We spoke to Justin Klosky, a professional organizer who specializes in helping people go digital in every aspect of their lives. He shows us how to get started today.
No matter where you live or what you do, organization and storage
are crucial -- and usually a challenge. In the past decade, digital systems have introduced efficient new ways for us to get get a handle on our endless amounts of documents, photos, recipes, magazine articles...the list goes on. Now, if you're one of many Americas who still pay your bills by "snail mail," just consider how many of your paper bills could easily be stored via your computer. Imagine how much storage space you could free up
in your home if you were to eliminate the physical clutter by digitizing it all.
I spoke with organization guru Justin Klosky, founder of The OCD Experience
-- OCD stands for "O
rganize & C
iscipline." Justin trains clients to systematically digitize and organize their lives. "In other words, I'm trying to teach them simple ways to make their lives easier and more functional," Justin explains.
Organization expert Justin Klosky. Photo: Justin Klosky
Justin started as a traditional organization professional and introduced digital services to his business lineup when he began to realize how much we rely on electronic files. Photos, CDs, books and videos -- many of the things we used to physically hold in our hands -- are now entrenched on computer hard drives. That's when it clicked: Justin realized that the secret to an organized life was to go digital in every aspect, from recipes, magazine and newspaper clippings
and greeting cards to health records, insurance documents and bills.
But it's not just the act of digitizing that counts. According to Justin, even digital organization requires maintenance or it will all fall apart. Justin is invested in teaching people the discipline that allows organization to become a lifestyle change rather than a seasonal chore.
The sooner you begin digitizing your life, the easier things will become as technology advances.
Digitize and Organize Your Paper Items
The easiest way to digitize your paper documents is to buy a good all-in-one copier/printer/scanner
that comes with great software
. Justin often recommends Canon
products to his clients because their software is very user-friendly and intuitive.
The most efficient way to start digitizing is to scan an item, create a folder for it on your computer, and give the folder an obvious name, such as "Greeting Cards" and "Insurance Documents." Eventually, you'll have folders for all of the major categories, and each item will start to fall into place. From there, create subfolders. For instance, Justin recommends creating a main folder called "Recipes
" and sub-folders related to specific meals like "Entrees" and "Side Dishes." But put a limit on the amount you create, otherwise you may undermine your whole strategy of finding things quickly.
I know what you're thinking: "I have seven years of tax returns and 12 photo albums -- how can I scan all of it?!?" First, identify what you plan on tackling. Set those items aside within view. Once a week or once a day, simply scan a handful of items or file 10 e-documents into a folder. There is no rush, Justin says, but you need to do it.
Tip: When scanning magazine articles, Justin also suggests including a copy of the magazine's cover page so you can identify the issue and its publication date.
Organize Your Digital Photos
Thanks to digital photography, you no longer have to use bulky photo albums to store your photos (unless you want to, of course). So the idea behind organizing your photos is not to reduce physical clutter, but to reduce e-clutter; essentially, to find a way to recall each photo as quickly as possible.
Justin suggests using Picasa
, a free software program by Google.
Picasa makes it easier to sort, create photos albums and tag images. You can also create a web-based account to upload and share photos via the web. "No program is going to do everything for you," Justin warns, so it is important for you to maintain the organizational structure that you create for the files you upload.
Tip: If you're uncomfortable throwing away certain photos, scan them anyway but keep the originals and hang them on the wall or turn them into coasters. There's no need to throw something away that you feel is valuable to your life. However, Justin warns against falling victim to amassing a collection of "important" things. "If everything is important, then nothing is important," he says.
Organize Your Music
Thanks to MP3s, you (probably) don't have to deal with finding storage for your growing CD collection -- but that doesn't mean you're done with the clutter. Get your tunes in order with a helpful music program that will take on the responsibility of organizing. Programs like iTunes
will rename your files and organize your music folders for you, so take advantage of this option. But, you need to be sure to save all your mp3s in the same place before importing them into the program.
Digitize and Organize Your Finances
Get rid of the checks, bank books and paper bills and o
rganize your finances with a program like Quicken
. Once you've taken the time to create all the custom information including categories and tags needed you will have them year after year to help you balance your bank book and pay bills on time. The money management and budgeting features alone are worth the time investment.
Create folders for other important personal items, such as "Health & Insurance," "Taxes," and "Receipts." Scan the necessary items and file them in your newly created folders. Now you can shred the original paper sources
Tip: Scan receipts for purchases over $250; you can trash the rest.
Preserve Your Files
In order to prevent the nervous breakdown that will occur if your computer crashes, Justin recommends investing in a Western Digital
external hard drive to back up your computer files. Western Digital has a program called WD Anywhere Backup
that will easily assist you in backing up your files.
Use Your Digital Camera as a Tool
Scanning Documents to Reduce Clutter
Tips to Shed Your Magazine Collection