It’s a new year. Another 365 days in which to tackle your life goals, make new friends, visit new places. Maybe you’ll get that promotion you’ve been dreaming of or maybe it’s a long-sought-after new career. Either way, you’re in store for new adventures and discoveries. As you embark on your new journeys, come back to the small things — in your home, in your office and in your finances — that can help you focus better, keep you organized and make all your new year feats even bigger successes and memory makers. Here are some handy tips and tricks for getting organized this new year.
In your home
Conquer the clutter: It happens. Life overtakes us and sometimes all its accompanying baggage just piles up. Cleaning the clutter can seem daunting after it’s stacked up for some time, but make a concerted effort to keep things neat and tidy as you go — it’s quicker and ultimately more satisfying. Mark a big red “X” on your calendar once a week, once every other week or once a month on a day you’ll know you have the time to do some routine organizing, sorting and throwing out — three key steps in keeping the clutter at bay. Your x-ed out day could be a weekend you know you’re off work, a holiday or an evening. Separate your accumulated paperwork and other belongings into a “Keep” and “Toss” pile. Get rid of the latter and then organize what’s left.
Living simply: Another way to keep clutter and otherwise largely unused items from piling up is making a conscious choice to live a bit smaller and more simply. How many shoes do you really need? Shirts? Knick knacks? Take a personal inventory of your wardrobe, your kitchen utensils, your office supplies and other areas in your home. Pare down to the essentials, donate usable items to friends or charities who can reuse or regift the items to those in need. Revisit your “living simply” commitment once a quarter. Repeat the process for any accumulated belongings.
Daily routines: Getting into a daily routine or habit can swing two ways. Sometimes we have great habits or routines. Other times, our routines can hurt us. Choose the former. Sit down when you have some quiet time and reflect on what your average day looks like. From the time you get up to the time you come home and go to bed, what do you do? Strike out the bad habits and make new ones. For one example, what do you do when you come home? Do you just drop your mail on the counter, never to be sorted or properly addressed until days or weeks later? Instead, create a task or to-do list, kind of like your childhood chore list. When you come home, immediately sort through your mail. Separate into recycle, toss/shred, bills, correspondence/other. (Getting two small bins or containers to sit on your desk or counter can help in the sorting.) When you’re done sorting, address the bills and the correspondence. In less than 15 minutes, you’ll have ensured you never let mail pile up again. Look at your daily to-do list every day and follow its steps until it becomes natural habit.
In your office
A super inbox: Just like in your home, paperwork and other items can pile up at your home office or day job, sometimes without you even realizing. Many people have a single inbox on their desk for incoming mail, memos, to-do lists and other paperwork. Try getting a stacked inbox that can help separate the tasks. One slot can be for bills/payment logs, another for internal office memos communication or, if at home, correspondence with friends or family, a third for to-do items. Tackle once in the morning and once in the evening.
An online madhouse: Just like the physical inbox on your desk, your virtual inbox can easily become more monster than much-appreciated technological wonder. In my daily work, I use Google’s Gmail. And one of the features I love the most is its ability to automatically separate incoming mail in a few different inboxes. I use the “primary,” “social,” “promotions” and “forum” inboxes. Instead of weeding through one long list of emails in a single inbox, these separated inboxes allow you to more quickly glance over what’s come in, decide what to keep and then address what’s left over after a good, mass deletion. For me, I find that only a handful out of every 100 incoming external communication (in my case, press releases) is worth keeping. I quickly delete everything else.
Working in the cloud: If you haven’t yet experienced the wonders of working in the “cloud,” you’re in for a huge life and work changer. Before its advent, if you forgot a file at work and needed it later at home, you were out of luck. Either that, or you called a colleague who might have a copy or someone still at the office and had them email it to you. No more wasting time searching for files and wondering if it is saved on your work computer or home laptop. It sounds simple, but some haven’t yet adapted to this new technology. Sync all your files using free or near-free services like Google Drive or Dropbox. All your files on all your computers will be readily available at work, at home and on the go. Syncing also works for other data, too. Forget losing all your phone’s address book contacts. Both Apple and Android products have had contact and other file syncing for a few years now. Turn the function on and see magic before your eyes.
In your finances
Small cuts, big savings: Here’s a simple tip that gets passed around every time a new year crops up. It’s annual reappearance on lists of new year tips and tricks isn’t a coincidence. It really helps. Save a bit more — sometimes a great deal over the course of a year — by making small adjustments in what you’re buying. Instead of $2 or $3 every day for a cup of java from your local coffee shop, brew your own at home. You’ll end up saving at least a couple hundred dollars over the course of a year — enough to pay a month or two of your cell phone, cable, internet or some other bill. When you go shopping for groceries or other household items, buy in bulk. At-home vacuum sealers are relatively cheap and affordable and can help you freeze and extend the life of buying perishable goods in bulk. Paper towels, toilet paper and other essentials can also be bought more cheaply in bulk. Instead of eating out for lunch, pack one. Limit your dinner outings and cook at home; invite your friends over for a much more intimate (and cheaper) dining experience.
Shop around: Let’s face it. We live in a society that values instant gratification. But taking just a few more minutes or even a couple days to shop around for the best price can be worth it in the long run. It works for your cell phone contract renewals, home and car repairs or big-ticket purchases like new home appliances or electronics.
Budgeting: While you’re organizing your home and office, don’t forget to organize your expenses. Budgets are simple and easy, and they allow you to properly spread out your money over the long term for your best interest — whether that’s simply paying bills or saving up for future goals or emergencies.
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DIY: Organize your space
If you’re serious about organizing your home or office, don’t go out and spend big bucks on containers or other organizing systems. There are plenty of ways to bring order to chaos using cheap or free do-it-yourself solutions.
Drawer dividers: These can cost a pretty penny at a store, but you can make them yourself out of shoe boxes or other small cardboard boxes. To tidy things up and make them look neat, cut them to size in your drawers, paint them or use some cheap wallpaper or other crafty paper covering.
Bookcases and filing systems: You could spend hundreds of dollars on new ready-made bookcases or filing systems. Or, you could piece together your own unique home office or living room piece. You can get small, medium and large sized plastic storage crates, which interlock on the fronts, sides and bottoms for as little as a couple dollars a piece. Buy multiple colors and sizes and play a grown-up’s version of Legos as you create a new living room bookcase, office library or some other storage contraption. At the end of the day, you’ll have something creatively and individually inspired for your custom home organizing needs.
In the cabinets: Look under your sink. What do you see? A mess of cleaning supplies ranging from spray bottles to cans to jugs of bleach. Use a tension rod near the top of the cabinet and hang your spray bottles there. Get an old milk or egg crate from a local grocer or market. Organize your cleaning supplies by type (bathroom/kitchen, auto, carpets, clothes, etc.).
Tackle the tangles: The number of electronic gadgets crowding into our life keeps growing, especially if you have a family. If you have a central location where charging cables seem to end up lying around, you need a solution to keep them all together in one place. An easy idea? A cookie jar. Hide all that tangled electronic mess while keeping it easily accessible. Want to cut down on different cords getting tangled together? Save a few cardboard toilet paper or towel rolls and use those to separate different cords for different appliances and gadgets. : :