Airlines Discourage Carry-On Clutter

According to USA Today, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has begun a campaign dubbed SimpliFLY where they are urging some 27 million holiday travelers to clear the clutter from their carry-on luggage.

The TSA explains that a neater bag is easier to view in the x-ray machines and, therefore, less likely to be pulled aside and searched by hand. And really, who wants a TSA employee rifling through your personal stuff? (I giggle every time I think about the airport security scene in the "Austin Powers" movie.)

So, to avoid angering those in line behind you or making yourself late for your flight, here are a few tips for airport trips:

  • Fold clothes neatly
  • Create separate layers for clothes and electronics
  • Coil any wires
  • Put liquids and gels in a single one-quart, clear plastic, zip-lock bag
  • Remove shoes and coat at checkpoint. (And don't leave your coat behind like my step-mom did on our trip to New Orleans. Big hassle!)
  • Arrive at the airport two hours ahead of time for domestic flights and three hours for international travel.
  • Bring a great book or magazine or just relax and people-watch while you wait for your flight. IMO, there is no better people-watching than what you find in airport terminals.
Got any travel tips to share? Leave a comment at

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Stop Buying Clutter Gifts!

If you celebrate the holidays, I'm hoping that I'm not too late. I'm hoping that you've been procrastinating (I know, blasphemy coming from a professional organizer!) and haven't gotten too far into your holiday shopping.

I say this because I want you to try something a little different before buying what may very well be future clutter for your friends and family members.

1. This year, try asking your friends and relatives if there is anything special that they would like for the holidays. Then give them what they ask for.

2. If they say that they don't have anything in mind, try buying gift certificates or consumable items as gifts.

Here are a few clutter-free gift ideas from professional organizer, Jeri Dansky. And Georgia organizing expert, Monica Ricci, has a great clutter-free list in her article in the November-December issue of the new Organize magazine.

I make this zany request because almost all of my organizing clients have held up what I call "clutter gifts" and grumbled, "This was a gift from (insert friend/relative's name here). It's not my taste, but I feel guilty when I think about getting rid of it." And so the gift sits in its box in the back of a closet, cabinet, or drawer. I'm talking about expensive stuff from Williams-Sonoma, Lenox and Tiffany & Co., people!

Please don't give a gift just for the sake of giving a gift. Make sure the gift is something that the recipient wants and will use. Otherwise, you may just be giving them clutter that they then have to store or dispose of through donation, consignment or re-gifting.

In my husband's family, they used to have a tradition of passing around catalog pages as their Christmas wish lists. At first, I found this ritual a bit forced until I realized that every year I got exactly what I wanted. As we all got older and our houses got more full, we decided that there were just too many gifts to buy and receive each year so we drew names for awhile. Now, we all just exchange gifts with the matriarch (who will probably never give up the gift exchange ritual) and the grandkids.

What holiday gift traditions does your family practice? Do you have any cool ideas about clutter-free gifts that you'd like to share?