Getting organized ranks No. 9 on Parade Magazine’s top 55 New Year’s resolutions for 2021. This month the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals will promote the benefits of working with an organizing or productivity professional.
“COVID has brought around the ‘COVID clutter’” said Bridges Conner, owner and founder of Get Organized with Bridges + CO. “I am seeing more and more people reach out because they are overwhelmed and don’t know where to start with their projects.”
Sound familiar? Because of the pandemic, we are still spending more time at home and in some cases, living among the clutter. Conner offers a few tips to organize some of your most valuable items.
Would you or your children be able to quickly access your important papers, such as family and financial documents and medical records in an emergency? Consider using an online service for easy access. Conner suggests either Dropbox or Google Drive to store necessary paperwork in the cloud. Rosie on the House recommends Home Zada.
Conner used to own a scrapbook store. She has become acutely aware of how little thought people put into storing and saving their cherished memories. She and her team continually come across piles and boxes of people’s old photos and albums because they don’t have the time or know how to deal with them.
Conner recommends The Picture Keeper for backing up digital photos. The Picture Keeper’s embeds their software onto custom flash drives and makes them available in multiple capacities. There are several memory sized drives, storing between 4,000 and 250,000, pictures that you can choose from. It is designed specifically for saving photos and works on all computers and laptops and is PC and Mac compatible. There are no downloads, no wires to connect, and no dragging/dropping necessary.
If digital storage is not within your comfort level, labeling and categorizing them is just as helpful.
Why is labeling so important? It allows you to remember what is going on in the photograph years later, let’s you find photographs quickly and easily, and helps others identify people in the photograph.
When labeling individual photographs, use a special WAX pencil made for writing on photographs. You can find these at any craft store. Using a regular pen or pencil can bleed through or leave marks on the photo, ruining it. Include who is in the photograph, date, and where it was taken.
For digital photographs, you can include labeling information in the file name. This way the information will transfer if you move or copy the photo.
It is also important to label the categories you sort your photos into. Doing this will eliminate putting a photo in the wrong category and help you find photographs you are looking for.
Be specific with your labels. This makes it easier for you to find and identify photos and for others to do so as well.
“This is something that I always get asked, ‘What do I do with all of my children’s artwork?’” said Conner. She offers four basic options:
- Display — Make it a habit to rotate children’s artwork whether it is on the refrigerator or somewhere else in the house. Get their input. They may surprise you and want to discard something. Take their cue on this one. If you frame it, you will be able to enjoy it for years to come.
- Discard — Hang on to all of it until the end of the year. It will be easier to evaluate what you like or what you can part with. Plus, you will be able to see their progress and can pluck those few favorites of yours.
- Mail — Grandparents love receiving a piece of artwork and would gladly display it and treasure it. Make a personal note on the back or have your artist sign it. Scan 12 pieces of art and create a calendar as a holiday gift for friends and family. Laminate some of the artwork to be used as place mats.
- Store — Make sure you have the right container to store the art. Don’t use cardboard. Plastic containers are best. Label the boxes by year and keep them stacked in a place where there is room. Art supply stores have great portfolios that are great for those larger pieces.
Mail and email
No more piles of mail and bills you forgot to pay. Touch the mail once or as few times as possible. The more times you touch, open, or stick it in a pile, the more inefficient you become. Conner tells her clients repeatedly that “delayed decisions create the clutter in your life.”
Deciding what to do with a piece of mail (either paper or electronic) the first time you touch it allows you more time in the long run. Choose one of these options:
- Trash it — Place in the trash, recycle, or shred it.
- Take action — Bills go with the bills, magazines go in the basket with the other magazines, reply to emails now.
- Reading materials — Is there a place that you like to sit and read? If so, put a basket there to collect your reading materials. If you reach the top of your basket it is time to purge.
Everything else gets filed for easy retrieval at a later date. For example, if there is an email or piece of mail that requires research before responding, tag or flag it with a due date and get it done.
“Do the least desirable items first. Get those off your plate so needless energy is not spent worrying about them,” Conner said. “In the end, you will have more time to read those funny emails, watch that crazy video that your friend sent, or write a letter and put it in the mail.”
Tackle one task at a time. With consistent progress, your home will be organized.