see them and not forget to take action. Soon the “important” is covered by “everyday” and gets lost.
    Remedy:Visual/tactile people need to find a filing solution that is in plain sight, yet keeps paper contained. Two options are:

  2. The Librarian feels compelled to store valuable information.
    This person prints online research as well as emails to answer later, and has a hard time parting with newspaper articles and magazines.
    Remedy:Save only the information that is imperative to your job or that you think will be hard to replace. Think about scanning hard copies, bookmarking email sites on your browser, or noting the article URL on a resource list.Sally McGhee, author of Take Back Your Life, says we only use 15% of what we file. We never retrieve the other 85% – a waste of filing time and of valuable space.
  3. The Generous Shopper gives to charities and orders gifts from catalogs. Her name has been sold repeatedly so she now receives dozens of gift requests and catalogs.
    Remedy:One of the best ways to reduce paper in your home is to reduce the amount coming in. At home, the #1 paper dropper is the mailman. Always open your mail the day you receive it. Return unsolicited charitable requests to sender. Shred unwanted credit offers.Use these sites to opt out of catalogs and credit offers:

Four more common errors are yet to come in Part 2. Did you see yourself yet? Don’t worry, you will…

“Ask the Expert” Event Tomorrow: Register Now!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011 from 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM (ET) in Columbus, OH

Click here to register.

Stop the paper piles from multiplying with a proven self-purging paper management system, the FREEDOM FILER. Professional Organizer, Martha Clouse, has successfully implemented this system with dozens of clients. YOU bring your banker box full of paper piles to train and begin your personal FF system.

Learn ways to reduce incoming paper and practice your paper tossing technique!!

Materials FEE: $52 paid at time of class – this purchases your Freedom Filer which has a retail value of $99.

Class is also scheduled to be held on 9/29 from 9:30am – 11am. Tickets purchased above will be honored at all event times.


Book Review: Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

Doesn’t that title alone make you want to read this book? If not, the cover art and lay-flat binding will up your pucker power. I am glad to say that book’s contents do not disappoint. This book will be an encouraging gift for a friend (or yourself!) this year.

Tsh Oxenreider (not misspelled) has given us powerful arguments to simplify life by letting go of “stuff”, using time wisely, and being a good steward of our finances.

Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living is divided into two parts. The first section explores what simple living is and is not. Unlike many simplicity gurus, Tsh does not promote her preferences as absolutes, but recognizes that family makeup and background make each unit unique. As a result, she challenges us to develop a family purpose statement. Life choices, Tsh asserts, will easily flow from your defined purpose.

Then in Part 2, we roll up our sleeves together and spend 10 days de-cluttering our home. Each chapter gives specifics for cleaning and organizing different rooms. The appendix includes homemade cleaning recipes, home management worksheets, and a Pros and Cons discussion of common “green” questions.

Tsh is the creator of the popular blog and a world traveler with her husband and three young children.

Ins and Outs of Personal Storage

Friday, November 5th, 2010

Every person, and by extension every household, is different. Duh! We all know that, right?

But, have you ever caught yourself thinking, “Why don’t they just do it the RIGHT way?” That right way being what works for you.

This thought pattern is exactly what an organizer has to guard against! There is no one size fits all solution to clutter, storage, or containing stuff.

That is why it is essential to work with a client within the framework of his/her habits and preferences. After the owner decides what to give away or toss, the choice remains – how to contain and store the keepers.

Thankfully, we have more choices than ever on furnishings and storage units. Conversely, with so many options, it can be difficult to make a decision.

Two universal principles in organizing are:

  • Assign a home to every object/paper
  • Store items close to where they are most used

With these general principles in mind, there are a few questions that can help you think through where and how you will store your treasures:

  1. Where do I typically use this item?
  2. When and how often do I use it?
  3. Do I want this item stored with or near similar items I often use with it? [example: wrapping paper, scissors, tape, and ribbon]
  4. How essential is it that I have easy access to this item?
  5. What is problematic about where I currently keep this item?
  6. Even if my current storage system for this item is not ideal, what was the appeal about having it in this spot?

These questions will pinpoint your current habits. You will find it much easier to maintain a storage system that is customized for YOU!

Help! I Can’t Organize, There’s Not Enough Space!

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

In a recent consumer survey

To illustrate the difference, imagine you have a good-sized kitchen. Your cabinets hold what you need to prepare and serve food. Then you decide you want more than one set of dishes. You decide one set for each season would be perfect. Suddenly, the cabinet space seems to have shrunk. You have too much stuff for the given space.

On the other hand, the galley of a small ship will have actual limited space to store kitchen-related items. Now you must critically evaluate the necessity of each item before you award a place in the tight storage available.

Where does your stuff to space quotient fall? How you would answer this question:

Have you truly pared down belongings to those items you use and love?

How much of what you are trying to cram into your living or working space are items you…

… have not used in last 2 years
… don’t really like but are keeping because they were gifts
… think you might need someday
… have no specific purpose in mind for
… would pitch if you had time to sort through

If you have quite a few things that fit into these categories, they do not pass the USE IT, LOVE IT OR LOSE IT test. It is time for a purging party.

The second question to ask yourself is:

Are you effectively using every square foot of the space you do have?

There are a few tricks that interior designers and professional organizers alike use to maximize storage in a truly small space.
These include:

  • going vertical
  • finding unused air
  • using dual-purpose furnishings

Read more in my post “Small Space Solutions” and listen in to Kelly Galea’s tips on Sept 8th, see events above.

The first step in any problem solving sequence is to properly identify exactly what the problem is. Hopefully, from this article you have pinpointed whether your problem is too much stuff or an actual limited space situation. Now you are in a position to take corrective action.

  1. Storage Consumer Survey. Homeworld Business Magazine 10/01/2008
    Statistic by/from Homeworld Forecast Consumer Survey conducted by NPD Group []

This is Your Life: Organized

Friday, April 16th, 2010

Do you embrace the words “priorities” and “goals”, or do they fill you with fear?

Are you afraid that if you took a long look at where your time is spent, you would be disheartened and disillusioned? You can’t see the merry-go-round of life slowing down, so you keep on running as fast as you can?

Credit: David Salafia/Flickr (CC-ND)

We Americans tend to fill our lives with so much clutter that we cannot see what is truly important. Even our children have sports and music lessons and are going in so many different directions that the parents have to go separate ways on the weekends to make it all happen.

The same principles that professional organizers use to help people dig out from under all the extra “stuff” can be applied to life choices as well. Rather than use the terms “priorities” and “goals”, think about going on a treasure hunt.

Priorities and goals: a treasure hunt

What are the top three “treasures” in your life; what do you value most? Some answers that come to mind are: family, spiritual life, making a difference, financial security, health. Write down your top three.

Now honestly evaluate your attitudes (the way you think) and your activities (the things you do) based on what you have just said are the most important things – the “treasures” – in your life. How do your attitudes and activities line up?

Treasure your priorities

This is the sorting stage of organizing. Putting the like things together and seeing “What you really have!” Sometimes just looking at your life clutter in the light of day is enough to toss some things.

Next is the painful part – purging. There may even be some good things in your life that must go to make room for the best. We all have the same 24 hours per day. After sleeping that amounts to 960 minutes. If you have a full-time job, only half of that is discretionary – 480 minutes per day.

Where do you want to invest your time and energy so that you are true to your values?

Get off the merry-go-round

There are more steps to the organizing process, but we will stop at this third one: assigning a home. Where in your life schedule will you make a place for the people, attitudes and activities you have identified as your treasures? Make appointments with yourself and others that honor your decisions.

One of my favorite childhood songs is titled “Horace the Horse”. Horace is a horse on the merry-go-round, always going up and down, round and round. He is sad because he is the very last horse, always following others. Then one day he looks around and says, “Gosh! Oh gee! I’m the very first horse on the merry-go-round, ’cause the others are a’followin’ me!”

Home is where your heart is

Your attitude, your decisions can influence the lives of others in profound ways when you take the initiative to identify what is truly of value and determine to follow your own path.