Taking a binge approach to organizing projects

Today National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) starts, 30 days of concentrated writing with the goal of producing a 50,000 word novel. Nearly 20 years old now, the month is a way for writers to set themselves a goal and a deadline, producing 1,667 words a day.

Why does it exist?

  • To provide motivation to writers who may find life getting in the way of writing regularly.
  • To provide a community of support in what is considered a rather solitary process.
  • To shut down the internal editor, the voice that blocks forward motion.
  • To gamify the writing process, giving writers the chance to score wins against the final word count.

I’ve done it a few times, although I only won it once. While in principle I think it’s a great idea, for me it creates too much anxiety and pressure. The binary win/lose option stresses me out and then I can’t actually focus on the writing. Author Chuck Wendig does a great job of taking a slightly tongue-in-cheek look at the pros and cons of working in this way.

For many people, however, it’s the exact motivation they need to finish something. Many popular authors have used the month to kickstart bestseller novels.

Unclutterer is focused on organizing and productivity not writing novels so why discuss it here? Because maybe for you, a binge approach to an organizing project you’ve been putting off may be just the thing you need to get going — and to reach the end.

Let’s break down NaNoWriMo into its component parts and transfer them to a hypothetical organizing project: unclutter and organize the kitchen cupboards.

NaNoWriMo goal: 50,000 words in 30 days
Organizing goal: 18 cupboards and drawers

NaNoWriMo daily goal: 1,667 words
Organizing daily goal: a little more than 1 cupboard or drawer every two days

NaNoWriMo support network: any number of online or local writing support groups and forums (or of course books and workbooks)
Organizing support network: the Unclutterer Forums, friends or family

NaNoWriMo gamification moment: daily concrete opportunity to “win”
Organizing gamification moment: daily concrete opportunity to “win”

NaNoWriMo internal editor silencer moment: with the daily goal and pressure of winning, there’s no time to allow doubt to creep in — it’s a “just do it” moment
Organizing doubt silencer: with a set two-day goal, there’s no opportunity to doubt decision — they simply have to be made

NaNoWriMo positive peer pressure moment: if a daily word count is missed, it can be spread through the rest of the month, or binge-written one day to catch up
Organizing positive peer pressure moment: if a day goes by without organizing a drawer or cupboard, a day with a double “win” can boost your confidence

NaNoWriMo end result: the first draft of a novel, a beginning-to-end piece of fiction
Organizing end result: a streamlined and organized kitchen

This type of organizing, however, is not for everyone. Just as I no longer do NaNoWriMo because it produces too much pressure-related anxiety, the stress of “having to” organize a drawer or cupboard every two days might produce panic or paralysis instead of motivation. It depends entirely on your personality.

If you think you’ll enjoy this challenge, check out Erin Rooney Doland’s book Unclutter Your Life in One Week. It has great tips and provides a guide for uncluttering any room in your home.

Released today! NEVER TOO BUSY TO CURE CLUTTER (and another awesome giveaway)

Never Too Busy to Cure ClutterI am so excited to announce that today my latest home organizing book Never Too Busy to Cure Clutter hits bookstores in the U.S.!

I absolutely adore this book. It is practical, simple to use, and full of great ideas to get your home life organized. If you’re busy — like everyone I know — this book is for you. It breaks down uncluttering, organizing, and cleaning tasks into 30-second, 1-minute, 5-minute, and 15-minute activities so you can get things done on your schedule. There are also fun quizzes and weekend projects and the interior pages are full of orange artwork (my favorite color).

If you read the Tidying Up book and thought it was cool, but it didn’t really work for you since you didn’t have six months to dedicate your life to organizing, my latest book is right up your alley. You don’t have to change who you are or adopt some system or join a support group for this book to help you. I wrote this book based on what I do in my house and with my clients — and I have a full-time job, two kids, and an attempt (although meager) at a social life. But, even if you’re single and unemployed and have never considered having kids, this book will still give you great ideas for clearing your clutter.

And because I LOVE Unclutterer readers, I have worked out an awesome promotion for people who buy this book. In the next three weeks (between now and February 16), if you buy my book and then come back here and fill out this fancy form, I will send you a FREE audiobook copy of my first book Unclutter Your Life in One Week. If you ordered my book during the pre-sale period, I’m going to send you a copy of the audiobook, too, because you all are amazing, as well. So, if you buy Never Too Busy to Cure Clutter, you get a second book FREE. That’s how incredible and thankful I am for all you terrific Unclutterer readers. Now don’t forget to come back and fill out this fancy form by February 16, 2016.

Finally, if you live in the U.K., my book will be released in February or April (my publisher told me one thing and Amazon.co.uk says another). Brits also can check out an interview with me in the February issue of Woman & Home magazine. Additionally, publishing rights have been sold in the UAE and Russia already, so those translations will be out in the coming months. (I’ll keep you posted as more foreign rights are sold, so stay tuned if you’re not in the U.S.)

Thank you to everyone in the Unclutterer community for your support. I really, truly believe that this book can help people and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did writing it and developing it. Thank you, thank you!

Audio version of Unclutter Your Life in One Week half off until January 2

This promotion has ended. Good luck organizing in 2014.

Interested in getting uncluttered and organized in the new year? For the next week, between now and January 2, 2014, we’re putting the audio version of Unclutter Your Life in One Week on sale for $4.99 through our site to help you get started.

The $4.99 sale price is significantly less ($19.95 on Audible) than on other retailers, it is DRM-free (you can use it on any audio device, irrespective of manufacturer), and it comes with corresponding worksheets for free. And, just for clarification, this deal is only for new purchases of the audiobook through our site. It does not include any of the other retailers.

Purchase and download Unclutter Your Life in One Week to your computer and then save it to your favorite listening device. Happy uncluttering and organizing in the new year!

Note: If you purchase the audio version directly from our site you will receive a ZIP archive with the audio files and the free worksheets. The vast majority of smartphones and tablets cannot open these archives on their own. You will first need to download the file to a desktop or laptop computer, unzip it, and then sync the audio files with your preferred listening device (using iTunes for iPad, iPod, etc.). Buying the files from iTunes, Amazon, or Audible will allow you to play the files directly, but they will cost more.

Unclutterer housekeeping

A couple things we want to bring to your attention:

First: When Unclutter Your Life in One Week was initially released as a hardcover, it was also released as a Kindle version through Amazon (and a number of other e-book reader formats, too). Much to my frustration, the Kindle version had numerous layout issues that made some of the pages significantly difficult to read.

I am pleased to announce that these layout errors have finally been corrected by my publisher, and a new Kindle version is available for download. If you have already purchased the Kindle version you will NOT have to repurchase it to get the update. If you were waiting to purchase the digital book until the Kindle version was fixed, now is a great time to do it.

You should automatically receive an update message from Amazon, and all you’ll need to do is select “Yes” to indicate you would like to download the changes. If you do not receive this message, I believe you can do it manually by going to “Kindle” and then “Manage Your Kindle.” Here, you can select “Your Orders” and then on the drop down menu next to the title choose “Deliver to …” and select your device.

Second: I have donated a signed copy of my book to the Red Cross fundraiser through Writers for the Red Cross. My book is part of a basket of books from writers represented by the Sanford J. Greenburger Associates literary agency. All of the books in the basket, except for Dan Brown’s, are signed by the author. If you’re interested in a signed copy of my book and helping out the Red Cross, you can make a bid in the comments on the Writers for the Red Cross website.

Additionally, if you’re a writer putting together a book proposal, my agent has donated a critique of a nonfiction book proposal or novel to the same fundraiser. You can make a bid in the comments on her auction page. Both auctions conclude this Sunday, March 27.

Thank you to anyone who makes a bid!

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.

Embark on new adventures: Erin’s second set of 2010 resolutions

Back in early January, I marked the Ides of March as when I would officially check in on my first set of resolutions for 2010 and finalize my resolutions for the second quarter. In the post “Increasing energy: Erin’s first set of 2010 resolutions,” I outlined what I planned to do for January, February, and March.

For the most part, I’ve kept to the resolutions I created. Unfortunately, I had to take six weeks off from the gym and withdraw from the race I planned to run in April because I kicked a rocking chair and significantly injured my foot. I’m just now getting back into a modified gym routine and can wear regular shoes again.

One of the highlights of my first-quarter resolutions was discovering new recipes for my healthy meal plan. One of the things I did was add the Canyon Ranch Cooks cookbook to my collection. With it, I have successfully made and enjoyed dozens of new recipes. During the doldrums of winter, it was nice to keep mealtime interesting and nutritious. Additionally, simply having more energy has been a wonderful thing.

The theme for my second-quarter resolutions is “Embark on new adventures.” Now that I have the much needed energy I was craving, I’m excited about putting it to use. The following are the resolutions I’ve set for April, May, and June:

  • Plant and tend to an herb and vegetable garden.
  • Take a knife skills class.
  • Go rock climbing.
  • Accomplish all 67 tasks on the “Spring Cleaning for the Overachiever” list on pages 189 and 190 of Unclutter Your Life in One Week.
  • Go through my entire home and office and play the uncluttering game I’m moving overseas! (Just to be clear, I’m NOT moving overseas, I’m simply playing the game.) Essentially, take on a full-home minimizing project.

To help me achieve these resolutions, I’m going to reference the post “Creating a plan to achieve your 2010 resolutions.” I’m also going to keep up with all of my first-quarter resolutions to maintain the energy levels necessary to help me with these second-quarter goals.

What are your resolutions for April, May, and June? How are your resolutions progressing for 2010? Share your resolution stories in the comments.

Putting Unclutter Your Life in One Week to the test

Photographer Tasra Dawson put Unclutter Your Life in One Week through the ringer to see if she could clear the clutter and organize her life in seven days. She documented the process with a video series on her website and I want to share it with you. She starts with her closet (where the book begins) and works through to her living room. I loved this series and being able to see the tips from the book in action. She did an amazing job and I hope you enjoy these videos as much as I did.

Part 1: Closet and Drawers
Part 2: The Home Office
Part 3: Mail, Paper & More
Part 4: The Bathroom and Linen Closet
Part 5: Organize Your Jewelry & Accessories
Part 6: Kitchen, Pantry, and Storage Closet
Part 7: CD/DVD Media Storage

My favorite of the videos was episode six, which covers the kitchen and pantry. Be sure to check it out:

Unclutterer history and services

We have had a wonderful bump in traffic recently, and we thought it might be a good idea to talk about our history and all that we do here at Unclutterer for the benefit of our new readers. Obviously, there is our daily content on the site and in our feed, but the fun doesn’t stop there.

Brief history:

Unclutterer was started in January 2007 by lawyer Jerry Brito. In March of that year, he sold the website to the Dancing Mammoth company, brought on more writers, and Unclutterer went from being a website with posts a few times a month to a thriving site with content every weekday. In November 2007, Jerry left to start the food blog Crispy on the Outside and Erin Doland was named the new editor of the site. Erin has been with Unclutterer since March 2007 and loves her job more than she can properly express with words.

Unclutterer services:

  • Unclutterer Forums — Our active online community where you can gather to share your successes, struggles, suggestions, and smiles. My personal favorite section of the forums are the challenges that people set for themselves.
  • RSS feed — All of Unclutterer’s content delivered straight to your RSS reader of choice. If you aren’t familiar with RSS, check out our primer to learn more.
  • E-mail feed — All of Unclutterer’s content delivered to your e-mail inbox. Unlike the RSS feed, however, this content is usually delayed 24 hours from when it was initially posted to the website.
  • RSS feed without the A Year Ago posts — If you do not wish to receive the A Year Ago posts in your RSS feed, you can subscribe to this content feed. You can also learn how to create custom feeds for any website using Yahoo! Pipes.
  • Follow us on Twitter @unclutterer — In addition to our daily content from Unclutterer, we also provide information and links that catch our interest over the course of a day.
  • Nest Unclutterer — This free service blocks all of those annoying spambots and advertisers that follow you on Twitter.
  • Erin’s column on Real Simple magazine’s Simply Stated blog — Every Tuesday and Thursday Erin produces original content for RealSimple.com.
  • Keyfiler — Keyfiler is a web-based service that securely stores all of your license information in one place, for easy reference from anywhere in the world. You can also use it to generate customized reports, export your license information to handy formats like Microsoft Excel, and manage passwords for your favorite websites.
  • At the Big River — AtTheBigRiver.com allows bloggers to create intuitive, functional, and humane URLs on the fly, without interrupting the flow of your writing to stop and find the “correct” URL.
  • FixMyHTML — HTML code can quickly become a depository for useless tags and slower load times. For an easy way to figure out how to clean up that chunk of HTML code that has been giving you a headache, give this service a try.
  • Unclutter Your Life in One Week — Erin’s 7-day plan to organize your home, your office, and your life. Available at major retailers. Published November 2009 by Simon and Schuster.
  • Unclutter Your Life in One Week PDF worksheets — If you would like PDF copies of all of the worksheets that appear in the book (so that you don’t have to spend time recreating them yourself or write directly in your book), you can purchase them through our site for $2.50.
  • Less is More and Simplicity is Revolutionary T-shirts — If you need a shirt, these are great for spreading the simplicity message.
  • Unclutterer icon for iPhone and iPod Touch — With this snazzy icon, you can have Unclutterer as a link right on your main desktop.

We hope that you enjoy all of what Unclutterer has to offer!

Unclutterer goes shopping with The New York Times

When I started writing for Unclutterer, I didn’t have many expectations. I simply wanted to share the information I had learned about uncluttering and organizing with people who were seeking it. I knew how stressed and overwhelmed clutter and disorganization had made me feel, and thought I might be able to help a few people discover a more calm and enjoyable life.

Let me tell you what I didn’t expect:

A feature in The New York Times — “Ending the Reign of Chaos

When the reporter contacted me and said she wanted to do a feature, I thought one of my friends was playing a joke on me. After a few Google searches, it became obvious that Julie Scelfo was the real thing. She wasn’t kidding. She really wanted to fly to D.C. to spend a day with me.

The piece that ran today in the print edition is marvelous — even helpful to readers — and I am so flattered to have been profiled. Unimaginably flattered. For more information on establishing a family information center in your home, check out the section on Reception Stations in the Monday chapter of Unclutter Your Life in One Week.

(Image by Michael Temchine for The New York Times.)

Reminder: Chicago book signing and meet and greet

A reminder that tonight is the first stop on my Unclutter Your Life in One Week book tour:


The Book Cellar. 4736-38 N. Lincoln Ave. I’ll be there from 4:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m.

Again, there isn’t a speech or formal presentation, so come when it’s convenient for you during the three-hour window. Also, Unclutterer team members PJ, Brian, and Gary will all be able to make it to this event. You can hang out with us and other Unclutterer readers, grab a drink, have your book signed (if you’re into such things), and enjoy a post-holiday happy hour in Lincoln Square.

Also — I’ll be on WGN’s Midday News around 11:10 a.m. on Tuesday, so set your DVRs.

PDFs and t-shirts: New in the Unclutterer store

After the special bonus to Unclutterer readers ended and we stopped giving away the free copies of the worksheets from Unclutter Your Life in One Week, I started receiving e-mails from people who didn’t participate in the offer asking if they could buy the PDFs. Up until today, we haven’t had any way to sell these materials. We’ve never had Unclutterer products, so we never had an internal Unclutterer store.

I turned to our tech team at Dancing Mammoth and asked if they could setup an online store for us to sell the PDFs. They were up for the task and went to work on the programming. (This was also the point when I asked Simon and Schuster if it was okay to sell them, and they said it was.)

Once the tech team was doing all the heavy lifting, my mind kept returning to a conversation I had last summer with artist Chris Bishop at a party at my friend Kara’s house (Chris did the yellow robot painting in the second picture). Chris and I talked about his insanely popular Barack O’Unicorn t-shirt that he released during the 2008 election. We discussed the body as a canvas and how it constantly transmits messages — I support X candidate, I buy my clothes from X retailer, I listen to X band, I am the type of person who irons my clothes, I have a baby who spits up squash, I don’t follow fashion trends. For good or bad, our clothing says a great deal about us.

With our store on the horizon, I began looking into what it would take to produce Unclutterer t-shirts that convey the positive ideas we promote on the site. If the t-shirt I casually throw on to wear to the neighborhood farmers’ market is going to speak on my behalf, I at least want it to promote something I believe in. Our local silk screen company Reston Shirt came in with a good price for us using quality materials. We ordered the shirts, they produced them, and now we have two t-shirt designs — one with the phrase “Simplicity is revolutionary” and the other “Less is more” — to offer alongside the PDFs in our new store.

I haven’t stopped thinking about items we can offer in the new store. I can see us producing short e-books, calendars, planners, and other useful organizing goods. At this time, however, we’re just offering the PDFs and t-shirts. We’re starting small and seeing how things go.

I want to thank our team at Dancing Mammoth, the fine folks at Reston Shirt, and my friends Kara and David, who were good sports and agreed to be our models (since the t-shirt idea sprung from a conversation at their home, I thought it only appropriate to ask them to join in on the fun). Check out the new internal Unclutterer store and order t-shirts and/or the seven PDF worksheets that accompany Unclutter Your Life in One Week if you need them.

(Note: If you received the PDFs as part of the special bonus, you have the exact product that we’re selling in the store. You don’t need to repurchase the documents. These are available for people who did not participate in the previous offer.)

Chicago book signing and meet and greet

After lots of amazing planning work on the part of my stellar publicist and sales team at Simon and Schuster, my book tour is becoming a reality. The final details on the later stops (LA, NY, KC, DC) are still being ironed out, but I can go ahead and announce the first event since it is confirmed and ready to go:


December 28, 2009. 4-7 p.m. The Book Cellar. 4736-38 N. Lincoln Ave.

Technically, this is the first stop on my Unclutter Your Life in One Week book tour. However, I’m thinking about it as a book signing and an Unclutterer meet and greet. Unclutterer team members PJ, Brian, Gary, and I will all be able to make it to this event. You can hang out with us and other Unclutterer readers, grab a drink, have your book signed (if you’re into such things), and enjoy a post-holiday happy hour in Lincoln Square.

Don’t feel that you need to be at the event right at 4:00. I’m not giving a formal presentation of any kind — just getting to know our delightful Unclutterer readers. If you’re in the area, we would love for you to come by and say, “hi!”