Workspace of the Week: Stark and serene

This week’s Workspace of the Week is Filemakerdude’s minimalist office:

Not everyone loves minimalist workspaces, but I have found that austere decor can be quite inspiring and helpful when thinking about my office space. I love how deliberate the decision was for all of the artwork in the space, nothing was put up without great consideration. (Am I as deliberate with what I hang on my walls?) The furniture all has high function. (Is my office furniture meeting my needs?) The cable containment is exquisite. (Would reducing the cable clutter help me to better focus on my work?) The lighting helps to warm the room in a space that might otherwise feel cold. (Does the lighting improve the comfort level in my room?) The clutter-free desk provides Filemakerdude with the ability to quickly transform the computer station into a multipurpose work table. (If I got rid of some of the things on my desk — the pen cup, the inbox — would I get better functionality out of it?) Thank you, Filemakerdude, for your impressive submission to our Flickr group.

Want to have your own workspace featured in Workspace of the Week? Submit a picture to the Unclutterer flickr pool. Check it out because we have a nice little community brewing there. Also, don’t forget that workspaces aren’t just desks. If you’re a cook, it’s a kitchen; if you’re a carpenter, it’s your workbench.

Organize your photos and videos with This Life

Many people use their computers to manage four things: work, browsing the Internet, music, and photos. For my family, photographs are a big deal. My iPhoto library is bulging at 32 GB, and that’s with 2009 – 2010 archived on an external drive. In short, my wife and I take a lot of pictures with our digital cameras and smart phones.

Keeping the lot organized is a challenge. Not to mention sharing with far-flung family and friends, as well as finding that one shot you’re after. While I love Apple’s iPhoto, I’ve been looking for something that’s platform-agnostic (Mac, Windows, whatever), easy, tidy and even fun. There are many contenders, but for right now, This Life is what we’re using.

There are a few things I like about This Life, and I’ll describe my favorites. It recently came out of its beta testing period and is now available to the public.

Getting Photos Into This Life

You can’t start using This Life until you fill it with photos. Fortunately, the process is easy. The company has made a free “uploader” application for both Macintosh and Windows. Simply download it, open it and follow the instructions. It will begin uploading any photos you throw at it. Depending on how big your library is, it may take a while, so go make a sandwich.

You can also import photos from many popular services like Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, Twitter, Picasa, SmugMug and more. I moved my Instagram and Facebook photos over to it easily.

Once your photos are in This Life, it’s time to start organizing.

Who’s Who

Many photo-management applications offer face recognition, but I haven’t found one that works as well as This Life’s. Facial recognition technology lets you give a name to a face in one of your photos. This Life then looks for that same face in the other photos and assigns that name to it. The idea being that you can search photos by face (“Jane Smith”). It isn’t 100 percent accurate but, boy, does it work well. It also runs in the background so you can do other things on your machine.

Once you give it a name/face combination to ponder, This Life gets to work. The next time you launch it, you’ll be given a few guesses to confirm. The next time, a few more. As This Life gets more confident, it does greater and greater batches and eventually leaves you alone. It works well.

Dupe!

This Life also handles duplicates very well. Specifically, if it finds two copies of the exact same photograph, it keeps the one with the highest resolution and deletes the others. That’s very handy and saves me from having to find those on my own.

Organizing

There’s no This Life application for the Mac or Windows (aside from that uploader utility). Instead, you use it in a web browser. It’s organized in a very clever way. By default there are two “views,” or ways to look at your photos: My Story and Library.

The library view presents all of of your photos at once, in chronological order, from left to right (oldest on the left, newest on the right). There are three rows of photos and a pretty little drop shadow makes them appear to be resting on a big table. A slider on the bottom of the screen lets you move back and forth, and if you have a mouse with a scroll wheel, that will work, too.

Click any photo to zoom in and share via Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr or email. You can also leave a comment and perform simple editing tasks like “Image Magic,” which attempts to correct for lighting and color balance (hit or miss in my testing) and rotation. Finally, you can delete the image or download the full-resolution original to your computer.

That’s great, but the real beauty is in Stories.

Stories

This Life lets you group photos into what it calls Stories. You can think of Stories as albums, but they’re more than that. This Life’s developers refer to them as “living albums — they are a dynamic collection of photos, videos and notes.” I’m a big fan of This Life Stories.

Creating a new Story is simple. Just click “New Story” in the upper left and give it a name. Adding photos and/or videos to a story is even easier: just place your mouse over it and click the heart that appears. That’s it. Honestly, you can add dozens of photos to a Story in seconds. To switch to a different Story, select it in the drop-down menu and resume clicking hearts.

Stories are also collaborative. You can invite others to contribute to a story and upload their own photos and videos. My family has a reunion ever year, and everyone takes pictures. It was fun to invite them to my “Family Vacation ’12” Story and see their contributions come in.

There’s more to love like searching by location, which shows all photos taken at a certain geographic location, and tags, which lets you describe what’s happening in the image. This makes search very powerful, as you can enter “Jane eating cake at Grandma’s house” and find exactly those shots. Super.

Sign Up Options

This Life is free to use for up to a certain amount of storage, and additional plans increase based on the amount of storage you require. There are many photo management options out there, and This Life is definitely worth your consideration.

Unitasker Wednesday: The Pepper Prepper

All Unitasker Wednesday posts are jokes — we don’t want you to buy these items, we want you to laugh at their ridiculousness. Enjoy!

Although this week’s unitasker selection is called a Pepper Prepper — which conjures up images of a sweet pepper with a sweater tied around its shoulders heading off to Phillips Academy — I’m renaming it the Pepper Screw. It’s like a corkscrew, but it’s just for removing the tops and bellies of sweet peppers:

I sincerely don’t understand how screwing something around the top of a pepper is somehow easier than using a knife and just cutting out the center:

And, if you want to stuff peppers, all you have to do is cut off the top and then grab the innards with your hand and pull them out. It takes mere seconds.

Oh, Pepper Screw, you are one really odd unitasker that looks much more difficult to use than a knife. Thanks to reader Extra for bringing this unitasker to our attention.

A year ago on Unclutterer

2011

2010

2009

  • Ask Unclutterer: Overwhelmed with clutter
    My daughter’s birthday is in two days and I’ll have grandparents in my house doing that heavy sigh “at least they seem happy” thing … I guess I am looking for a band aid before the transfusion that is your book.

2008

Be productive no matter where you are

Over the weekend, I read an article on 99U called “Setting the Scene for a Productive Day” that suggested that when you take advantage of “the fact that you have emotional and mental responses to specific places, you can dramatically increase your productivity.”

Where you sit (or stand) to work will have a big impact on how productive you can be on a consistent basis. Most times, everything has to be just right and you have to set the stage (not too cold or hot, comfortable seating, great lighting, aesthetically appealing) to get your productive juices flowing. But, there are many times when you just need to grab the opportunity to be productive no matter where you are. Ideal scenery or not, work must get done.

So how do you do it?

Change your background

There are some places where you can actually get stuff done that don’t look like your usual work space and can give you a change of scenery when you need it. For instance, if you want (almost) pin-drop silence, your local library might be the spot for you. Also, you’ll still get to be around people, but without having to interact them. Prefer working in an office-like environment with others? A coworking space or working alongside a group of colleagues in a conference room can be helpful. If being outdoors sparks your creativity, a park, campground, or botanical garden can give you the productive boost you need.

Take notice of places that help you to get more done

Using wait time (instead of just waiting) can help you cross a few things off your to-do list. As you stand in line at the bank or grocery store, you could take a few minutes to review your calendar for the upcoming week. Or, perhaps, those moments as you sit in the doctor’s office will give you an opportunity to check your voicemail or write a note in that card you’ve been meaning to mail. These are all great times in your day to take advantage of getting things done.

But, sometimes, you can accomplish a lot in places you’d least expect, like at the gym. You might be surprised that some of the most interesting ideas or thoughts on how to complete an important project could pop into your mind while you’re getting your heart rate up (and since you’re likely to have your smart phone with you, you can easily capture those thoughts using the voice recorder or on Evernote). In fact, studies show that exercise has a positive impact on how motivated you are, how well you concentrate, and your ability to meet deadlines.

Keep doing what works

Does this mean giving up your usual productivity spot in favor of someplace else? Not at all. Do plan and set up your workspace so that it helps you get your work done consistently well. For example, if you notice that some of your best ideas come to you in the shower, use that to your advantage and incorporate it as an important part of your productivity cycle. And, write down all those great ideas before they leave as quickly as they came. Aqua Notes waterproof note pads, Shower Notebook, or a diver’s slate will be a very useful tool for you.

The search for sustained productivity will likely never end. There will probably always be strategies and techniques to test out, including some tried and true ones, like a change of scenery. Every so often — no matter where you are — take a moment to check how much you are (or are not) accomplishing. Look around to see what is contributing to your ability to successfully tackle your tasks or what’s distracting you, and build a routine around what’s working. Don’t overlook that productivity can take many forms in a variety of places.

Make up your mind! How to make the process of decision making easier

When you’re faced with several choices, it can be difficult to actually decide which one to select. Your brain can become cluttered with worry and you can get trapped in what seems like an episode of The Twilight Zone, where nothing is what it seems. You may even start doubting yourself when you do make a decision and begin thinking that you should have made a different selection. Or, you may end up not making a decision at all.

A recent article in The New York Times described it this way:

Although it has long been the common wisdom in our country that there is no such thing as too many choices, as psychologists and economists study the issue, they are concluding that an overload of options may actually paralyze people or push them into decisions that are against their own best interest.

When your choices are limited, you’re likely to make a better and quicker decision. Why? Because when there’s less to choose from, the process of figuring out what to do speeds up. You’ll be able to quickly compare apples to apples because there are fewer apples, and when you’re calmer you tend to make the best decision based on the information you have.

Of course, in the modern world, we do have a lot of choices. But, we also have a simple tool — a list — that can help us pick a direction a little easier. When you think of making a list, you might think of a collection of tasks you need to take care of or things you plan to get at the grocery store. But, creating a list also can help you make a decisions about almost anything. A pro vs. con list has one specialty (just like the punter on a football team). Its main job is to help you compare the advantages and disadvantages of two (or more) scenarios or points of view. One of the main benefits of using this type of list is you get all your thoughts out of your head (no matter what they are) in a structured way.

Other benefits of a pro vs. con list

  • Helps you think things through. More than just helping you get your thoughts on paper (or in your smart phone or tablet), a pro vs. con list really lets you think about the best and worst consequences of a particular direction. And, you’ll also be thinking about the things that are most important to you. Sometimes, your thoughts will pour right out of your head and, other times, you may need to put your list down and come back to it later.
  • Chance to test drive your ideas. If you need to set down your list and spend some time gathering the pros and the cons, take a day and live as though you have already made your decision one way. Live with the what ifs of that choice. The next day, act as though you made your decision another way. Try out all your options to see how they feel based on the benefits and potential pitfalls for each one. Capture your feelings and experiences on your list. See how comfortable you feel with each decision.
  • Can be used for large and small decisions. You can use a pro vs. con list as a starting point to making very important decisions (when to have a baby, whether to move to location A or B, what college to attend, who would be the best life-long partner), but it can also help you with day-to-day decisions, like what you should wear today or have for lunch. When you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed, even the most basic decisions can appear daunting. Formally collecting your thoughts can help you regain a sense of calm and move you from the crossroads to a more clearly defined destination point.

Ways to construct a pro vs. con list

  • Paper and pencil. The nice thing about using paper and pencil (or a large flip pad and a marker) is you probably already have these items in your home or office. They’re easy to use and you can get started quickly on making your pro vs. con list. Simply create two columns (draw a line vertically down a sheet of paper) and add the headings “Pro” and “Con.” Or, you could purchase a pre-printed notepad if that is your style.
  • Mobile or web-based apps. If you’d prefer a digital option, there are (not surprisingly) several decent ones available beyond opening a Word document and making your own.

    ProConLists.com is a free, web-based app that lets you create a pro vs. con list without having to download anything to your computer. The site also allows you to name, describe, categorize your decision making project, and to rate each pro and con on a rational and emotional scale. It will also calculate the results (via pie chart percentages), though you will need to sign up to see them. You can also share your list with others and view their feedback.

    Smart phone applications like Pro Con (iPhone, $0.99) and Pros and Cons (Android, free) are similar to each other and can all help you to get to a final decision.

  • Mindmap your way to a decision. A mindmap is often used to brainstorm ideas, but it’s also a useful tool (sort of an pro vs. con list on steroids) to help you look at almost every detail of a particular situation.

Closing thoughts

Decisions can be tricky to make because we want to get them right. We don’t want to risk failing or making a poor decision. Instead of fretting, be organized with your decision making and vet the possible directions you could choose by writing down the good, bad, and ugly aspects of each. Consider seeking out the objective advice of one or two people you trust. And, add a deadline to the process so you don’t re-hash options repeatedly and unnecessarily.

A year ago on Unclutterer

2011

2010

  • Simple strategies for marking items
    After Saturday’s simple tape suggestion, PJ and I have been talking about our favorite tricks for marking items. Here are a handful more tips for identifying items in your home and workspace.
  • Sleek and streamlined diaper bags
    Diaper bags — like purses and wallets — can be magnets for clutter. I speak from personal experience when I say that things go into them and rarely, if ever, come out. The smaller the bag, usually the easier it is to keep it clutter free and stuffed only with essentials.
  • Organize your writing, J.K. Rowling style
    The website /Film reported on Friday about author J.K. Rowling’s method for organizing her books. Using pen, notebook paper, and a simple grid, she plotted out the direction of her stories.
  • Unitasker Wednesday: MySneezee
    When I hear the phrase “sneeze guard,” I think of the glass shield that sits above the food on a buffet line. But I’m wrong, I should be thinking of MySneezee!
  • Simple, utilitarian, uncluttered cooking ideas
    Unless you’re a professional chef or have super powers, your cooking routines are likely similar to mine; you’re interested in finding meals you can make when you’re wearing your proverbial Cook’s hair net instead of your Chef’s hat. Here are more than 100 ideas to get you cooking, uncluttered style.

2009

  • Unclutter Your Life in One Week and a special bonus
    Unclutter Your Life in One Week would not be possible without you, the Unclutterer.com readers. In fact, you’re the first people thanked in the acknowledgments section of the book. As a sign of my appreciation, I want to offer you all something in return. I wish that I could give you a discount on the book, but the publishers and retailers have a tight lock on that part of the process. So, here is a special bonus that I can give without ruffling any feathers

2008

Ask Unclutterer: How to cope with a very messy shared office

Reader Suzy submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:

I am an adjunct at a community college, and at the beginning of each semester, I have to sign up for one of five offices to use during my office hours. This semester, I ended up with the messy office. Papers and books are everywhere. Some of these are labeled and belong to adjuncts currently using the office, but most of them are unlabeled or belong to adjuncts not in the office this semester (they may be back next semester or they may not). What is the best way to get this space a little neater without disturbing the belongings of others? I would just suck it up, but I also think that I have a right to a neat place to meet with my students, even if it’s just one hour a week.

Suzy (a name I’ve given her, as she didn’t sign the email), I agree that you’re in a frustrating situation. Having to deal with other people’s stuff, especially when it interferes with your ability to do your work, is annoying and unfortunate. But, since you’re not a supervisor or someone in charge of this space, there isn’t a lot you can do about it.

What little you can do is send out an email to the other people who use the office and see if they’re okay with you doing some straightening work in the space. If everyone, including the person who overseas the room assignment, is on board, then maybe you can do some work to organize the office. If anyone objects, which likely someone will, you won’t be able to take care of the clutter on a permanent basis.

However, you aren’t completely out of options. If I were you, I would come into the office five minutes early each time you have your office hour and bring an empty box with you. Snap pictures of the desk, your chair, and the student chair with your cell phone or digital camera. Then, load everything off the desk, your chair, and the student chair into the box and set the box in a corner. Make the space functional and meet with your students for an hour. Then, after your office hour is finished, I’d use the pictures you took as a guide and return everything from the box back onto the desk, your chair, and the student chair so it resembles the pictures.

Is this option ideal? No. Can it help you to stay sane for the hour you use the office each week? Probably.

This type of thing seems to happen a great deal in academia. I remember a lot of my adjunct professors and teaching assistants during college having their office hours at the campus coffee shop because the shared offices they had been assigned were horribly cluttered or multiple people were scheduled to work in the office at the same time or the offices were incredibly difficult to locate. Since you likely listed your office on your syllabus as your location for office hours, you can’t switch to a coffee shop in the middle of the semester. Otherwise, I would have suggested you change locations and leave the mess for everyone else.

Even though your colleagues are being disrespectful and impolite by expecting you to work in the mess they have created, try your best not to feel animosity toward them about the space. They might be contributing to it, but they aren’t wholly responsible. Plus, you may need them as a professional recommendation or connection one day, and you won’t want to burn those bridges. Also, you only have a limited amount of emotional energy each day, and being frustrated and angry will zap that energy quickly. You don’t have to let your emotions be cluttered by this situation. It’s annoying, but you get to choose how annoyed you’ll be.

And, there is always the possibility that maybe, just maybe, you’ll get the go-ahead from your colleagues to straighten up the office. If you’re really lucky, some of them might even offer to lend a hand … but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Finally, be sure to put in your request now to your supervisor to be assigned a different office next semester. There is no reason you should be continually inconvenienced by your colleagues. If your request is denied, consider the coffee shop option.

Thank you, Suzy, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column.

Do you have a question relating to organizing, cleaning, home and office projects, productivity, or any problems you think the Unclutterer team could help you solve? To submit your questions to Ask Unclutterer, go to our contact page and type your question in the content field. Please list the subject of your e-mail as “Ask Unclutterer.” If you feel comfortable sharing images of the spaces that trouble you, let us know about them. The more information we have about your specific issue, the better.

What’s in your wallet?

Your wallet (or purse) is likely one of the items that you probably use on a regular basis. Can you name all the things that are inside of it? How long does it take you to find what you’re looking for? If it’s bursting at the seams or you’re keeping it together with a rubberband, try …

Purging your receipts

…along with the other pieces of paper (post-it notes, business cards, movie stubs). Why overload it with things that you probably won’t remember are in there? If you need to reconcile the receipts before you discard them or remember that phone number you wrote down, take a photo of those items and let go of the paper. And, if you really need that business card, enter it directly in your contacts or save it in your online notebook.

Use digital coupons

If you’re still carrying around store loyalty cards (or paper coupons), they could be taking up much needed space in your wallet. Try using digital coupons or a smart phone app, Passbook (for iPhone), instead. They’re attached to your phone and loyalty number, so you really won’t need those cards (which means you can also let go of the ones for your key chain, too).

Figure out your must-haves

Everyone’s wallet will hold different items based on their unique situation and routines. There’s no right or wrong way to organize your wallet. The right way is the way that works best for you. But, that doesn’t mean that it needs to be stuffed and stretched beyond its limit. Take a minute to figure out what you really need to have in your wallet on a regular basis. For me, one of those things is a book of stamps. It’s probably not typical wallet fare, but I really like having quick access to stamps when I’m running errands (I’ve been known to mail cards when the mood strikes). As you sort through your things, consider how many credit cards you really need to carry and be sure remove your social security card.

Decide if you need a new wallet

Once you’ve decided which things you must always have with you, figure out if you need a new (larger or smaller) wallet that will suit your needs. Instead of forcing many items into a too-small wallet, use one that will comfortably fit everything. The reverse is true, too. If things keep slipping out of your larger wallet or you find you’re not using all the compartments, consider getting a smaller one.

And, before you put everything neatly back in place, make a copy of each item first (remember to update it when you add/remove something). Hopefully, you will never need to refer to it, but it is helpful to have if you lose your wallet or if it is stolen.

Have a spot for an emergency money

Along with your driver’s license or state ID and health insurance card, it’s a great idea to have emergency money in your wallet (a small sum will suffice). If you’ve ever been caught off guard when you realize (too late) a restaurant only accepts cash or your debit card is expired, it’s nice to have that extra money.

What do you have in your wallet that you could remove?

Unitasker Wednesday: Hot Dog Slice and Serve

All Unitasker Wednesday posts are jokes — we don’t want you to buy these items, we want you to laugh at their ridiculousness. Enjoy!

I often think this weekly feature could be renamed “Instead of a knife …” Instead of a knife, this thing-a-ma-jigger slices a banana! Instead of a knife, this gadget somehow sections a grapefruit! Instead of a knife, own a thousand unitaskers that you don’t need and that take up a ridiculous amount of space in your kitchen cupboards!

This week’s selection obviously falls into this same “Instead of a knife …” category. I have to admit, the little guy is cute and I love how he has a food bowl for ketchup. But there is no way the Hot Dog Slice and Serve is more useful than a knife and plate:

See, I told you he was cute!

Unfortunately, this plastic doodad isn’t going to chop onions or carve a pumpkin or do anything other than look adorable. It certainly can’t multi-task, and according to the reviews on Amazon, it’s not even good at replacing a knife.

Megan said, “This thing isn’t sharp enough to cut through the skin of the hot dog.” And Bruce commented, “Full size hotdog won’t fit in holder,” and that it’s, “hard to clean.” It appears that in its attempt to be safe for children to use, it became impossible for anyone to use.

If only people needed kitchen utensils for their cuteness instead of their function …

Thanks to readers Dave and Bethany for sharing this unitasker with us.

A year ago on Unclutterer

2010

2009

  • Organizing a party pantry
    I was recently given a copy of the book Simple Stunning Parties at Home by its author Karen Bussen. In the book, Karen suggests organizing a “party pantry” so that “when it’s time to throw a dinner party or a wine and cheese night on the spur of the moment, I look [to it] for design inspiration, and I pull together all the elements I need.” She lives in a small New York City apartment, so her party pantry isn’t large or cluttered. She recommends a “small closet, a cupboard in the kitchen, or an antique hutch — whatever works for you.”
  • DIY everyday camera bag
    The primary disadvantage of DSLR cameras is the inconvenience of trying to carry them everywhere. In searching for the perfect everyday camera bag, Brian found that bags for cameras are designed to carry only camera equipment. Some backpacks will fit a laptop and a few personal items, but if you prefer a messenger bag, there really isn’t any middle ground. But it turns out that Timbuk2’s new Commute 2.0 bag is just the right size for adding a single insert to carry a DSLR.

2008

Creating uncluttering and organizing routines: A typical Tuesday

A reader recently emailed asking if I could put together a detail of what my day looks like and how I stay on top of uncluttering and organizing tasks. I’ve written something like this before, but I’ve become a mom since writing the original article, so I thought I’d put together an updated routine. This one-day example shows how a little bit of effort each day can keep most people’s homes in good condition.

Not every Tuesday works exactly like what I have listed here, but this is a fairly accurate representation of how I move throughout my day. All of the chores I share with my husband, so where the schedule says “load the dishwasher” or “take son to school,” it might be either of us who does this activity.

One thing to note is most weekdays I work until 5:00 p.m. The “After-Work Errand Routine” is special just to Tuesdays and allows me to grocery shop and run errands at a time when the stores and streets aren’t crowded. As a result, most Tuesdays I go back to work from 8:45 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. instead of relaxing during that time.

A Typical Tuesday

Morning Home Routine:
6:30 a.m. Wake up, brush teeth, wash face, put on workout clothes, and make bed.
6:40 a.m. Unload dishwasher, make coffee, feed pets, assemble son’s lunch, get breakfast on the table.
7:00 a.m. Sit and do nothing for 10 or 15 minutes with a cup of coffee.
7:15 a.m. Wake up son, everyone eats breakfast.
7:45 a.m. Load dishwasher, sweep floor.
7:50 a.m. Supervise son getting dressed, teeth brushed and flossed, his face cleaned, and backpack loaded.
8:05 a.m. Take son to school.

Morning Work Routine:
8:30 a.m. Work on most important writing/client project.
9:45 a.m. Check email, social media, and administrative work.
10:00 a.m. Work on second most important writing/client project.
11:15 a.m. Check email, social media, and administrative work.

Mid-day Routine:
11:30 a.m. Make and eat lunch, load dishwasher.
12:00 p.m. Exercise or do yard work (like mowing).
12:45 p.m. Shower and get ready.

Afternoon Work Routine:
1:00 p.m. Work on third most important writing/client project.
2:00 p.m. Make another cup of coffee, check email, social media, and administrative work.
2:15 p.m. Wrap up writing/client projects for the day.
2:30 p.m. End-of-day routine for work: set phone to do not disturb, clear desk, set writing agenda for next day, have everything set and ready to go for tomorow.

After-Work Errand Routine: (Tuesdays only)
2:45 p.m. Pick up son from school.
3:05 p.m. Run errands to grocery store (made shopping list on Sunday), post office, dry cleaner, etc.

Evening Home Routine:
4:00 p.m. Return home and sort and shred mail, put away groceries, scan and shred receipts, unload son’s lunchbox and other items from backpack, load lunchbox items into dishwasher.
4:05 p.m. Spend time with son.
5:20 p.m. Put load of son’s laundry into washer.
5:30 p.m. Make dinner and get son’s lunch ready for tomorrow so it only has to be assembled in the morning. Everyone eats dinner.
6:30 p.m. Load dishwasher, run dishwasher, sweep floor.
6:35 p.m. Move son’s clothes to dryer. Everyone does 20 to 30 minutes of general house clean up with special focus on bathrooms. (Other special focus areas: Mondays are kitchen and dining room; Wednesdays are bedrooms; Thursdays are living rooms; Fridays are remaining spaces like hallways, entryways, and garages; and Sundays are meal planning.)
7:00 p.m. Spend time with family.
8:00 p.m. Bathe son and put him to bed.
8:30 p.m. Fold son’s clothes (will put away tomorrow morning after breakfast), get self ready for bed, brush and floss teeth, feed pets.
8:45 p.m. Hang out with husband or do more writing/editing work.
10:30 p.m. Go to bed.

On pages 98 and 99 of my book, Unclutter Your Life in One Week, there is a routine schedule that covers the full week. We’ve made a few additions to the schedule now that we’re parents, but it is still very similar to what we do in our home. It has worked well for us for many years and keeps our weekends free to have as much fun as we desire.

Also, twice a year we spend a weekend doing major uncluttering work throughout the entire house. Even with daily maintenance, we find we still need to give everything we own a good review every six months. Usually our major uncluttering weekends are held the weekends preceding our fall and spring cleaning weekends. We like to get rid of clutter before doing the spring and fall cleanings so there is less to clean and maintain. You can find our cleaning guides in my book on pages 100 and 185. We usually do the “Dedicated Cleaner” plan.

Finally, we try our best to put things away after we use them and to have a permanent storage space for everything we own. These two simple actions aid us significantly in keeping our home uncluttered and organized.