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BellaOnline's Organization Editor


Organizing Success with the 50 Things Challenge

Guest Author - Emily Wilska

We're heading into to Week 4 of the 2009 Get Rid of 50 Things Challenge! (Missed the article with information on what the Challenge is and how to participate? See Related Links below to read it.) I've loved hearing feedback from many of you on the things you've weeded from your lives over the past few weeks (old medications and birdhouses and papers--oh my!), and was particularly blown away by a message I received from one reader, Rick D.

To say that Rick has taken this Challenge and run with it would be a bit of an understatement, so I'm going to let his words (used with his permission) describe what he's been inspired to clear out of his space and his life. Here's what he shared about his 50 Things Challenge experience.

"This 50 item challenge hit me and for some reason, I am on an incredible roll. It has improved my quality of life. Here is my progress so far, with more to go until June 14.

I have 3 email accounts: work, personal and subscriptions. Looking at hundreds of emails in each account is just depressing and defeating. The results [of my weeding]: reading, acting on and deleting more than 400 emails in my work account and archiving about 50. Personal email: there are only 6 left that are reminders for items this week. Subscription email: more than 500 and now 0!!!

Stuff at Home

  • Clothes: donated 14 items.
  • Envelopes: had saved 100s of small, old envelopes that were blank. Would never use them as I have more formal ones. Recycled 100s.
  • Store room in basement:
    A. Keep getting material [for work] and don't toss outdated stuff. Tossed 2 shelves worth--filling 2 recycle bins.

    B. Tossed binders, folders and envelopes with old monthly account statements. Kept year-end summaries. [Sent] about 6 years worth--1000s of pages--to be shredded.

    C. Tossed 9 huge 3-ring binders that I wasn't using--saving 'just in case.'

    D. Had half a shelf of excess Fed Ex supplies I wouldn't use. Took them to local Fed Ex and they were glad to get them back.

    E. Tossed papers and memorabilia that was trash. A brochure from Wall Drug in South Dakota from when we were there in 1997! A sticker from our 1999 trip to Disney World!

    From all this, I cleared 4.5 large shelves. This allowed me to take plastic bins with the stuff we save for the kids' memorabilia (we have 6 kids) and put them on the shelves. These bins were on the floor blocking our indoor basketball game (that we love to play on but couldn't). With the bins gone, I fixed up the basketball game and the kids haven't stopped playing!
  • Old cell phones: recycled/donated 5 of them.

"My Office--My Prison"
I have worked from my house for 19 years and I spend a whole lot of time in my office. As stuff piles up, it is discouraging and depressing, especially starting a day like that. So, at your suggestion, I tackled it over 2 weekends. Every paper must be read and dealt with, no pushing aside.


  • Had a pile of software that was educational and kids' games. Most would only play on Windows 95!!! Tossed 18 software titles.
  • On my bookshelf, found 3 art kits for a color printer I haven't had for 6 years. Tossed.
  • Books. I am in the investment business and am given/get books all the time. I took 24 books from my shelf and glanced at each and kept 7. I took a second look and kept 4. I have started reading one. I donated 20.
  • [Went through] a stack of papers 4-5 inches thick, evaluated each piece, and tossed 95-98% of it. Everything I kept is in a marked manila folder.
  • I have binders for each territory [I cover and they] get too full. I weeded them out.
  • I had 13 business folios (fancy fake leather binders that hold a pad of paper). I kept one for me, gave on to my daughter, one to my son, and donated the rest to a place that helps people get jobs.
  • I had a stack of about 45 business cards I had collected and needed to follow up--some were a few months old. Followed up and tossed cards. (This one is maybe the best example: my mess in my office prevented me from doing the basic follow-up to a meeting. Now I am back on my game.)
  • I cleaned out and tossed thousand of papers and articles from my file cabinet. Was able to free up about 35% of the space.
  • I even cleaned my tool cabinet in the garage and tossed so much, including screws and instructions for a bike that we haven't had for 11 years!

The Benefits
Soooo, you can't even measure how much I have done. It is incredible. My office looks great, I feel better walking in and out, and I will never have to clean up last minute for a party or someone who shows at the door. Somehow, you gave me the direction and I took it, and my life is better."

Wow! Rick's is the sort of story that makes me love being a professional organizer, because he proves that being organized isn't just about how things look, it's really about how things function.

Not everyone's experience with the 50 Things Challenge will be the same as Rick's, but I hope the results he's shared will inspire you to keep going with your version of the Challenge. This week, think about what you can get rid of that will let you be more effective at work and/or at home, find room for whatever is truly important to you, and clear out some mental clutter in the process.
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The 2009 Get Rid of 50 Things Challenge
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Content copyright © 2018 by Emily Wilska. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Emily Wilska. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Kelly Jayne McCann for details.


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