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Links and Resources for the Chronically Disorganized

N S G C D | Home

I'm still in a de-cluttering mode these days (more on that soon), so I was intrigued by this resource, which arrived this morning via Mrs. Folders.

While primarily a trade group for "professional organizers," the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization site has some handy documents and links to help with identifying and solving pathological problems with clutter and hoarding.

If you can tolerate the site's gruesome ardor for PDFs, you'll find some informative and eye-opening stuff. From their fact sheets page:

I really liked some of the Tips for Overcoming Procrastination for the Chronically Disorganized Individual or Household (excerpted):

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WWLD? No. 3: Organizing your environment

Our great friend, Leslie Harpold, passed away in December of last year. In addition to being a swell pal and an old-school web mandarin, Leslie was an endless source of advice and opinion on practically everything.
To commemorate Leslie’s life and to help share her wisdom with folks who never got to know her, I asked our mutual friend, Lance Arthur to answer the question: What Would Leslie Do? Here’s part 3 of 4. — mdm

1. A place for everything.

This has been an especially valuable lesson for me. It's easy and common to toss your keys and wallet somewhere when you enter your home. If you're not tossing them in the same place every time, the next time you're about to leave and need your keys to get back inside, you may not remember where it was you tossed them -- or maybe you left them in a pocket without tossing them at all, but which pocket was it? What were you wearing, and where is that article of clothing now?

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Becoming a tagging kung-fu master

You’ve heard the hype about tagging. You’ve seen people flocking to sites like Flickr and del.icio.us, where they jump head-first into a pulsing mass of disjointed tags, possibly never to be heard from again. And you’ve wondered: how exactly is tagging worthwhile again?

Any idiot can tag, but you want tags that are useful rather than a disorganized mess. This is not an unreasonable desire, and by completing three simple steps before you start tagging, you too can become a tagging kung-fu master. (Or, if you want more intellectual cred, explicate your personal taxonomy.)

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Vox Pop: Converting clutter from trash to treasure

Quick way to dispose of lots of stuff? | Ask MetaFilter

Wow, talk about good timing.

I've noticed in comments on this week's clutter posts that there's a lot of interest from you all in the away part of "throw away" -- people seem to have a lot of ideas on the most interesting, charitable, creative, and environmentally-responsible routes for converting your own trash into someone else's treasure.

So far we (and that AskMe thread) have covered:

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My War on Clutter: The Tools to Purge BIG

[This is a first-person account of what's worked for me in preparing to gut the crap out of my house; you should feel free to do or not do any part of this -- or just adjust the recipe to whatever suits your own needs, hangups, household fetishes, and budget. But you knew that, right?]

My past attempts at removing clutter have consistently bottlenecked at a few common points. Often I wasn't really committed to the idea of a full purge, so I'd ignore whole boxes of memorabilia. Other times, my goal was primarily aesthetic, so I'd end up shoveling things into pretty boxes and "organizers". But I finally realized what's really been stopping me from accomplishing anything substantial. It's so simple and so dumb that I'm embarrassed to admit it: my garbage can was too small.

Yeah, I mean that both literally and figuratively. Because part of my success in purging this time around has come from thinking much bigger in every way -- I want bigger changes from throwing out more stuff including the big dumb items that won't fit in a garbage can. Here's some tools and processes that have helped me.

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My War on Clutter: Never "organize" what you can discard

One of the most basic concepts Peter Walsh talks about in _It’s All Too Much_ brought a total breakthrough for me. If the stuff that you accumulate doesn't help get you closer to the life you want to have, it's simply not worth keeping. Period.

Obviously (and unavoidably), this goes for a family room that's turned into a junk drawer for DVDs and books, and you can clearly see it evidenced in a kitchen where no flat surface is free of junk mail, bills, and newspapers. Those you can't miss.

But, for me, the real story is about the ways you try to solve clutter problems solely by getting more space or obtaining more containers -- jamming all those DVDs into cabinets and stuffing those newspapers into bigger volume baskets. The clutter doesn't need a prettier package; it just needs to go. Now, and in very large quantities.

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My War on Clutter

As I mentioned the other day, I learned about the anti-clutter book, _It’s All Too Much_, when its author, Peter Walsh, was interviewed for the Unclutterer site.

Well, the timing must have been right, because I bought a copy, and by the time I'd finished the first chapter, a switch had flipped in my head. I say "timing" because, while the book is pretty good (if perhaps not particularly groundbreaking), the author's observations on why people allow themselves to live with too much crap were an overdue existential bitchslap for me. And, I'll admit, he has simple cures for dealing with this seemingly intractable challenge, and for me that's a hard combination to beat.

Clutter of every kind has been the default state of my physical world forever. Although no official record of the conversation exists, I would not be surprised to learn that I tried to talk the staff who delivered me into letting me keep my first diaper; just because -- y'know -- you never know when it might come in handy. Bad habits formed early, bad habits stuck, and, for the most part, bad habits remain intact to this day.

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Vox Populi: Best practices for file naming

If it wasn't apparent from my pathetic cry for help the other day, even I -- one of your more theoretically productive persons in North America -- struggle with what to call things.

Tags, files, and -- dear Lord -- the innumerable assets associated with making web sites, graphics, audio, and video projects; it's all a hopeless jumble unless you have some kind of mature system in place for what you call your stuff and its various iterations. Of course, if you're like me -- and I hope that you are not -- you still have lots of things on your desktop with names like "thing-2 finalFinal! v3 (with new changes) 05b.psd".

For prior art, I still treasure this Jurassic thread on What Do I Know where people share their thoughts on this age-old problem, but, frankly I haven't seen many good resources out there on best practices for naming.

Anyhow, during a recent MacBreak shoot, I noticed that Alex and his team seem to have a pretty fly system for naming the video files that eventually get turned into their big-time IPTV shows. Thus, I turned to Pixel Corps' Research Division Lead, Ben Durbin (co-star of Phone Guy #5) for insight and sane help. And, brother, did he ever give it to me (see below the cut for Ben's detailed awesomeness).

But, just so I don't lose you, do give me your best tips in comments: What are your favorite current conventions for naming files? How does your team show iterations and versions? Do you rely more on Folder organization than file names in your work? How have Spotlight, Quicksilver, and the like changed the way you think about this stuff?

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Sloan get organized for new record

One of my favorite bands, Sloan, has a new record called Never Hear the End of It that just came out last week in Canada (currently only purchasable via import in the US; in Canada, you can buy it on MapleMusic).

While recording the CD, Sloan also shot a bunch of short in-studio videos, including a couple that reveal their innately organizational side.

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Glenn Wolsey: 6 email tips

Glenn Wolsey—6 Ways To Organize - Your Mail Application

Glenn Wolsey has a great little post on how he's set up and is using Mail.app. He's got some very smart stuff here, including an intriguing approach to minimalist mailbox management:

Create 3 folders and name them Follow-Up, Interesting & To Do. Then, as you check your emails file them straight into the applicable folder.

Later, when you have time you can go straight to these folders folder and work through them. It will be much quicker to see what needs attending to and you are more likely to might be motivated to spare a few minutes clearing your to-do folder.

The "Interesting" folder is a new one to me, and, although I personally favor a more verb-y approach to my email buckets, that would be a cool way to bubble up stuff you don't want to miss after a big round of processing.

As we covered in Inbox Zero, it's all about liberating the actions out of your mail. Like any of this stuff, if the system makes sense to you and gives you transparent affordances for instantly knowing "where it goes" and "what you need to do about it," then you're on to something.

Nice work, Glenn!




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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