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Conquer Clutter in 2013


New Year's greetings.,[Newsboy throwing confetti], Digital ID 1587814, New York Public LibraryNew Year's greetings.,[Newsboy throwing confetti], Digital ID 1587814, New York Public LibraryHappy New Year's Eve! This year remember that the New York Public Library can help you in achieving any of your self-improvement or lifelong learning goals.

One of my favorite things about being a library user is that I don't have to go bankrupt with my info obsession. I can simply borrow anything that interests me, even a little bit! If it turns out to be a reference book or a beautiful work of fiction I can't do without, I can try before I buy. For someone who lives in a tiny New York City apartment with bookshelves already taking over most of the walls, this is a big deal.

Not only that, but I can borrow books digitally! Even less bookshelf clutter. But sometimes I still feel like other kinds of clutter can come into my life faster than it can be removed: junk Whac-A-Mole. Here are some tips on reducing physical and digital clutter:

Physical Clutter

File Management

  • Get your paperwork in order. Consider investing in a handheld scanner to digitize important receipts and paperwork. Consult's guide on how long to keep household records.
  • There are numerous scanner apps for iOS and Android that can adjust text and convert images from your camera to PDF.
  • Search for manuals for your appliances and electronic equipment online and recycle the paper version. Use Google Advanced Search to enter the name of the product and any model number, then limit the file type to "Adobe Acrobat PDF (.pdf)." Keep in mind that if you think you might end up reselling the item, it might be better to have supporting documentation intact.
  • More on what to documents to digitize and what to keep in paper at PCMag.
  • Another resolution idea: finish your taxes early this year!
  • There are lots of apps to manage membership and loyalty cards so you don't have to keep them in your wallet at all times — show them to the cashier on your phone. Did you know the NYPL app has your barcode saved on it? Tap the "More" icon.

Junk Mail

  • I get so little real mail nowadays, that I set a little time one day of the week to go through it — the night before my recycling day. At that point I shred things that have personal information on them, and log in to my account on Catalog Choice to get off whatever new mailing lists I am on. Catalog Choice uses your address and account number with the company to reach out to them on your behalf, so in a few days you might receive an email message from the company stating that you have been removed from their list. In the case of a company that doesn't let you do this by email, Catalog Choice will give you a phone number to call and tell you what to say. New York City is just as sick of junk mail as you are, and GreeNYC wants New Yorkers to take part in their effort to reduce waste and conserve resources. They have partnered with Catalog Choice to make it easy to get off mailing lists, so you can sign up with them right on Catalog Choice also has an iPhone app.
  • You can also register with the Direct Marketing Association's (DMA) Mail Preference Service.
  • Enough credit cards already? Remove your name from lists used for credit offers with OptOutPrescreen.
  • Most of us probably Google search to find contact information these days... so you might want to opt out of delivery of the Yellow Pages (but we'll always keep our memories.)
  • My building has a sign, but that doesn't seem to stop the restaurant menus and circulars from ending up on the stoop. Learn how to file a complaint (this is in violation of the New York State Lawn Litter Law) and stop junk from piling up outside.


Digital Clutter


One of the complaints that I hear about tablets (iPads in particular) versus dedicated e-readers is that the iPad is full of distractions. How can you read a book when your friend just pinged you about playing your turn in a game, or you need to check the number of likes on your Facebook status the weather, or some other alert pops up that you MUST attend to immediately? It's simple: turn off notifications. Turn them off! They can't distract you if you never see them.

Consider turning off email notifications for services like Facebook and unsubscribe to e-newsletters you're not really reading (except we know you'll want to keep ours.)

File Management

15A. Accompanies "Ma Burnham"., Digital ID 1615156, New York Public LibraryConsider using a cloud-based service to keep your files accessible and safe at the same time. Depending on the type of file (whether it's media, text, or images) there are many different services that you can try for free with limited features and storage space. Not endorsing any of these services in particular, but some of the more popular ones include: Evernote, Dropbox, Amazon Cloud Drive, Amazon Cloud Player, Apple iCloud, Microsoft SkyDrive, Google Drive, Google Picasa. You can have your digital content synced between multiple machines, including handheld devices, to access wherever you go.

For a much more thorough look at personal digital archiving, please see this extensive resource guide from the Library of Congress.

Here is a list of print books and ebooks in BiblioCommons about conquering clutter.

Any decluttering tips or tricks you'd like to share? What else will you try to do in 2013? Some ideas from past blog posts:

Have a happy and healthy 2013!


Patron-generated content represents the views and interpretations of the patron, not necessarily those of The New York Public Library. For more information see NYPL's Website Terms and Conditions.

Thanks Lauren. So much

Thanks Lauren. So much useful information here. I'll be busy all year.

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