12 Great Ways to Keep Your Life Organized

Sometimes it can feel like your life is all over the place. Work is a mess, home is a mess, and your life just needs a good old-fashioned overhaul. From keeping your space neater at work to getting those darn dinners cooked, we’ve culled some of our favorite tips from over the years and put them all together in one quick and easy cheat sheet. You don’t have to tackle everything at once but sometimes it helps to see the top list of solutions listed in one place.

Three Ways to Control the Cyber Clutter:

1. Start using Dropbox. This fantastic web-based storage system is the best backup-without-thinking-about-it solution we know of. Rather than saving everything to your desktop, Dropbox saves all of your files in “the cloud,” which means you can access them from any computer, anywhere using your user name and password. Just download the app, make the dropbox your main “virtual filing cabinet” (using any filing names and conventions you want) and you never have to think about backing up again. The program will automatically update and sync files between the cloud and your computer whenever it’s online. So those vacation pictures you just uploaded to your computer, yes, they’re backed up too. We’ve used it for years, love it, and never lost a file.

2. Adopt a systematic file-naming convention. The number one virtual time-waster? Hunting for files you know you have but just can’t seem to find. Pick a simple naming convention that you use on every file you create, from spreadsheets to Word documents. Nobody is judging your file names for the next Pulitzer prize, so make it something you’ll know and understand. A format we love: “date created _file name.” But it doesn’t matter what your system is as long as you do it consistently.

3. Schedule regular digital clean outs. Just like you schedule your time to clean the gutters or plant the bulbs, you need to set aside time to regularly clean out your files. Whether it’s five minutes on Friday afternoons or twenty minutes once a month, weed through and delete folders and files that are past their prime. Trust us, if you haven’t opened it in a year, you don’t need to keep it.

Three Ways for Keeping your Desk Clutter-Free

1. Use a Pen & Notebook. This is the simplest and neatest way to keep track of to-do’s, to-call’s, and other notes. We especially love the built-in delegation component to the Do&Delegate.list ($8.95) and, if you’re working full-time, the ordered lists in the Do&Delegate.work can be a real sanity-saver. But really, any inexpensive composition notebook can be effective too. It’s not necessarily what you use, just that you get in the habit of writing things down.

2. Keep Paper Filing Basic. What matters most is that you can put your hands on the files you need, quickly. So keep your system simple – and use stacking files as they are great for file people and pile people. Pick one day a week to file papers that are taking up valuable desk space. If you come across a paper that doesn’t fit in an existing file folder, keep it in a “general” folder for a week. Once a month take 15 minutes on a Friday afternoon and clean out your folders.

3. Establish a Clean-Up Routine. Sadly, cleaning the clutter on your desk is not a one-shot deal. The key to keeping it under control is to do one or two things to organize your office on a regular enough basis so you avoid the big ordeal of having to dig out from under a massive mess.

Three Rules For Making Weeknight Meals (Less Painfully):

We have an entire chapter devoted to this important topic in our book, Pretty Neat.

1. Subscribe to the TheScramble.com. This membership-based website that delivers a comprehensive weekly menu right to your inbox every week, complete with shopping list, should seriously win an award. It’s fantastic. When you sign up, you will get a week’s worth of recipes and a shopping list for easy and quick grocery store runs. Sarah’s been a subscriber for over a year and will vouch that the recipes are yummy – and easy enough for a harried kitchen novice to whip up. Plus, if you don’t like the menus generated automatically for you, you can always search the database for alternates.

2. Fine-tune your knife skills. Find a community college, culinary school or shop, or even a local restaurant where you can sharpen your skills with a knife. It doesn’t sound like much, but knowing how to wield a knife and properly chop can shave ten minutes off your prep time in the kitchen.

3. Have Some “Get Out of Cooking Free” Dishes in the Freezer. Whether the meeting ran late, you aren’t feeling up to snuff, or you simply don’t want to break out the sauté pan, there are going to be some days that you won’t be able to cook. Plan ahead and make double portions of certain dishes, like lasagna – or this yummy (and easy) homemade Mac & Cheese recipe from Apartment Therapy, that freeze well. That way, you (or anyone who is home before you) just need to open the freezer and defrost it without having to pick up the phone or turning to not-so-healthy frozen dinners.

Three Ways to Put Yourself on Your To Do List!

1. Make it a Judgment- and Guilt-free zone. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you need lofty goals in order to set aside time for yourself. Remember that you don’t always need to working towards something – it just needs to be a time for you to recharge.

2. Schedule it. Whether it’s one hour a week or an afternoon on the weekends, make sure that you build it into your schedule. If you don’t, you won’t do it. It’s that simple.

3. Build your Support System. Women are great at many things, but many women don’t like to ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask others for assistance, whether it is watching the kids or providing emotional support. Get creative about asking for help. Starting a new diet? Ask your husband to shelve the family’s outings to the ice cream parlor. Need someone to watch the kids while you try a new Pilates class? Switch off with a neighbor. You’ll be surprised by how helpful people can be when you just ask. We’ve got lots of great articles about the best strategies for delegating and free printables designed to help you get things off your plate (and done well by someone else).

{feature photo via: i heart organizing}