Organizing and updating useful data

When you hear the word “maintenance” in regard to organizing, you probably think about putting things back where they belong, going through the mail, catching up on filing, etc.

But I did a different sort of maintenance work this past weekend. I maintain a spreadsheet, used by the professional organizers in my area, which lists 400+ places people can donate, sell, or recycle a wide range of things. I hadn’t updated it for about a year, so it was time to do that again.

And so far, over 50 percent of the entries have needed to be changed. Some places went out of business, and one closed four out of its five sites. One business changed its name. Some no longer accept donations or take different things than they did in the past. And many of them had changed their website’s structure so the URLs I had were out of date. What had been a really valuable resource had become much less valuable, as so much of the information was dated.

The same kind of problem can happen with other types of information collections. For example, there’s your address book, in paper or digital form. Addresses (and sometimes phone numbers) change as people move. People marry, divorce, and have children — all of which might mean you want to update your listings for them. The stores and service providers you use change over time. So it might help to go through your address book periodically to ensure the information is kept up to date.

Another example: I have a Dropbox file listing specific things I sometimes buy — things where I might not remember the brand, model number or size when I’m out and about. One of those is the specific type of ink cartridges I use in my printer. But I just discovered that I never updated that when I replaced my printer five months ago. Oops! That’s fixed now.

I also have a medical history file in my Dropbox that summarizes my vaccinations, surgeries, prescription medicines, etc. New doctors ask for this type of information, and I sure don’t want to rely on my memory. I noticed this file was out of date by over a year — missing a surgery and my last flu shot — and I updated it.

Do you have a home inventory? It’s a good idea to have some sort of inventory (photos, video, spreadsheet, inventory app, etc.) in case you need it for insurance purposes. But it’s all too easy to create that inventory and forget to update it as your possessions change.

Another information collection that some people maintain is a list of payment dates for each of their normal bills. And some people who have restricted food diets keep notes on what they can eat at what restaurants.

Whatever useful information you’ve collected and organized, take some time periodically to make sure that information is up to date, so it can continue to serve your needs.

Unitasker Wednesday: Watermelon Corer

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

What is it about watermelons that elicits manufacturers to create an endless stream of unitaskers? [E.g. previous Unitasker Wednesday features like the watermelon serving bowl, watermelon cooler (which is by far the most ridiculous), watermelon knife, and the watermelon slicer.] Whatever it is, we can add the Watermelon Corer to the list of unnecessary items:

(Should I even mention that this device is called a “corer,” yet watermelons don’t have a core? No? Okay, moving on …)

Surprisingly, my most favorite thing about the Watermelon Corer is how Amazon is trying to trick buyers into thinking it’s not a unitasker:

A pizza cutter? I don’t think so, Amazon.

Finally, if you want to easily slice up a watermelon, use a chef’s knife and do it the easy, non-cluttery way:

And a big thanks to reader Lauren for bringing this awesome unitasker to our attention!

A tidy and useful tech bag

A messy tech bag is a nasty thing indeed. You’ve got expensive gadgets bumping around and cables getting tangled, knocked about, and covered in who-knows-what. But there’s no need to fret — you have several options for keeping your tech bags nice and tidy, as well as a few setups for various purposes.

Before I delve into what to put inside a tech bag and how, let’s consider the bag itself. Of course, there are limitless options to make the decision-making process confusing. To limit the field, I prefer something simple with no more little pockets and compartments than I’m going to need. (Less temptation to fill them with clutter.) Where pockets are concerned, it boils down to:

  1. A place for my laptop
  2. Two pockets — one for my laptop’s power cable and a charger for my phone
  3. A spot for headphones
  4. A pocket for a mouse

Envision your bag like a small home: where there is a place for everything and everything has a place.

Comfort is your next consideration, and I love a good shoulder strap. That way I can keep both hands free while I’m moving about.

A quick note! Before I look at individual bags, I’ve got to mention an item that deserves a spot in every setup: cable wraps. Cables love to get tangled up, and for some reason they see the inside of a bag as the prime opportunity to do so. It’s as if they say, “We’re in a bag! Quick, form an impossible rat’s nest!” These simple Velcro models are inexpensive and reusable. I know Erin is also a fan of the Grid-It Organizer, which is different but provides the same results.

The student bag

Students have more to carry around then tech goodies, but the gadgets are often essential. To manage the weight of a laptop and books, I recommend a large and well-made backpack-style laptop bag. Look for one with a padded laptop sleeve.

The traveler

Again, a backpack-style laptop bag is a good choice for travelers, but often you won’t need something as big or bulky as what a college student might use. Ogio’s Covert Shoulder Bag for 13-Inch Tablet/Netbook fits the bill, as it’s tidy, small, and easily carried from bus to plane to train. Add a laptop, charger, map and tickets and you’re all set.

The conference attendee

I love this post from iMore’s Serenity Caldwell, which details exactly what, how, and why she packs for an extended stay at a tech conference. Not only is it an interesting look at how a tech journalist preps for work, it’s a useful description of why.

The remote worker

I occasionally get to work remotely, and it’s great. In my laptop bag I include the usual stuff, but also: some money for the coffee shop, a power strip for sharing an outlet, water for hydration, and a “trash pocket,” usually big zip-to-close plastic bag, for wrappers, etc. should I not find a bin.

There you have a few options for a tidy and useful tech bag. Keep your expensive gadgets safe and organized, folks. And don’t forget one of the most important step in all of this: clean out your bag immediately, every day, upon returning home.