Ask Unclutterer: Blog post ideas

Reader Gwen submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:

How do you come up with something new to write every day?

Gwen, this is the question I get asked the most often. Unfortunately, the answer is a wee-bit complicated, so please bear with me on this journey.

First thing to know, Unclutterer.com is made up of seven people. I’m just the one steering the organized ship, so to speak. We have programmers and project managers and an intern (everyone say “hi” to Tim) and a publisher and me. Everyone except for me spends most of their time on other programming and design projects (things like Nest Unclutterer and building websites for corporate and non-profit clients), but I’m full-time on Unclutterer business.

Thirteen times a year, we have meetings to plan our content. Twelve of those meetings decide the content for the months and one of those meetings is a strategic planning meeting where we look at the whole of the next year.

We have these meetings during the second week of each month, so we planned for August in mid-July. Our planning isn’t necessarily specific, but it guides my writing. Take for example the plan for this past week as we planned it in mid-June:

Monday: Uncluttered speech, bathroom organizing
Tuesday: Update on photo scanning project, something from the news
Wednesday: Something book related, A Year Ago, Unitasker
Thursday: Closet organizing, something book or news related
Friday: Workspace of the Week, Ask Unclutterer

You’ll notice that not everything went exactly as planned (Thursday’s closet organizing piece became a piece on general uncluttering), but that is fine. The goal of the plan is to give me ideas, not a strict law that must be followed.

Everyone on the team has a different way of capturing their ideas (I use Evernote, some people just use pen and paper), and not everyone on the team participates in all of the planning meetings.

If you are looking for ways to generate ideas for your blog, I highly recommend the team approach. Get a group of friends together or find people who are interested in the same topic and brainstorm ideas. You can do it over the phone or in person, just get talking about your topic. Even if people don’t come to the meeting with prepared suggestions, they can still add ideas and feedback during the meeting. Our meetings are usually 15 minutes long and I wouldn’t be able to come up with so many ideas without them.

Readers e-mail, twitter, and save links to del.icio.us that give me ideas, too. I carry my iPhone with me everywhere I go and take pictures of things I think would make good posts. I’m a member of a couple professional organizations that have newsletters about industry trends. I re-read diary entries from when I was going through my transformation from a clutterbug into an unclutterer and get ideas from my notes. I read a lot of business and science journals. I have news searches saved on JSTOR and through Google news. I’m always on the lookout for ideas — I can’t turn it off.

Thank you, Gwen, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column. Be sure to check the comments for even more ideas from our readers about how they generate post ideas for their blogs.

Do you have a question relating to organizing, cleaning, home and office projects, productivity, or any problems you think the Unclutterer team could help you solve? To submit your questions to Ask Unclutterer, go to our contact page and type your question in the content field. Please list the subject of your e-mail as “Ask Unclutterer.” If you feel comfortable sharing images of the spaces that trouble you, let us know about them. The more information we have about your specific issue, the better.

25 Comments for “Ask Unclutterer: Blog post ideas”

  1. posted by Molly on

    I miss Minimalist Monday! Please bring it back!

  2. posted by Serge Gorodish on

    Or then there’s my rule of thumb: when you can’t think of anything to write about, write a post about how you get your ideas to write about.

  3. posted by Kathy on

    I also miss Extreme Minimalism Monday!

    I have so many things in my own that life that fall under that category, and I find it very hand – and absolutely hilarious – to see what others have done in that sense.

  4. posted by Laura on

    Hi Tim!

  5. posted by Kathy on

    That should have been handy* (not hand)

  6. posted by s on

    Could you get very specific about Evernote? I’ve heard raves, but I just don’t quite get how I could use it. Seems like it would take a lifetime just to make sure everything is tagged well; I have that same feeling about GMail and it’s paralyzed me, too.

    And, can Evernote help with identifying priorties, setting reminders, etc?

    I don’t have a PDA and I can’t access Evernote at work, but I could send myself email to Evernote and then do some kind of summary each evening when I get home.

    How can I “dump my brain” with or without Evernote and feel comfortable that I’ll be able to find what I want when I want it. And is that better than filing on my computer hard drive?

    Thanks so much.

  7. posted by ercy on

    thank you for the inspiration!

  8. posted by Juan Pablo Vásquez on

    Siempre es bueno conocer como trabajan equipos tan buenos como los de Unclutterer. Sigan compartiendo excelente contenido.

  9. posted by J Reed on

    I love to see how the sausage is made. I didn’t imagine such a corporate approach, but it gives me more confidence in the logevity of the site, which is great.
    By the way, I too would like to see the minimalist Mondays back.

  10. posted by Samantha Hartley | Enlightened Marketing on

    I find most helpful the specifics you’ve included: the meetings last 15 minutes (my dream!), you plan 1 month in advance plus once for the whole year, there are multiple team members only one of whom is dedicated to the blog. Thanks for sharing a peek behind the curtain.

  11. posted by A. on

    Another vote for Minimalist Mondays, here!

    But, JSTOR!? That’s really academic, and has a moving wall of 3-5 years, so you might not be getting the most recent articles. I’m a big fan of alerts, though. (Why should I search when I can make my databases do it for me? :-) ) Have you created alerts in the other databases your local library has to offer?

  12. posted by enigma on

    Hi Tim !

    And Hi and Thanks to everyone at unclutterer.com. You are a great team and always provide inspiration on things to improve.

  13. Profile photo of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @A — I use a number of different databases for research, but I can’t seem to figure out how to get them to send me alerts without being a personal paid subscriber (like Lexis/Nexis for one). If I had an e-mail address with our library’s extension, I think it would be possible with a few of the databases. But, since I use gmail and access the databases through the library … I’m out of luck.

  14. posted by Martin S. on

    Great blog post.

    How about writing on “Ideas on how to promote easy living for friends, family and others?”

    Thus, spreading the word and making your surroundings a bit better :)

  15. posted by Catherine Cantieri, Sorted on

    This is an inspiring post, especially for someone who just spent an hour or so racking her brain for August topics!

  16. posted by Brandon Green on

    Count me as a Minimalism Monday fan too!

  17. posted by Lori Paximadis on

    I’ll chime in and second the notion that brainstorming with a group is a GREAT way to get blog post ideas. Some members of my local Etsy team sat down a few weeks ago to talk about improvements to our website (among other things) and we ended up with a whole page of topic ideas — and volunteers to write most of them.

  18. posted by Cat on

    I also vote for the return of minimalist mondays! Thanks for sharing the process.

    It seems that recently, unclutterer has started shifting from physical clutter to mental/time clutter. While I agree that mental clutter exists and can be just as pesky as too much stuff, I didn’t start reading this blog for that purpose (zenhabits filled that role) – was this a conscious decision or are topics regarding organizing “stuff” getting harder to come by?

  19. posted by Vicki K on

    I didn’t realize I was missing MMondays until I read the comments above – but now I am fully cognizant of their absence! Is it because the trend isn’t as strong as it used to be? Seems like people are in a bit of a quandry these days about whether to pare down or stockpile for the future.

  20. posted by A on

    @Erin – I do the same thing – I use gmail and get all sorts of alerts. Here’s how you (and anyone else with a library card) can do it:

    Pull out your library card and head to your library’s home page (not the page where you check the catalog, but their main page (I recently discovered that my husband didn’t know his library had a main page!)).

    Find a page that lists their databases, which might be named any number of things, such as “Reference databases,” “Article databases,” or even something as vague as “find articles.”

    You should, at some point, be prompted to log in to the database using your library card number. Then, do a couple of searches. Read the screens carefully, including around the top and the perimeter, looking for phrases that might indicate that you can view your “search history” or “create an alert.” Click on the link, and you should find what you’re looking for! You may have to set up a personal profile, but you can use any email address. Your library card proves you’re an authorized user. :-)

    Most databases created by EBSCO or ProQuest have easy to use search alert functions. LexisNexis and Gale/Cengage, not so much.

  21. posted by Beverly D on

    I’d like to weigh in AGAINST minimalist mondays, because it’s been made very clear that this site is not about minimalism but about having a place for what you value. Have all the stuff you want, as long as it has a place in your life and is useful for you. Bringing back Minimalist Mondays confuses the mission of the blog. In my not so humble opinion.

  22. posted by Rebecca on

    Erin – I loved this post because it was completely different from what I was expecting. There were so many original ideas and I’ve never heard that you should brainstorm blog ideas as a team (although this is entirely logical). I think that will help my personal and work blogs.

    Also, my tip is I use Delicious religously (probably the same way you use Evernote). I tag everything and things that I specifically want to come back to and write posts about get a special tag. I wouldn’t be able to blog without it.

  23. posted by Another Deb on

    This post and the comments that followed have given me a new approach to collaboration in my academic team. We start the new year on Wednesday and have already had some summertime meetings, but they invariable begin with micro-details instead of the overview. I like the timeline and hope to incorporate it into the way I work!

  24. posted by Brown Thumb Mama on

    Thanks for the tip! I’m a solo blogger and while I have plenty of ideas, a schedule sure would come in handy sometimes. Sounds like I need to get some brainstorming friends together.

    Hi Tim!

  25. posted by Tom Baker on

    Great insight and good information – this is something I can integrate into my post ideas.

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