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Five Ways to Manage Clutter


Consumer Newsletter – December 2012
By Elyse Umlauf-Garneau


Cutting Clutter and Costs
Five Ways to Manage Clutter:
If you have tendencies toward excessive disorder, consider implementing some simple steps to manage your mess before your office, your house, and your life turn to chaos.
Just consider the cost of clutter. You lose time searching for items. You spend money on storage units that could be devoted to hobbies, savings, or vacations. And when you're selling your house, clutter leaves a bad impression on prospective buyers.
For an interesting take on calculating the cost of clutter, see this Lifehacker.comstory, http://lifehacker.com/5739254/how-much-money-is-your-clutter-is-costing-you.
By tidying up, you save some time and money and find a greater sense of calm.
Certified personal organizers offer five proven organizing tips that have worked for their clients.
1. Landing pads. Create a landing pad for your keys and wallet and the other things you take with you each morning. Drop the gear in the same spot each night.
Maria Spetalnik, a professional organizer with Conquer the Clutter, Chantilly Va., had a client who got up 30 minutes early each day because he knew he'd need the time to hunt down his gear. Her simple landing pad strategy bought the client extra sleep each night.
2. Scheduled purges. Break up purging of paper, clothes, and so forth, into manageable bites. Spetalnik says it's too overwhelming to, for instance, plan to purge all the old paper in a home office in a single day.
Instead, she recommends choosing a single file drawer to purge.
In addition, choose a date each month for a particular type of purge. Do closet purges quarterly, and on January 1, for example, plan to purge tax files, and on February 1, purge children's toys, and so forth.
3. Weekly maintenance. Steve Ilott, of Decluttering.ca in Oakville, Ontario, Canada and director of membership for the Professional Organizers in Canada, is a proponent of short weekly purges.
He explains that setting aside 20 minutes a week to eliminate the excess stuff that accumulates tends to keep chaos at bay and it maintains the organization systems you spent time creating.
4. Touch it once. No doubt, you've heard this before. It's because organizers say it works. Touch each piece of mail just once. Immediately toss junk mail, catalogs and flyers when you pick up mail. Sort it right away into something that is best for you, whether that entails putting bills in one spot, filing bank statements and bills in an accordion folder, or adding party dates to your calendar immediately.
5. Creative paper storage. There's no right way to file, so develop a system that makes sense for you, suggests Spetalnik. That could entail traditional file cabinets.
But if you lean toward organizing by piles, color-coded baskets could work best for you. And if you're self-employed, consider filing by client or by project. Other options include filing alphabetically or by activity.
"Whatever system you use, fully adopt it," she comments. She likens it to dieting; pointing out that you can't expect a diet--or a filing system--to work instantly. "Give your system a good solid run, but if it doesn't work, do try something else," Spetalnik says.
Tip: Never buy a new filing system until you've done a full purge.
Smart money management on the fly:
How often do you worry about retirement funds, run your figures through those "How much do I need to retire?" calculators and read about the best asset allocation strategies?
The bottom line is that nearly everyone who has angst about thin retirement accounts likely needs to pare back, save more, and manage money better.
Apps for your mobile device make it easier and easier to keep spending in check.
Here are five to try.
1. Mint (www.mint.com). Mint gives you your entire financial picture by gathering all your financial information, including investments, spending, and bills, in one spot. You can track your bills; get reminders so you're not dinged with late fees, keep an eye on investment performance, and see graphs that give you a snapshot of exactly where you stand.
And by tracking your spending habits, Mint can illustrate how much you can save by cutting spending in a given category. Mint has a bunch of other nifty features, including spotting the junk fees you're paying that can add up over time.
2. www.Lowestmed.com. Find the best price for your prescription drugs. Type in the medication name and your zip code and the app gives you the store where the drug is the least expensive. As an example, the cost for a 30-day supply of a common cholesterol drug in Chicago ranged from 184.92 to 189.88. That $4.96 monthly savings adds up to $59.52 per year.
3. GasBuddy (www.gasbuddy.com).Whether you're headed to work or you're road-tripping, find the cheapest gas. You type in your zip code and the app lists prices at nearby gas stations and gives you a map to the locations. It can deliver savings of more than just a few cents. One spot check in the 90201 (Beverly Hills, Calif.) zip code yielded prices ranging from 4.55 to 4.99 per gallon.
4. Redlaser (www.redlaser.com). When you are ready to actually spend some money, do some comparison shopping on the fly by scanning barcodes of items that interest you while you're in the store. The app generates information about the product and tells you where you can find the best price at both online and at brick-and-mortar spots. It works for everything from DVDs and computer gear to household appliances.
5. Coupon Sherpa (www.couponsherpa.com) and Grocery iQ (www.groceryiq.com). Everyone wants to cut grocery bills, but who wants to haul around and shuffle through binders full of coupons? These supermarket apps can help you create shopping lists, organize your grocery shopping, and deliver on-the-spot coupons.



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