THE BLOG

3 Ways To Have A Clean Desk, Clean Slate For '09

01/31/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

I had a revelation sitting amid piles of old credit card statements, junk mail and Christmas cards from years past. I was cleaning out my home office - the one my husband lovingly set up for me two years ago, when I left the full-time working world and embarked on a journey of mompreneurship. Since I tried to straighten up the place the last time (probably about six months ago), I had let the mess get out of control. I never really threw anything out. Instead, I just pushed the piles to the side and cleared off my desk (and dusted). Because my professional space exists in a small loft on the top floor of our home, over the summer and fall, it became easy to ignore the growing chaos up there and find other places around the house to write and work.

But this week, as I indulged in a break from my usual business commitments, I finally found myself with two whole hours to face the disorganized stacks and boxes that disrupted my once clean and neat retreat. I tackled the chore with gusto - beating myself up along the way for lacking the discipline to live up to the New Year's resolution I seem to make every year: get more organized.

But as I plowed through the discarded receipts, old columns, lost business cards and books, I discovered that my trouble with organizing my desk and files was more about letting go and less about apathy. I realized that for me, somehow, allowing the clutter pile up was my own way of holding onto the past, creating an easy and physical barrier to moving forward and to accepting that I really am moving ahead with so many of my goals - both personal and professional. The problem with disorder is that while you may feel momentum in your life, you have trouble figuring out the benchmarks - namely because you can't remember where anything is (even though you tell your family you do).

For years, money guru Suze Orman has talked about the emotional side of organizing finances. I think the same philosophy can be applied to basic organization. When we can't find anything, it's easy to ignore reality. It allows you to go through life with a lack of specificity about everything - not just money. Did I send a birthday card to so and so? Did I make a follow up call on that business lead? What did I do with that new box of stationery? Oh, I can't even tell you how many times I've run out to buy a new printer cartridge only to finally go through a drawer and find one. It's taken a while to sink in and for me adapt to my new role as what the marketing gods call, "chief household officer" - but life is forcing me to get my act together - whether it's filing the 401k statements or remembering to send a timely thank you note from my preschoolers.

So there I was sitting next to three giant trash bags, armed with a dust rag and Pledge and a will to once and for all get a handle on my life. The good news is that in all of this, I did find a few reasons to also pat myself on the back. One of them is that I've thankfully, shifted some of my household tasks to the web over the last year. I cannot imagine what my office would have looked like if I hadn't been paying my bills online and receiving more of my financial statements via email. But there is more I can do when it comes to going paperless. In the next few weeks, I am going to be talking about using the web to get organized in my role as Yahoo! Web Life Editor. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Pay bills online

If you are still paying your bills by snail mail and receiving statements in the mail, you are missing a really great opportunity to better organize your budget and cut down on clutter in your house. No more stamps, no more running to the post office -- If you shift your bill paying to the web, you can really save time and also alleviate late payments and penalties. If you are already using online bill pay, you might want to check out some of the really cool personal finance websites out there like Mint.com which allows you to manage all of your money in one place with tools to help you budget and save. It is free and also has just introduced a new mobile application.

Cancel catalogs

De-clutter your kitchen counter AND preserve the earth -- what a concept! Log on to www.catalogchoice.org, and follow the prompts. Once you've registered, follow the simple process of selecting catalogs you don't want to receive, entering your customer number, and voila! Catalog Choice says, "the wizards behind the website contact the companies and remove your name from your chosen sites." You can modify your preferences at any time and also suggest catalogs that are not yet in the Catalog Choice database.

Say goodbye to stickies

Organize your family's schedule and your to-do list online. There are all kinds of web based calendars that allow multiple users to log on and share the information. This is a great way to coordinate with your spouse or partner so that you have a joint schedule of upcoming plans. Cozi.com is a new company that created a web calendar and planner tailored for moms. You can color code everyone's activities and give everyone in your family access to the calendar so they can update it. You can build a shopping list and ping it to your phone...or your husband's. You can even jot down a few notes in a journal and organize family photos. The company recently released a mobile application so you can access your Cozi calendar on your mobile phone.

When I was through sorting and sifting through the mess, It felt really good to haul away all of the junk cluttering my office...and my mind.
I'm ready for '09 with a clean slate, clean desk and a clear head.

Happy organizing!! Happy 2009!

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