Chapter OneSimply Start Out Right
With a good organizational plan, you can be sure to unclutter any area
of your home. And if you maintain the neat, orderly space you've created,
you'll always know what you've got-and exactly where to find it.
I love the look of a clean home-and you probably do too. But wanting an orderly
home and actually bringing it about are two different things. If you sometimes struggle
to maintain your space, you're not alone. Most of us eventually have to admit, "I
just have too much stuff!"
I, too, didn't realize the clutter I had collected until I opened my linen closet years
ago and found twenty-six tablecloths. That's enough for a new one every two weeks for
an entire year! That day I discovered what too much felt like. So I started to sort and
create simple solutions to control clutter.
As we all know, cluttered closets (like my overstuffed linen closet), paper pileups,
and overflowing countertops gradually fill our homes for a variety of reasons, ranging
from a busy schedule to other people to pick up after. Then, adding to our piles of stuff,
we receive gifts, find great bargains, and purchase new things to enjoy without getting
rid of the old. Before long, the clutter grows in every room and we feel out of control!
If we don't simplify the things we own, our homes become full of gathered belongings
and we become "museum" keepers. And the more things we acquire, the more
time we have to spend taking care of them. Without an effective system to organize our
belongings, we spend many frustrating hours searching for important things that are
lost or misplaced.
Put quite simply, too much stuff complicates our lives.
Get Things Back Under Control
Perhaps things have gotten a bit cluttered in your life. If so, let me assure you that having
too much stuff is not a character flaw! It can be the sign of a busy life, a sentimental
attachment to things, indecisiveness, or reluctance to let things go. Whatever the reason,
in this book you will learn practical tips to help you overcome your past and make a
There are simple solutions to getting things back under control. You don't have to
live in a complicated home. You can make changes . at your own pace. The dream
of a simplified space can become your reality.
The good news is that when you simplify your belongings, you will find not only
clear space but also more time. You won't be taking care of so many things, and that
will free you to focus on what really matters. Now is the time to let things go, for your
benefit and for others'.
Motivated to Change
We all have personal reasons for wanting to simplify our space. Mine was embarrassment.
My well-organized twin aunts were visiting from out of town for a week. I loved my
aunts and knew they were neat as a pin at home and work. Thinking I could use a little
encouragement from them on how to get organized, I casually asked as we were setting the
table for dinner, "Aunt Helen, how can I get these papers on my kitchen counter in order?"
She folded her arms, took a step back, and surveyed the situation. I knew right
then I was in trouble. Sure enough, Aunt Helen began to assess my situation aloud.
"First of all, you need to get rid of these piles on the countertop. Then the piles sitting
on the floor underneath the counter need to go. And then ."
As she continued, I was mortified. I thought, Can't she see I'm a busy person? I'm raising
a family with three kids! What does she expect?
I started to blame my family for my disorganized lifestyle, but it wasn't their fault. The
fact remained: I had a cluttered kitchen, and I was responsible. What I had visually tuned
out as a minor problem was a noticeable eyesore to everyone else. I decided to change.
Make a Plan and Take Some Action Every Day
You may not have an Aunt Helen in your life, but you may have heard comments from
a spouse, neighbor, or friends (or feared getting some). This may be your moment to do
some clearing out and cleaning up. If not for others, then do it for yourself. The peace
of mind is well worth it.
Here's what I learned as I pursued organizing my paper-filled countertop:
1. Keeping things out is the slowest way to find anything. It all runs together and
is difficult to find anything, from the credit card bill to the coupon for a
2. Getting organized is only half the battle. I had to go a step further and prioritize
things to keep and things to let go.
3. Living an organized lifestyle is much easier than living a disorganized one. No
one told me it was way more fun and took much less time. Once I discovered
this secret, I was hooked on keeping a simplified space, and you probably will
Little did I know back then I would not only clean up my space, but I would
encourage audiences and clients across the country with the hope that they too could
make changes. Orderliness is not a gene you are born with; anyone can learn to sort,
organize, and simplify successfully-starting today!
How Do You Simplify Your Space?
Simplifying your space is the process of organizing your belongings and letting go of
the excess until your surroundings are orderly and peaceful. We're going to do it room
by room so you can see your progress.
As you simplify your space, you might be doing one of several things. For instance,
you might be clearing up a cluttered coffee table by separating paper from other items.
Or you might be going through a closet and donating a good portion of the contents
to charity. Or you might be making room in the garage by organizing sections and getting
rid of excess clutter.
Think of the process like a pyramid. Sorting is the base, organizing is the next
block, and simplifying your space is the attractive pyramid point that shows you have
completed the space.
SPACE-SAVING TIP #1
To simplify your space, you sort things to give away, organize the remaining
items, and then simplify by neatly arranging your favorites.
How Are We Going to Do This?
Simplify Your Space takes you through your home in a way that will give you the biggest
results in the least amount of time. The book's easy-to-follow sequence covers your entire
home from the most visible and used spaces to the larger and less used storage areas.
Simplify Your Visible Space
Kitchen-Family Room-Daily Paperwork
Simplify Your Personal Space
Simplify Your Active Space
Laundry Room-Child's Room-Office
Simplify Your Formal Space
Dining Room-Living Room-Guest Room
Simplify Your Storage Space
Garage-Basement-Your Next Move
Simply Maintain and Multiply Your Success
The sections of this book, as well as the three chapters in each section, progress
from easier to more challenging rooms. You don't want to get lost organizing a back
closet when your family room media center is screaming for attention. Simplify the
things in your home that are the most visible first, and then organize the less used
rooms last, which need your finely tuned skills to work up to them.
I drop organizing hints in each chapter (fifty-two throughout the book), so you can
follow the chapter sequence or you can go to the room chapter of your choice. Passion
to start and finish a job creates momentum, and that's what we're looking for!
By following the step-by-step directions in each chapter, you will be equipped to
succeed. Living in a clean, organized home creates a sense of serenity and order. You'll
feel good about yourself and your space.
Ready, Set, Go!
Read each chapter, follow the strategies and tips that work for you, and then stand at
the door of the room with that chapter's checklist in hand. Success means many "yeses"
on the checklist at the end of each chapter or when you clean up what you started for
Too often, inexperienced people start to organize without a specific plan and end
up making a bigger mess than when they started. No more! To ensure you won't end
up creating more piles in a helter-skelter sorting frenzy, in each room we will follow
my CALM approach, an easy acronym to remember that will keep you focused.
BLDBLDREATE A PLAN
APPROACH IT BY SECTIONS
LIGHTEN UP AND LET GO
MANAGE IT SIMPLY
Think of me as your personal organizer, coaching you through each room of your
house. You will be able to see and feel the organized approach to each room. I think
you can do this yourself, but if you have trouble making decisions you may want to
invite a friend to join you.
This process may take one day or one week per room, depending on the amount
accumulated and how determined you are to create a simplified space. The problems
multiply the more they sit there. But the more you overcome them, the more skilled
you will become.
By the end of the book, you will be problem solving like an organizing pro as you
personalize these systems. One drawer, one cabinet, and one countertop at a time, you
can simplify your space.
You Can Do This!
There is a Finnish proverb that says, "Happiness is a place between too little and too
much." We are going to find that place-the place where you are content with what
you have and not overwhelmed by having too much.
Then the fun begins when you can decorate and put your personal touches in each
room. To help you do that, I've invited restaging and interior design expert Susan Wells
to provide decorating tips in each chapter.
Think of the benefits of a simplified home: No more endless searching for items you
need. No more rummaging through drawers, cabinets, and shelves for lost or misplaced
items. Things will now have a designated space in your home so they will be right where
you need them when you want them. The benefits will multiply the more you simplify.
So whenever you see a pile of clutter that looks daunting, remind yourself to break
it down to one section at a time and declare, "That's not hard. Even I can do this!"
I say this not just from my experience as a professional organizer but from my own
personal experience. As I put the finishing touches on this book, we moved across
country from San Diego to Dallas. My message was especially put to the test as we
moved to a smaller home-one less bedroom, one less bathroom, and one less garage
space. Consolidating and simplifying our belongings took some time and effort, but
the result was an organized move into a neatly arranged home.
Change your space-change your home-change your life. A new life of order and
freedom awaits you. Soon you will see your home in a new light and with clear spaces.
Enjoy the journey!
Ten Tips to Simplify Any Space
You can begin to simplify any space with these ten easy tips:
1. Keep the front two-thirds of every countertop (or desk) clear.
2. Do a two-minute pickup before you leave a room.
3. Put clothes away now rather than later.
4. Make your clean kitchen table a focal point with only a centerpiece.
5. Look for a clear line of sight in every room.
6. Open your mail in one spot with five key file folders.
7. Create a file for recurring papers in your life.
8. Organize one shelf, file, or drawer at a time.
9. Continue to pare things down until you can manage them.
10. Congratulate yourself on living space you maintain daily.
Remember, one pile sitting out is the potential beginning of a complicated life.
Keep your life simple, and put the pile away.