Mail Gone Wild?

Is the mail out of control in your home?

Catalogs and magazines sliding off the tables or counters?

Late charges on bills that got lost in the chaos of your mail piles?

You are not alone.  If you can’t seem to keep up with your mail, you want to read this.  There is no “one size fits all” system for handling mail but there are a few changes you can make so that your mail is easier to manage. Here are 3 easy changes you can make to simplify your mail routine.
Change #1:
Only have one place for mail to land when it comes into your home.  Designate a basket, tray or bin for incoming mail.  Let family members know that all incoming mail is to be placed there, no exceptions.
Change #2:
Handle the junk mail and the outer envelopes only once.  Have a recycle
or trash bin nearby, as well as a shredder. Immediately toss the junk mail. Open all envelopes and throw the outer envelope away before it lands on the counter or table.  If it contains your address or any personal information – shred it.
Change #3:
Really stop and consider how many magazines and catalogs you can successfully read each month.  Why not cancel a few subscriptions or get the digital version online? What catalogs are you still getting that you no longer want?  If your kids are in high school (or older!) it’s probably time to cancel the Pottery Barn Kids and Oriental Trading Company catalogs.
How to cancel catalogs-
  1.  You can find the web address on the catalog and go online to request a cancellation. I have found that trying to find where to do this on a catalog’s  website can be frustrating and take too much time.       OR
  2. Look at the back of the catalog and locate the phone number.  Call them with the catalog in front of you and give them the numbers listed near your name and address. Doing this, I was able to cancel 4 catalogs in just 5 minutes!
There’s more you can do to get a handle on the chaos of your mail, but start by making these 3 easy changes first.
These minor changes represent new habits and will get you moving in the right direction.  Get into the habits  of doing these things daily and weekly, then you can move towards refining your mail system even more! When you make these 3 easy changes, you will see a noticeable difference and be well on your way to taming the mail.

Taming the Paper Bill Monster

Do you have a ton of paper staring at you in your office or on your kitchen counter? Most of the time this is a big complaint.

Are some of those papers your monthly bills?

Many of us have files we’ve labeled “Telephone”, “Utilities”, “Water/Garbage”, “Cell Phone”,  “Credit Cars”… Sound familiar? We’ve set up these folders because that’s how our parents used to do it. So when we moved out of their home we did the same thing. Only, we hate to file them. Do you really need to keep those bills?


Probably not. While what I am going to say may make you feel a bit queasy or uncomfortable, I say it to help you eliminate the paper monster in your life.  No, I am not recommending that everyone go paperless, don’t worry.  I am recommending, however, that you embrace technology. Create passwords to your utilities, phone, and credit card accounts so you can access your information online at any time. Get comfortable with their websites so you begin to use this valuable resource.  You can look up past bills, see recent statements at the touch of a button. If you are reading this blog then you have access to the internet so use it and eliminate the need to keep all those paper bills.

It’s okay if you still want to get your paper statement (or you can request that they be sent to your email in box).  The point here is that you don’t need to file or keep those bills. After you pay a bill, shred it. The information is still there online anytime you need it.

So get comfortable and let go (if you haven’t already) – I double dare ya!


May is Combating Clutter Month at Organized Habits

This month I wanted to kick off May with Combating Clutter. For fun, I looked up a web definition of the word “clutter”. Here’s what I found:

clut·ter /ˈklətər/

A collection of things lying about in an untidy mess.

Crowd (something) untidily; fill with clutter.

confusion – muddle – mess – disorder – muss – jumble

clutter photo

Do those synonyms ring true when describing your home? Do you have a muddled mess filled with untidiness and disorder? Do you need to organize your home? You are not alone. Clutter is a problem many are combating on a daily basis. Many do not know where to start in getting the clutter under control and moving toward a more organized home/life. That’s what I am here for! As a Professional Organizer I help my clients create the new habit of being organized and living a clutter-free life.

This month I want to offer tips, tricks and solutions to help you get organized and on the right path to combating the clutter that has invaded your home. Stay tuned…..and be sure to share your own victories in combating clutter in the comment section below.

Image courtesy of Bill Longshaw /

The Unfinished Business of Maintenance

One Saturday morning I looked around my house and it felt cluttered. After a few busy weeks of business, travel, and other commitments things were looking a little shabby.  I felt like it was out of control and I also felt a little guilt for letting it get this way. Then I thought, “This is probably some of what my clients are feeling.”  The clutter came from different places in my home but things hadn’t been dealt with, much less put away.  This is where the fourth principle of organization comes in – The unfinished business of maintenance.

Our lives run the gambit – busy then slowed down, crazy then peaceful, planned out then unexpected, happy then sad. This is why we must make time to maintain our organization. Our lives are not static and neither are our organizing systems.  By taking a few minutes each week (or month) to do some maintenance we can make sure our homes stay organized. Since I believe in walking the talk here’s what I did that Saturday to maintain my home:

3. Grab 2 or 3 more books to create your stack. If covers don't coordinate, make more covers.

  • Put away sweaters that were laid out to dry after laundering

  • Put away new book I received & want to read later

  • Hung up the sheer curtain in the bedroom

  • Cut out and filed my grandmother’s obituary

  • Put away nail file and clippers

  • Returned my scrapbook to the bookshelf

  • Recycled a few magazines

  • Filed away a recipe given to me by a friend

    Organize-To-Downsize workbook


Now I didn’t time myself but this honestly did not take a huge chunk of my time.  After this was done, even before doing my house cleaning, my home felt better… It was visually more organized and that made me feel better. Our external clutter can cause internal angst and that’s something we don’t need to add to our already full lives.  Take a few moments and do some maintenance today; it will make you feel better!  By the way, if you need to learn the four principles of organization then you may want to get my ebook, Organize to Downsize; it’s all explained in there.

Leave a comment and let me know what you did with the unfinished business of maintenance in your home.

Organizing Manuals, Instruction Booklets and Warranties

I have found product manuals in the weirdest places when helping my clients. Places like the cabinet under the bathroom sink, mixed in with a stack of recipes, and crumpled in the back of a kitchen drawer. It just goes to show you how frequently we even access this information, right? What if you needed to find a manual right now? Today’s post is about organizing manuals, instruction booklets, and warranties. I know it’s not a top priority on your organizing to-do list, but when you are ready to tackle this project, just come on back to my blog. (There’s always the handy dandy search bar to help you find these posts.)

1.  Gather and purge

As you gather your manuals and such, you will likely find many for items you don’t own any longer. Throw those away now. Don’t even waste your time trying to remember who you gave the toaster to so you can give them the booklet…most hand-me-downs don’t come with instructions anyway!


2.  Location

As I mentioned before, we typically do not need to refer to these manuals and warranties after the first time we look at them. They are reference materials. As such, they do not need to take up precious space in your home. Mine are located in an old file drawer we have in the garage. The point is not to have them taking up the space you have for more important things.


3. Containerize and Label

Get hanging file folders and label one for each room in your home. You will probably need 3 more files – Tools, Lawn/Garden, and Laundry. Having a file for each room in the house helps separate the multiples you may own. Take TV’s for example, you may have several TV’s and if you put the right manual in the correct room file, you won’t have to know the make and model when you go searching for it. For example, if you need to look up something about the TV in the family room, you only have to look in the Family Room file.

4. Maintain

The easiest way to remember to maintain your manuals is to purge every time you go in the file, whether you are looking something up or adding a new manual to it.
This is an easy project, once you have collected all those manuals, instruction books and warranties. It should take you about an hour to label and file. Now that we’ve talked about how to organize the manuals, instruction booklets, and warranties this brings me to another “soap box” moment.


Are you keeping all those empty boxes that once held the iPad, computer, printer, TV??
Leave me a comment and tell me what you think I would have to say about that!

Memories – Can They Clutter Your Life?

There are the memories we keep inside our hearts and then there is the stuff given to us from those we want to remember. My grandmother passed away this month. As I think about all the memories I have of her, I am reminded that some things we hold onto can clutter our life. Actual memories live in our minds and hearts but we keep many tangible items that represent memories too.  This is where the clutter happens!

  • Sentimental – holds real memories of a person or event

  • Historical – holds generational and family lineage information

  • Just Because – those things that are neither sentimental or historical

Of the items you are keeping “for memory sake”, decide which category they fall in and then re-evaluate.

Want to read more helpful tips on organizing memorabilia? Check out my blog post called Holding On to Our Memories or Organizing Memorabilia.

“It’s the memory of the person that is most important, not the stuff.” ~ Natalie Conrad

Recycle and Organize with Containers

Last week, I shared the overhead garage storage that my husband made for us.  Did you notice the recycled Folger’s coffee cans in the first set of photos?  Here they are again.

recycled containers to organize

Many times I have to caution my clients not to go out and buy organizing products BEFORE we organize.  It’s like putting the cart before the horse- as the saying goes.

It’s always a good idea to sort, purge and organize what’s left before you purchase any more organizing products because:

Creating A Storage Area

Many of us lament the lack of closet/storage spaces in our homes.  We are faced with thinking outside “the closet” and finding more ways to store things.

First things first, always look for ways to go vertical

Photo used with permission from Classy Clutter

Choose the right containers

Photo use with permission from Fancy Frugal Life 

Use Labels

 Photo used with permission from Delightful Order

Store heavy or large items at the bottom

 Photo used with permission from Organizing Made Fun

As you can see by these examples, creating a storage area is not only possible, but can be visually pleasing as well.

Look around your home, what’s possible?

All photos used with permission by blog owners.

I’m Noticing A Shift…

Silly title? Maybe, but it’s what this post is about. It’s about some self-observations too.

In my early mommy years, I got in the habit of buying Stride Rite shoes (i.e. leather, good quality) for my little ones and offsetting the expense by shopping at the thrift store for my own clothes and accessories.   I didn’t mind, really.  After all, thrift shopping is like an adventure.  You venture out, not knowing what you will find so you keep an open mind and an eagle eye out for bargains on quality merchandise.  As my kids got older, I kept shopping at thrift stores because, well, kids are expensive even before college starts!

Some of my favorite finds –

  • a blue dress that was casual or dressy depending on the jewelry and shoes

  • the $5 suit that I wore to speak at a large company

  • a Coldwater Creek jacket that looked amazing on me!

Ask my friends, I can find the jewels in the thrift store…  but alas, the shift. I recently visited my favorite thrift store in my old neighborhood/city.  I grabbed the cart, traced the usual route and after about one hour, I left the store… Empty-handed!

That had never happened before,