Quickly Declutter These 6 Areas and Get an Instant Mood Lift


Organized Bathroom Drawer







It’s easy for these six areas to become pretty cluttered and messy. Decluttering and organizing them takes less than an hour, but the payoff is big. It’s amazing how good you feel when you walk into a room, open a cabinet, or climb into a car with zero clutter.

1.  Master Bathroom Countertop, Cabinets, and Drawers

2. Surface of Master Bedroom Bureau and Nightstand

3. Kitchen Spice Cabinet

4. Laundry Room/Area

5. Pet Clutter

6. Car

Week 1

Declutter your bathroom countertop, cabinets and drawers.

Undoubtedly, there are products you don’t use; empty bottles; expired make-up and medicine, and stray Q-tips cluttering your bathroom space.

Pull everything out, so you can see what you have. You may be a bit surprised at the number of things you’ve accumulated.

I find lots of unused samples and promotional products in clients’ bathrooms, especially the little bottles of hotel shampoos, conditioners, lotions, and soaps. It seems we just can’t resist freebies. Discard anything you didn’t choose to buy and haven’t used within a few months.


Dispose of expired medicines (both prescription and over the counter), but not in the trash. Many police and sheriff’s stations have drop-offs for pharmaceuticals. Some Walgreens and most HealthPartners pharmacies take medicines, as well. To find locations, check your county’s website or http://www.rethinkrecycling.com/


Most make-up products have a Period After Opening symbol (PAO), a guideline for when to throw them away.  bathroom declutter

The symbol has a number and the letter M. The M stands for months, so 12M means that it should be discarded after 12 months.

Eye make-up has the shortest shelf life, because it is more susceptible to microbial infection during use.

Lipstick, Concealer, Foundation, Moisturizer – 1 year

Blush – 2 years

Eyeliner Liquid – 4-6 months

Eyeliner Pencil – 2 years

Mascara – 4-6 months

Eyeshadow Cream – 6 months

Eyeshadow Powder – 2 years

Nail Polish – 2 years

Give the empty drawers and cabinets a quick cleaning before you return the items.

If you need containers to corral some of the categories of items, go to your kitchen and search your plastic container collection. Use the lidless, the oddballs, and the extras (everyone has them) for containment.

Now, enjoy walking into your bathroom!

Next week, #2 – bedroom bureau and nightstand.






Squirrel It Away!


Fox squirrels stockpile between 3000 and 10,000 nuts a year. And guess what? They organize them by category – like with like.

The squirrels arrange their nuts using “chunking,” an oddly named cognitive strategy used to organize stuff into smaller, more manageable categories. It’s like creating subfolders on a computer in order to find things more easily.

In a study, when given nuts, the squirrels buried almonds in one area, walnuts in another, pecans in another, and hazelnuts in another. They organized their nut caches by nut type!

Their storage technique maximizes the squirrels’ ability to remember where they’ve stored their prized food. When they’re in the mood for a hazelnut, they know right where to look.

Organizing like with like not only helps you find things quickly, it also allows you to see how much you have in any given category.  For instance, put all of your pasta sauce together, so you can see how many jars you have; ditto for the noodles and everything else in your pantry. ‘Natch, you need to look in the pantry before you go shopping, or you’ll end up like me with three jars of mayo and no pasta sauce.

Guess what happens when you can’t find something, or you can’t see it?  You become frustrated searching for what you need, and then you go out and buy duplicates – waste of time, yup, waste of money, yup.

Follow the squirrels’ example, instead.  Organized nuts and fruits


Related reading — Don’t Waste Another Minute Searching for Things

How to Keep Sunk Costs from Sinking your De-cluttering


Have you ever continued to watch a horrible movie, because you’ve already invested an hour in it? That hour is a sunk cost.

Costs that have already been incurred and cannot be recovered are sunk costs. Watching the rest of the movie just increases your sunk cost – your time.

Most of the belongings in our homes are sunk costs, except for items like jewelry and art that may increase in value. Unfortunately, we cannot recoup the money spent on the majority of household items and clothing.

Keeping things we don’t really need or want increases our sunk costs, because there are costs involved in ownership – cleaning, maintaining, organizing, storing, moving.

Ownership = Sunk Costs
If you can accept that sunk costs are a part of ownership, it will enable you to make rational decisions about what to keep and what to release.

After all, everything has a life span, and if you’ve enjoyed having, wearing, or using something, then you’ve received your money’s worth. If you haven’t, then storing it longer still won’t bring the money back.

Does This Have Value Now?
Instead of thinking about what something cost, focus on the value it brings to your life now, or will bring in the future. If you think about whether or not something is enriching your life, it becomes easier to see the things that are weighing you down.

So try not to get stuck on the cost of that pair of tragically uncomfortable shoes you never wear. Let them go!


Cat Enforced Minimalism


I have ornamental and sentimental bric-a-brac sitting on tables and bureaus in my bedroom and bathroom. There’s not a lot of it. I believe in only keeping things that have meaning for me.

Enter Neytiri, the cat. She is a strict minimalist.

The Minimalist’s Technique


Every dawn, I would be awakened by the sound of objects being batted off my bureau, side tables, and bathroom counter – slide, stop, slide, stop, slide, stop, thunk. Neytiri wanted her breakfast.

Sometimes, there were pauses between the batting, and I would lie there waiting, irritated and almost impatient, for the thing to hit the floor. When she batted off my new prescription glasses, and my foster puppy ate them, I surrendered and scooped everything into drawers.

After a few weeks of blissfully quiet mornings, I decided to reduce the somewhat barren feeling of my bedroom and bathroom by putting a few large crystal geodes on some of the surfaces. It was a bit of a one-note decorating scheme, but the upside was that they were very heavy. I was sure Neytiri couldn’t move them far.

Humans make plans and cats unmake them. It was a much louder and longer process, but she sent every single geode over the edge – quartz, amethyst, calcite, and agate all hit the floor. Those were big thunks that jerked me awake in an adrenaline-fueled fight or flight state.


I now live with bare flat surfaces in my bedroom and bathroom – zero clutter – no dish for my rings, no candles, no framed photos, no miniatures, no toothbrush, toothpaste, or comb.

The Advantages of Minimalism

I can sleep later. Dusting takes seconds instead of minutes. Nothing gets broken or chewed. I have large, smooth surfaces on which to fold laundry. And, after an initial mourning period, I don’t miss any of the things too much. If I do, I just open a drawer and take a look.

Now, what do I do about the other cat, Romulus, whose nocturnal entertainment is opening cabinet doors and drawers in the kitchen – bang, bang, bang?

If you need a hand reducing clutter, I can help, and I’m more respectful of your belongings than Neytiri.

My Shangri-La and the Beauty of Less


       The View from the Deck

Next week, I am traveling to the family cabin on an island in Ontario, Canada.

Island’s End, named by my mother, is my Shangri-La, respite from civilization’s stressors such as traffic, schedules, and to do lists.

It’s wonderfully quiet and tranquil, and, above all, rejuvenating. I fill my days with reading on the deck, swimming, or lazily kayaking around the islands hoping to spot some wildlife.

As I was thinking about how restorative it feels, it occurred to me that it isn’t just the lifestyle, but the actual cabins and their contents that contribute to the lightness of being.

The Cabins
The buildings and most of their contents were built by the descendants of Norwegian craftsmen who emigrated to the area in the mid-1800’s. The cabins are made of local pine, as is most of the furniture. The dining tables, chairs, dressers, and side tables are all simple designs crafted by hand.

In the kitchen, the plates, bowls, glasses, and food are stored on open pine shelving, instead of behind cabinet doors.

Open Kitchen Shelves

                    Open Kitchen Shelves

There are few decorative items – some photos, prints, and a carved paddle on the walls; some rocks with fossils in them; a porcupine quill box; candles, and a dish full of Canadian change on the tables.

When I arrive, the dressers and closets are empty, so it takes 10 minutes to put my clothing away, and it’s effortless to find what I want to wear each day.

The Maintenance
None of the storage spaces are crowded, and every room has an open, airy feeling.

Cleaning is easy, because there is little to move or maneuver around and few things to dust.

It’s less work to live with fewer belongings. It’s easier to find things. Maintenance is reduced, and the simplicity of the spaces feels wonderful to me.

The Contrast
When I return to St Paul, I’m always struck by the lack of simplicity in my house. Although I keep things pretty clutter-free (and considering my occupation, would I admit otherwise?), there is a lot more stuff here than there is at the cabin. It feels closed-in and too full.

I’m struck most by how I needed very few things around me to be blissfully happy on the island. In fact, having less things in my environment was part of the bliss!

Less Stuff, Less Work, More Value

Every August on re-entry from Island’s End, I try to pare down, so my home will feel more like the cabin – less clothing, less decorative trinkets, less kitchen accessories, less of the stuff that I once thought I needed.

I want to value the things that surround me, and it feels easier to do that when there are fewer of them.

Equally important, I want to spend less time maintaining my belongings and have a smaller ecological footprint. Simplifying will achieve both goals.

But first, the island!

Wherever or whatever your utopia may be this summer, I hope it brings you everything you wish for.

How to Overcome Procrastination and Master your Organizing Projects

After five days of fireworks induced terror, my dogs are slowly returning to normal. I am rather tired from the loss of sleep and cleaning up pee, because the dogs declined to go outside where the evil was.

I must say that I would be grateful if the celebratory explosions leading up to July 4th weren’t quite as extended!

Anyway, here are some tips to get over the procrastination hurdle, so you can tackle your organizing projects.

Overcome procrastination become organized

Nowhere is the adage, procrastination is the thief of time, truer than when applied to disorganization.

Lack of organization leads to wasting time looking for, re-purchasing, and re-creating things – be it a pair of scissors you need to use, a sweater you want to wear, or a document you can’t find.

Over our lifetimes, we spend 3,680 hours or 153 days searching for things. (Esure Home Insurance Study, 2015)

Less tangible, but equally costly to our equanimity, is the stress and frustration involved.

As we all know, procrastination just multiplies the problems.


Stop thinking. Start doing.

If you are procrastinating, you are probably thinking about the project in a negative way, which inevitably makes it grow bigger and worse in your mind.

Take the first step today.

You don’t need to know how it will all unfold. Just focus on the first step.

If you need to plan a bit, that’s ok. Plan a little, then take action. Don’t get stuck on the plan.

Finish it.

Not finishing a task weighs on you. Completing one feels great and amplifies your inner power.

Before you even realize it, you’ll be transforming things and feeling very happy about it.


If you need a little help getting motivated, call me!






Open a Deli, or De-Clutter Your Plastic Food Containers?

Plastic container organization


If you’re storing enough plastic food containers to open your own deli, it’s time to purge.

In my experience, everyone has more plastic containers than they need, and no one has the perfectly size-graded, matched containers pictured.

You can de-clutter and organize your containers in 10 minutes or less while you’re waiting for something to cook.


Take all of your containers out of the cabinet(s)

That way you’ll see how many you really have.

Match tops to containers

There are bound to be topless ones, or extra tops.

Recycle the icky looking ones

You know, the ones that are pitted, cracked and stained with tomato sauce.

Assess and organize

How many of each size do you need?

Are any of them large enough to hold the other tops?

Repurpose containers without tops and the ones you don’t use

Use them for organizing drawers, under sinks, and other cabinets.

  • Kitchen – For batteries, change, keys, tape, and other odds and ends in junk drawers; for plastic utensils; for tea bags
  • Bathroom – For dental floss/picks; tweezers and clippers, samples – small bottles, and packets; hair elastics, medicines, make-up, nail polish, band-aids
  • Office – For paper clips, rubber bands, pencil lead, scratch paper/post-it notes, business cards
  • Garage – For screws, nuts& bolts, drill bits, hooks, Allen wrenchesorganizing junk drawers

I bet you can find other ways to re-purpose them, too. I’d love to hear your suggestions.

Eco/Health Tip – Switch to glass containers. They are more environmentally-friendly, and eating food stored in some plastics may expose you to nasty chemicals.


6 Steps to an Organized Garage

organized garage

               Good Housekeeping

It’s the perfect time of year to makeover your garage – not too hot, not too cold, not too many biting insects, yet.

What could be more fun than spending a morning or afternoon getting dirty amongst cobwebs, dead bugs, mice poo, and old dirty, greasy stuff?

But there are multiple rewards. You will breathe a sigh of relief and pleasure when you pull your car into the garage, maybe for the first time in a long time. You’ll be able to find what you need, instead of searching for long minutes and then going to the store and purchasing a duplicate. Your neighbors will have garage envy.

Step 1: Grab some boxes/garbage bags and designate 5 areas in the driveway –

Keep, Sell, Donate, Trash, Relocate

Step 2: Remove everything from the garage and sort each into the appropriate category.

Do I really have to remove everything? Yes, because you must be able to really see what you have in order to assess and de-clutter. Are there duplicates, broken items, outgrown items, and parts that belong to long-gone items?

Also, you will be able to organize the garage more efficiently if you start from ground zero.

Step 3: Sweep the garage.

Step 4: Decide on zones for the categories of items that will be returning to the garage.

Lawn & Garden
Sports Equipment
Outdoor Toys/Bicycles
Holiday Decorations
Power Equipment – Mower, Snow Blower, Hedge Trimmer

Step 5: Before you begin to return things to the garage, take stock of the space. Best practice is to keep most items off the floor and visible. Consider free-standing shelving, wall storage, and                           ceiling storage options.

Organized garage

   Better Homes and Gardens


Labeled plastic totes are the way to go for storing families of smaller items. Make sure the lids latch in case you have small critters sharing your garage.

My favorite labels are Identa labels. They consist of a label inside a plastic pouch. They are durable, reusable, repositionable and come in several sizes.

Identa Labels


Step 6: This is important. Enact a plan for the things you aren’t keeping.

Take overflow garbage to the dump.
Deliver the donations.
Relocate items to the house or friends/relatives.
Make a plan for selling items; pick a deadline; put it on your calendar.

Step 7: Take a shower and while you’re in there, pat yourself on the back!

The Most Important Organizing Advice Of All

Organizing Tips


I know the title sounds grandiose, but I do believe that this advice is fundamental to getting and staying organized. The ability to do the latter is often overlooked.

If I gave you a bunch of yellow and red plastic knives, forks, and spoons, how would you organize them?

  1. All of the knives together; all of the forks together; all of the spoons together
  2. All of the yellow knives, forks, and spoons together, and all of the red knives, forks, and spoons together.
  3. In sets of three – 1 fork, 1 knife, 1 spoon.

Do you organize your socks by color, or by function – sport, dress, etc.?

Do you file your transportation documents under Auto, Vehicle, Car, or manufacturer – Ford, Jeep, etc.?

Is your health insurance under Medical, Health, or Insurance?

Right or Wrong?

No matter how you organize your belongings, you’re right. There is no wrong way to organize.  As long as your system works for you, you’ve succeeded.

The key is to set up systems based on your preferences and processing style.

Before you begin an organizing project spend a few minutes thinking about what will help you find things. After all, that’s the main reason we organize.

Personalize It

If your pantry looks like a Pinterest photo when you’re done, but you can’t find the tomato soup quickly, it’s not useful, and it will take extra time to maintain.

Systems need to be balanced with ease of use and aesthetics, or they will flop.

The Goal

In order for any system to be helpful it needs to be

  • Personalized
  • Convenient
  • Fast and easy to find and replace things

Remember, it’s all about what works for you.

On another note — I think this under the bed shoe organizer is great and could be used for other things, too — Under Bed Shoe Organizer

I hope you are enjoying the smell of the Spring blooming trees, lilacs, and lilies of the valley as much as I!

Let me know if you need a hand setting up some systems to keep you organized.




Organize kid's art

As much as we love our little darlings’ creations, they arrive home at an exponentially increasing rate as the kids rise through the grades, and we feel guilty if we throw any of it away.

Here’s how to reduce the volume, guilt-free, AND 3 awesome apps that will enable you to do cool stuff with the art.


The Scoop

  • Designate a bin or box (cardboard bankers’ boxes work well) into which you put items from each grade in school.  Banker’s Box
  • As classwork and art projects come home put them in the box.
  • At the end of the year, go through the box with your child. He/she will tell you what is important or special to them, and together you can choose what to save.

The Big Bonus – It’s a fun way to spend time with your child and hear stories about his/her year.

Often, after sorting, you can combine items from several grades in one box.

  • To store larger drawings or paintings, use art portfolios. organize art
  • If there is a bulky 3D project, take some photos of it and let it go when you and your child are ready.

The Apps

If gigabytes are easier for you to manage than square footage, there are great apps that will allow you to upload, organize, and store your children’s’ artwork. You choose the audience to share them with, too.

Artkive allows you to make hardcover books and other keepsakes from drawings and paintings.


Keepy allows you or your kids to record video notes on the art.


Canvsly has a share feature that allows multiple parents, and caregivers to maintain the galleries without overlaps.



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