Get organized in January with these quick uncluttering and organizing tips

January is Get Organized Month, or what the organizing community refers to as GO Month. It’s the time of year when home and office organizing supplies typically go on sale at major retailers and when people start acting on their organizing-themed resolutions. It’s also the time of year when professional organizers tend to hold public events in their communities talking about organizing and uncluttering strategies. Check your local papers to see if any of these events will be held in your area.

When organizing, it’s best to unclutter first. Pull everything out of a space and sort it into piles: keep, purge, and other. Keep obviously means that you plan to continue to store and/or use the item. Purge can mean that you intend to trash, shred, recycle, or donate the item to charity. Your other pile is for objects that need to be repaired, relocated, returned to a friend or family member, or some other special action needs to be taken. Once all of the objects from the space have been sorted, you need to deal with the purge and other items immediately. If you don’t, they’re likely to cause you much frustration in the coming days. Trash what needs to be trashed, donate the objects that can be donated, return items to friends, and drop off objects that need to be repaired at the repair shop.

Once all the purge and other items are handled, take a look at all the objects you have in your keep pile. Do you need to do another round of uncluttering? If you’re feeling more courageous about purging items, now is the time to do it. When you are satisfied with your keep pile, sort the objects into new piles of like items — pencils with pencils, envelopes with envelopes, jeans with jeans. When everything is in piles by type, examine what you have and compare it to your storage systems. It is only at that this point that you should consider going out and buying organizing systems. Before you do, though, look through your house or office to see if you already own something that could hold and organize your objects. If you do, you don’t have any need to go out in the cold to buy anything.

If you decide to buy organizing products, check out the sales going on this January. The Container Store has a 30 percent off sale on all its Elfa closet organizers. Home Depot has all their storage and organizing items on sale through January 29, including their Martha Stewart line and many Rubbermaid products. And don’t forget to check out your local retailers that might also have sales on organizing items.

Before putting objects away, be sure to clean the space where the items will be stored. Wipe down shelves, replace shelf liner if needed, and vacuum out all the dust and spider webs. Repair or replace any storage items that are damaged, and make the storage area inviting. You are more likely to use a storage system if you like it.

As you’re putting items back into their newly cleaned storage spaces, be sure to put the items you access most often in the most convenient locations. Objects you access less often can go into the less convenient locations — and the heaviest of these objects should be stored lower to the ground so you don’t hurt yourself when you retrieve them. Put lids on things that aren’t accessed enough that they might collect dust, but keep objects you access regularly open to speed up retrieval time. Try not to stack anything more than three objects deep. Most importantly, know yourself. If you’re someone who has difficulty putting items back where they belong, make it as simple as possible to put items back in their places. A four-step return action will mean you probably won’t ever return the item back to where it belongs — one-step and two-step return actions are the easiest. Keep things simple.

What projects do you have planned for GO month? Share your plans in the comments.

Links for April 21, 2011

These items caught my attention over the past couple weeks, and I wanted to share them with you. They weren’t large enough to stand on their own as full posts, so I gathered them together in a link roundup:

  • The company Electrolux sponsored nine teams at the Domus Academy in Milan to design the kitchen of the future. The concepts are pretty impressive, especially for small space and storage design. Electrolux ReSource.
  • The show Clean House is looking for cluttered homes to be made over for future episodes. The show is filming next season in the greater Los Angeles and New York City areas, and to be considered you must own your home and at least two adults must live in the place. If you want to be on the show, email your name, address, phone number, list of everyone in the house and relationship to them, photos or videos of three rooms in your home that are messy, and a brief explanation for why you want to be on the show to Rose at [email protected] for LA consideration and Amy at [email protected] for NYC consideration. You must submit your email by tomorrow, April 22, 2011.
  • SwissMiss featured a great little product that bands your writing utensils to your favorite notebook, clipboard, or book. The pencil holders are called Clever Hands and they’re made by an artist on Etsy. I think these would be a great organizing tool for students.
  • A website, hysterically named BookshelfPorn, features daily pictures of (usually) organized bookshelves from amazing libraries around the world. After our post earlier this month about keeping clutter off your bookshelf, I thought you all might enjoy seeing these (mostly) amazing solutions.
  • My friend Julie Bestry, a professional organizer based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, recently wrote a post for the Metropolitan Organizing website on how to become a Certified Professional Organizer. If you’ve ever thought about a career as a professional organizer or are already a professional organizer and want to be a CPO, I highly recommend checking out her post.
  • Another professional organizer friend of mine, Allison Carter based in the Atlanta area, has a quick post on uncluttered gift ideas for moms for this upcoming Mother’s Day.
  • Last August, NPR featured a 40-minute segment on Fresh Air exploring “Digital Overload.” It’s a long segment, but it’s interesting as it looks at people’s addiction to multi-tasking.

Casting call for Enough Already! with Peter Walsh

I’m not one to usually pass along casting calls for television shows, but this one is so much fun I couldn’t resist. If you live in the Los Angeles area and want your home organized for FREE by Peter Walsh, check this out:

Enough Already! with Peter Walsh — a series for OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network — is looking for participants who are finally ready to say goodbye to chaos and clutter, and hello to an organized and healthy way of living.


  1. Live within a 30 mile radius of the Los Angeles area.
  2. Available to participate for one week sometime between mid-April to late June 2011.

To be considered, please provide the following information.


  • Name
  • Contact information
  • City
  • Description of your clutter and situation (250 words or less)
  • Please email everything to: [email protected]

All information is confidential and will only be shared with the program producers.

Like me, if you don’t live in the Los Angeles area, feel welcome to pass this information along to someone who does. Those of us in other parts of the country and world will just have to watch his organizing and uncluttering genius on season two.

And the three winners in our ScanSnap S1100 birthday giveaway are …

Thank you to EVERYONE (all 12,855 of you!) who are now following @Unclutterer on Twitter and who have participated in our Fujitsu ScanSnap S1100 birthday giveaway. We have greatly enjoyed this giveaway and Fujitsu’s generosity! Now, let’s get on to the good stuff …

At 10:00 a.m. EST, the random generator picked the following winners:


I have direct messaged the three winners of the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1100 and they have 24 hours to respond.

Even though the birthday giveaway is over, you can still sign up to follow @Unclutterer on Twitter. Also, sign up to follow @ScanSnapIT for tips and tricks about reducing your paper clutter. Again, we want to give BIG, AMAZING, GIGANTIC thanks to Fujitsu for doing such a generous giveaway for our birthday celebration and our Twitter followers!

We’re celebrating our fourth birthday by giving away three S1100 Fujitsu ScanSnaps

Today is Unclutterer’s fourth birthday! As part of the celebration, Fujitsu has generously provided three of their new, ultra-portable, S1100 ScanSnap scanners for us to give away to three lucky Unclutterer Twitter followers.

We’ve teamed up with Fujitsu to help our readers cut back on paper waste, digitize clutter, better organize work/home offices, and celebrate our big four. We will give away three ScanSnap S1100 scanners next Tuesday, January 11, 2011, at 10:00 a.m. EST.

How to enter to win: Entering to win is simple. All you need to do is follow us on Twitter. If you aren’t already on Twitter, create an account and then follow us @Unclutterer.

We will randomly select three winners from our Twitter followers. You only need to follow us once (and please, only once), to participate in the giveaway. If you already follow us on Twitter, then you are already participating and need not do anything more. Winners of the giveaway will have 24 hours to respond to a direct message from @Unclutterer to claim their new scanner. Failure to respond within 24 hours will disqualify you from the giveaway.

While you’re following @Unclutterer, consider also following Fujitsu @ScanSnapIT for scanning tips and news. I know that some of you aren’t interested in social media and will complain about having to sign up for Twitter to participate in the giveaway — however, this is the easiest way for us to manage the giveaway and it ensures that many of our readers are already entered to win with no additional effort on their part. Also, if you’re an avid Wired magazine reader, you know that social networking sites can help increase worker productivity if used efficiently. If you still wish to complain, well, please don’t because you can always cancel your account after the contest has ended. This is simply the easiest way for us to conduct the giveaway.

I am so exited about this birthday event and cannot wait to give away three Fujitsu ScanSnap S1100 scanners. Remember, you have until 10:00 a.m. EST on Tuesday, January 11, to follow us on Twitter for the scanner giveaway. Good luck, and again a special thanks to Fujitsu for their amazing generosity!


The Unclutterer family is growing, and I am elated to share with you the incredible news. Today, Dancing Mammoth (our parent company) is launching a new website that hopes to end mealtime stress. I would like to introduce you to our new sister site:

SimpliFried’s motto: “If your nerves are fried, we’ll be your simple, delicious, and nutritious cooking guide.” Our goal is to make feeding yourself and your family as painless as possible.

Similar to Unclutterer, there will be daily content posted to the site. Topics will range from simplifying and improving your cooking skills to food science to recipes that get you quickly in and out of the kitchen. Once a month there will be meal plans and shopping lists that make your life in the kitchen easier. Check out SimpliFried’s manifesto and About page to learn more.

I’m on board as the site’s Editor-in-Chief, and Matt Fetissoff joins me as our senior writer. Matt has lived for more than an year in an RV, and he knows a thing or two about cooking incredible meals in small spaces with low-tech equipment. Consulting to the site are a couple farmers (one in a major city and one on a large Midwest family farm), a butcher, a nutritionist, a self-declared foodie, and my very picky husband and even more picky peanut-allergic son who test drive every meal plan and recipe.

You can key in the URL by hand, subscribe to SimpliFried’s RSS feed, or get daily updates by e-mail. We also have a Twitter account @SimpliFried that regularly posts links.

Although there are only four posts currently live on the site, we’ve been working on SimpliFried for more than four months getting ready for the launch. I’m honestly surprised I was able to keep it a secret for so long. I am thrilled to finally be able to introduce it to you. The new logo even makes me smile, and I’m so glad we were able to have the same artist make him.

If you are looking for simplification strategies for your kitchen and cooking, I hope that SimpliFried can be a positive resource for you.

Happy New Year!

All of us at Unclutterer hope you had a terrific 2010 and would like to wish you a great 2011! Our team has today and tomorrow off from work, but don’t forget you can always jump into the Forums and join the conversation there. We’ll return in the new year to share more Uncluttering insights.

If you aren’t a regular follower of Erin’s column, also consider checking out “Three Year-End Organizing Queries” and “Creating Uncluttering and Organizing Resolutions for 2011.”

Happy New Year!

Unclutter Your Life in One Week released in paperback

Today is the official release of Unclutter Your Life in One Week in paperback. I’m extremely excited about today and this event for many reasons:

  • Not all books printed as hardcovers ever make it to paperback. Making it to paperback is a sign that the publisher continues to believe the content of the book is worth staying in publication. I’m really honored and humbled by this.
  • A few big bloopers were fixed, especially the one from page 17 in the hardcover. On page 17, I accidentally wrote a sentence stating the exact opposite of what I intended. Oops!
  • As a special promotion, Amazon is selling the paperback at almost $7.00 off the suggested retail price — Unclutter Your Life in One Week in paperback is just $8.06.

Thank you to everyone who has supported the book over the last year, and to those who will support it in the future. I truly appreciate the opportunity to continue to share the Unclutterer message in a different medium.

Happy holidays from Unclutterer!

Like a good chunk of the western world, Unclutterer’s offices are closed today and tomorrow. We wish everyone who celebrates Christmas a merry one, and the rest of you we wish a joyful couple days off from work! Don’t forget, you can always jump into the Forums and join the conversation there. We’ll return after the holiday to share more Uncluttering insights.

Improving your odds at keeping New Year’s resolutions

Sue Shellenbarger, the work and family columnist for the Wall Street Journal, yesterday wrote “Steps to New Year’s Resolution Success” detailing the science behind keeping resolutions. Great advice begins right at the beginning of the article:

When setting a resolution, simply deciding to change your behavior may work for a while. But when the cognitive parts of the brain responsible for decision-making become stressed by other life events, that resolve is likely to succumb to an emotional desire for instant gratification, says Baba Shiv, a Stanford University marketing professor who specializes in neuroeconomics, the study of the biological bases for making economic decisions.

Keeping a resolution requires a detailed plan, with emotional rewards when milestones are reached—and even a strategy when there’s a setback. And don’t wait for Jan. 1, experts say: Start planning now to increase your chances for success.

The full article is worth reading if you’re interested in making uncluttering or organizing resolutions for 2011. I’m already planning out my resolutions for next year and will share details next week. I’ll definitely be putting into practice some of Shellenbarger’s suggestions.

Also in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal was a great article on organizing craft and present wrapping supplies featuring suggestions from Los Angeles-based professional organizer John Trosko: “More Homes Make Room for Wrapping.”

Getting organized for the new year

I keep a ridiculous number of lists: movies I want to see, books I want to read, groceries I need to buy, recipes I want to try, things I have to do, letters I should write, gifts I wish to give, music I want to have my son hear, my lofty someday goals. These lists are handwritten — I tried to keep them digitally but kept writing things down on sticky notes and then sticking the notes to my iPhone. A key component of being organized is knowing yourself, and I’m a handwritten list maker.

At the start of every year, I get a new notebook and copy the lists from the old notebook into the new. I grab a big cup of coffee, light a fire in the fireplace, and curl up under a warm blanket with the notebook and a good pen. I recopy the lists for a few reasons:

  1. My notebook gets beaten up during the year and I’m ready for a new notebook every 12 months.
  2. The copying process is a tradition I really enjoy.
  3. When going through the lists, I can change my preferences, reorder my lists, and eliminate things I did/saw/tried that I forgot to cross off over the course of the year.
  4. The old lists become recordings of my life over the past year. Since I don’t keep a diary, this is the closest thing I have.

Obviously, the lists also help to keep me organized.

What traditions do you complete at the end of the year or start of the new year that help to keep you organized? How do you enjoy these traditions? Do you keep lists? Share your new year organizing traditions in the comments.

And the final winner in our Kindle Wireless Reading Device giveaway is…

Thank you to EVERYONE (all 11,095 of you!) who are now following @Unclutterer on Twitter and who participated in our Kindle giveaway. Now, let’s get on to the good stuff …

At 10:00 a.m. EDT, the random number generator picked the following number:


Which means, the winner of today’s Kindle Wireless Reading Device is:


I have direct messaged the winner of the Kindle and she has 24 hours to respond.

Again, thanks to everyone for participating in our giveaways and congratulations to @wickedphysics on winning the second Kindle. I hope the device helps to alleviate bookshelf clutter in your home.