35 Resources to Help You Get Organized
Several times a year I sit down and decide I'm going to figure out this whole "getting organized" thing. The fact that I do this several times a year is a clue it's always a work in progress for me.
My whole life I've veered toward cluttered and chaotic. Each time I sit down to get organized, I make a little bit more progress. Here are 35 resources I've used that have helped me on my path to becoming a bit more organized.
A Notebook: As much as I love my tech (and I do love my tech!) there are times when I just need paper. I always found striking through the items on my to do list much more fun on paper than on a device. My favorite notebooks are from Pierre Belvedere. They are sturdy, pretty, and the paper quality is fabulous.
My Smartphone: I know. It's a total cliche, but I'd be lost without my phone. It's my alarm clock and my calendar, and I'd be lost without the reminder app.
Post-Its: I looooove Post-Its. I use them for everything. I use them to flag recipes I want to make. I leave notes for my husband on his work bag. I mark passages in books I really like. I stick them on the front door if I really, really need to remember something before I leave the house... like my passport.
A Whiteboard/Bulletin Board/Chalkboard Wall: Sometimes you just need to see the big picture. We painted a chalkboard wall in the hallway just off our kitchen last summer and we use it for important dates, meal plans, and grocery lists. If we're headed out of town, it's a great place to leave notes for our cat sitter.
Evernote: I've been using Evernote for so long I don't even know I how I would function without it. The first drafts of my blog posts are in there. It's where I write my meal plans. I keep to do lists and knitting notes. I basically write and store everything in there.
Social Media Apps: Whether you use them on your phone, download the desktop apps or use browser extensions, social media apps rock my world. I personally use a mix of Hootsuite, Facebook, Echofon, and Instagram. I like having the ability organize my twitter streams or send things to multiple accounts. They just make my online life so much easier to manage.
Unroll.me: Are you waging war on the amount of unnecessary emails you get everyday? I know how it is. You buy an item online and you create an account. The next thing you know you're getting email from them all the time. I don't know how many times I've thought I've fully unsubscribed from emails only to have a different kind pop in. Unroll.me will help you narrow it down to just the ones you really want... and it can even roll up all of those into a single daily email digest.
Lastpass: Let me know if this sounds familiar: There's a site you need to access only rarely and every time you need it you can't remember the password. Lastpass is a password manager that sets secure passwords for your accounts but you only need to remember your Lastpass password. They have free and premium level options, and their premium level is really quite affordable.
TiVo/DVR: When TiVo first came out and my friends started getting them I was sooooo jealous. I had turfed my VCR ages before and if I didn't see a television show when it was on, I simply didn't see it. That meant I didn't see a lot of shows because life happens and I'm bad at having an evening schedule. I still don't have an actual Tivo but my cable company has their own brand of DVR. Things that allow me to watch what I want to watch when it fits with my schedule? I love that.
Roku/Apple TV/Netflix: I realize that all of these can be used as time wasters. I'm sure there are few among us who will not confess to binge watching at least one television series. What I love about Roku/Apple TV/Netflix is that, again, it's about making things work with my schedule.
Also, neighbourhood video stores are a thing of the past where I live. If I've missed seeing a movie in the theatre, these are probably my best bet for being able to see it. Check out Entertainment Editor Deb Rox's recommendations for the best streaming and gaming subscriptions of 2014.
Spotify/Songza/Slacker Radio: I don't want to think about how much music we have stored on our external hard drives and yes, I could make a playlist or get my husband to make a playlist. I can be pretty lazy about that though, and Spotify/Songza/Slacker Radio allow me to outsource the playlist making to someone else. I just need to log in, figure out what kind of mood I'm in and there's a playlist waiting for me.
Dropbox: I use Dropbox for the backup to my backup. I am in the camp that believes you really cannot have too many fail-safe methods. It's also fabulous when you need to collaborate with people on projects and are dealing with files that are simply too big to email.
Pinterest: Pinterest has saved me from having hundreds of bookmarks over a bunch of different programs. I use my food boards for meal planning. If we're thinking about painting a room in our house I'll create a vision board for that room. If I find a pretty dress online and I'm trying not to spend money I'll pin it to my style board. It gives me time to step away and think about the purchase without the worry I'll lose the link.
Zest Recipe Manager: I mostly use a combination of Pinterest, Evernote and notebooks to manage the recipes I use most often, but there is an app that will do all of that for you. The Zest recipe manager allows you to store, organize and even edit recipes. The edit function is really useful if you are someone (like me) who has trouble making a recipe exactly as it is written.
Real Simple magazine (and their books): I've always loved Real Simple's simple tricks and ideas for alternate uses for products. Thanks to them, I've been using mason jars for kitchen storage long before Pinterest ever existed.
Lifehacker: I don't read Lifehacker daily but it's a resource I like to turn to when I start feeling overwhelmed by a task. The articles on Lifehacker do an excellent job of reminding me to break down projects into small pieces.
The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal: Procrastination could very well be my middle name. The Willpower Instinct helped me understand why I avoid my laundry pile and why I find myself clicking on Facebook or Twitter just one more time. Knowing why I do things the way I do helps me organize my tasks in ways that helps me get them done and to kick my own butt when I find myself procrastinating.
A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder -- How Crammed Closets, Cluttered Offices and On-the-Fly Planning Make the World a Better Place by Eric Abrahamson and David H. Freeman: Are you a clean desk person? I usually am until I'm really in the thick of a project and then things get a little chaotic. For a long time I couldn't figure out why that was or why when someone "helped" me by cleaning my space I felt totally out of control. A Perfect Mess helped me understand how I use my space and see that a cluttered desk isn't a horrible thing at all.
Public Library Card: I am a dedicated library user. When we were shopping for our house one of the requirements was that it had to be within walking distance to a library. It was ok if it was a long walk (which is it) but it was a serious criteria for me. About 80% of the books I read in any given year come from our public library. If a movie is not available on Netflix, there's a good chance our library has it. I've borrowed museum passes and even a pedometer from my library. I know. I know. Libraries have fines but we've made going to the library every Saturday part of our routine. We get up, check our library accounts either on our computers or via our library's phone app, round up the due back items and head off to see what goodies we can find.
A Book Tracking Site like Goodreads/Shelfari/LibraryThing/Booklikes: Once upon a time I used a spreadsheet to track all the books I read. A few years ago I switched to Goodreads. I don't review books there, I just log the books I've read. And at the end of the year I can still export my book list into an excel document. I also have a LibraryThing account that I use to catalogue the books I own (and which is currently very out of date).
Bluefire Reader: Sometimes I need to be able to store PDFs on my iPad but I don't need (or necessarily want) them to be tied to my Kindle, iBooks or Kobo accounts. The Bluefire Reader is my default PDF reader. I've used it to store everything from book egalleys to knitting patterns.
Overdrive Media App: My public library system uses Overdrive for their e-books and audio books. There are times when I have to spend several hours doing tasks that don't really challenge my brain. That's a polite way to say data entry makes me angsty and twitchy. Overdrive to the rescue! I can download an audio book and listening to it while I tackle those less stimulating tasks on my to do list makes the time go by much faster.
Personal Finance Apps like Mint: I'd love to tell you I use the budget app on my phone year round but that would be a lie. I predominantly use budget tracking apps on vacations. I'll track how much money we spend on gas (we do a lot of road trips), accommodations, food and entertainment. At the end of vacation I download our report and check how we did for each category. The next time we plan a vacation we can see how much we spent and adjust accordingly.
Banking Apps: I don't use banking apps on my phone a lot, and I don't keep my passwords stored in them (because I'm paranoid about things like that). Yet every now and then, I'll be out running errands and find I really need to check some bank information. Having the app on my phone saved me from having to add "go to the bank" to my list of errands.
Conference Calling Services: Sometimes I need to talk to a lot of people in a lot of different places at once. Using a service like UberConference or Free Conference is an easy way to make that happen.
Just One Thing notes: This combines my love of lists with my love of sticky notes. Sometimes I need to get one thing done, just one thing. It's not always a big thing. In fact, quite often the one thing I really need to get done is some small rather forgettable thing, which is why it stays on my to do list for far too long. Write that item on a JustOneThing note, slap it somewhere you are going to see it and get it done.
Any.DO: I love lists and I have tried out a lot of different to do list apps on my phone. I find I like different ones for different things. What I really like about the Any.DO app is their "Someday" lists. I use it to keep track of the things I don't want to (or can't) do immediately and don't have to be done by a specific date. We have a few fiddly little house projects that need to be done -- things like stripping off 8 layers of paint from some heating vents because we can't buy replacements for them. If I find myself with a large chunk of time and nothing to do, I'll pull up my someday list and find a project to start.
Chore List Managers: I am bad at chores. I am really, really bad at chores. Please do not ask me how long laundry sits before it gets put away. My husband is much better at them. We've jokingly said that maybe we need to do use something like Chore Hero to help get all the weekly chores done. I've played around CARROT, which is an app that will get angry at you if you don't do your to do items. I find making it angry amusing rather than motivating but I have to confess that I do like the sound it makes when you've accomplished enough to level up.
Menstrual Cycle Trackers such as iPeriod: Pretty much every time I go to the doctor, I get asked the date of first day of my last menstrual cycle. And pretty much every single time, I've forgotten they were going to ask me that question. Before the smartphone era, I used to ask to see a calendar and I'd totally end up guessing. No more! Now I reach for my bag, apologize to doctor for grabbing my phone, and quickly pull up the correct answer.
UPS Mobile: Whether you are the one doing the shipping or waiting for the delivery, UPS Mobile helps you track your packages. If you receive a lot of packages but find yourself missing them, try out UPS My Choice, which gives you more options and even allows you to easily reschedule or reroute your package (for a fee).
ArtKive: I bet your kids makes lots of wonderful art. They all do. Sometimes the volume of the art they produce can be a bit overwhelming. As much as you may want to save it all, that's not always a feasible option. ArtKive allows you preserve those masterpieces in a new way. Take a photo of it, store it and then at the end of the year turn those photos into a book.
Google Drive and Google Calendar: I love spreadsheets. Yes, I'm one of those people. I love that I can create a spreadsheet in Google Drive and access it anywhere. Or share it with my husband or coworkers. I love Google Calendar for the same reason.
Fitness Apps such as RunKeeper or Nike Training Club: I am showing my bias toward running a bit here because RunKeeper is the fitness app I use the most often. I don't use it exclusively for running -- I also track walks and stationary cycle workouts on it. Nike Training Club offers me some good cross-training workouts. I don't do yoga as much as I used to but I also have Pocket Yoga in my collection for those days when I need a good stretch.
ICE (In Case of Emergency) App: I very, very rarely leave the house without identification with one exception -- when I run on the trail. I have a hard time finding workout clothes that have pockets large enough for my house key, never mind finding ones that can fit my health card or drivers license. I don't do long runs so I don't have a fuel belt or run with a pack. What I do take on these runs is my phone. The ICE app makes me feel a little bit less paranoid about the fact that I don't have identification on me.
Unfuck Your Habit: Let's face it, there are time when organizing just seems overwhelming. These are the times when we can really benefit from community and from having someone kicking our butt while not accepting any excuses. I also like good before and after photos. Enter Unfuck Your Habit. Seeing that other people have successfully tamed the problem areas of their living spaces -- and the daily no excuses prompt -- helps motivate me on the lazy days.
What do you use to get organized?