Organization Is Just One Salami Slice Away

December 21, 2020 Updated: December 21, 2020

Have you ever not answered the phone because you couldn’t find it? While searching for the Valentine’s Day centerpiece, have you stumbled over the Christmas wrap purchased at an after-holiday sale two years ago? Ever gone out to dinner because there wasn’t one clean dish in the house?

Getting organized is like dieting. We know how to do it and love the results. The problem is getting started.

A while ago, we redecorated our kitchen, and in the process, we emptied every cupboard and drawer. When the work was complete, I decided to put things away only as I used them. I quickly realized why it was such a problem to keep the kitchen neat and tidy. We just had too much stuff, and much of it had not been used in years. Getting rid of what we don’t use left so much more space to organize the essentials.

Face it. If you don’t have enough closet, drawer, and storage space to comfortably handle your possessions, you probably own too many things. Give away, pare down, and let your rooms appear serene, controlled, and well kept.

Where to start? Getting rid of clutter is a good place. There’s an old adage that says it well: “A place for everything and everything in its place.” No doubt about it—getting rid of things you own involves risk. Here’s a promise: You won’t ever get rid of something that’s absolutely essential to your life. As you assess each overstuffed area, consider selling your excess or donating to a charity in exchange for a tax receipt.

The Grocery Bag Method

You might like to try my grocery bag method for instant results. This works best at about 8 p.m., when you are at your wit’s end over the endless clutter. Take one large brown paper grocery bag (or more, if necessary). Fill it with the stacks of extraneous papers, magazines, and mail: your basic clutter. Clear every horizontal surface. The purpose is not to throw anything away, just to get it out of sight until you have time to go through and separate, sort, and file. At least, this is what you tell yourself.

Put the bag any place that’s out of view. Now, if within 48 hours or so (give or take a month) no one in the family has mentioned missing something of importance, it is probably safe to go ahead and throw the whole thing out. This is not a method recommended by professional organizers; however, I can attest to the fact that it does work. I have never regretted pitching a brown grocery bag, and you can trust me when I say I have done this more than a few times.

The Salami Method

My preferred way to get organized is the “salami method.” It goes like this: You wouldn’t think of eating an entire salami in one sitting, would you? You would eat it in slices over some period of time. It’s the same with getting organized. Just start with one thing, one room, one closet. Tomorrow is another day, another drawer, another attic. Soon, you’ll be in control.

There couldn’t be a better time to start than now. Take a risk—clean out your purse or briefcase. If you have a closet to dig out, start shoveling. Have a salami to tackle? Start slicing.

Mary Hunt is the founder of, a frugal living blog and the author of the book “Debt-Proof Living.” Mary invites you to visit her at her website, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at, “Ask Mary.” Tips can be submitted at This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Copyright 2020