Money, of course. The more, the better, in most cases. But other paper? That comes in the mail, that comes in the door with your purchases, that comes to your front porch as newspapers and flyers?  In most cases, less is better.

Here are some quick thoughts:

PAPER: Get rid of as much as you can, as fast as you can. Go through the mail as soon as possible, discarding everything  you don’t need to keep, and filing away the rest, or handle it however it needs to be handled (write a check, make a phone call, etc.) If a newspaper is more than a week old, you might glance at the headlines, then recycle it. Magazines? Give them a month, two at the most. Have a small folder for receipts so you can always find the one you’re looking for to make a return or a complaint about a purchase. I like the folders that have monthly date separators. Save them by month, and if you need one, you may remember the month you bought the article and can just go through those to find it.

CLOTHING: Figure out how many of each type you need: Tops, bottoms, dresses, suits, underwear, shoes, hose/socks, hats, handbags. Get rid of everything you no longer wear or use, or haven’t worn in one year, unless it’s a special occasion item you may wear again, but limit yourself to only a very few of those. Now shop—fill in the blanks. You’ve decided you want twenty tops and bottoms and kept twenty tops but have only fourteen skirts or slacks to go with them? Even it up to your ideal count. Once at your ideal count for all items, if you buy something new, throw out or give away the equivalent item that is either the oldest, least used, or shabby. Your closet will thank you. Your sleepy self will thank you in the mornings when you’re getting dressed, especially if you arrange your closet by item.

KNICKKNACKS: Tired of washing, dusting, or otherwise cleaning them? No, you don’t have to throw away anything you truly love. What you do is put some things out, sparsely—no more than three items on a table, for example, and if it’s a small table, one item will do. Put the rest away in a special storage box or cabinet. Every so often, exchange the items for something in your storage area.

PANTRY ITEMS: First arrange them all by type (canned goods, baking supplies, etc.). Line them up so you can see what you have. As with the clothing, determine how much of each item you always want to have on hand. Stick with that number. It’s easiest to just pick a number for every canned item—for example, four of one kind of soup, four tomato sauce, four tomato paste, four canned mixed fruit, four canned tuna. You get the idea. At a glance, you can tell what’s getting low when you make out your shopping list. Do the same type of organization in your refrigerator. If you have room, even store those things that need to be there after opened. This way, again, you can see at a glance that you have an extra and don’t need to get more instead of checking the pantry. The exception is, of course, great sales items. You might put them in a special area, using up what you already have first, then checking that area and restocking your regular shelves before buying more. But if you do this, you have to remember what you have stashed away somewhere else. Or you can keep a list of those items right in the pantry or on the inside of the door.

I think you get the idea. Look at each area of your home and decide how you can arrange it so it’s more organized and it will stay that way with little effort.


Need to clean up the kitchen, bathroom, refrigerator, your office? Here’s the best way to do any clean-up job quickly:

  1. Put everything away, or pull everything out of what you want to clean (like the refrigerator).
  2. Start at the highest point, and dust or wipe everything down, circling the area if it’s large, like a living room or bedroom, or starting at one end of a long space like the laundry room or the bathroom and moving to the end.
  3. Clean the floors—spot clean as necessary, and do a thorough job on a routine basis.

Sounds simple and easy when you break it down like this, doesn’t it? Since I sit a lot of the time on my computer, I break up jobs like these just the way I have them listed above. It doesn’t take more than ten minutes to straighten up a room in preparation to dust it or wipe things down. Except for possibly the kitchen, it doesn’t take much more than ten minutes to dust or wipe. For the kitchen, I sometimes break it into two sessions. Same for the floors.

And if everything is put away after it’s used, you can even pretty much skip #1 except when cleaning out something.

Another way to tackle keeping everything clutter-free and clean is to do one type of job in those ten minutes. Dust as many rooms as you can in ten minutes, go back to your sit-down job, then do another ten minutes after another hour has passed. Like this: I do the bathroom and kitchen on Wednesdays, I dust mop the bare floors and dust all the furniture on Fridays (I take Thursdays and Sundays off), and I vacuum the whole house and wash the floors on Saturday. This way you only get out your supplies for each job once a week instead of getting them all out every day to do, say two rooms a day.

The main points: Keep everything picked up and put away. And spot clean every room every day—counters in kitchen and baths, spots on the floor, handprints around doorknobs and so on. When you see something dirty or out of place, take a moment to fix it.


A, B, C is often suggested as a way to sort your to-do list. Simple. Top priority are A’s, would-be-nice-to-do are B’s and C’s are hardly necessary to do at all.


But how to make the decisions? Would word classifications help you more? How about A being Reach (for long-term goals or goals that will give you the most return), B being Standing Still (for tasks that you need to do to keep yourself and your environment up to snuff), and C being for Forget It (unless you use those tasks to procrastinate, and they make you feel good).

Can you come up with some other words to use that will help you understand what role doing your to-dos has in your personal growth and achievement?


The Facebook motto, “Done is better than perfect” is something to think about. Creative types learn this early, or if they don’t they never finish most, or even any, projects.

If you haven’t finished the job, you can’t even start to make it better. Until it’s roughly finished, you won’t truly know what needs to be fixed.

Yes, you do the best work you can as you go along. But accept, deep down, that it will probably need more work when you’re “finished.” A writer finishes a rough draft. Then she finishes draft number two. And on it goes until she finally has to say, “It’s the best I can at this time in my life.” And let it go, either off to hopefully get published or into that proverbial drawer never to be looked at again.

Striving for near-perfection is good. Expecting perfection is not good, because in almost all cases, it’s impossible.


Here’s my system for organizing my stuff when away from home out shopping or doing errands.

Do you forget the shopping list? Can’t find your keys? Have to dig through a huge purse for your wallet? And does this sort of thing annoy the heck out of you?

It used to annoy me. I have learned some tricks I want to share with you.

I always wear something with a pocket or two and carry a large tote-type purse with a smaller purse inside. Since I also wear glasses off and on (cheaters and prescription sunglasses for distance), I have a special around-the-neck eyeglass case for those. It even has a zippered side pocket where I could put my credit card and driver’s license and some cash, cell phone, and car key, if that’s all I wanted to take into stores.

But why the pockets? If I make a list, it goes in my pocket right away. I never forget to take it into the store with me. The trick with that, though, is to have the habit of emptying your pocket when you get home so the list isn’t washed with the clothing. I often just stick the receipts I get in my pocket, as well. Then when I empty it, there’s the receipt, ready to file away, not stuffed in my purse where it will get lost.


I use a very small wallet-like purse to take into the stores which can sit at the top inside of a larger tote or in an outer pocket. I carry the car key, credit card, license, library card, some cash and a few other items I might need in a store. I rarely use my cell phone when I’m out, so it’s in its own case inside the tote. (It would also fit in the case I have for my eyeglasses, if I want to use that.) I have a second wallet (old one) for all the stuff I might need but probably won’t such are store cards, some extra cash, some change, postage stamps, etc. This way if my small purse gets lost or stolen while I’m out of the car, I have some extra money for an emergency. The big bag also carries a small notebook, my checkbook, pain killers, a thumb drive with my stuff backed up (in case the house burns down when I’m gone—LOL), and other miscellaneous stuff.

The point is, I have a system. Do you? Please tell us about it in the comments.


You are sitting around or working, and a sudden idea hits you. Could be something to add to your shopping list, or a note to call someone, or a brilliant idea for your next novel. What do you do with it?

1.     Continue working because you’re sure you’ll remember it later?

2.     Tell someone else, hoping they won’t steal it?

3.     Write it down?

That was a test, and of course #3 was the right answer.

I had an idea for this post as I was doing something else—answering an email, actually. But I stopped and quickly opened a new Word .doc and wrote down the title and a few lines. I will come back to it later to flesh it out, and that will be an easy column for me to have ready some time in the future.

And now I’m back. Before I got here, however, I thought of a couple more ideas and “captured” them as well.

Ways to save ideas:

1.     If I’m on the computer, I open a word processing doc, either a new one for something I plan to flesh out later as a document, an old one to add to I’ve already started about the same subject, or key it into a .doc I’ve labeled “Notes.”

2.     If I’m not on the computer, I always have a small notepad nearby, and I jot the idea down there.

3.     If you have a handheld device or smart phone you can make notes on and can do so as quickly as you could writing them down by hand, that’s another way to do it. I love my laptop, but I’ve never used any handheld device enough to be able to make a note easily and quickly, so I carry a small notebook in my purse instead.

Do you have other ways to capture your ideas? Please share in the comments.


Two great ways to increase your productivity. One is to arrange your work space so that work flows around you, if not in a loop, at least in a semi-circle. This works for desks, kitchens, organizing a bathroom and for whole rooms, especially offices.

We’ll use an office as an example since so many of us have one, or at least a workspace that with good organization can help you speed your way through your tasks. A good arrangement for an office is to have anything incoming near the door, preferably into your inbox. There should be an empty space by your inbox for you to take something out of the box and place it on your work surface. Then, in a line, have your set-up to deal with paper. If it needs to be filed, either file it right away, or place it in a folder to be filed later. If it needs to be answered, like a letter, either answer it right away, or put in in another file folder. If it’s a bill, either pay it right away, or put it in a place you look at often. A red folder would work for this really well. If you want to read it later, have a box to put reading material into. A standing file holder on your desk will help you sort your inbox, then handle like tasks all at one time. Getting up to file a stack of papers, for example, or getting out the checkbook, envelopes and stamps for several bills can be more efficient than doing one at a time in a mixture.

Use this line-up for your bathroom. When you get up in the morning do you have to open five drawers and two cabinets to get everything out you need to deal with your face and hair? Put everything in a box and just pull it out every morning, then put it away. Simple. And easier to keep that one box clean inside than a bunch of drawers and cabinets. In your kitchen, put baking supplies and ingredients together, pots and pans near the stove, dishes close to the table where you eat, and so on. Remember the trick of creating a loop and see if it will help you arrange your workflow.

The second way to get loopy is to arrange your actual work into a mental loop. Get used to one thing following another. If you’re a writer, you write, then edit, then publish, then market. If you have written and published more than one book and plan to do more, it will help to get into a loop every day of doing each of those things. You might be writing a new book, editing an old one, getting yet another one ready to publish, including submitting, (either by yourself or with your publisher) and need to market everything you have going. So, when you’re fresh, you write new material. When you finish with that you always either edit, publish or market something else. Then pick the next thing and the next thing.

Most jobs can be broken down like this. Plan your days around the most important thing you have to do and work in the others in a special order that will work for you, mentally and physically. Do the hardest things when you are at your peak, and the easiest things when your energy lags.

Getting loopy gives your work and your day a sort of rhythm that eases stress (deciding what to do all the time and hunting for stuff or jumping from one thing to another is stressful) and helps you accomplish more.


Vision boards have become more popular since Pinterest joined  the cyberworld. One of the most popular “boards” on there is for future brides to gather together everything they come across they might decide to use in their own weddings. Writers are using them to find pictures of what they envision their characters to look like. People plan their vacations.

Imagine doing this for your whole life! What aspects of your life haven’t you obtained yet would give you the most joy? Find a picture to represent it, pin it up near your desk on a corkboard, and you will be inspired to work toward that vision.

Want to vacation in Hawaii? Put up some pictures of where you want to go while visiting. Planning a party? Dreaming of a beach house? Or just an uncluttered living room? Your novel a bestseller?* With photoshopping programs, the internet and your printer, what you can see in your mind can become a concrete picture to put up where you will see it often.  You can use glossy brochure paper to print your dreamscapes. And of course, you can use Pinterest for this idea, as well. But you won’t see the images as often, probably, as when you pin them where you come across them whenever you’re in the area where you’ve put them in your home or office.

You need a clear vision of what you want to accomplish. What better way to see your vision that to put it right in front of you to look at every day?

*Find a list of NY Times bestsellers on-line, delete the first one, insert your title and name. Or, if you have an image of your cover, take a picture of the rack at the grocery checkout counter where they place the current paperback bestseller, delete one of the covers, and paste yours into the space.


Okay, I have to admit, this idea is not unique (well, realistically, there are no new ideas—only different ways of presenting and wording them). A writer named Gretchen Rubin came up with this plan, and I thought it was interesting. For more details, go here:


Twelve seems like a lot to remember. Ten may be stretching it, too. But I’m just noodling with this idea, and thought I’d put it out there.

In a nutshell, these commandments should be about things we want to remind ourselves to pay attention to, that need improvement, or will make us happier people. For example, maybe you believe you complain too much, so one of your commandments could be “Complain not.” Perhaps you don’t count your blessings enough. That’s an easy one, “Count your blessings.” Maybe you’re a couch potato and know it would be better if you go up at least every hour and moved around for five or ten minutes. “Move you booty” would work for that, wouldn’t it? If you eat too much, “No snacking after dinner” might work.

I think you get the idea. These “commandments” are your rules to remember when you are tending toward an action that gets in the way of your happiness or well-being or is interfering with your goals in life or with your relationships with other people.

I’m not saying this will work for everyone, or even anyone. I’ve never tried it. I just thought it was an interesting idea, so I’m throwing it out there. Of course, I’m going to try it myself. Maybe start with five. I’m not sure I’d remember ten. After I get those five down pat, can add one at a time to the list.

If anyone tries this, please let me know how it worked.


Why is it so hard to change our behavior when we want desperately to do so? Most people will say it’s a lack of willpower.

But new studies show that’s not it. Rather it’s not having habits and routines in place to keep you on track. This is probably why programs such as Weight Watchers™ work well for so many people. You start a new habit—calculating what you eat every day and how many points. You’re paying attention. You probably now eat only at certain times, including snacks. You’re not buying the food that tempts you—no ice cream in the freezer to call to you at 2 a.m. Plus you’ve joined a group of others who have the same goal—studies have shown this is very helpful. Hang out with the people who are achieving what you want to achieve, or have already achieved it. Peer pressure does work.

But there’s more. Advance planning for everything on your goals list will help your chances of success. Don’t just plan to exercise more. Pick a certain time every day to do it. You want to de-clutter? Again, pick a time of day (a mere 15 minutes a day will accomplish a lot in one month) and do it then. In three weeks, if you do it every day, the new habit is ingrained and you will no longer have to think about it (how often do you think about brushing your teeth or drinking your morning cuppa?).

Put your day on autopilot, and all the things you want to accomplish, unless catastrophe strikes, should get done. This planning in advance has to be realistic. You cannot plan to finish something that usually takes an hour in half an hour. This is where prioritizing comes in, too. It’s always best to do the most important things first and leave the less important things for later.  If the important things take more time than planned or you are interrupted, at least you got those done. Remember to throw in some stuff you love to do throughout the day. Put them on your schedule along with everything else.

Make it a habit to start your day with something you really enjoy, and end your day the same way. You will hear people say it’s best to exercise first thing (and for some people, it might be true). But if you hate exercising, you will soon not look forward to getting up in the morning. Instead, start with something you like—have breakfast with your spouse, read the paper or a book, watch the morning news on TV, read some email, whatever. Then do your exercises. Try alternating the hard stuff with things you love.

Also try this: Count up all the things you do every day that are already habits. You probably get up at the same time every day. What actions do you take after that? Could be you brush your teeth, take a shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, drink coffee or tea, take some vitamins, grab whatever you need to take to work, get in the car, drive to work or drop off the kids then drive to work, and then list what you do when you get there. Do you greet the same person by the front door every day? Do you put away your purse and/or briefcase in the same spot? Do you hang up your coat, roll up your sleeves, sit down, turn on your computer? You see how many things you do just in the first hour or so of rising? This goes on all day long, and the things go in reverse when you head home.

Imagine if you scheduled the rest of your day in a similar manner. Put yourself on autopilot. Then, if you usually avoid something that needs to be done, do it right away, with as little thought as possible. But on the other hand, if there’s something you would like to do but don’t want to do (eat another cookie, or smoke a cigarette are two good examples), put it off for a minute or so. You might get distracted and forget about it, at least for a while. Then try that again—keep putting it off.

To recap: Decide in advance when and where you will take specific actions to reach your goals. This removes the mental effort of making decisions. Your intentions have to be very clear, and you need to be sure you can accomplish your goal. It’s all in the details. And if there’s a habit you want to break, put off doing it as long as you can. Distract yourself. This would be a good time to do something else pleasurable. So, allow some time for spontaneity in your schedule. Because when you fine-tune these habits, it will be very easy to get back on track after a short break.

Try it and see!