simplify 101
Creative Organizing Blog

« March 2009 | Main | May 2009 »

April 28, 2009

spring organizing

Recently I've had spring cleaning on my mind...but more than anything, it is the spring organizing that I love. (Though I'm still excited to clean the windows really well, inside and out, in some upcoming warm weekend.)

This past weekend I decluttered the garage—taking toys, a too small bike, and unused sports gear out of my space and off to Goodwill.

Here's a tip from that session: Don't clean out the garage on a windy day when the maple tree in your front yard is dropping whirly bird seeds faster than you can count. It was an uphill battle sweeping that floor. Every time I'd turn around, more seeds would blow in. But in the end, the effort was well worth it. There's nothing quite like the feeling of a freshly organized garage and the knowing that this task is done for yet another year. It's an annual event...that crazily enough, I look forward to.

Next up was my daughter's closet and dresser. Last night we lightened her load of one bag of too small clothes and made a list of items to buy. Tonight, we purchased the items on her list in a record 45 minute shopping spree. (How cool is that?)

On this week's spring organizing and decluttering to-do list:

  • Put away winter coats, hats, gloves, etc. (I think we're officially past that point!)
  • Stock-up on sun screen and bug spray.
  • Declutter Collin's clothes and make a to buy list for spring and summer.
  • Plan summer schedule for the kids and sign up for some camps.
  • Plant herbs. (OK, technically that's gardening...but it's also a form of summer meal planning. Right?)

This to do list makes me happy. It reminds me that BBQs, margaritas, fresh herbs growing on the patio, family walks at night and bike rides are just around the corner.

What's on your spring organizing to-do list? And what warm weather fun are you looking forward to?

April 22, 2009

Five Easy Ways to Go Green

a guest post from Collin Garvey (my son)

#1 Use less water by taking shorter showers and turning off the water when you brush your teeth. Repairing leaks saves water too. Also, try to avoid disposing tissues and insects in the toilet. Use a trash can or wastebasket instead. You can also try only running the dishwasher when it is full.

#2 Use less electricity by turning off lights, radios, computers, TVs, and anything else that uses electricity when you are done using them. Installing compact fluorescent light bulbs can help save electricity too.

#3 Use less paper by using both sides of a sheet of paper when possible and by coloring on blank pages in coloring books.

#4 Recycle by finding out what items your city’s trash company will recycle. You can also recycle plastic shopping bags at many supermarkets (such as Schnucks and Shop n’ Save) and batteries at some electronic stores (such as Radio Shack).

#5 Save gas by taking a bike instead of your car to any place possible. For example, if you are going to somebody’s house who lives just a mile away, and you are bringing nothing, take a bike!

Thank you, Collin!

If you have a tip for going green, I'd love to hear it. (And I'm sure Collin would, too!) Happy Earth Day!

April 17, 2009

organize your paper clutter

Collection system 

If you signed up for my Organize Your Paper Clutter workshop, the classroom is now open. Hooray! (Check your email in-box for the access info and then come on out to the forum and say hello, if you haven't done so yet.)

If you haven't signed up and you have some paper in your midst that needs some're in luck. The workshop begins next Tuesday. And it's going to be loads of fun. Now, I know what you're thinking—it's paper! Organizing paper is no fun. But truly, I've been working hard to make it as fun and simple and as creative as possible.

I'll be covering all categories of paper—like all those papers your kids bring home from school and paper that you need to act on someday—and giving you organizing and storage solutions for all those types of paper (and loads of other types of paper, too.) Plus much more which you can read about here. And...did I mention it's going to be fun? ;) It really is going to be fun. Piles will be replaced with file baskets and binders. Stress will be replaced with calm. Worry about what's not getting done will be replaced with peace of mind that it's all under control.

Action system-edit 

In other news...I hope you'll check out this auction that my friend Carolyn has put together. I told you about Carolyn in this blog post, and well, she's up to more good. She's put together a really terrific auction loaded with all sorts of cool art pieces (and a seat in Organizing 101.) All proceeds will be donated to her organization, CCC, which provides college scholarships for cancer survivors. If you can bid on something that'd be terrific. Or, it'd be super cool if you could simply help spread the word via your own blog. Thank you! 

I think that's all I know for now...Have a terrific weekend.

April 16, 2009

Throw Out Fifty Things—A Book Review

I mentioned in my last post that while away on vacation, I read a really good book. Well, the more I think about this book and put the concepts into action, the more I love this book.

The book is called Throw Out Fifty Things: Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life and it was written by life coach Gail Blanke. Gail, among other things, wrote one of my all-time favorite articles in Real Simple magazine.


As you know, I love magazines and read lots of them. So to have an all-time favorite article says a lot. There is one story that has always stuck with me. One that I’ve often thought about and wanted to put my hands on so I could read it again. Come to find out, Gail Blanke is the one who wrote this article.

It occurred to me that Gail wrote this article partway through the book—making me even more excited about the book. And then, my excitement soared when I realized she included this story in the book. Now I have this story, at my fingertips, any time I want! I can simply flip to page 159 of “Throw Out Fifty Things” and read about “Letting Go of the Need to Have Everyone Like You.”

So what’s the story? Well, on page 159 Gail shares the story of when she was nine years old and came home from a birthday party in tears. Turns out Suzy didn’t like Gail. So, Gail’s mother asked her if she could think of anything in the world that everybody likes. Her mother went on to tell her that there is just one thing that everyone likes and that is water.

“Do you want to be like water?” Gail’s mother asked. Gail decided, at nine years old, that she’d rather be like hot chocolate or Coca-Cola or lemonade. Sounds rather delicious, doesn’t it? The moral of this story is that so many of us, in an attempt to be liked by everyone, water ourselves down. As Gail says in the book, “We dilute our flavor so we won’t offend anyone. And in the process, we give away our power, the essence of who we are; the very thing that makes us unique and unforgettable.”

I love that. And this little nugget only scratches the surface of the gems that fill the pages of this wonderful, little book.

The overall premise of this book is to throw out fifty things. In the process of letting go of your clutter, you find your life. A concept I resonate with wholeheartedly. Fifty things sounds easy, at first, but here’s the catch—whether you toss one magazine or one-hundred, it counts as just one thing. This makes things a bit harder, and yet, for me, even more compelling. In fact, the day after returning home from our vacation, I started on my own “throw out fifty things” mission. It’s my own personal competition with myself, how quickly can I get to fifty? Will I actually toss out the desire to be liked by everyone? Can I make my list go as high as 75? 100? 500? (I doubt I’ll get to 500…but who knows. Tossing stuff out is pretty addictive.)

As you can see, Gail isn’t just talking about throwing out physical things—you throw out mind clutter, too. Things like perfectionism, regrets and the need to feel secure are all candidates for tossing out the window. And for the record, Gail doesn’t literally suggest that you throw your stuff into the trash. She shares loads of resources for passing along your items to others who will use and enjoy them. She even has a section about holding a sale to make money on your cast-offs, which you know isn’t my go-to solution. But the ideas shared in this book have me rethinking the notion of a sale. Gail shares tips from her friend Sally Carr that turns a sale into a social gathering and an anticipated event—now that’s my kind of sale!  (Though I have to admit…the things I’ve thrown out so far have headed straight to Goodwill. Old habits die hard, but I love the notion that a sale sounds like fun.)

All in all, this book is about decluttering—let go of the things in your life that no longer serve you. I found it to be very motivating and very consistent with my own beliefs about clutter and letting go. It isn’t often that I put down a book and start throwing stuff out, but this time I did.

So if you’re looking for a book loaded with great stories and oodles of inspiration to move your decluttering forward, give Throw Out Fifty Things a try. I’d be willing to bet, this book won’t be on your list of fifty things heading out the door.

April 12, 2009

A *real* vacation…

This past week we snuck away for our first *real* vacation in a long, long while. According to my kids, it was their first *real* vacation ever, because apparently going to visit your Grandparents in Michigan doesn’t count as a *real* vacation, even if you stay in a hotel, swim in the hotel’s pool, spend a day at the beach, go to waterslides, and do other fun vacation-y stuff. A real vacation involves going somewhere other than Grandma’s or Grandpa’s home state. Who knew? Now I do.

Our first *real* vacation involved a stay at Great Wolf Lodge in Kansas City. It was ideal in every way. First, we really needed to get away and spend some quality time together. I think my favorite part was just hanging out and talking. We spend a lot of time talking in our regular life, but there’s something about vacation chat, the kind of chat that comes from the monotony of driving in a car, that just can’t be beat.

On our drive home, Collin shared this gem as we collectively pondered the concept of the Easter Bunny. “First of all, bunnies are mammals. It’d be much more reasonable to have an Easter chicken than an Easter bunny.” An Easter Chicken. Why not? Sounds “reasonable” to me.

So this year we got a visit from the Easter Chicken. The Easter Chicken, ironically enough, brought the kids a giant chocolate bunny and other little goodies tucked into a basket similar to the ones the Easter Bunny used in the past. I have to admit, and I’m probably alone in this, but I rather enjoy this phase we’re in. We still decorate eggs, hide them, and do Easter baskets, but there’s no more worrying about trying to justify the existence of a bunny over the more reasonable concept of a chicken. I like that. It has a certain simplicity that really appeals to me.


But I digress. Back to the *real* vacation.

The second reason this vacation was ideal was because I really disconnected with life at home. And this, my friends, is getting harder and harder to do. Not just for me, but for all of us who are wireless or connected to everyone everywhere 24/7. Yes, I checked my email, but only once a day, and I only responded to mission-critical emails and sometimes not even those. Our Internet access was a bit sporadic…and this suited me just fine. On top of that there was no Facebook. No Twitter. No blogging. No real connection to anyone or anything except for my family. And this was good.

It was the waterslides, eating out, playing in the arcade, and staying in a hotel that made it a *real* vacation for my kids. But for me, it was completely disconnecting from my *real* life that made this past week a *real* vacation for me.


Oh, and while I was away I read a *really* good book, which is always a treat, whether I’m on vacation or not. I’ll share more about the book later this week—it’s one I think you’ll really love. So I’m excited to share.

In the meantime, I would love to hear your thoughts on taking *real* vacations. Do you disconnect from the real world or do you stay connected via your cell phone, lap top or other electronic device? I’m curious to know if I’m the only one who craves complete disconnection from the real world while vacationing. I’m happy to be back…but boy it felt good to get away. 

April 08, 2009

budget-friendly scrapbook storage + organizing ideas

Good news! It doesn’t have to cost a fortune to get organized and inspired for scrapbooking! With an investment of something you already have—your creativity, plus a little bit of time, getting organized for scrapbooking can cost a lot less than you might think. Below are three ideas to get your creative organizing juices flowing.

Cost = Free!
The first step in any organizing project is to edit your belongings. Getting organized for scrapbooking is just the same. Why spend time and money storing supplies you’ll never use? Instead, take the time up-front to pare down to just those products that inspire you and those you’ll love using on your scrapbook projects.

Cost = Free


Remember when ribbon became all the rage in scrapbooking and you…uh…over-indulged? Think of it as having brilliant foresight. Tie tags to baskets, buckets or jars using some of that ribbon stash. Or use letter stickers or rub-on letters to label your containers directly.

General Budget Stretcher
Let’s face it—some of the items in your scrapbook space are easier to store than others. Once you’ve exhausted your options of low-cost storage solutions, invest in storage that will help you effectively store your harder-to-store items. Custom storage for items like 12” x 12” cardstock and other specialty items is worth the investment if it makes it easier to use and access your supplies going forward.

For seven more budget-friendly organizing ideas for scrapbooking, visit this page for a free pdf download.

Then, come back here and share your favorite budget-stretching tips for getting organized (& inspired!) for scrapbooking. I can't wait to hear your ideas.

April 06, 2009

the organized & inspired scrapbooker — an update

S101OIS-2TI've gotten quite a few emails about where and how to buy a copy of "The Organized & Inspired Scrapbooker." For a long while, I wasn't sure if the book would be printed again, so I've held off on announcing anything here. Until now. Unfortunately, I recently learned that there are no plans (at this point in time, anyway) to print the book this year. In a nutshell, the book is pretty much sold out and not going to be printed least any time soon.

So...if you happen to come across a copy of the book, I would absolutely love it if you would share where you've seen it so I can pass this information along to people who have contacted me about the book. I know it's slim pickings out there...but you just never know when one of The-Happy-Scrapper you comes across one. Know what I mean? Or, if you have a copy you'd like to share forward with someone, let me know that, too. I'm not sure I want to become Aby-bay, har har, but I'd love to be able to help out people who have been trying and trying to get the book to no avail as of yet.

In happier news, my e-book "The Happy Scrapper—Simple Solutions to Get Organized + Get Scrapping" is still available. 

April 03, 2009


I am starting to see signs of healing. I know it won’t happen over night—especially not for my girl. But it’s nice to see little signs of normalcy. I’ve never been so happy to hear the Jonas Brother’s blasting from my daughter's CD player as I was this morning. Just one little indication that healing has begun.

Going through this loss, I have been moved by the kindness of others. I’m grateful to the countless people who reached out to me personally. Thank you for your emails, cards and phone calls. I’m also grateful to have witnessed the love and support that surrounds the little girl’s family. I am inspired by the way people pull together during times of tragedy. I’m also moved by the compassionate heart of my daughter, who instantly thought of her friend’s family, teacher and best friend upon learning the news of her friend. She wanted to bake cakes. And so we did. I never knew baking cakes could be so therapeutic, so healing.

Now I’m looking forward to the weekend and simple little things that make life rich. Catching up on my photography class. Watching the Michigan State basketball game. (Go State!) Eating guacamole. (Yum!) Perhaps baking another cake. And lots of snuggling with the kiddos.

I’d love to hear what simple things you’re looking forward to this weekend. I hope you have a great one.

Powered by Typepad