Thursday, October 15, 2009

Looking to get -- and stay -- organized? Look online.

Way back in 2003 -- nearly a lifetime in the online world -- I wrote an article for The Boston Globe about using online tips and tools to get organized. Here's an updated version of the story (the original is still up at Though much as changed, the basics are still the same: If you need to brush up on your organizational skills -- or gain some in a hurry -- there are several of websites that can help with scheduling, organizing, and decluttering.

Many experts advise that you work slowly but steadily, scheduling a little time each day to tackle the clutter until it's gone. There's a lot of information out there, and sorting through it all can be a bit overwhelming; luckily, most websites that deal with organization are pretty well organized themselves. Here's a run-down on some of the best ones we've found.

For tips and techniques has a guide to help you decide how much you really need to organize. It also has a calculator to help determine how much your time is worth (in dollars), and another to find out your OQ, or "organizing quotient." A list of keywords helps you get to what you want in a hurry (yes, there's one for "clutter"), and you can sign up for a monthly newsletter, read blogs, inspirational stories, and get advice. There are plenty of tips and a multitude of checklists to help you get organized at home or at the office. Ready to tackle that hall closet? Order the tools you need to do the job yourself through the site's shop, or peruse the directory to find a professional organizer to hire. is the online home of Donna Smallin, author of seven books on organization. The site offers a free monthly newsletter about getting organized, the newsletter's archives, and an comprehensive list of online organizing resources, including clutter support groups and services. straddles the fine line between "highly organized" and "obsessive/compulsive." Example: downloadable labels for the spine of your Christmas organizational three-ring binder. The site is not really geared for those who are searching for a way to juggle work and family; it offers a lot of tips for crafting and sewing projects, "seasonal cleaning," and guidelines for holiday preparation (the Houseworks Holiday Plan Calendar starts in August and gives detailed week-by-week to-do lists leading up to Christmas; for instance, you should have decluttered and reorganized your crafts room during the week of September 6th in order to deck the halls more efficiently). But if you need serious help with organization, this site will set you straight.

Real Simple. The online home of the uber-organized magazine, Real Simple has an entire category of ideas for organizing, cleaning, decorating, and otherwise improving the home. Be sure to check out "New Uses for Old Things" -- it's a real eye opener.

Gadgets and gear

You can find all kinds of gadgets and gear at Target and IKEA, of course, but if you need something specific and you don't have a lot of time, online shops are the way to go. Here are three good options: offers inexpensive gadgets and plenty of do-it-yourself solutions for storage spaces. Shop by category (kitchen, closet, home office, family room, bedroom, bathroom, laundry, outdoors) and get your home ship-shape one area at a time. has everything from hooks to shelves, from bins to boxes. carries the Elfa line of closet systems, and has a great "Plan a Space" feature that walks you through the steps of planning your perfect closet, garage, pantry, home office, dorm, or laundry room. has storage ideas for things you didn't even know you needed specialized storage for, like Halloween paraphernalia and craft supplies. The sheer number of options available for organizing one's laundry room is enough to make me want to race home and update my washer and dryer right now.

And how could I not plug my favorite finds here? Affordable Luxuries at Work It, Mom! has a whole section of products that can help busy working parents with organized living, and there are several great slideshows, quick tips, and checklists to help you get on the ball (and stay there)!

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