January 2010 Newsletter

Tip of the Month: Lessons re-learned in the last weeks of 2009

Professional organizers have organizing challenges, just like everyone else. In the time between Christmas and New Year’s, I did some of my own housekeeping, and had some organizing lessons hit home.

1. Paper takes time.
One thing I worked on was getting my basket of miscellaneous papers cleaned up. It’s not like there were important items, like bills, in there — but there was a backlog of notes, non-critical mail, newspaper clippings, and such. And each little scrap of paper required me to remember what it was, why I had it — and decide what I wanted to do about it.

2. Inbox zero is wonderful. But inbox 186 still beats inbox 974.
Merlin Mann popularized the phrase inbox zero for an empty e-mail inbox. And an empty inbox (or basket of papers — see above) is a grand goal. But I didn’t make it; I didn’t get my basket entirely empty. Still, it’s in much better shape. I have no idea exactly how many papers I had to begin with, or how many I have left — the numbers above are random — but the basket is no longer frightful. And I got past my inertia of dealing with the stack, so I know I will get it fully cleaned out soon.

3. Good computer backups are critical.
As I decluttered my list of to-do items, I tackled one I’d had for exactly a year, related to getting a computer problem fixed. The problem was an annoyance, not anything critical, so it was easy to postpone getting it taken care of – but it still had to be done, and my warranty isn’t going to last forever.

So at 8:30 a.m. on December 26 I took my MacBook and my external monitor to The Apple Store, fully expecting the problem to be related to the monitor. Surprise — the staff found a problem with my computer, and it was a problem that required reinstalling the operating system and standard applications, leaving me with none of my data or other applications. But I had an up-to-date backup on an external hard drive, and restoring everything took just about an hour. (Techie note: I use SuperDuper to create a bootable external drive — highly recommended!)

4. A quick way to make progress is to decide a whole category of things no longer needs to be saved.
This one comes from my brother, not me. He’s planning to make sure that a certain technical journal is finally on-line, and then get rid of all his paper copies (except a couple with sentimental value), saving an enormous amount of space.

Organizing Product of the Month

I’ve been a fan of the CubeTimer for its ease of use, even though it wasn’t the best-looking thing around – and after a while it got hard to find. But now I see the TimeCube, which seems very similar.

Organizing Quote of the Month

Paula Wolfert has a new book devoted to clay-pot cooking, but it feels too ambitious in advance; we have tried too many other modish pots, and know that … after their hour is done they will live out their years forgotten and alone, on the floor of the closet, alongside the fondue forks and the spice grinder and the George Foreman grill.

— Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker

Recycling/Reuse Idea of the Month

Have china, crystal, silver or collectibles that you no longer want? Would you like to sell the stuff — but not have to deal with eBay or craigslist? If your items are not chipped or cracked, you might try Replacements, Ltd.