Reader suggestion: Staying organized with binder clips

Reader Christine, has a terrific little suggestion for staying on top of paperwork. A traditional tickler file didn’t work for her, so she found a system that did. After learning about her process, I asked if i could share her message to us in the form of a post. Thank you, Christine, for sharing your tip with us!

Like most people, I am constantly battling the paper monster. Though I am making strides in going digital, I had been struggling on how to organize the things I still receive as hard copies. Inevitably, there are things that need to be filed, paid, or acted upon in some way at some time that does not exactly coincide with the moment I first touch them. For me, letter sorters didn’t work — the papers would end up avalanching all over the place or would be sorted incorrectly. I had tried and failed to use a “to do” file folder; I personally benefit from visible reminders and would easily forget about them when I filed the papers.

After seeing small binder clips with “to do” and other similar words printed on them, I was inspired to create my own using regular large binder clips and a label maker. I printed labels on my label maker that read “To Do,” “To File,” and “To Pay,” placed them on the binder clips, and hung the clips on sleek aluminum pushpins on the inside of my coat closet door. The papers are out of sight when I want them to be, but serve as a visual reminder for all my “to dos” each time I open my closet door. The size of the clip also creates a limit to how long I can put off the inevitable.

This idea can be applied in various ways, of course. I can see it working on a bulletin board or wall in a home office, or inside of kitchen cabinets. (These colorful magnetic spring clips could be substituted on a chalk board or other magnetic surface.) You might want to have one by the front door for papers you must bring with you when you travel. This would also be a good way to organize kids’ homework or household information you need to frequently access (for that application, I could see laminated sheets on a ring, with the clips as identifiers). You could also use color-coding — either painting them yourself on regular black binder clips or by purchasing clips in various colors. No matter where, why, or how, it’s a cheap and easy idea that can help you be a little less paper-crazed.


This post has been updated since its original publication in 2008.

Reader suggestion: Storing and disposing used paint

Paint CansReader Mike sent us the following tip that he adapted from an episode of Clean Sweep that aired a number of years ago:

Paint cans in my garage tend to reproduce and grow. Pretty quickly after various projects there is a collection of 1 gallon paint cans taking up huge amounts of space. When my wife and I went to finish painting a room, we discovered our less than half filled paint cans also thickened a little over time.

To put and end to this, I purchased a few 1 quart cans and poured the paint out of the gallon containers into these little guys. In the end, I wound up throwing away a very small amount of paint, but a very large amount of paint containers.

He added the following tip:

Paint in its liquid form is hazardous waste, however, as a solid it is safe to throw away. I combined all my left over paint into a single one gallon container, capped it, and saved it with the used light bulbs for hazardous waste disposal. The rest of the [empty 1 gallon] cans were left outside in the sunlight to dry, then they were simply tossed.

Our readers may want to also consider the quarter-pint (125mL) cans for smaller amounts of paint required for touch ups. Mason jars with tight fitting lids are a good alternative but store them in the dark as exposure to light can change the color of the paint.

Thank you, Mike, for the great tip!


This post has been updated since its original publication in 2007.

Reader inspired charging station

Reader Geek Novice sent us the following photographs:

A detailed explanation can be found on his blog here. His blog is written in Slovene, though, so we were happy that he kindly emailed us a few translations. In short, he purchased two meters (about six and a half feet) of pipe insulation from his local hardware store for about a dollar. He cut the foam tubing to his desired length, inserted a second slice, piled in the cords, and called it an uncluttered day.

We love this innovative, inexpensive, charging station. Thank you, Geek Novice, for sharing it with us!


This post has been updates since its original publication in 2007.

Scooter your way to clutter-free transportation

Today, we welcome a guest post from Unclutterer reader Anjali Prasertong. Thank you, Anjali, for coming up with such a terrific post to share with our readers!

As gas prices creep ever higher, rush-hour traffic clogs the streets and glaciers melt into the sea, I’m zipping through town on my scooter, car- and guilt-free. At least once a week I’m approached by a stranger curious about my scooter; many people, it seems, are looking to escape their cars. For those looking to reduce clutter in their lives, riding a scooter or motorcycle makes a lot of sense.

Unclutter your space
With a scooter and its limited under-seat storage, not only am I unable to accumulate the kind of clutter that used to fill my car, I’m also prevented from bringing more clutter into my life. It’s impossible to walk into a store looking for a light bulb and walk out with three bags of stuff I “remembered” I needed — I simply can’t carry it home. With under-seat space at a premium, I think more critically about my purchases and inevitably end up buying less.

Unclutter your mind
One unexpected benefit of riding a scooter or motorcycle is the focus it requires. As a rider, you must constantly be on the defensive, aware of your surroundings and free from distractions. No radio, no iPod, no cell phone, no trying to read the directions while simultaneously eating a sandwich and applying mascara. I find that having to be completely focused on what I am doing is meditative, leaving me feeling refreshed at the end of my commute instead of worn out. (The significant amount of time I save by skipping to the head of long lines of traffic helps, too.)

Unclutter the environment
My scooter, the popular and affordable Buddy 125, gets a whopping 90 mpg. Larger motorcycles are less fuel efficient, but still get more miles per gallon than some hybrid cars. According to a study by Piaggio, the makers of the Vespa scooter, if Americans used scooters for just 10 percent of their total mileage, we could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 324 million pounds every day. You don’t have to quit driving cold-turkey in order to make a positive impact on the environment. Any time you choose to ride instead of drive, you’ll lighten the carbon load.

Plus, you’ll have more fun! During the sunny days of spring, there’s nothing I like better than hopping on my scooter for a jaunt around town — even just to run errands. Being out in the open rather than locked in my car makes me feel more connected with my surroundings, experiencing the world around me instead of observing it through a windshield.

If you do decide to give riding a try, make sure to take a safety course through the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, and always wear a Department of Transportation-approved helmet. Happy riding!

Record your uncluttering activities

JournalKeeping a blog, digital photography journal, or a written journal detailing your uncluttering efforts can be a great way to stay on track with your organization efforts. Whether you’re trying to get things organized in your home or office, recording your improvements can be a worthwhile endeavor. For one thing, if you start to slip in your routines, it is good to have an outlet where you can review what you have already done.

Keeping a record of your improvements also can be fun. Think about weighing the clutter you remove from your home and keeping a “pounds lost” list. Write goofy poems about the things you find (“Ode to the single sock”). Video the transformation and then edit it into a 30 second speed film.

Uncluttering can be fun and stress relieving, and recording your success is a great way to stay on track with your progress.

Workspace of the Week: Student studio in NYC

This week’s Workspace of the Week is Powkang’s student studio in NYC. She lives in her workspace, so it’s pretty impressive. Check out both sides of her apartment studio, which she’s annotated. What I really love is her inspirational view of Manhattan.

desktop and view

It’s very cool that she keeps that view uncluttered.

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.

Workspace of the Week: Study in Contrasts

This week’s Workspace of the Week is a twofer. A study in contrasts, if you will. First is PlasmicSteve‘s memorabilia museum, which gives me the hives just looking at it.

Is that little desk functional? And all that stuff on the walls would drive me to distraction, literally. Say what I will, however, it’s organized! He’s taking care of the items he treasures (even if I think it’s one too many).

Now, withoutform‘s desk is more my speed.

Obviously taking a cue from Japanese simplicity, there’s nothing on the work surface to distract from the task at hand, and just a bit of soothing inspiration on the wall. Almost qualifies for Extreme Minimalism Mondays.

Want to have your own workspace featured in Workspace of the Week? Submit a pic 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.

Reader pics: Charles Smith’s uncluttered nursery

Having a baby can really test your ability to keep a tidy and uncluttered home. You can either give into the disarray and let your home descend into a constant state of clutter or you can make a conscience effort to straighten up your home.

Our daughter was quite active once she started crawling and pulling her self up. Her ability to grab anything and everything definitely contributed to my wife and I keeping our home less cluttered. We got rid of tons of items that were definitely clutter, but resided in our home for one reason or the other.

We also try to keep our daughter’s nursery in an uncluttered state. It isn’t easy and the room still gets a bit disastrous here and there, but it never really gets out of hand. Our daughter hasn’t reached the age where she can run around room like a tiny tornado wreaking havoc where ever she goes, but we are constantly trying to teach her that everything has its place.

That brings me to a reader’s submission about their nursery. Charles writes in his email:


Your organized workspace

A few weeks ago we asked you to send us pics of your organized workspace and the result was a great post with the submissions. We had so much fun with the feedback that we’ve decided to make this a regular feature. To that end we’ve created a flickr group to which readers can add their pics and everyone can comment on them. Every week or so we’ll pick a workspace to feature on the Unclutterer site. So get uploading to the Unclutterer flickr group!

Reader pics: Mike Hathaway’s garage project

One of the greatest aspects of my job is knowing that people are inspired by the advice that we give on It should then be no surprise that when we received the following photos, I literally screamed with joy.

Reader Mike Hathaway sent us pictures of his recent garage uncluttering project. He did all of this amazing work in just one day!



Photos chronicling his project can be found here and a summary of what he did and how you can do the same are here.

Congratulations to Mike and his new garage!