Does the idea of getting organized leave you feeling overwhelmed? It’s easy to think of each project as a multi-day affair – and really, who has that kind of time? Each day you don’t address the issue, the area continues to collect more and more clutter, and the project feels even more insurmountable in your mind. Here’s a secret – you don’t need days or even hours to take control! Here are 7 things you can do RIGHT NOW to get organized, enjoy peace-of-mind and prevent clutter from piling up in the future.
Pick a surface, any surface
Don’t have time for an entire room overhaul? Not to worry – limit your organizing efforts to one surface within the room. Feel that the entire kitchen needs work? Focus on putting away the things that have collected on one counter. You’ll see results quickly (a clear surface!) and the momentum might just inspire you to move on to another area. If not, choose a different surface tomorrow. Remember, some areas are easier than others – your paperwork-covered desk is a bigger commitment than the coffee table. Be sure to choose an area that you have the time and focus to finish. (Time commitment: 10 minutes or more depending on level of clutter
Everyone seems to have a cabinet that requires a juggling act to catch the falling contents every time the door is opened. And everyone seems to just put the falling objects back in the cabinet and close the door. Rather than wait to tackle the entire room or closet, why not fix the offending shelf? Do you need every piece of Tupperware that comes tumbling out? Does each container even have a matching lid? Answer these questions in a quick sorting exercise, toss any items that are unusable, and store what’s left, but only enough that will allow you to easily close the cabinet door. (Time commitment: 15 minutes
Sync Your Phone
Smartphones have made our lives easier in so many ways – we can get email from anywhere, carry our entire contact database in our pockets and keep our calendars up-to-date. But, if you were to lose your phone tomorrow, would you remember every appointment you’d made and have all the numbers you need? Take a moment today to sync your phone to your computer. Better yet, take a few moments each day to sync. If disaster strikes tomorrow, you’ll be totally backed up. (Time commitment: less than 5 minutes per day
Sort the Mail
Cancel the Catalogs
- The easiest way to keep the mail pile under control is to go through it when it comes in each day. I recognize that this is not the way everyone operates so if you’ve got a mountain of mail, take a few minutes to sort through it now:Some mail requires your attention – a payment or an RSVP. Try to do these things right away – call the hostess or set-up the bill pay, then put away the piece of mail (maybe the invite info goes into your calendar, the physical invitation goes on your bulletin board, the paid bill get filed). This way, you won’t miss a due date because you forgot about that envelope at the bottom of the pile.
- Never set junk-mail down on a surface. Even better – don’t let it into the house. I live in an apartment building, so when I get the mail each day, I flip through it quickly and trash the solicitations, menus and coupon-packs right there in the mailroom. If you don’t have a trashcan in your mailroom, ask the super to put one there! If you don’t have a mailroom (i.e. – you have a house with a mailbox), place a small bin next to the area where you usually set down the mail – instead of setting down the junk, throw it out immediately! Since the mountain is now a molehill, do your best to keep it that way! (Time commitment: up to an hour, depending on size of mail pile)
If you’ve ever ordered anything from anywhere, chances are you are still getting the catalog. And, chances are, it’s adding to your mountain of mail. You can stop unwanted catalogs from appearing in your mailbox using a service like Catalog Choice (www.catalogchoice.org). Just log on, tell them your preferences, and let them do the work. 12 weeks later, much less mail to contend with. (Time commitment: 10 minutes
Set up Automatic Bill Pay
Online bill pay is one of my favorite advancements of the last 10 years – it saves you time, stamps and a trip to the mailbox. There is a special place in my heart for automatic bill pay – but sadly, its use must be limited. Even so, I strongly suggest setting it up for all your bills that have a fixed monthly cost – things like the rent check, car payment, insurance, tuition and, unless you have an egregious pay-per-view habit, the cable bill. Be sure to check the system your bank has going — all banks will tell you how long this payment will take to deliver, but some ask what day to send payment, some ask what day to deliver by — don’t get caught sending on the due date and getting stuck with late charges. (Time commitment: 30 minutes for initial set-up, 0 minutes from then on!
Clean out the Car
The car – a luxury for some, a necessity for many, and for most, one more location where clutter collects. Don’t let your automobile become your junk-drawer-on-wheels. Here’s a quick guide to what’s worth keeping in your car – and where.
- Glove Compartment: Important paperwork you might need in a crisis (registration, proof of insurance and your emergency roadside assistance contact information), car manual.
- Armrest Console: Small change purse for quarters, nickels and dimes (pennies won’t help you at tollbooths or parking meters), phone charger, Bluetooth earpiece, pack of tissues.
- Door Pocket: Book of road maps, small umbrella
- Trunk: Reusable grocery bags, snow brush/ice scraper (in cold weather climes), a few old towels
Remember – that empty coffee cup/gum wrapper/old newspaper doesn’t belong in the car. In order to keep your vehicle in all its organized glory, it’s important to take the trash out with you when you go. (Time commitment: 20 minutes
Dayna Brandoff is the founder of Chaos Theory Inc., a professional organizing company located in New York City. For further organizing tips or hands-on help, visit www.ChaosTheoryNYC.com or call (917) 576-1267(917) 576-1267.