Friday, March 26, 2010

How to Cheat at Organizing

Howto Cheat at Organizing - book cover

I've read over 100 organizing-related books, so in most cases I don't expect to learn much new when I pick up another one. If I get one new idea, or a few good turns of phrase, or some good stories to illustrate a point, I'm pretty happy. How to Cheat at Organizing, which I learned about from Naomi Seldin of Simpler Living, delivered all of that.

The book is filled with solid organizing advice - but I'll share some of the things that really jumped out at me. For example, while I'm not usually a fan of cutesy acronyms, I did like HIRE: "If a task is Hard, Important, Rarely done, and Elaborate, pay a pro." That doesn't mean you might not also get help for other things, such as house cleaning and yard work - if such help fits your budget and helps you attend to your priorities. It just means that things that fit the HIRE criteria are the most important ones to get help with.

And I also loved UGH: Unwanted Gift Headache.

Here's author Jeff Bredenberg's advice on a number of topics.

1. Owning movies: "Minute by minute, it's getting easier to get quick access to any movie ever made. ... Rest assured that for the rest of your life, Casablanca with be at your fingertips. You don't have to own it, and you don't have to fret about the fact that the format you own it on will be obsolete within a few years."

2. Coupons: "Round up all of your coupons, along with your foot-thick coupon-organizing accordion envelope, and drop it all in the recycling bin. ... I'm all in favor of saving money. But is couponing really worth the effort? Only a small percentage of coupon fans manage to make the system pay off big time, and doing so requires hours of effort each week. If you put those hours instead into working, or into interacting with your family, the rewards would be much greater. ... For most of us, couponing is actually the worst-paying part-time job in the world."

But Bredenberg then goes on to provide advice on how to best clip, organize, and use coupons if you really do want to use them - starting with "make sure you need it." He points out that "coupon users spend an average of 8 percent more in supermarkets than nonusers."

3. All that information piling up in your file cabinet: "Janet Luhrs, author of The Simple Living Guide, loves to travel. ... she and a friend once decided to go on a houseboat vacation together, and made their arrangement over the Internet. Upon her return from the trip, Luhrs discovered to her dismay that she had a complete hard-copy file devoted to houseboat vacations - which she had forgotten about and never consulted. After years of careful filing, she never though to go to her own cabinet for the information.

"Lesson learned: To heck with paper files. That massive electronic filing cabinet called the Internet often provides all the research you need."

There's plenty more; if you read this book, you'll find your own gems.


Ellen said...

Thanks for your insights, Jeri!
As usual, I found many good points in this posting. I particularly like your perspectives on couponing and filing. One more point about couponing - when shopping online, I do a Google search for coupons in a separate tab just before I complete a purchase. This way I have already decided exactly what I am going to buy and then look for the best price break. My favorite site for online coupons is

Jeri Dansky said...

I'm glad you enjoyed the post, Ellen!

And it sounds like you are doing couponing a smart way - you won't have unused coupons piling up, and you don't need to spend much time at it.

Louise said...

This is very timely! We are finally cleaning out our storage closet, which contains all the old paperwork we didn't know how to address before we moved full-time into our motorhome. I'm ready to pitch most of this paper! said...

I must be one of the rare couponers. I enjoy couponing and bargain hunting and manage to save my family quite a bit of money for just a couple of hours a week of work. And where else can I find a position that let's me work whatever hours work best for me, bring my baby with me and make me jump for joy when the grocery store owes me $2.26 for four bags of groceries?

JustGail said...

I do cut coupons for items we use. Sometimes for a new item on the market. But no way do I spend hours at it. It has gotten me some good buys.

As far as paper files - I had thoughts of scanning them, BUT aiyeeee that would take entirely too long. Besides - if I haven't looked at them in the notebooks, why would I look for them on the computer? But yet, when I try to ditch them, I can't. Although - maybe scanning would be the way to go - now that I scan items out of magazines before passing them on to Mom, I'm much more selective of what I do scan. Maybe I should just pick the best, and scan those.

Jeri Dansky said...

Louise, I've enjoyed reading Sean's comments on your storage closet cleaning.

Amy, you are obviously one of those people for whom couponing works. And it's something you really seem to enjoy doing, while some other people are doing it because they thing they "should."

JustGail, you also have an approach to couponing that works for you - that's great.

Regarding the paper files: As I go through mine, I do a combination of scanning and pitching. One nice thing about scanned files is that I can have the information with me when I'm not at home, as long as my MacBook is with me (or I've uploaded the scanned file to somewhere).

But, for me, some things just don't make sense to save in any form - because if I want the information, I can easily find it on the Internet. (And it will be more up-to-date than information in my files.) Medical and travel information are the areas where I used to keep lots of files and have cut them WAY back.

Struggler said...

The advice seems to be spot on regarding movies and reference files - in the last few years, the internet really has succeeded in making those things almost obsolete. Hard to imagine life without Goo-flix now!

Jeri Dansky said...

Struggler, you may also enjoy this post about the "analog IMDB" - a paper film guide book.

Simple Organized Sanity said...

I love the UGH. :) I think we all have experienced this "special" form of headache. :)