Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Email and Voice Mail Clutter Control

I am still basking in the glow of de-cluttering my office but I have found it to be impossible at home just yet. I have been working hard on completing a slew of things for a convention that I am attending this weekend and I am hoping that when I return from the convention, I will have the time and motivation to start in on my home office.

At work I have been successful at one thing that I intend to try at home. I have a spiral steno notebook at my desk that I have in front of me every time I take messages off my phone and it is at hand every time the phone rings so that I can record information from the caller if needed. When I return the call, or complete the requested task, I put a check mark next to the name in the book so that I know that I have completed that task. Many times I have had to contact someone that called me at some point and I have been able to find their contact information in my notebook. My dilemma is keeping track of my emails with the same ease. I monitor about 5 email accounts and invariably, the information came in on an email account on another computer. The problem, I know, is that I use Microsoft Outlook to retrieve my emails, which brings the emails onto my computer and erases them from the email server. If I left the emails on the server and used the server’s folders to sort and retain the messages, I could always access them from anywhere. The downside to this is that I monitor 5 emails, at least three that are current and active. If I used the email server, I would have to login to three separate servers to retrieve my email. I know that it is old school computer thinking to feel safer if I have my emails on my computer. I think this goes back to the days when email services used to tell you to clean off your email because they were running out of space and your account had a limited amount of storage space, but this system has been working for me for the most part.

Some of you are saying, consolidate your email addresses into one, but I have to have one for work on our intranet and I have two for home, the main one and a Gmail account that has been very handy for access to Goggle products such as the blogspot software and for entering into websites where I am afraid my email address will be sold for spamming. The other two accounts are the accounts that I had with the cable service I had before we moved to Monmouth County. The accounts are with Comcast, and although I can’t send through Comcast, I can still receive emails on those accounts. No matter how many times I tell people to change my email address in their address books, I still get about 5-10 personal emails at my old address and at my husband’s old address. Are you diligent about changing email accounts in your computer when you are notified of a change? I suspect that most people are not.

Is this familiar to any of you? How do you all monitor your emails? Have you ever successfully changed an email account and not lost touch with a percentage of your contacts? I would like to discuss this at our next meeting on May 6 at the library. I have some suggestions for giving some incentives to get our houses in order. Bring your successes to the meeting so that we can all feel good about someone’s progress and bring your questions and frustrations to see if others can offer solutions. I won’t be posting again until Tuesday May 4th, if I can find the time on that day. I hope to see a lot of you at the meeting on Thursday, May 6, at 7:00 in the Quiet Study and in the mean time,
happy clearing!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Don't Forget to De-clutter your Office too

I am sorry to say that my tendency to retain useless things affects me at work as well as at home. I only have a 30" x 60" desk and one 4 drawer vertical file to house my work information for all the hats I wear here in the library. I organized my drawers and even color coded the labels a few years ago but I proceeded to fill those drawers to bursting. I told you all how motivational I am finding the Clutter Busting book. Well, I tried out the author's theory - to throw away anything that you are no longer using - and the experience is indeed "freeing." I started yesterday after lunch (even a late lunch) and had the recycle bin and two garbage cans near my desk filled to overflowing! I finished the desk and file this morning filling the same three containers again. I feel so unencumbered! I can't wait until Sunday when I can get at some of the piles of papers I have at home as well! I even cleaned the places beneath the desk, but I haven't done what is on the top of the file yet, nor the stuff that has started to accumulate on and under the table in the office I share, but there is no more room in a trash can today!! Except for a few files that I use regularly for invoices and bills, the majority of what I threw away was put there over the past few years and never referenced again, so clearly, these were not things I needed to keep in the first place. I highly recommend this exercise. Go for it...it is wonderful!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Spring Cleaning and Garage Sales

Spring is the time we open all the windows and clear out the winter accumulation of musty air and sweep out the dust and debris of our winter "hibernation." It is also a good time to have a garage sale, before the weather gets too hot (today not withstanding) and before the pools and beach clubs open for the season. Are you the kind of person that keeps a box or two of items at all times that you intend to sell one day at a garage sale? Or do you choose a date and start to advertise and then scramble getting stuff "ready" to sell. Either way, keep some things in mind. Price the items as you box them so that pricing is not another overwhelming task on the day of the sale. And pricing is the best way to prepare for a sale, particularly if you are the kind of person that is prone to clutter. Being overwhelmed by clutter might indicate that making snap decisions is not one of your strong suits, so having to decide on the price of something with a yard full of eager customers (hopefully) would be highly stress producing. You can buy pre-printed price tags in bright colors in the label section of your local warehouse stationers. These labels are easily removable so you will not be damaging your "valuables." Sort item with like items, particularly like in storage and display needs. Put smaller, breakable items together and make sure you have a sturdy table on which to display these items. Put all clothing together and try to borrow a coat/garment rack from someone if you don't have one. Put all items for children together since that is often a category that people shop for at garage sales. It is also a good idea to have smaller, more expensive items, on a single table near where the cash box will be kept so that there will always be someone nearby to keep an eye on these items. You may want to consider having a "sale" hour toward the end of the day and allow people to take whatever they can fit into a bag for a dollar or two - make sure you have a quantity of standard sized bags on hand and mark the bag as "sold" with a marker when it has been paid for. I have seen people go to their car, empty the bag and then bring the bag back and fill it again. No one should be putting anything into a bag that is marked sold or paid. Know ahead of time what you plan to do with the items that don't sell. Have an organization like Vietnam Vets or Good Will on stand-by to come the same day or the next day at the very latest. Don't move the stuff back into the house. Find out from the pick-up organization if they have any restrictions on the kinds of items they will take. Have a few large garbage cans/bags available to dispose of the things that are not taken. I will say again, don't move any of it back into the house. If you commit to a sale and an item is left over at the end, consider that it is unwanted and get rid of it. Consider going in on the sale with a neighbor or two. The pre-printed labels come in an assortment of different colors. Have your neighbor(s) use a different color label if you want to keep track of the sales or just decide that you will split the profit no matter whose stuff is sold. Having a crew that can spell you when you need to take a break is worth it in the long run. Happy selling (and happy de-cluttering)!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Fresh Motivation

At our meeting last Thursday, I passed around some new clutter control books that I have purchased and we agreed that one looked particularly interesting. “Clutter Busting” by Brooks Palmer looks to be a useful motivational book to help you get un-stuck from the fears and frustrations that may be keeping you from clutter clearing success. I began to read the first few chapters and I was ready to grab some garbage bags and start tossing things away. This is indeed, highly motivational. Palmer says to remind yourself repeatedly that, “Things will not make me happy.” His premise is that once you clear your life, house, car, office, etc. of the things that no longer meet your needs, you will free yourself to do what you want and to feel good about doing it. The subtitle to the book: “Letting go of what’s holding you back” is his premise in a nutshell. You have heard all of this a thousand times before and you think as a rational human being, you would not have to hear it again, but the message is presented such that perhaps this time, it may actually sink in and motivate you to finally get to the bottom of the clutter heap. Don’t resort and save – through it all away! Don’t hold on to something until you finally have a garage sale – get it completely out and away from of the house to ease your guilt and fears. Donate, recycle, trash it but just get it out and move on!

Good luck.