Boy! This was news to me. A woman asked me what to do with 11,000 photos that were on her computer. A man asked me what to do with 20,000 emails. Who knew?  Then, I got a call from a newspaper asking me about digital hoarding. So, I did some research.

Digital hoarding is a real thing. It’s so easy just to press ‘save’ or buy more space in the cloud or grab a few more flash drives or gigabytes. The thing with digital hoarding is that you can be a hoarder and no one knows it (as opposed to physical hoarders). Just remember that more storage space doesn’t solve the problem. It just masks it.

Whether it’s photos or emails, your main job is to prioritize and delete. Save what’s most important and what’s most meaningful. Ask yourself how hard it would be to replace something if you deleted it. Does this add any value to my life? What do you really need? What are you afraid of losing?

Okay. I know that it’s near impossible for some folks to get rid of something. Here’s what you do. Prioritize and keep on your computer (or phone, or whatever) the high priority stuff. Everything else (that you just can’t force yourself to eliminate) store on a flash drive. Take a white, silver or gold Sharpie and write the date (of the earliest photo or email) on the flash drive. Now you have the security of knowing that you haven’t lost anything. Should you ever need it, it’s retrievable. However, it won’t be getting in your way every day. All the stuff we save not only slows down our systems, it slows down our brains as well.

Using the Google trash folder also helps. Put things into the folder and in 30 days, it’s gone. This is a good holding place for things you’re unsure of. Now, you have 30 days to make up your mind.

For photos, use Flickr or Picasa and eliminate the need to store digital photos. Carbonite and Drop Box store things for you in virtual storage lockers.If you’re and inveterate note taker, you might enjoy using Evernote.

Go through email every day and answer, delete or file everything in your inbox. If it’s really bad, notify 10 of your most important contacts and tell them that if they’ve sent anything important in the last few days they should re-send it because you’re deleting everything. This is a last ditch effort that will bring immediate relief. Just be sure that you don’t let the emails pile up again. Remember – answer, delete or file.

Set your spam folder to accept low priority transmissions. Unscribe from everything that you don’t want or need.

Just like physical stuff, digital stuff piles up and clutters our spaces and our lives. Both kinds of clutter get in the way of relationships and responsibilities.

Oh, by the way, the definition of hoarding is: accumulating things beyond the point of usefulness. Yikes!

Bathroom Bonanza

One of the things I always preach is that you jot down trouble spots or speed bumps in your life and one by one you conquer them. Well, recently I was unhappy with my bathroom cleaning system. I kept a small container of rags in the bathroom so I could do quick wipe ups (splatters on the mirrors, spots on the faucets, toothpaste in the sink, etc.) I thought this would make it so easy to wipe things up without having to go to the main utility closet to get my supplies.

Sounds logical enough, but I wasn’t completely happy with this method. For one thing when I was folding laundry, I couldn’t remember which bathroom the rags went in, or if they came from the cleaning supply area. At first I thought I’d just color code everything. Green rags in this bathroom, burgundy in the other bathroom, white in the storage area. Hmmmmmmmmmm. Too complicated.

I tried the pop up paper towels (they really work, by the way) but they’re quite expensive. So, I just got a roll of good paper towels (VIVA) and one of those Windex pumpers. Now, for a quick wipe up I grab a paper towel and pump some Windex and the bathroom is sparkling in no time.

Of course, the bathroom gets a thorough cleaning every now and again, but for a daily spot check or in between deep cleanings, this system works beautifully. In addition, everything is easy to store and out of sight.

Now, on to my next stumbling block. There are quite a few, so it’ll take me a while to choose.

Another Fix Up

Well, I stumbled onto another problem that I needed to solve. We have a big leather recliner in the family room that is sturdy and comfortable and happens to be my husband’s favorite spot. It’s such a favorite spot that there’s a section on the cushion that is wearing thin. The cushion has Velcro on it making it impossible to just flip the cushion over. What to do? We didn’t want to get rid of the chair and wondered how we could salvage it – and still make it look presentable.

I picked up a piece of leather at Hobby Lobby that is pretty close to the same color as the chair. I decided that I’d just glue the piece to the chair. Of course, it would look like the chair was patched, but the leather was attractive and I figured it would look better than it does now. My next dilemma was to figure out what would be the best glue to use – since this patch would get a lot of use and it needs to stay in place.

Enter the website This to That! You’ve got to try this. A menu drops down asking what type of material you want to glue – i.e. rubber, plastic, glass, fabric, you name it. Then another menu drops down asking what you’re gluing it to – i.e. rubber, glass, plastic, etc. So, you’re indicating that you’re going to glue this to that. Get it? This to that. This is a site I’ll use often.

Speaking of websites…..have I ever mentioned Apps Gone Free? Even if I have, this will be a good reminder. Apps Gone Free posts a list every day of apps that have gone free. Sometimes they’re going free for a day (or a limited time). Sometimes, they’ve gone free for good.

What in the world did we ever do without the Internet?

Important Seminar Update

I’ve got some important information to pass along to you. If you’ve been to one of my seminars you know that I’ve always advised people to go to the IRS website and download publication #552 – Record-keeping for Individuals. Well, they’ve stopped publishing it. Never fear. I’ve found a wonderful substitute that lets you know what you have to keep and how long you have to keep it – plus a whole bunch of other good stuff. Here’s what you do: go to and in the search box type: Managing Family Records. It’s 7 pages. Also, at the top of the website you’ll see in small print: free publications. Click on that as well and search – Keeping Family and Household Records. It’s 9 pages.

Also, at the seminars we talk about stopping junk mail. Here’s another method. Go the the and search junk mail. That website links you automatically to a lot of the sites we talk about in the seminar. So, it saves time. However, don’t forget about the app Paper Karma that lets you unsubscribe one piece of mail at a time with a few clicks on your phone.

I also got an update on Here’s where you send unsolicited email that you don’t want. The FTC says to be sure to include the complete spam email and your email provider. State that you’re complaining about being spammed. If you try to unsubscribe from an email list and your request is not honored, file a complaint with the FTC.

How I Saved my Table

We have the quintessential circa 80’s oak claw pedestal table. We’ve had it for for 30 years I’d say. Well, after five kids, numerous guests and thousands of meals, it finally needed to be refinished. I thought that I could get away with just doing the top. It was covered with water ring spots and marks from hot dishes (I assume).

Anyhow, one day we had a guy and his wife over for dinner. The man’s hobby is wood working. He suggested that I get something called Restore A Finish by Howard. I trusted this guy – but I really didn’t think anything but a complete refinishing would really do the trick. So, I procrastinated getting the Restore A Finish.

Months went by and finally I succumbed. I followed the directions on the bottle that says to put it on the table top with the finest grade (0000)  of steel wool. I did it about five times. (You have to wait between applications.) Somehow, all those marks and discolorations disappeared. I wish I had taken a before picture – but I really didn’t think it would work. (By the way, this table is finished with some kind of shellac or lacquer. It isn’t oiled.)

On the bottle it suggests using something called Howard Feed-N-Wax to polish up the finished product. Well, I went back to the store to get a bottle of that stuff and also followed the directions. The results are amazing. I am no longer embarrassed by the table top. It looks so nice and I saved hours of time and hard work using these two products.

If you’re thinking it’s time to refinish something, you’ve got to try this stuff. The Restore A Finish comes in different shades so it will work with various kinds of woods. Hope your results are jut as great!

Reading is FUNdamental

Recently I heard a world famous organizing expert say that you just shouldn’t have books anymore. No need to stash, store, and stack those tomes, says he. Just use digitized books. No need to waste space on volumes of books, some of which you will never crack open again.

One question I field frequently at my seminars is how to store collections of books. Okay. Our organizing expert is partially right, I think. Personally, I enjoy reading for entertainment on my Kindle. But, if I’m reading for knowledge or information, I prefer to read it in a good old-fashioned book. I love to underline important passages and dog ear the pages. I scribble notes in the margins and on the inside of the back cover (to make a personalized index).  I love the feel of a book in my hands and the smell of its pages. So, I have books. Hard copy, paper turning, space eating books.

Here’s my best book advice. If you’re running out of space for book storage, go through the books and keep on the shelves the most useful and needed ones. Storing books is just like storing anything else. If you use it a lot, put it in a handy spot. If you don’t – either get rid of it or store it out of the way somewhere. For example, I used to keep all my cookbooks in the kitchen. When I needed more shelf space I decided to keep in the kitchen only the cookbooks I used frequently. The rest were placed in a different room on a bookshelf. I didn’t get rid of them – but I opened up two feet of needed kitchen storage space by moving them.

Here’s another experience I had years ago helping a friend organize her home office. There was a bookshelf in the room that seemed to be a catchall that everyone in the family favored. She wanted to use it as a bookshelf – not a stash spot. So, we emptied the shelf and began placing books on the shelves. I saw my friend take a handful of books and she was just about to put them on the shelf that was just below eye level (in other words, the best real estate on the shelf). I asked her what the books were. She told me that her husband collected them. I asked her if he ever looked at them or showed them to people when they came over. She said he didn’t ever look at them. He just collected them. Well, not only did those books not go on those high priority shelves, they didn’t even make it on the entire bookshelf. They were safely stored in another area of the home.

After placing your books on the shelves, go through the leftovers. Do you want to keep all of them ? Is it possible to get digital copies of them instead? Do they have some specific sentimental value? Remember, the amount of space you have to work with determines how much you can keep. Do you have a place to box up and store some? (If so, be sure to  make a note of the titles and where the box is stored.)

Here are some suggestions for where to get rid of books:

Check out Books For Soldiers on the Internet. Also, Operation Paperback sends books to military personnel and their families. Libraries don’t usually accept donations, but some do – so check to see if your local library is one of them. Also, sometimes libraries collect books that they can sell from time to time. Check out (books for inmates); You can find out more about each of these on the Internet. Many cities have used book dealers that buy and sell used books. You usually don’t get a huge amount for your books, but you do get something and it’s a great way to clean out your book collection.

I hope there will always be such a thing as old school books. Even if they take up space and collect dust.

Getting a Grip on Your Gripes

Those of you who have followed me for a while know that I wasn’t born organized. I hit bottom when we had our third child and knew that I had to do something. We had three little boys – 4, 2, and new. It was before organizing was an industry and there was no where to turn for help. I made a list of my problems and worked on one problem at a time.  I just used trial and error and kept starting over when I messed up. I’ve said this a million times: organizing is just like dieting. You want to lose weight and you’re doing really well for a few days – then BINGO you eat a bag of cookies. Next day, you start over. Just like organizing. The closet looks magazine ready. Then you start shoving things here for now and stashing things there and promise to put them away correctly later. Just keep starting over. When the computer gets goofy – we just re-boot. Re-boot, re-boot, re-boot. Just keep starting over and you’ll get where you want to go. But, that’s not what I want to talk about.

One thing I learned early on is that I made note of things that bugged me. Sitting at the computer, I always had to get up and walk to a trash basket. That was an easy thing to correct – but it made a difference. I was always looking for the scissors but they were in the bathroom  because one of our gorgeous hunk sons had taken them in there to trim his hair. Another easy solution. Store a pair of scissors in the bathroom. All the pencils were always in the drawer in the family room. When I needed one in the kitchen I had to make  an unplanned hike. So, I let everyone know that the mechanical pencils were in the kitchen and the wooden pencils would be in the family room. When you picked up a pencil, you knew where it belonged.

Anyhow, if something bugs you – don’t nag and scream about it. See if you can alleviate the problem. Label things. Simple color coding might help. Label shelves, the lips of drawers, etc. so other people will know and understand the system.

You might be surprised how that one little change can make a big difference in your life.

The Clutter Conundrum

I can’t tell you how many people have told me that they’re hoarders! I’m convinced, though, that most people are not hoarders – but clutterers. (Got a red line on that one – so I guess clutterers is not a word – but you know exactly what I mean.)

What causes all the clutter? I guess most of us think that it’s because of other people or that we’re naturally unorganized, lazy, pressed for time – or all of the above. Actually, there are many different reasons for clutter and you can fix it!

1. Does it have a place? If things don’t have specific places assigned to them, no one knows where to put things – so they just put them anywhere. Make sue every single thing has a place and keep putting it back in that place (without saying anything) whenever you see it in the wrong area. Sounds obsessive, but pays dividends.

2. Often clutter happens because the system that we’ve set up is too complicated. It takes too many motions to put something away so it’s easier to just stack it up somewhere. In addition, maybe the given location for a certain item is inconvenient. Would a different area make it easier to maintain?

3. You have infrequently used items placed in handy, easy to reach spots. That means that there’s no handy storage space for the things you use all the time.  If something is used less often than once a month, or seasonally, get it out of the mainstream and store it in a less accessible area. Note what you have and where you put it so you won’t forget. (Or, use Find Things It’s a great app/website that tells you what you have in your home and where it’s located.)

Here’s a great example. I always liked to be in charge of the laundry. I didn’t like to turn it over to the kids because I wanted things done a particular way. One day I noticed that I was really procrastinating putting away my youngest son’s clothes. I couldn’t understand my resistance and I gave it some serious thought. Here was the dilemma. He had a drawer that was so full of shirts that it was physically difficult to put his clothes away. So, we went through his stash of shirts and pared them down to a desirable amount. Half of them he never wore anyway. What a difference it made! If it’s hard to put something away, you (or anyone else) are not going to do it.

Remember, clutter makes everything take longer. Everything you do everyday takes longer than it needs to – because of clutter.

Kitchen Resolutions

It’s the New Year and everywhere we turn there’s a media outlet that’s giving us organizing tips. Whether it’s on the glossy pages of a magazine or on the TV screen – there’s plenty of advice. Seems like most everyone decides to get organized at the beginning of the New Year. Now, it’s my turn to dole out advice!

First of all, choose a place to organize and break it down into manageable pieces. Organizing a kitchen is a great goal. A better goal is: I’m going to organize the kitchen. Today I’ll organize this drawer. Remember organizing is messy. You have to clear out an area before you can organize it. Don’t tempt fate and tear up a whole room or an entire closet. You’re courting disaster. Besides, finishing is a great motivator. Lots of little finishes will keep you motivated to get to the big finish: my kitchen is organized.

Here are a few miscellaneous tips that will help to organize any kitchen:

Transfer dry supplies into square or rectangular containers. Be sure to label. Round containers are space wasters.

Set up a mixing center where you can stand in one spot to prepare whatever you need to prepare without having to take a lot of steps back and forth.

If you want to use self-adhesive shelf liner – measure the drawer or shelf that you want to line and cut out a piece of cardboard that measurement. (You can use poster board, cereal box cardboard or several thicknesses of newspaper.) Then, cover the cardboard with the self-adhesive paper and place in the drawer or on the shelf. Easy to clean and easy to re-cover.

Keep in the kitchen only those cookbooks that you use all the time. Place the  other books in another room. (Or enjoy the freedom of keeping recipes online.)

Use one motion storage for things you use every day. (That means you can open a closet, cabinet or drawer – reach in and grab what you need and put it back just as quickly.) You should never have to move anything out of the way to reach a high priority item.

Keep a list posted on the side of the refrigerator when you record the leftovers that you’ve tucked inside. That increases the likelihood that you’ll actually use them.

If your dishwasher doesn’t indicate if the dishes are clean or dirty, here’s a great idea to try. When you remove the clean dishes, fill up the detergent dispenser with dishwasher detergent and close the dispenser door. Load the dishwasher. Whenever you see that the dispenser door is closed – you know that the dishes are not clean. If it’s opened – the dishes have been washed.

The kitchen is the heart of the home. Let’s all stay heart healthy!


Think Before You Act

If you’ve read any of my books you’re familiar with those words – think before you act. Recently I got an email from a reader asking me to explain what I meant. She said that I gave several examples of how not to act. Here’s, basically what I told her.

There really aren’t any specific steps to take, it’s just a matter of identifying a problem and thinking it through. For example, you have several errands to run. Here are some things to think about. How much time do you have? Do you have time to do all the errands or do you want to do the important ones first and then take care of the others if time permits?  Once you’ve determined what you’re going to do – then map out the most efficient route.

You want to organize a closet, cabinet – or whatever. Here are some things to think about. What will be stored in this area (remember to store things at or near the point of first use)? Measure the area so you’ll be able to get containers, drawer dividers, cubbies, etc. that will fit into the space. How will these organizers be sued and what will you store in them? Take a tape measure to the store and measure potential organizers, etc. to determine whether they’ll fit in the designated area and if they’ll accommodate what you want to put into them. An advantage to shopping online is that measurements are provided for you.

Making a housekeeping schedule, planning menus and calendaring your time are all examples of thinking before you act. It’s sort of like looking at the GPS before you take off on a trip. Don’t listen to the naysayers who say that planning wastes time. Planning saves a lot of time – as long as you don’t use it as a tool to procrastinate a project. Sometimes we get so detailed that we keep planning and tweaking and we never get around to the job at hand.