Everyone can learn to be organized

Everyone begins life as a messy, disorganized, lump of a baby. No one is born in a starched shirt and polished shoes with a day planner in one hand and a vacuum cleaner in the other. (Our mothers, they are particularly happy about the vacuum cleaner part.) We scream. We drool. We poop. We cry some more. Everything about a baby is chaotic.

During the early years of life, some children are formally taught by their caregivers how to be organized. Others garner bits and pieces through observation, example, and trial and error. Finally, there are those who picked up very little during childhood and didn’t start learning about organizing until adulthood (I fall into this category).

The speed at which we acquire organizing skills is also varied. Some people learn a specific organizing skill the first time they encounter it. Others, it takes considerable practice.

How you learn or how quickly you learn is completely irrelevant; the point is that everyone can learn to be organized.

From this point forward, I want you to stop thinking about your disorganization as a state of being. Instead, think about the specific way that you’re not yet organized.

“My closet is a mess because I haven’t mastered the skills necessary to keep it free of clutter. I need to learn how to organize my closet and acquire the skills that it requires to maintain it well.”

“My big project at work is a mess because I don’t know what programs and systems are available to help me get it under control. I need to research and learn about what I can do to better manage my time and work of this project.”

When you stop identifying as someone who is disorganized, and start thinking about it as just a specific skill that you can learn, getting organized becomes an easier task.

Ask Unclutterer: Storing pan lids

Reader Kate submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:

Cookware lids are a pain in the neck! With limited drawer and cabinet space I am forced to store my pots and pans one within the other – which leaves the lids to fend for themselves. They are big in diameter and the handle makes them awkward in shape – so my only solution this far has been to throw them in a drawer like a messy bunch of Frisbees. I’d love to hear if have a solution.

Since you have a drawer that is large enough for your lids, you’re only a few steps away from an organized solution.

Grab your largest and smallest lids, and head to your local office supply store. For less than $10, you should be able to find a file organizer that you can repurpose for lids. Just make sure that the specific organizer you choose works with your lids, which is why you’ll want your smallest and largest lids with you. Put the file organizer in your drawer and then vertically drop in all of your lids.

There are also organizers made specifically for lids, but I think they’re they exact same thing as what you get in office supply stores.

If you didn’t have a drawer, I’d recommend an organizer that attaches to the back of a cabinet door. This way, you don’t have to sacrifice horizontal storage space for items that can easily be stored vertically.

How do others store pan lids in kitchen cupboards and drawers? Give Kate even more ideas to choose from in the comments.

Thank you, Kate, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column.

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.

Workspace of the Week: Office in an armoire

This week’s Workspace of the Week is Mark Coggins’ writer’s workshop:

I’m of the opinion that if you work from home, you need a way to literally shut the door to your office. The door makes a nice barrier between your work life and personal life. Author Mark Coggins shows us that four cabinet doors can do exactly that. This office, which is outfitted in an armoire, holds a scanner, printer, keyboard, mouse, monitor, link station, and router within its relatively small structure. Nothing is cluttered, and, except for a few sentimental items, most everything in the space is utilitarian. Thank you, Mark, for submitting such an inspirational space.

Want to have your own workspace featured in Workspace of the Week? Submit a picture to the Unclutterer flickr pool. Check it out because we have a nice little community brewing there. Also, don’t forget that workspaces aren’t just desks. If you’re a cook, it’s a kitchen; if you’re a carpenter, it’s your workbench.

Are you an unclutterer?

An unclutterer is someone who chooses to get rid of the distractions that get in the way of a remarkable life.

These distractions, also known as clutter, can be:

  • Physical. You have things you don’t have use for, things you have too much of, things that are out of place, things that don’t inspire you, things that you don’t want. The things you do want are disorganized. You’re overwhelmed by stuff.
  • Mental. Worries, stress, and anxiety about things you can’t control or things that could be solved if you were better organized.
  • Time. You have too much to do and not enough time or desire to do it. Or, you’re not managing the time that you do have well. Things that matter to you are pushed aside by busy-ness.
  • Processes. You’re not working to the best of your ability or don’t have processes in place to handle routine actions. You’re spinning your wheels.

What is the clutter in your life? How would your life be different if you chose to get rid of the distractions? Are you an unclutterer?

East Village apartment makes amazing use of space

Design magazines are starting to pay more attention to the unique demands that smaller living spaces present. We were very pleased to see that the June 2009 issue of Dwell has a great cover story on homes under 1,000 square-feet.

One of the residences featured is a 640-square-foot East Village apartment that was recently renovated by Michael Finger and Joanne Kennedy. The design work, which was done by No Roof Architects, employs some brilliant space-saving techniques to make the small home livable for a family of four.

We particularly like the under-floor storage and the Murphy bed hiding behind the desk shown below:

Unitasker Wednesday: Poop Freeze Aerosol Freeze Spray

All Unitasker Wednesday posts are jokes — we don’t want you to buy these items, we want you to laugh at their ridiculousness. Enjoy!

I was hesitant to pick this interesting product as a unitasker selection. My trepidation wasn’t because of the product’s “delicate” nature, but because I honestly have no clue if it even has one purpose. I’m afraid it might be a “no-tasker.”

The Poop Freeze Aerosol Freeze Spray is supposed to do what its name suggests — freeze your dog’s mess. But, what I don’t understand is WHY?!! Why would you want to freeze it?! At what point in the process? And, what does one do with it after it’s frozen??

At $11 a can, I’m also a little skeptical that this is the best solution if you would wish to use such a thing. A quick peek at the product reviews and I learned it’s not the best option. Apparently, hairspray and a can of compressed air (simply held upside down) will do the exact same thing. (The reviews of the product are actually some of the worst I have ever seen on Amazon.) Too bad Vapoorize isn’t a real product.

However, if you can find a reason for this product, you may also want the Poop Freeze Carry Tote. There is nothing cooler than walking around the dog park with a tote that says “Poop Freeze” on it! (No pun intended in that last sentence.)

A year ago on Unclutterer



  • The landing strip
    We come from work exhausted, often carrying our work bags, groceries, and the mail. A landing strip will help you avoid disorganization from the time you get home.
  • Guest room clothing storage
    If anyone has a guest bedroom in which they host friends and family, storage for your guest’s clothing may be an issue if they are staying for an extended period of time.

Leave a comment: Tips to clean your PC data

A surprising find on the HP website was “Is Your PC a Mess?” It is exactly what it sounds like: tips for keeping your data on your PC clean.

Windows Defender (which is already installed on Windows Vista®) is a very good start [when scanning for spyware]. Simply install and follow the prompts to check your system. There are other excellent tools available from reputable download sites too, many of the best ones completely free. Again, multiple layers of protection can save you from terrible heartache – it only takes one bad infection to ruin your whole week.

I’m a Mac, so I had no idea that there was a spyware program built into Windows Vista. It’s one of many great suggestions from the article.

What do you do to keep your PC clean? Let’s fill the comments with ideas and suggestions to help all of our PC readers.

Increase your productivity with keyboard shortcuts

When you constantly use keyboard shortcuts, it takes you less time at your computer to do the same amount of work as someone who is mouse dependent.

If you’re looking to improve your speed and productivity behind your keyboard, start by learning and practicing the basics:

Once you have these mastered, it’s time to give your productivity another boost.

  • For Mac users, keep a list of the programs you typically open in a given day and create launch and program-specific action shortcuts by going into Settings –> Keyboard Shortcuts. Then, hit the + sign to create your own program actions.
  • Windows users can download the program ActiveWords and create actions through it. (Free trial available, $30 for purchase.)

Then, stop typing the same words repeatedly by creating shortcuts for commonly typed symbols, code, and words.

  • For Mac users, download TextExpander and paste limitless text into your documents, e-mails, and programs.
  • For Windows users, keep using the program ActiveWords that I mentioned previously. In addition to creating program and action commands, it also inserts words with keyboard shortcuts.

I love TextExpander on my Mac and use it to enter Amazon links, the blurb at the beginning of every Unitasker Wednesday post, the templates for the Workplace of the Week and Ask Unclutterer posts, all five of my different e-mail signatures, our site’s submission guidelines, and hundreds of other paragraphs, sentences, and words that I type repeatedly.

How much time are you wasting by not using keyboard shortcuts? Take the time to learn, practice, and use keyboard commands to improve your productivity.

Organizing from A to Z

Unclutterer and Erin are mentioned numerous times in the June 2009 issue of Real Simple magazine in the article “Get Organized. Stay Organized. How to control the clutter for good” by Liz Welch.

The article works through the letters of the alphabet, giving organized suggestions for everything from artwork to grills and propane tanks to zippers and sewing items.

The most efficient way to store recipes is to “scan them, then organize them with a software system, like eChef recipe software,” says Doland. The program, which also lets you save recipes found online, has an easy-to-use search function: Type in “asparagus” and find every one of your recipes that calls for it.

The June 2009 issue of Real Simple is currently available on newsstands. Unfortunately, only the products mentioned in the article that you can buy are online. However, once June 1 rolls around, I expect the full text of the article to be available digitally.

How to clean stuff

Thanks to the website How To Clean Stuff, I now know how to clean the terminals to my car battery and the 10 dirtiest places in my home (ew!).

If you are looking to clean anything in your home, check out this site for solid directions. The comments are extremely helpful, too. Something I’m going to do this coming weekend is take Casey’s advice:

Apply Rain – X (typically used for vehicle windows) to your shower doors and you won’t have the water spots/scum/build-up from your water. The water will just run off of the glass like it does in your vehicle. I’ve also applied a coat of car wax to my shower walls (not the floor) and it has the same effect. The water just beads up and runs off. Saves A LOT of time in cleaning and elbow grease.

My shower stall is the hardest place to clean in the house. I really hope the Rain-X helps. Check out How To Clean Stuff for more great articles and tips.

(via Lifehacker)

Furniture solution for music practice space

Often when I’m practicing on one of my instruments I wish that my music stand was better suited for organizing and storing all the things I use when engaged in that activity:

In looking for a good solution, I came across an interesting organizational solution for the problem. It’s called the Musician’s Center and it’s built by Innovative Music Furniture, L.L.C.

It appears to be very well constructed and it seems to keep everything needed well organized and easily accessible. The build quality probably justifies the $2000 price, but it would also be easy enough to go the Ikeahacker route and convert a small bookshelf or nightstand by attaching the top of a music stand.