As Professional Organizers helping people organize their home offices and workspaces, here are the 7 biggest information-organizing mistakes we see in our work with clients– are you making these mistakes too?

Paper

1. Not knowing the difference between “Action” & “Reference”

This concept is very important for beginning to get through your piles. You need to separate out paper and information that requires action from information that simply needs to be kept for possible future needs.

2. Not having a standard contact management system

Do you have a combination of scraps of paper, rubber-banded stacks of business cards, your e-mail address book, and a paper address book? Decide on one system and put everything in one place.

3. Equipment and supplies making it difficult to file

Many people have poor quality filing cabinets that create barriers to effective and timely filing of your paperwork. We often see drawers that stick or don’t work correctly, making you just not want to open the drawer at all. Purchasing quality filing supplies is also important. We often see cheap hanging folders coming apart, causing the metal piece to fall out (and your papers too).


4. Not dealing with paper and information on a regular basis

What is your tolerance for doing dishes? Do you let your sink pile up until it feels overwhelming? Probably not… most people do their dishes daily. We teach people that their inbox or mail basket is just like their kitchen sink! The mail is just going to keep coming, and letting it stack up is just going to make it feel worse.

5. Not having a secure home for your passwords

It’s important to keep your passwords secure and change them often, but if you don’t have a system for tracking them, it’s very easy to forget the information. There are many password-keeper software programs on the market that are secure, encrypted, and require only one master password to unlock all of your other information. Our favorites are SplashID (for PDA users), Password Agent, and Password Depot.

Remember, it’s crucial for someone else to know this information if you were to get hit by the proverbial bus. Tell someone you trust how to find your information.

6. Keeping too much for too long

Probably the most frequently-asked question we hear is about how long to keep papers. In general, tax supporting documents like bank statements can be shredded after seven years, according to most experts. But it’s advisable to save the tax return itself indefinitely, and investment and real estate documents may need to be kept forever as well. You need to check with your attorney or accountant to be completely certain about your unique situation.

7. Not backing up your computer

We are always shocked at how many people do not back up their data. The question is not if your hard drive will fail, it’s when! Are you prepared? A good backup system should be:

  • Secure- reliable and safe from hackers and prying eyes
  • Automated- so you won’t procrastinate or forget
  • Remote- in case of fire or disaster

We usually recommend www.backuphelp.com or www.ibackup.com. These reasonably-priced services have saved the neck of more than one of our clients!

Lorie Marrero is a Professional Organizer and creator of The Clutter Diet, an innovative, affordable online program for home organization. Lorie’s site helps members lose “Clutter-Pounds” from their home by providing online access to her team of organizers. Lorie writes something useful, funny, interesting, and/or insanely practical every few days or so in the Clutter Diet Blog. She lives in Austin, TX, where her company has provided hands-on organizing services to clients since 2000.

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