If your New Year's resolutions include getting organized, this is the month to get started. January is Get Organized Month. Here are 10 tips on how to get organized in the new year. Having worked as a professional organizer, I can tell you that each of these things can be very helpful.
1. Organize for 15 minutes each day.
This could mean anything from sorting mail to throwing out mystery foods in the refrigerator. Just 15 minutes a day can make a huge difference over time.
2. Download Quicken (or some other money management program).
Quicken will make your financial life a million times easier to manage. It costs around $50, but its well worth the investment. From Quicken you can pay bills, download transactions from banks and credit card accounts, plan, budget and see what you are spending and what your overall financial picture looks like.
- to do
- to read
- to file
4. Keep a list of your passwords in a safe place.
Remembering passwords can be a real pain, and a time waster also. There are many ways to keep your passwords in a safe and secure place -- besides that list on the post-it near your computer -- including Last Pass. Find what works for you and spend a few hours recording all of your vital information in an online location that you can access from anyplace.
5. Have a family information center.
Whether it's a bulletin board in your kitchen or a google calendar that you all sync to and add to individually, it's important that a family shares plans and information, such as times, dates, phone numbers and so on. Color-coding can take things even further, if you're so inclined -- each family member can have their own color, which is extremely helpful for at-a-glance info.
6. Find an online backup program and use it.
Carbonite or SOS are a couple of good options -- or a backup drive connected to your computer is an alternative choice. This is essential to your peace of mind regarding anything that you store on your computer -- from legal documents to photos. With online backup, you can retrieve your files anyplace, anytime.
7. Be ruthless in your closet.
Some quiet afternoon, maybe if it's raining and no one else is at home, spend a few hours going through your clothes closet. Be honest with yourself about whether things fit, or you like them or you'll ever wear them again. If you have a friend you trust, try things on and get an honest opinion.
Get those big green garbage bags (the best things for purging) and fill them up with your gently used clothing and shoes, handbags and accessories, ties, suits... whatever you've got. Take them to a local charity. Toss out torn, stained or ripped items. Now you will have a much more manageable closet, and people in need will have clothes to wear.
Also, do yourself a favor and buy some Ultra-Thin Hangers -- you'll be amazed at the additional room you have.
8. Check the expiration dates in your medicine cabinet and in your kitchen.
You'll be surprised how many things are not only out of date, but basically useless, too. Spices lose their flavors, pain relievers lose their efficacy. Get rid of any prescription drugs that you no longer need by taking them to a drop off location for proper disposal. Check canned goods, dry goods, cereals and frozen foods for expired items.
9. Start scanning your photos into your computer -- or send them out and have it done for you.
This is a long-term project and should be approached much like organizing itself -- 15 minutes a day, max. You can find personal photo scanners at a very reasonable price. Don't set a deadline or pressure yourself to get it done quickly -- just do a bit at a time. If you prefer to have a service do this for you, check out what's available.
10. Get an Emergency Kit for Your Car.
No matter where you live, you could find yourself in an emergency situation due to weather, earthquakes or more. An emergency kit for each of your family cars is an easy way to have what you need on hand when you're on the road if a disaster strikes.
If this all seems like too much to do on your own, hire a pro to help you. It's much easier to get organized with someone cheering you on and helping you out. Go to the NAPO website (National Association of Professional Organizers) to find a person in your area. There are specialists in every field, from garages to computers.
Getting organized takes patience, time and the ability to throw things away. Once you get started, you'll feel so much better!
Previously published on Midlife Boulevard