do some good this summer when you let go of clutter

It’s hot.

If you’re hiding inside your air-conditioned home, do something that will benefit you and someone else: Look for things to donate to charity.

Anything you don’t use regularly is fair game. Clothes the kids have outgrown; housewares, sporting goods, tools and garden equipment that you never use; gifts you bought but never gave – they all take up space in your house and they all can be donated to a non-profit like Goodwill, Salvation Army, Disabled American Veterans or another agency in your area.

And, of course, there’s an app for that. Here are three that can help you keep track of your charitable contributions:

https://turbotax.intuit.com/personal-taxes/itsdeductible

http://satruck.org/salvation-army-mobile-apps

http://idonatedit.com/how.html

As long as your items are clean and functioning, someone else can use them. Please don’t donate anything dirty, torn or broken. These groups don’t have people who are able to fix things up before they’re sold.

If you do find things that could be useful with a little work, try putting them on freecycle or craigslist. You never know what someone else might be looking for.

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product review – Cabidor Mini cabinet

If you live in a small space, you have to maximize every opportunity for storage. You can put hooks behind a door for hanging items, but what if you need to store small containers in your bedroom, kitchen or bathroom?

The Cabidor Mini mounts to your door hinges and creates storage in that “wasted” space behind the door. The four shelves can hold toiletries in a bathroom, condiments in a kitchen or hobby supplies in a bedroom.

Could you use some hidden storage in your home?

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Conquer Paper Clutter

It’s hot in Washington, D.C. With the heat index, it will be over 100 degrees today; too hot to go outside.

If you’re retreating from the heat, consider spending some of that indoor time on reducing your paperwork accumulation.

Take 30 minutes to sweep all your loose paper into one container and start going through it all.  That’s right – all those carefully stacked piles and jammed drawers full of paper – place all of them in one laundry basket or cardboard box. You’ve been avoiding them anyway, so commingling them now isn’t going to cause you to lose track of anything.

Start with the five top pieces of paper. You only have three choices for each piece: Act on it, File it or Toss it.

If you need to clarify a bill, make a phone call. If the time has passed for responding to an event, toss the notice. If you find a document you need to refer to again, file it.

Do this every day for the rest of the summer and you’ll work your way through your backlog. Make it a contest – how quickly can you get through the top five pieces each day? If you’re feeling really inspired, double the number of papers you handle each day.

Need more motivation? Read the chapter “When You Can’t Let Go of Paper” in The Clutter Book: When You Can’t Let Go.

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Book Review – Time Management from the Inside Out

I used to be a huge proponent of time management. Then I realized that you really can’t manage time, you only manage your activities within a specific time period. Whether you choose to call it time management, project management or life management, the point is to make good decisions about using your time.

In this book, Julie Morgenstern offers a three-step plan (Analyze, Strategize, Attack) to have you look at what you’re doing and choose how to do things differently.

Procrastination is the greatest obstacle to getting things done and Morgenstern examines ways to help you decide whether a task is worth doing. Once you decide what truly is important, she proposes methods to help you achieve your goals.

Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind is that your time is limited and you have to prioritize the tasks that you want to accomplish. If you wait around until you feel like doing something, it probably won’t happen.

Do you have a technique you use to keep your priorities manageable?

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Product review – Cocoon Grid-It for Travel

It’s travel season. That means packing up loads of stuff and remembering to bring it back home with you.

Traveling with gadgets, including phones, tablets, music players, laptops and game consoles involves packing cords, chargers, headphones, earbuds and adapters, too. It’s a lot to keep track of.

Before you leave home, put a label with your name and phone number on each piece of electronics. It’s a good idea to label each cord so you can find the right one quickly. You can use colored tags to identify them or simply wrap a file-folder label around the cord and write what it belongs to. When you’re ready to leave your destination, make sure you’ve taken all the assorted parts with you.

There are many products you can use to sort and pack electronics. The Cocoon Grid-It Organizer has elastic straps that allow you to configure your stuff any way you’d like. It takes up very little space when it’s empty, and it comes in different sizes and colors, so you could assign a color to a person or to a function.

Of course, I also suggest completing a packing list so you can check off what you took with you and make sure it all comes back home, too.

How do you remember to take home what you brought with you?

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when not to organize

You might be surprised if you thought I would say “Anytime is a good time to organize!” but there really are times when you shouldn’t try.

After a huge loss, such as death, divorce or job termination, you’re not usually in a position to make good decisions. Right now, my house is a hot mess because my mother is critically ill and I can’t find the energy to make good decisions. I’m not happy about the piles of stuff, but I also know that it’s only temporary. I do the little bit I’m capable of and defer the rest.

When you’re so tired from making decisions all day that you don’t have any energy left to think about where to put things, don’t force yourself. Taking on extra work or family responsibilities, having a baby or starting a new job can create tension and exhaustion.

You don’t have to do everything yourself. When you’re physically unable to organize, ask for help when possible.

If you anticipate big changes, you can set up systems ahead of time to minimize disruption. Knowing where things go and being able to put them away easily will reduce clutter. During difficult times, don’t demand more from yourself than you are able to do. Productivity can suffer, but you don’t have to.

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book review – Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture

Journalist Ellen Ruppel Shell examines how Americans seek out low prices and the result of the pursuit of ever-cheaper goods.

Not a new concept, the idea of discounting goes back to the 19th century. Although the ethos of frugality prevailed, quality goods that could be passed down to future generations were the norm. Once cheaper goods became more readily available, people could get more, although it didn’t last as long.

Fast-forward to today – dollar stores, discount stores, 24/7 online shopping. The opportunity to buy (lots of) cheap stuff is easier than ever. But is it helping us?

Shell has done a good job of researching the history of “discount culture” and offers compelling reasons why we shouldn’t let price, alone, drive our decisions.

How does all this relate to clutter? You’re often better off buying one higher-priced item than lots of inexpensive, poorly-made ones. Aside from the environmental impact of cheap goods and the exploitation of people who create them, ask yourself if you really need what you’re about to buy. Are you buying it because it’s cheap or are you replacing an item you would have purchased anyway?

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