Can't find your car keys, cell phone warranty, dress shirt, your child's vaccination record or the sticky note that you wrote the meaning of life on? It could be time for you to get organized and eliminate all that wasted time, effort and unnecessary stress from your life. Read on and start to de-stress your mess.
Okay, let's start with the basics:
- Prioritize. Make a list of what needs to be organized.
- Create a cleanup schedule. And don't even think about trying to do it all at once. Remember, it took you years to make the mess.
- Set a time limit. That will help you focus and not feel like you've been at it all day long.
- Don't just tackle the big jobs first. Throw in some small, easy tasks for variety.
- Check off things when you finish them. That will help track your progress and boost your sense of accomplishment.
Now that you've got your game plan set, it's time to get to work:
- Put documents in labelled file folders and file cabinets.
- Put all your contacts—names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses—in one readily accessible place.
- Organize household drawers and cupboards based on what you use the most rather than putting the last thing you bought in front of everything else.
- Deal with all the piles on your desk and don't make new ones.
- Be decisive and get rid of the “I'll figure it out later” attitude.
Hanging on to unneeded things that will never be used is a habit we all need to break:
- Nostalgia takes up valuable space, so trash, recycle or donate anything you haven't used, worn or looked at for the past six months or a year or two (set a time limit and stick to it).
- You haven't fixed that broken toaster (or espresso maker or alarm clock or shoe heel) so either get it done or donate it to a charity that will fix it and put it to good use.
- When you buy something new, get rid of something old.
Cleaning up is just the start. It's also important to maintain an organized attitude:
- Deal with your mail or any other paper that comes into your house or office immediately, and toss the junk as it comes in.
- Get a shredder and use it for anything that includes confidential or personal information.
- Keep important papers in a fireproof safe, a safety deposit box and/or with your lawyer.
- Use a day planner or personal digital assistant (PDA) to keep track of appointments and regular chores.
- Make a meal plan for the entire week so you only buy the groceries you need and have all the ingredients at your fingertips.
A computer can be a great organizational tool and space saver:
- Scan in any documents and toss out the paper version.
- Only print things when you absolutely must.
- Create a system for organizing your electronic files and folders.
- Keep your desktop clear of everything except files you use frequently.
- Use a backup drive and schedule regular backups of your files and applications.
- If you use a PDA, back it up to your computer regularly.
A little time management can also help in your quest to be organized:
- Make daily, realistic to-do lists. And get the important things done first, when you have the most energy.
- Schedule and focus. When it's time to get some work done, ignore the phone and emails and don't waste time web surfing.
- Delegate and get others to help—at the office and at home—with projects and chores.
Try this 10-step plan to simplify your life.