4 Steps to an Uncluttered Desk

If office space detritus is weighing you down, then it’s time for a clean sweep. Follow this four-step clutter cleanup strategy from Enough Already!, by Peter Walsh, to free up physical and psychological space for more creative and productive work flow.

Improving your work life isn’t as simple as having a clean desk. But what can I say? I do this for a living — it’s a good place to start. There’s no faster way to inspire an immediate change in attitude than with an uncluttered, clear, pristine desk. It’s a little like making your bed. A made bed anchors a room, sets the tone for the day, says, “I respect my space,” and shows a commitment to routines and organization. So you are your desk. If it’s cluttered, how are you supposed to prioritize? How can you be efficient? Think of your desk as a reflection of your head. No matter how creative and brilliant you are, I can assure you that you’ll perform better with an organized desk. Now let’s get to it. Here’s how.

Quick Desk Purge

  1. File. You shouldn’t have anything on your desk that isn’t “active,” meaning it still needs to be dealt with. Filing isn’t complex, and it isn’t high priority, which is why a “to file” pile tends to grow high. Get rid of those piles immediately, even if it takes you an hour. If you take ten minutes to file at the end of the day, you’ll always be able to keep your desk clean. Filing and tidying up at the end of the day is a good way to decompress before you go home, as well as a way to clarify and reinforce what you did today and what you need to do tomorrow.
  2. Get rid of the miniature Zen garden. After you’ve filed, clear your workspace of anything that you don’t use regularly. If you must have sentimental items and toys (really, must you?), pare them down to a bare minimum. This isn’t a high school locker. You’re a grown up and a professional. Your desk should reflect that. The same goes for the stuffed animals, Vegan souvenirs, and collectible action figures!
  3. Use a vertical file organizer for “active” files. Reserve your inbox for items that need to be dealt with pronto. For ongoing projects, create files and store them in an easily accessible desktop file organizer or a rolling file cart that slips easily under your desk and can be accessed quickly and efficiently.
  4. Create systems that work. No matter if you’re a shoe salesman, a full-time dad, or a rock star, you’ll do your job better if you have fool-proof systems in place.
  • When you listen to your phone messages, the calls you need to return should always be written down in the same place.
  • When you plan a meeting, a playdate, or a concert in Madison Square Garden, the event goes immediately into a calendar.
  • When you pay a bill, complete a sale, or finish an album, all documentation should immediately be filed away.
  • Keep a running to-do list on a notepad or electronically. Start a new page every day, copying outstanding to-dos onto the new page. When you complete a task, check it off and note the date. You’ll always know when you got something done and have a clear record in case you need to refer back to it.

And so on. Take notes. Keep a calendar. Return calls. Log important addresses and phone numbers. Be accountable. You know how there are some ultra-reliable people you trust to do what they said they’d do, when they said they’d do it? You can be one of those people. Your organized desk is the first step and says “I mean business” to everyone who sees it.

Peter Walsh is a clutter expert and organizational consultant who characterizes himself as part-contractor and part-therapist. He is the bestselling author of Enough Already! Clearing Mental Clutter to Become the Best You (Copyright © 2009 by Peter Walsh Design, Inc.), It’s All Too Much, and Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat? He can also be heard weekly on The Peter Walsh Show on the Oprah and Friends XM radio network, is a regular guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show, and was also the host of the hit TLC show Clean Sweep. Peter holds a master’s degree with a specialty in educational psychology. He divides his time between Los Angeles and Melbourne, Australia.



Give Your Refrigerator a Freezer-to-Floor Makeover

Spills, science experiments, sauces from the last decade…If opening your fridge feels like an archaeological expedition, it’s time for a freezer-to-floor makeover. Learn the best way to store fruits, vegetables, condiments, and half-eaten dinners with this step-by-step guide from Linda Cobb, author of The Queen of Clean Conquers Clutter.

The refrigerator and freezer take a lot of abuse. There isn’t a person alive, I venture, who hasn’t peered into the depths of their refrigerator at one time or another and pulled out a “mystery bowl” lurking somewhere in the back. To stop the science experiments, use these tried-and-true methods.

Clean out the refrigerator and freezer separately, starting with the refrigerator. First remove the entire contents of the refrigerator, examining things as you go to determine what is a keeper and what can be disposed of. Have a sturdy trash bag standing by to receive any “mystery items.” Use a cooler to keep perishables cold while you work. (Don’t worry, this won’t take long!) “Keepers” are condiments such as ketchup, mustard, and salad dressings — if they are still fresh.

A quick word of advice: Even condiments have an expiration date. They last, open in your refrigerator, for about 12 to 18 months. Take a look at them as you replace them in the refrigerator. If they have changed color or look excessively watery, it’s time to toss and restock. And remember, when you are using perishable items such as mayonnaise or salad dressing, return them to the refrigerator as soon as possible to keep them fresh longer.

Now’s the time to thoroughly clean the interior of the refrigerator. Remove glass shelves or racks one by one to clean them. As you take them out, wash the wall areas of the refrigerator that can be reached. A mild solution of 1 gallon of warm water and a couple of squirts of dishwashing liquid and 1–2 tablespoons of borax will do the job nicely. Mix this up in the sink or a bucket, and use a sponge or soft cloth. You probably found that box of baking soda in the back that has been deodorizing the refrigerator for months. Remove it and sprinkle some of the baking soda on a damp cloth to remove stubborn food spills from the walls and shelves. When you’re done, you can place the box with your cleaning supplies, for many other uses around the house. Put a fresh box in the refrigerator. Wash and rinse the shelves and dry with a soft cloth; then replace them in the refrigerator. Here you’ll want to put a coat of Clean Shield® on the shelves before putting items back. This wonderful product creates a nonstick finish that is stain- and soil-resistant. You can mop up spills in your refrigerator with just a damp sponge, making cleanup a lot easier.

  • Group keepers by type. Store salad dressings, horseradish, and other condiments together in the door. Jams and jellies can stay here too. Check the dates on your perishables and dispose of anything that’s past its prime. Consider how you use things in the refrigerator. If the kids are constantly reaching into the back for the jelly, for instance, move it up front and store less frequently used items in the back.
  • Dairy products such as cottage cheese, yogurt, and sour cream should be stored in their original containers. Hard cheese will stay freshest if stored wrapped in foil, wax paper, or plastic wrap after opening.
  • Group fruits and vegetables separately, each in their own crisper bins. This way you can pull open the drawer and know if you need to pick up a head of lettuce or some more apples. This also keeps your produce fresher longer, as fruits and vegetables emit gases that cause each other to deteriorate; grouping like things together will keep these vapors from mingling. Remember not to wash produce prior to storage, as this speeds up deterioration.

Is your refrigerator the place where you keep the leftovers until it’s time to throw them out?

  • A separate section of the refrigerator just for leftovers is a good idea. This keeps you from overlooking them. Store them in see-through containers, and hopefully you won’t shove them to the back to linger for six months! Remove any leftovers from cans and store in plastic or glass to keep a metallic taste from ruining the food. Leftovers need to be refrigerated no more than two hours after cooking, so be sure to store them as soon as mealtime is over. As you store your leftovers in the refrigerator, make a list of them and tack it to the refrigerator door. You’ll be more apt to remember and to use them and you’ll never find a mystery bowl next time you clean.
  • Perishables such as eggs should be stored on the top shelf of the refrigerator. Remember that the door is often the warmest place in your refrigerator, and that’s where the egg container usually is. It’s much safer to store your eggs in their original container until they’re used. For this reason, you’ll want to store your butter, margarine, and cream cheese on the top shelf too. Leave the door area for your sturdier condiments, such as ketchup and mustard.
  • Store meats on the bottom shelf if your refrigerator doesn’t have a meat tray. This prevents them from dripping on other items, in case the wrapping isn’t tight. Thaw a roast or other large cut of meat inside a bowl, so that as it defrosts the juice will run into the bowl, not all over your shelves.
  • If your family drinks a lot of canned juices and soft drinks, a can rack will come in handy. Here’s where an extra refrigerator is a bonus too, to hold beverages you buy on sale or use frequently. A word of warning: Do not place warm cans of soda in the freezer to quickly cool them off. The carbonation causes the can to burst. Not a pretty sight.

Don’t overcrowd the refrigerator, as the premise for keeping food cool is that interior air is allowed to circulate. You’ll want to set the temperature dial to less than 40 degrees to keep harmful bacteria from growing. Look for a refrigerator thermometer at home stores; leaving one in your refrigerator will help you keep your food fresher longer.

Leftovers? Think Again!
By now you probably have collected partially used bottles and containers with just a little left in them. Here’s what you can do with those leftovers.

  • That old odor-absorbing box of baking soda — put it down the kitchen drain followed by 1/2 to 1 cup of white vinegar for a fresh-smelling, clear-flowing drain.
  • Lemon juice — clean your brass with lemon juice by adding salt. Rub it on, rinse, and dry well. Clean stains off counters with a paste of lemon juice and cream of tartar. Remove rust from hard surfaces or white fabrics by putting the lemon juice on the rust. For fabric, lay it out in the sun.
  • Ketchup — now’s the time to shine that copper by rubbing it with ketchup until it shines. Rinse and dry well.
  • Clear soda water that’s lost its fizz — use to wipe down white appliances for a great shine. Buff with a soft cloth. Clear soda water also adds vigor to plants and cut flowers.
  • If that onion is not good enough for the salad, remove rust from your utensils, such as paring knives, by sticking them in the onion and letting them sit until the rust is removed, usually a matter of hours.
  • Put citrus peels from citrus fruit past its prime down the garbage disposal to freshen and deodorize.
  • If that potato isn’t looking great, cut it in half and rub it on white shoes. Let the shoe dry, and then polish for a streak-proof shine. Or, remove mud from clothes by rubbing with the cut side of a potato.
  • Add shine to a wood table by polishing with that last bit of mayonnaise in the jar. Rub it in well and buff with a soft cloth.


Previously the owner of a cleaning and disaster-restoration business in Michigan, dealing with the aftermath of fires and floods, Linda Cobb, author of The Queen of Clean Conquers Clutter (Copyright © 2002 by Linda Cobb), started sharing her cleaning tips in a local newspaper column. After moving to Phoenix she became a weekly guest on Good Morning Arizona — then the product endorsements and requests for appearances started rolling in. A featured guest on radio and television shows across the country, Linda Cobb lives in Phoenix with her husband.


9 Secrets to Organizing Your Accessories

Find the perfect pin, pocketbook and pearl ring in a snap. Judie Taggart and Jackie Walker, authors of I Don’t Have a Thing to Wear, share nine tips on how to organize and store all of your accessories.

Accessories should be in plain view. If you don’t see them, you forget what you own. Put shoes in clear plastic boxes on a shelf or stacked on the floor, arrange them on racks, in rows, or stowed in their original boxes with descriptive labels or a Polaroid picture glued on the end.

Arrange handbags vertically on your closet shelf, in view and in your consciousness. Buy cabinet storage organizers that you can stack on a shelf as a way to double space. Consider adding another shelf in your closet above the existing one.

Hang belts on circle rings or retractable horizontal belt racks with hooks. Similar racks may be utilized for long necklaces. It keeps them from getting tangled in your jewelry box. Just remember not to put belt and jewelry racks next to each other.

During your closet overhaul, make choices about where and how you want to store specific items. We advise placing tees, swimsuits, and exercise clothes in drawers. Sort items according to drawer size. One client with a nine-drawer lingerie chest sorts by athletic socks, trouser socks and panty hose, slips, bras, panties, tees, exercise bras, shorts and swimsuits, sweat suits, and knit pants. Sleepwear goes into the drawers in her bedside table.

Get your scarf collection out of a drawer. Maggie, a talented do-it-yourselfer, ties scarves around a vertical spring curtain rod placed at one end of her closet, from ceiling to floor. Evelyn, a superefficient manager, keeps favorite scarves looped around the blouses, jackets, or dresses she usually wears them with. Amy, an accessory collector, folds scarves and stacks them with her gloves and sunglasses in one of the hanging, windowed shoe-storage gizmos.

Laura, a pharmaceutical sales manager, fastened a grid on her swing-out closet door with a towel bar beneath it. Scarves go on the bar while necklaces hang from the grid alongside a long, three-inch-wide taffeta ribbon studded with her favorite blazer pins.

Jewelry storage is a challenge. Traditional multilevel jewelry boxes are never large enough and refuse to stay organized. We favor the convenience of larger shallow drawers with depths of two to three inches. Bedroom bureaus today often come with flat, velvet-lined drawers across the top, or you can create your own. A top drawer in a bedside table may work, or you could stack clear plastic trays with dividers. Plastic ice cube trays can double as containers for storing earrings or rings. Dividers protect your jewelry from scratching or damage.

Jewelry seems to have invisible tentacles attached to each woman’s inner psyche. Admit it — you keep the oddest things in your jewelry boxes: foreign coins, unstrung pearls, odd stones, single earrings, garish bangle bracelets, wrong-size rings, watches with dead batteries, and hopelessly out-of-date earrings. Like your closet, this assortment is a microcosm of your life. On another day after you’ve cleaned out your closet, attack your jewelry collection. Once again, establish a nostalgia box (gifts from old boyfriends or inherited cameos, etc.), consignment items, broken pieces and dead watches, and a box of valuable items you don’t wear often. The latter you take to a safety deposit box.

Judie Taggart is a fashion professional who has written for Women’s Wear Daily, W, Cosmopolitan, and other national publications. Jackie Walker appears as the “Dr. of Closetology” on Fox TV’s Good Day Tampa Bay. Judie and Jackie have been in the fashion business for more than twenty years, and they lecture together nationally. They are the authors of I Don’t Have a Thing to Wear: The Psychology of Your Closet (Copyright © 2003 by Judie Taggart and Jackie Walker).


End Closet Clutter and Get Organized in 3 Steps

Tangled hangers, over-crowded racks, dark corners, and jumbles of shoes, purses and ties? Put an end to the chaos hiding behind closed closet doors and get organized. Linda Cobb, author of The Queen of Clean Conquers Clutter, shows you what to keep, what to toss, and how to find a place for everything in your wardrobe in three steps.

Unpack: To do the job right, you have to take everything out of the closet. If you have some rolling racks, put them to use now. If not, you can utilize the shower rod (provided it’s attached firmly to the wall), the bed, and floor. Group the clothes by whom they belong to and into categories — blouses in one pile, skirts in another, slacks in still another. You get the idea.

  • Remove everything from shelves and floor, sorting as you go. Make piles of keepers, “not sure,” and “get rid of.” In the keeper piles, try to group types of clothes together, it will save you time later.
  • Clothes that need laundering or dry cleaning should go in a dirty-clothes hamper or dry-cleaning basket.
  • Take the time to wash down closet walls thoroughly and vacuum the carpet or wash the floor (that way your favorite silk blouse won’t get tangled in a cobweb!).

Evaluate: Sort clothes, putting “toss” or “donate” items into appropriate containers, such as boxes or trash bags. It’s a good idea to use black trash bags so that you or the family can’t see your “treasures” departing. Place the clothes you are keeping on the bed or a rolling portable rack.

As you are evaluating each item, consider:

  • Does it fit?
  • Be tough. If you haven’t worn it in a year, you probably won’t ever wear it again. If you haven’t been a size 6 since high school, move on and eliminate the size 6s.
  • Do I need to alter this? How much will the alterations cost?
  • How about repairs — can the item be repaired and still be wearable?
  • Will shoe polish really take care of that huge scuff mark on the toe of my shoe?
  • Give yourself permission to have a pile of “not sure” things. These are things you just can’t quite make up your mind about. If, after further consideration, you are still not sure, box them up, label the box with its contents, and date it. In six months if you haven’t revisited any of the items, donate the contents or dispose of it.
  • Really consider each item. Where will you wear it? When? If you can’t come up with a good answer, say good-bye!


  • Get rid of extra wire hangers. Give them back to your dry cleaner if he will take them; otherwise donate them to a nursing home or toss them.
  • Anything mismatched will not likely be missed — throw out mismatched items.
  • Look through your “not sure” pile one last time and make any additional judgment calls — be strong!

By now you should have boxes and bags for donating, garage sale, and trash. Remove these from the room, so that you have space to work . . . and no matter now tempting it is, don’t look in these containers again. If they are full, tape them up and label them with where they go and get the trash bags into the trash . . . quickly! It’s like pulling off a Band-Aid®, it hurts less if you just “do it”!

If things cannot be fixed, altered, or repaired and be really wearable, then they should be tossed. If the items are salvageable, then keep them, but take care of the problem before putting the item back in the closet.

Neaten Up

  • Determine hanger type — wire, clip, or plastic. Be consistent. A jumble of wire, plastic, and wood hangers will become tangled and be harder to separate and use — plus it just plain looks better!
  • Start re-hanging clothes, grouping by color and type.
  • If using a double-hung system, hang trousers and skirts on the lower rack.
  • Group blouses and shirts by color, and hang them over appropriate pants or skirts (this is called instant dressing!)
  • Hang long clothes in areas where they won’t tangle with things on the bottom of the closet floor.
  • Hang or fold and store sweaters. Sweaters actually do better when folded because they don’t stretch. If you prefer to hang sweaters, be sure to use padded hangers to avoid those shoulder dimples. And button them to keep their shape.
  • Arrange men’s ties on a tie rack or hang over a hanger. (Take a tip from a salesman friend of mine who has a vast collection of ties: after he wears one, he slips it off his neck without untying, and drapes it over a hanger in the closet. His wife has assembled a half dozen “tie hangers” by color in the closet this way.)
  • Replace purses on shelves in your storage area, grouping matching purses and shoes together.
  • Use a clear plastic shoe box to capture miscellaneous items such as hair-bands, scarves, and belts, and place on the shelf.
  • Cover seldom-worn clothes with a cloth cover, or group them together and cover with fabric, such as an old sheet or tablecloth, to keep them clean.
  • Be sure you have enough light in the closet. Consider a battery-operated light, or one that “taps” on and off as needed. This helps you to avoid leaving the house in one navy and one black shoe!

A Sentimental Journey
Now you’re probably staring at a group of what I call the “sentimental keepers.” These are things you don’t wear or use, but can’t bear to part with — so don’t. Make sure they are clean (stains can oxidize over time), and pack them in a box labeled something like “sentimental favorites.” Store them away, under the bed, on a top shelf, or in the attic (as long as the temperature there remains fairly consistent). You still have the items, but they’re not taking up valuable space in your closet. Who knows, one day when you’re baby-sitting the grandkids and run out of ideas, you may grab it for a “dress up” box. Most kids love to play this game.

No More Closet Confusion
Let’s talk about storage options in your closet.

  • First, consider adding extra shelving. This will give you lots of extra space for those things that you don’t use often, but still need to have on hand, like handbags and totes, evening shoes, sweaters, and bathing suits.
  • If you store things that tend to tip over or fall off the shelf, such as purses or stacks of sweatshirts, put them in a see-through type container such as a plastic milk crate. You want to easily see from the floor what you are looking for. If you used a closed container, have it labeled in bold print.
  • I keep a set of “grab-its” in my closet. These are super-long tongs-like things on a long wooden handle that you can use to reach high above your head. Look for these in home and health stores, and catalogs. They are meant for people who lack mobility, but they’re a wonderful tool to keep handy, not only in your closet, but in the kitchen, garage, and even the living room.
  • Look your closet over and determine how many long items you have, such as dresses and long skirts, trousers that are hung from the cuff, bathrobes, and long coats. This will help you determine how much of your closet space to allocate to their storage. If you don’t wear a lot of long things, then you will only need a small area to store them.
  • If you have a lot of blouses, shirts, trousers folded over padded hangers, and other shorter things, consider adding a bar to the closet to instantly double your storage space. You don’t have to run it the entire length of your closet; you can break the closet up into “long” and “short” zones. By adding double racks, you can store your slacks on the bottom and coordinating blouses on the top rack. Double racks should be installed at about 82 and 42 inches high to make the most of your closet space.
  • Separate your clothing by color and you can grab an outfit at a glance when it’s time to get dressed. This method also lets you know what items are in the laundry too. By adding an extra rack, you may have enough space in your closet to store sweaters hanging on padded hangers to keep them wrinkle free (although I still say sweaters are better folded — no stretching).
  • No need to hang T-shirts; roll them in drawers to conserve space and deter wrinkles.
  • Hooks on the back of the closet door are fine for robes and pajamas.


Previously the owner of a cleaning and disaster-restoration business in Michigan, dealing with the aftermath of fires and floods, Linda Cobb, author of The Queen of Clean Conquers Clutter (Copyright © 2002 by Linda Cobb), started sharing her cleaning tips in a local newspaper column. After moving to Phoenix she became a weekly guest on Good Morning Arizona — then the product endorsements and requests for appearances started rolling in. A featured guest on radio and television shows across the country, Linda Cobb lives in Phoenix with her husband.