Getting organized for the new year is a cliched resolution that so many of us abandon by mid-January. It's tough to tackle (much less successfully emerge from) a heaping mess with vigor. But if you fear an avalanche of teetering files or can't remember where the car keys are for the 10th time, organization should rightfully top your to-do list.
The following free Web-based tools offer guidance that'll take the sting out of the cleaning process. Plus, they can be coupled with other resolutions, such as keeping track of finances and teaching the kids responsibility, so you can knock out two or more resolutions at once. Turn on the computer, take a deep breath and tackle the suffocating clutter this new year. You may be surprised at your stamina once you have the tools to get started.
When you've been doing them for a while, chores lose their appeal (if they ever had any). Try Chore Wars (http://www.chorewars.com) if bribing your kids with cash isn't an option or if they are avid gamers. The site couples household tasks with a fantasy gaming experience. Users do chores, log in, gain points and can fight mythical beasts and go on other adventures. The basic setup is free (an advanced version costs $10), and parents can log in to see what duties have been completed and how long they took. Getting the entire family involved in streamlining and maintaining a clean house is an accomplishment, and the site helps make those tasks seem (almost) fun.
Sure, you can stack books, DVDs and video games on shelves. But that organizing technique may not prove adequate in the long run if your collection keeps expanding. Enter GuruLib (http://www.gurulib.com), a site that lets users catalogue their media collections by inputting ISBN or UPC codes. Once that's done, other information, such as bibliography details, automatically pops into your library. Users can label digital "shelves" so they correspond with real shelves at home, print out an inventory list and share portions of their library so friends can browse and borrow, while keeping track of which friend has borrowed what.
'The O Myth'
"The O Myth" (http://www.theomyth.com) is a sporadic half-hour radio show hosted by Washington professional organizers Brandie Kajino and Krista Colvin. The duo delves into common misconceptions about organizing, such as what you should invest time in streamlining (your garage) and what you can disregard (your underwear drawer). Two recent guests were consultant Peter Walsh of TLC's "Clean Sweep" and Rubbermaid blogger Jim Deitzel. Once you get past the chitchat, the show offers helpful tips. And listeners can use Twitter to ask for professional advice on solving their decluttering dilemmas.
Companies push customers to move from paper to electronic statements, touting it as a way to make life easier. But when you have numerous Web sites to check and too many user names and passwords to remember, it can quickly turn into a headache. Pageonce (http://www.pageonce.com) allows users to check all such accounts, including credit card, banking, utility and online retailers, in one swoop from any Web browser, BlackBerry or iPhone. Users are notified when bills are due to help avoid late payments and fees, and statements are updated with the latest transactions. To safeguard accounts, Pageonce asks for only an e-mail address and Zip code during sign-up (no account numbers), and services are read-only, meaning Pageonce cannot manipulate accounts.
The overscheduled among us juggle meetings and deadlines for projects, volunteer obligations and movie nights with friends. To keep track of everything on a single Web page, there's TabUp (http://www.tabup.com). You organize facets of a busy life by creating multiple tabs for such categories as school, money, hobbies and health. Just click on a tab to navigate to it. Each tab includes an area to post photos, write a journal, set up a to-do list and add bookmarks to other key Web sites or links to news and resources. Tabs can be shared with others so they don't forget events, either.