Five Downsizing and Organizing Tips for the New Year

Dec 28, 2015 | 0 comments

The week between Christmas and New Year’s is an ideal time to review your stuff, delete the excess and organize your information. A cluttered space contributes to a confused mind. Clear your space and open up to new opportunities and possibilities in 2016.

Here are five tips from Gail Rubin, The Doyenne of Death®, to help you start your downsizing and organizing adventure:

Update Your Passwords List

What? You don’t maintain a paper listing of all of your online accounts with their user names and passwords? How will your family know the extent of your online life to shut down, should you suddenly vanish from the face of the earth? Your online life is probably more complicated than you think.

Social Media IconsConsider these ordinary elements of a modern life that may require a password: your cell phone, tablet, laptop computer, desktop computer, email account(s), banking account(s), credit card accounts, electronic bill paying accounts, Skype account(s), online media accounts – formerly known as newspapers/magazines, hotel/travel service accounts and online shopping accounts like Amazon, Ebay, and others. If you have social media accounts like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc., you have a whole other level of accounts that need to be shut down.

Do you really want to trust your online information to an online service that can get hacked? This is one area of your life to handle Old School. Make a spreadsheet of all these many accounts and print it out on paper. Write down additions as the year goes by, and invariably, the password changes some accounts will insist you make after a few months. Let a trusted person know where to find this spreadsheet should you no longer be able to handle your affairs (i.e. you’re either demented or dead).

Toss Old Files

Full FilesI know it’s time to toss old files when my filing system has no more room for new files. Make room for new opportunities by letting go of the old stuff. Actually look at those files to see what’s in them – there may be some golden nuggets of information you can unearth and use.

There are some pieces of paper you need to hold onto forever – your birth certificate, Social Security card, divorce records, estate planning documents, life insurance policies, passports and safe-deposit box inventory (updated annually). Hold onto current insurance policies and tax records for the past seven years. Read this great Consumer Reports article about how long to hold on to papers.

Shred those pieces of paper that have sensitive information like your Social Security number, credit card information and medical documents. Then recycle the shreds. You can recycle the non-sensitive papers in whole form.

Digitize Documents

Pixels don’t take up space like paper does. If you have a hard time letting go of paper documents, consider scanning the content and saving the information as a digital file. This goes for photos, too.

Just make sure you have a back-up system for your computer’s hard drive, mirroring all that you save. If your computer crashes, you need a way to retrieve the information your computer holds.

Cull the Cards

Business CardsIf you’re in business, chances are, you have many, many business cards floating around your office or home. Just look at this picture of cards that have been sitting on the side of my desk for I don’t know how many years. And they are not the only stacks of cards in my office!

I’ve got cards for personal contacts and friends, services like home improvement, doctors and therapists, and yes, even business-to-business contacts. Many of these can be tossed without a second thought.

If you want to save the information on the card, group cards of similar orientation and make a digital scan of multiple cards. Make the file name indicative of the type of information on the cards. Make a folder named Contacts and save your scanned card files there.

Revive the Rolodex

RolodexInvented in 1956, Rolodexes have been an office staple since they were first marketed in 1958. The Rolodex is truly Old School – a rolling index used to record names, addresses, and telephone numbers. It’s got a rotating spindle to which removable cards are attached. It’s a great option if you want to hold onto business cards.

Tape one business card to a Rolodex card. You can arrange them alphabetically, either by the person’s name or business. When a card is out of date, it can be removed and tossed.

Your valuable Rolodex of accumulated business contacts may be this kind of tangible object. Today’s Rolodex can also be virtual. Just look at the people you have connected with through your LinkedIn account. A virtual Rolodex doesn’t clutter your office.

Use these tips to start 2016 with a clear office space and focused mind – and have a happy, productive, prosperous New Year!

Gail Rubin, funeral expert and Celebrant

Gail Rubin, CT, The Doyenne of Death®

Gail Rubin, CT, is a pioneering death educator who uses humor and funny films to teach about end-of-life issues. The author of the award-winning book A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die, her newest book is Hail and Farewell: Cremation Ceremonies, Templates and Tips. She “knocked ’em dead” at TEDxABQ in 2015 – watch the video! Download a free planning form from

A Good Goodbye