3 Tips To De-clutter & Organize Your Computer

cluttered computer desktop

When was the last time you tidied up your desktop?

I’m not talking about the piece of furniture that you call your “desk”, but the desktop on your computer.  If you have never done so, or if it’s been so long that you really can’t remember, then it’s definitely time to take care of this organizational task.

Cleaning up your computer doesn’t have to be a scary proposition although I realize it can seem daunting, especially if it’s been a while since the last time you did it. However, by keeping your PC organized you’ll be able to retrieve files faster instead of hunting endlessly for misplaced documents or spending minutes or hours on end scanning and searching through your computer.

Think of your computer desktop as your physical desk.

Let’s start with the basics of your Windows desktop.  If your screen is full of file folders, files and shortcuts, getting rid of this clutter is a good place to start.  Reference tools, items for immediate response and files that you use on a frequent basis can stay.  However old documents, installers, files and programs can either be filed elsewhere or simply be deleted.  Think of your computer desktop just as you would your physical desk.  Most people don’t want to keep piles of paper all over their desk, so why would you want to keep piles all over your computer desktop?

Part of the desk top clean up involves emptying your recycle bin on a regular basis.  Doing so will free up more space on your hard drive which space you can then use for storing files and programs that you actually need.

Determine which virtual files are important.

Once you’ve gone through the desktop, the next step is to review your virtual files to identify which files are important for you to save.  Typically financial and tax documents are important to keep for at least 7 years and anything older can be filed away in an archived folder, clearly labelled and marked by year or month. Think of your virtual filing system just like you would your paper filing system and file and label your virtual filing cabinet and folders within the same as your paper filing cabinet.

As you review your files ask yourself a few questions: Do I still need to keep these around? For what purpose?  How easy is it for me to get my hands on this information if I need it again? Do I use this for reference? Should this be moved into a reference folder? When was the last time I referred to this document? These questions should give you a good indication of whether or not they can be deleted.

Back up your documents in at least two different places.

Remember also to back up your computer files, especially documents that are critical or important.  Most people now have an external hard drive or an on-line source of storage in the event your computer crashes.  It’s a good idea to actually back up your documents in at least two places.  I personally back up on an external drive and also on a secure on-line backup source.

These few tips will help you to begin to clear up the clutter on your computer in small manageable steps.  You’ll be pleased with the results when you see how much more efficient, organized and even faster your computer will operate.

Organizing Your Apps

Apps drive me crazy.  Every time I open my IPAD it seems there are a bunch of app updates I need to take care of.  The problem is that my husband, as helpful as he is, can’t resist the temptation to get any new app that comes along that is free, so he takes the liberty of loading them on my IPAD without my knowledge.  If you’re one of those people that can’t resist to install “just one more” read on to see how you can strap a harness on the overabundance of apps and retain your productivity and sanity.

First of all you need to figure out what apps you actually use before you actually start to de-clutter your technology.   Any apps that you have downloaded and only used a couple of times should be removed.  Then rather than having pages and pages of apps to swipe through to find the app you want,  organize your apps into categories or groups such as “news”, “travel”, “fitness”, etc. Think of it as putting your apps into filing cabinets. This way you can stay organized and easily find them when you need them.

To do this with your IPAD, simply press and hold the first app icon until it begins to shake.  Then let go and you will notice that all app icons will now be shaking. Press the app you want to move and slide it over another app that belongs in the same category.  Once you let go, these two apps will now be combined into one “file”.  From there you will be asked to name this file.  Use the suggested file name or type your own file name that makes sense for that grouping of apps.

Once you have all your apps organized remember to perform regular maintenance to keep them under control.  Don’t feel pressured to download every new and trendy app that you hear about.  Think about what you really need and will use and let your better judgement prevail.

 

3 Steps To Organize & Store Vital Documents

I am amazed at how many of my clients do not have a system in place for organizing and storing their important papers.  I work with many individuals in creating and organizing home offices and this seems to be a consistent theme.  In order to prevent the loss of vital information there are a few steps you can take to protect your family.

First, collect and gather all your vital papers, such as wills, certificates for marriage and birth, passports, insurance policies, etc.

Secondly, anything that you find you reference frequently (such as SIN cards or medical records) should be photocopied.  You can then reference your copies rather than the originals. I also recommend that all vital documents be scanned and stored electronically (and backed up) for ease of reference when needed.

Lastly, the originals of all your vital documents that are rarely used should be stored in a safe and secure place.  This can be either a bank safety deposit box or a safe within your home, bolted to the floor.  The safe should of course be fireproof and waterproof and out of sight.

Most importantly, remember to tell someone you trust where you have stored your vital documents.

 

Creative Office Organizing

Sometimes when we’re organizing offices we need to be creative.  It may be because of a lack of space, needing the area for a multiple of purposes and activities, or simply because of the way our client’s function in the space.  For this particular project it was the latter.  Many of my clients are challenged with ADD and ADHD.   Although smart as a whip, our client is challenged with ADHD and therefore paperwork organization was difficult for him. Running a very successful business from home can have it’s drawbacks.  One of those drawbacks is that it can be overwhelming to keep up with all the paperwork that comes with the business. I can certainly attest to that in my own home office. Organization is really the key to maintaining any successful business.  Otherwise things gets lost through the cracks, including cheques!

I thoroughly enjoyed working hands on with this particular client.  He has an amazing sense of humour which can be very helpful for everyone when sorting through papers. Typically, when organizing business documents and paperwork we use file folders.  However, with this particular client, file folders was not a workable solution for him and his way of thinking and working in his space. At least not for his accounting paperwork.  He had already tried to organize with baskets and bins, however the system was not working because pieces were missing from the set up. Working with him we created a bin system of filing accounting papers as well as one special bin strictly to contain papers for filing when he just did not have the time to deal with it. This particular client was not fussy on fancy labelling or worried about aesthetics.  He simply needed a functional system for organizing his papers.  Here’s what we created and what now works efficiently for him:

System for organizing office papers

This may not be a workable solution for everyone but it proves that every client is different and we need to customize our solutions to fit our client’s needs, no matter how diverse. A simple and effective solution to organizing papers for easy filing. No fuss, no muss! What kind of filing system do you use?  I’d love to hear your creative ideas.

 

Organizing Legal Files

Interesting how a former career path comes into play in the field professional organizing. Prior to launching ClutterBGone I worked in the field of law for over 20 years. It was in that industry that I learned a great deal about time management, file management, the importance of detail and the ultimate management and organization of legal files in general.  I recently had a client contact me looking for assistance and ideas on file management.  Specifically, this gentleman wore many hats, one of which was that of a consumer advocate providing legal representation to clients. However, without a specific legal administration background he found himself inundated with legal paper, pleadings and stacks of files with little organization and the inability to put his hand on key documents when needed.  His office was in a state of disarray and he desperately needed help from an organizer with a legal background.  A general overview of the organization of legal files in general will be helpful to many.

When organizing legal files one of the most critical elements for organization is to create one file with numerous subfiles.  For litigation files, which is the type of law this client practiced, the files would generally be broken down as follows

Correspondence

Draft Documents

Pleadings (such as Statements of Claim, Defence, Reply, etc.)

Affidavits

Affidavit Materials & Evidence

Motions & Orders

Affidavit of Documents

Mediation

Settlement Offers

Settlement Agreement

In many cases, pleadings and affidavit materials can be so thick, and files become so large that file boxes are used and clearly labelled with the client name and the contents of each box.  There may be an entire box or more of just case law!  And of course, each case must be itemized and filed for quick access and return in the proper place.  The same goes for affidavit evidence and materials.

The key with legal file organization, as with most organizing projects, is sorting, categorizing and clearly labelling all materials. I hope that in your personal lives you never have to organize a legal file (although many of my clients have family law files to sort through and organize).  But if you ever do, this general guideline should assist you in making sense of all that paper.  If you have any questions on how to organize other types of legal files, just let me know. I`m here to help.

10 More Items to Keep Indefinately

In my last blog post I talked about the top 10 paper items you should keep indefinitely.  Here is an additional 10 items that I recommend you keep for an indefinite period of time.

  1. Settlement agreements, claims and any litigation documents
  2. Tax assessment notices including those for property tax assessments
  3. Mortgage and lien documents for your home or rental properties
  4. Loan documents
  5. Marriage certificates and licenses
  6. Investment records showing beneficiaries
  7. Education records and transcripts
  8. Licenses
  9. Military records
  10. Medical records and updates

Remember that laws are constantly in a state of flux and circumstances can change.  It’s always better to be safe than sorry, especially when you are shredding documents. Therefore be sure to check with the appropriate legal or financial advisers before disposing of anything.

Top 10 Paper Items To Keep Indefinately

Whenever I’m working in offices, whether home or business, the question always arises as to what to keep and for how long. Most people know that for income tax audit purposes you need to keep your tax returns and related papers for seven years.  But what about some of those other papers?  Here’s my top 10 paper items to keep indefinitely.

  1. Birth certificates
  2. Deeds for burial lots
  3. Inventory of household goods, updated periodically
  4. Divorce agreements and Decrees
  5. Citizenship papers
  6. Adoption and custody records
  7. Wills and Powers of Attorney (ensure someone knows where these are)
  8. Death certificate
  9. Record of Employment
  10. Insurance records for claims and payments made

Items that you do want to keep indefinitely should be stored in a safe environment, such as a safety deposit box. Safety deposit box rentals are often difficult to get from financial institutions because of the sheer demand.  Something new is on the horizon for the storage of your valuables.  Essentially a very tiny condo (square inches instead of feet) and fairly expensive, very soon you will be able to purchase one of these units to call your own. Complete with security and even your very own parking space, these mini condo safety deposit units will be on the market to purchase soon. The first one I am aware of is currently being developed in Markham, Ontario.  I’m sure many more will be developed as the demand arises. Will you be one of the first to buy your very own safety deposit unit for your valuables?

 

Creating A Kitchen Office

Let me say this right off the top:  I don”t advocate having an office in your kitchen.   Keeping your papers out of the kitchen, just as you would the food out of your office space, will ultimately make your like simpler.  Paper really doesn’t belong in the kitchen because every time you cook you have to organize and clear away all that paper.  Many a client has had dirty dishes over top their paperwork and sometimes the paperwork even ends up in the kitchen trash resulting in bills not getting paid.  The kitchen tends to be the most heavily used room in your home but that also means it can be a clutter magnet. In a perfect world everyone would have a separate space within their home for their office and paperwork. However some families cannot accommodate that ideal so we need to work around that.  In this case we need to create a boundary within the kitchen itself, in which to contain the office and the paper.

You need to start by designating one spot in your kitchen for your office. Then schedule about 3 hours to tackle those kitchen papers.  Start by sorting and weeding out obsolete papers.  Reduce the number of cookbooks. Donate those you no longer need. The remaining paperwork can be sorted into separate piles:  bills to pay, financial papers, office supplies, people to contact, things to read, kids’s school related paper, artwork, etc.  The next step is to set up a contained space within the kitchen for your office related papers, and a separate contained space for the kid’s school related paperwork. Have a bin for each child.

Make sure you create boundaries within the kitchen large enough to accomodate everything you need to process the daily paperwork. This boundary could be a single shelf or cupboard within which you place bins to contain different categories of items. Or perhaps you create a desk suface that can flip up and away when not in use. It may also be a 2 or three shelf movable storage unit that can act as your office containment space or your kid’s paperwork space.   In some cases it may not be the most attractive space in your home. Do your best to make it aesthetically pleasing with nice wicker or rattan baskets, using wood rather than plastic.  At least you will have taken control, created boundaries for where things live and activities take place and have established a spot for day to day living that is useful and efficient. Make life simpler, not harder!

Organizing A Home Office

There are many people out there that work from or at home and have set up a home office for their needs.  However, sometimes the business of running your business gets out of control and you end up with paper clutter and debris everywhere.  A large number of people who contact me for organizing assistance have this very same issue. Especially when the business is growing very quickly, it’s difficult to keep up.  Here’s an example of one client whose business was growing so rapidly that his office ended up overtaking his billiards room!

Home Office & Billiards Room before organizing

 

After we were finished organizing and setting up efficient office systems in a designated office space we discovered a pool table underneath all that stuff which had not been seen or used in over 2 years!

Billiards Room after organizing

My client picked up his pool cue, set up the table, and played his first game of billiards on this table in 2 years. He was a happy man. Do any of you have paper or other clutter so overwhelming that you can’t utilize one of the rooms in your home for it’s intended purpose?

 

Knapsack & Bag Organizing

A question I’ve heard from client’s lately is how to get their handbag, satchel or knapsack organized.
The answer is to compartmentalize your stuff which not only helps you to find things easily without digging deep into your bag, but also makes it easier to change bags and move things from one to another. I recently attended the 2011 POC (Professional Organizers in Canada) Conference where I ran across an innovative organizing product called “GRID-IT!” by Cocoon Innovations. It’s an extremely versatile solution for organizing everything from digital devices, personal and household items. It consists of a woven, rubberized retention pad with endless ways to utilize it. Just place your items on the “GRID IT!pad” and drop the pad in your bag.
Grid It! organizer pad
Comes in tons of sizes and variations. Then you just pull out the pad when you need one of your items. Easy. Simple. Functional. I love it!