Think about how you live and how much time you spend to organize yourself and your home. We'll capture everyone's votes and tell you how the results turned out in a future post.


  • Turn all hangers in your closet towards you.When you wear something, return the item with the hanger turned away from you. In six months you can determine what items have not been worn simply by examining the direction of the hanger. During one of your decluttering sessions, those items should be considered for donation or consignment since they have not been worn

  • Any files older than the current year that will be used for reference or tax purposes should be stored archivally off premises and all others should be discarded (be sure to shred documents containing personal information)

  • Keep only items that you use twice a week or more on your countertops - everything else should be stored to keep an open working space

  • If moving to a smaller location determine what items you can fit into your new space with this formula: divide the square footage of your smaller space by the square footage of your current space (i.e., new place - 1,200 sq. ft. divided by current place - 3,000 sq. ft. equals 40% which means your new smaller space can fit 40% of your current possessions which signals the need to store, donate, sell or discard the remaining 60% of your possessions

  • Store items that you use seasonally or infrequently in space that is harder to reach

  • Regularly purge your medicine cabinet of expired medications and remedies and group the remaining items by usage. Keep the items used regularly on the bottom shelf

  • Install a shelf along an entire wall above the highest piece of furniture to display a grouping of framed photographs - this eliminates a cluttered look of photos everywhere and creates a distinguished place of prominence for these photos. Consider installing a picture light for optimum viewing

  • If you have difficulty sleeping, consider these feng shui tips: do not store anything under your bed as stored items collect dust and block the flow of energy and therefore interfere with peaceful sleep. Also your bed should ideally have a solid rounded headboard against a solid wall behind you for protection with your head to the wall and your feet toward the door

  • Set a time limit per task and stick to it

  • In attics, sheds and garages divide belongings by type and store in specific areas - consider all holiday items together or store by season

  • Attach a long straight magnet to the inside of a medicine cabinet that can hold tweezers, scissors and other small metal items

  • Teach children to organize and help them once a week - store smaller toys in see-through clear storage boxes and place larger toys in tote boxes
  • Store similar items by usage category (like with like) - it will be easier to find everything you need in one place

  • Never handle anything twice - in the moment discard it, file it or act on it

  • Start decluttering at one corner of room and continue around the room in sequence - stay focused on cleaning out one area at a time - when you find an item for another area, simply place it elsewhere for the time being

  • To help determine what to do with an item, ask yourself these questions: What is this? Why do I have it? Do I like it? When will I use it again?

  • Sort by using three piles: Donate or Consign/Toss/Save or remember with CALM: Categorize, Assign, Liquidate and Maintain

  • Return items to its storage place for instant retrieval next time

  • Open mail daily over garbage pail and toss trash immediately. The rest can be grouped in categories that make sense to you like Bills to pay, Actions items, Things to read

  • Place the items you use frequently in the most accessible and prominent locations between waist height and eye level

  • Create a daily To-Do List, prioritizing the most important task first. (Note that some tasks are not worth the time spent on them)

  • Use a free automatic bill payment service (typically through your bank) instead of writing monthly checks which saves time and postage

  • Schedule errands that are near each other to minimize travel time and gas

  • For every new item coming into your home, discard one existing item to keep the equilibrium and avoid clutter from mounting

  • Register for the "Do Not Call List" and "Removal of Junk Mail" with the American Marketing Association. Cut down on junk mail by keeping only a few catalogs from which you will be ordering - send a postcard to the Subscription Manager of other catalogs you do not wish to receive asking them to remove you from their mailing database (include their original mailing label)

  • Obtain Caller ID. Do not answer every call as it comes in (eliminates distraction) - instead schedule a block of time to return calls (helps productivity)

  • Keep items used frequently within an arm's length on your desk (i.e., stapler, scissor, tape, pen) and remove distracting kitchy items

To "have one's ducks in a row" means that the person is doing a good job and has all of his or her duties taken care of in an efficient and timely manner. Phrases involving our web-footed friends, including "nice day for a duck" (meaning rainy weather) and "like water off a duck's back" (meaning having no effect), have been common in English for hundreds of years. "To have one's ducks in a row," however, seems to be a fairly recent coinage. The first appearance of the phrase noted in Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang is in 1979, in Stephen King's novel "The Stand." The related "line up one's ducks" appears only a year earlier, in 1978.

But why a duck? to echo the Marx Brothers. It's possible that the phrase began as a reference to the lines of little metal ducks used as targets in carnival shooting galleries. A more benevolent explanation would be that "to have one's ducks in a row" refers to the common sight of a mother duck leading a troop of her ducklings in an orderly row.

- The Word Detective



    Helane Blinn is a Professional Organizer, Home Stager, and the Founder of Ducks In A Row Professional OrganizingSM.

    She is also a member of NAPO, NAPO-New England, and NAPO Golden Circle.


    May 2015