…there’s stuff in your garage that you don’t need.
But don’t panic! Here’s how I work with my clients to decide what stays, what goes, and what to do with unwanted items. Often deciding what you will do with any items you don’t want or need before you decide if you actually want them can speed up the deciding process.
TRACKS stands for Trash, Recycle, Action, Charity, Keep, and Sell. When I’m decluttering with someone, we go through each item and ask which of these categories it belongs in. Sorting everything into these categories is a big step towards a neat, peaceful home.
Pro tip: Start in a small area to get the hang of TRACKS. Try decluttering one box, one drawer, or one shelf using this method. It’s okay to go slow.
Pop quiz! What do these garage organizing statements have in common?
“This chair doesn’t fit in our dining room, so I’ll put it in the garage. We’ll bring it in if we have a party.”
“Just put empty moving boxes in the garage, we’ll figure out what to do with them later.”
“Tools go in the garage, just put them wherever, it’s fine.”
What these sentences all have in common is that they are all lies. That chair is not coming back inside—the garage is where things to go get dusty and be forgotten. Those towers of moving boxes will hang around until your next move, unless you unload them on someone else who moves first. It’s not fine to put tools wherever, unless you like playing find-the-screw-in-the-nail-stack.
If you think of your garage as a dumping ground for things you don’t know what to do with, or as a temporary storage space until you think of something better, you set yourself up for frustration. I don’t want that for you! I want your garage to be a useful, stress-free zone. Here’s how.
Why organize your desktop? Having a neat computer desktop is the “clean your bed” of digital organizing. It’s the first thing you see when your computer wakes up, and it sets the tone for the day. If your desktop is cluttered with shortcuts and covered in files, the tone it sets is “stress,” which we at Organize to Excel are not fans of.
Here are my top 3 tips for keeping your desktop clutter free AND stress free.
Tip #1. Remove Unnecessary Shortcuts
When downloading new software, there’s usually a check box in the installation process that says, “Create Desktop Shortcut.” It’s often checked by default, and it’s easy to miss.
Now, creating a desktop shortcut is fine—IF you’re going to use a program frequently. In most cases, though, it’s better to go without. There are so many ways to open an app that don’t take up real estate on your desktop! You can do a Spotlight search on Mac, or for Windows just type the name of the program in the search bar on the bottom left of the screen.
You can even choose to automatically open applications you know you’ll need when the computer starts up.
Note that this is good to check out on a routine basis. Some programs will open on startup by default, even though you might not need them. Check your computer’s list of startup apps and de-select any that aren’t necessary. Your computer will be faster to wake up!
Check the description below for the links to show you how to access the programs that run on your computer’s start up.
We’ve talked about files, but what about organizing software? Don’t let your apps run wild, they need structure, too! Here are my methods for keeping your software easy to find, use, and keep track of.
Do them! Keeping your software up to date is important for three reasons:
Security: Software companies are always on the lookout for new ways to break their programs, and then change to make their systems less vulnerable. Security updates are extremely common, and updating on time means you’re as safe as possible.
Features: The latest stuff is always cooler, right? Don’t miss out on upgraded or more user-friendly features.
Complying with regulations: Just like with safety, software companies are on the lookout for new laws or policy changes that affect how their programs function. If you work in the healthcare industry, and your software isn’t up to date on the latest HIPAA regulations, you could be in some serious trouble!
Keep a Master List
If your computer goes kaput, the last thing you want to have to do is rebuild it from nothing. It’s the same when you purchase a new computer. Trying to remember what software your old computer had installed is brain-frying! This is where a master list comes in handy.
I love certain things for organizing physical items: clear stackable bins, shelving, and labels are tools that apply in just about every situation! It’s the same with digital organizing. There are some simply-must-have tools for digital organizing that I recommend anyone use to keep their computer neat and tidy.
A Password Manager
I can’t remember all of my passwords, can you? Making secure passwords requires capital letters, numbers, special characters, and sometimes a double-authentication PIN, too. And the amount of passwords we need—one for every site—means that trying to remember them is not only exhausting, it’s basically impossible. And what about when it’s time to update the password? A sticky note just can’t take care of it like it used to.
When I covered paper filing in the past, one of my top tips was, “The best way to keep track of paperwork is to make sure it never arrives in the first place!” But what about digital organizing?
Go digital when you can. Not only does it reduce paperwork that takes up physical space in your home, it reduces paper usage in general. Good stuff! At Organize to Excel, we aim to eliminate waste and help the environment wherever possible.
If (when!) you follow my advice about paperwork, you’ll end up with more digital files than paper ones. But if you don’t have a filing system in place on your computer, you’re just swapping paper clutter for digital clutter.
Here are my top 4 tips for digital organizing, keeping your computer files as neat and tidy as your physical ones.
1. Mimic Real Life
Would you throw your mail on the floor as soon as you brought it in the house? Do you file everything as “Important”? If you do, give us a call and we can help you straighten that out!
It doesn’t make sense to do these things, because all you’d get is a big pile of mail on your floor, and tons of time wasted spent searching for that one bill you kinda remember being in this pile…or is it this pile? Eek!
Physical clutter is more obvious than digital clutter because it’s in the way when you try to eat dinner at the table, or a tripping hazard in your hallway. And, you have to physically go through items one at a time. But digital clutter is real, and it’s costing you time and money you don’t need to spend.
Imagine your computer is a tiny filing cabinet. It needs labels, folders, and subfolders. It needs an internal logic, so the folders and subfolders are useful. If you think about digital files like they’re paper, it only makes sense to put them in some sort of order.