Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Organizing Tidbits for June

Tip of the Week, Early June 2012

Here are some of the organizing-related articles, ideas, and resources that have caught my eye this month.

A Day Devoted to Your Finances
Ron Leiber, the Your Money columnist for the New York Times, recently wrote an article suggesting a day-long financial tuneup once a year, during which you tackle tasks designed to get your money--and your financial paperwork--in order. 

Also worth browsing is the blog post with his readers' replies to the question, "What did you do for your financial tuneup?"

And while we're on the subject of money, a colleague recently shared an online guide aimed at answering what is, for many of us, a perennial question: How long do I have to keep this financial paperwork? How to purge your financial clutter, by personal finance writer Liz Weston, offers a comprehensive set of guidelines. 

Clever Ways of Putting Your Stuff to Use
Sunset magazine has a great feature on its website about projects designed to help you reinvent stuff you may have hanging around the house. Finally, a use for those cd cases and that decorative plate collection.

Common Clutter Culprits
I love Apartment Therapy's list of 12 Things You Probably Own Too Many Of. Want an easy clean-out project this summer? Tackle the things on this list one category at a time.

An Easy Way to Get Updated Addresses
Postable is a free online service that lets you send requests to friends, family members, and anyone else you want to keep in touch with via mail but may not have a recent address for. Sign up, send out a link to your personal address book, and have recipients add their info through a secure page on the Postable site. And if you're not a fan of online address books, you can export and print a copy.

Less Stuff, More Happiness
Finally, here's a short and sweet video that poses an interesting question: does having more stuff make us less happy? Graham Hill, the presenter, doesn't belittle or preach, which makes his message all the more appealing.

Have a great organizing or productivity article, idea, or resource to share? Leave a comment and let me know, or share your experience on The Organized Life Facebook page.

Outsourcing Organizing Support Tasks

Tip of the Week, Late May 2012

I recently worked with a busy couple who wanted to tackle several trouble spots in their home. As we did a walkthrough, they pointed out several mini projects they'd started but hadn't finished, including assembling a new entertainment center (neither of them, they said, was particularly skilled with handy tasks); shredding several bags and boxes of paper with sensitive info (they had a small shredder, but it had jammed, and was painfully slow to use even when it worked); installing various hooks and doorstops throughout the house (back to not having a knack tasks like these); and getting out of the house the stuff they'd already weeded through and decided to get rid of (their schedules during the week were extremely hectic, and doing Goodwill runs wasn't tops on their list for weekends).

I noticed a theme as we talked: while these folks had both the desire and the motivation to get organized, they didn't have a lot of time each week to give over to organizing-related tasks, and they experienced bottlenecks when it came to dealing with mini-projects, especially those they didn't have the skills or the resources for. 

Sound Familiar?
This couple's hurdle is one my clients often face: they try to do as many of the support tasks related to their organizing project as they can, even though those tasks can slow them down significantly--and sometimes bring them to a complete halt. If reorganizing your files involves weeding out and shredding the papers you no longer need, but you don't have a working shredder at your disposal, you may find yourself putting the project on hold until you can get a shredder--in itself another project. 

The Benefits of Outsourcing
There comes a point when trying to tackle the soup to nuts of an organizing job on your own will do little more than slow you down (and possibly make you more likely to want to throw in the towel). Before you reach that point, it's well worth finding ways of enlisting others to help with the tasks that need to be done but--unlike making decisions on what stays and what goes--don't necessarily need to be done by you

Outsourcing organizing support tasks like donation drop-offs, shredding, picking up supplies, and doing handyperson tasks like furniture assembly or hanging things on the wall is an excellent way of getting these tasks done quickly and well, allowing you to focus on other things and helping ensure that your organizing project doesn't lose momentum.

Finding Help
Luckily, I think it's easier than ever before to find good, reliable, reasonably priced help for organizing support tasks. With summer ahead, there's always the option of enlisting a trustworthy high schooler or college student who's on break and wants to earn a few extra dollars over the summer. And, of course, it's often worth asking around with friends, colleagues, and neighbors for recommendations of people who'll take on such tasks and do them well.

Rather hire a pro? I really like Task Rabbit, a service that lets you post the tasks you're looking for help with and then browse bids from people willing to do them. Unlike classifieds websites like Craigslist, Task Rabbit screens the its "rabbits" (by essay, video interview, and background check) before they're allowed to take on tasks, and also offers a feedback and rating system. 

One of the things I like best about Task Rabbit is the range of tasks you can post, from dropping off donations at Goodwill to alphabetizing your cd collection to unpacking your luggage after a trip. For every organizing support task you come up with, there's a good chance you can find someone on Task Rabbit to do it. Want to give it a try? Use this link to get $10 off your first task. (Though Task Rabbit is only in a handful of cities right now, it's growing all the time, so check back if you don't see your area available.)

There are also other Task Rabbit-like services popping up, like Exec (which is currently only available in San Francisco), and the more such services there are, the better your chances of finding an assistant who can take care of the tasks that would otherwise slow you down.

Have you used a service like Task Rabbit or Exec, or found another way of getting help with organizing support tasks? What was your experience like? What would you suggest to others who are considering outsourcing these tasks? Leave a comment and let me know, or share your experience on The Organized Life Facebook page.