Knowing where something is situated in time is as important as
knowing where your stuff is space-wise when it comes to being
organized. When my clients and I sift through stacks of paper or
get into a box in the garage, the most important things I need to
know are when the item came into their lives and when was the last
time they looked at it. If the item is not dated, it becomes a
time-consuming process.

The following very simple habits can make staying organized a
whole lot easier.

Regarding bills and incoming mail, such as bank statements, keep
a yellow highlighter handy and immediately highlight the dates.

• Date everything. Even if it’s a grocery list on a Post-it
note, start by dating it in the upper right-hand corner. If you
keep the practice consistent, you will never waste precious seconds
scanning notes for the date or a clue to the “when” of the item.
This is especially important for compulsive “to-do” list makers. If
we know which list is freshest, the others can be tossed without

When you create a file on the computer, consider adding a header
or footer that automatically posts the date (and even the time)
each time the document is opened or updated. That way, when you
print you will always be able to identify the latest version. Don’t
rely on your brain to remember changes you made — let the computer
take on that task by showing you the date/time and free up your
brain for more creative thinking.

• Synchronize religiously. I use the cordless “cloud” to
synchronize information from my computer calendar to my phone
calendar so that I always have the latest version on both devices,
but occasionally technology has let me down. I still have to plug
my phone in from time to time to be sure everything has synced

Also, make sure you have the latest version of your syncing
software downloaded at all times. I ignored downloaded notices for
new versions, thinking, “How much could it possibly have changed
from Version 10.1.21 to Version 10.1.23?” The changes were enough
to keep my devices from syncing and necessitated an inconvenient
trip to the Genius Bar at the Apple store.

When printing photos, date stamp them or write the date on the
backs right then. This will save you loads of angst later when you
are organizing photographs or attempting to create a photo album
with a semblance of chronological order.

If you tear articles out of magazines, highlight the date or at
least write the month and the year on the article or photo with a
pen. When you are ready to cull through your reference or reading
files later, knowing the date can make the difference between
“keep” and “toss.”

For items in storage, I encourage clients to put dates on the
boxes when they put them into storage. If something has been in
storage and not looked at in one, five, or 10 years, why are they
keeping it? Also, if a client has items, such as memorabilia,
clothing or paper archives that they do not want to look through
yet, we box them and date the box. We then set a future date by
which the items must either be sorted,