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The Challenge is Back: Is "E-Clutter" a Word?

Yes, the challenge is back after a little hiatus. Thank you for your patience. Seems it's a challenge to keep up with the challenge....

Roll up your sleeves, it's time to get to work. This month, we'll tackle electronic clutter, personal and professional paperwork.

If you're like me, your computer files can quickly get out of hand. Individual documents scattered across your desktop and crammed in your "my documents" folder just waiting to be filed in their proper folder. If you've even created one.

Photos. Oh, the photos.... Sometimes I'm in such a hurry to download photos that I don't properly resize or index them, then when I'm looking for a photo, I have to sift through too many download folders to find the one I'm looking for. And there are times that I don't take the extra minute required to delete the bad ones. Electronic photos are great, but if they're not indexed properly, it can become a disorganized mess.

The inbox. Email, as wonderful as it is, can be daunting. I have a 60-show rule. If my inbox shows more than 60 emails sitting there waiting to be answered or taken care of in some way, I get very anxious (yes, I'm a bit anal-retentive). Recently, on one of my flights, I had 182 emails in the inbox and thought I was going to go into cardiac arrest. It's a reminder that there's a lot to do and I'm not getting it done. Luckily, between layovers, I had about seven hours to tend to it. Of course, it's a never-ending process. Email comes in as fast as you can tend to it. So, over the past few nights, I have set aside the few minutes before I go to bed to weed through email and I "try" not to go to bed if my inbox has over 60 emails sitting there. I have no idea why I'm stuck on the number 60, but I am. It's what works for me.

And then there's all the paperwork. Even if you've gone paperless for bills and various statements, you're still going to accumulate paperwork. Some of it you may need to keep, other paperwork may just be sitting in a box or folder waiting to be sorted, shredded or put away. I have a three-tiered box, each tier has its own function. When I get mail, if I don't have time to cull through it immediately, it goes in the top box. When I get around to it, I open it and sort it into three piles; trash, action and filing. Of course, I need to do better in the "getting around to it" department, but at least there's a system in place.

And what about that old, old stuff. Records and papers you no longer need. Are you hanging onto things that you no longer need? I found that I had moved veterinarian records of pets who are sadly no longer with us. I think it was an emotional issue for me, I just couldn't part with them. But a few weeks ago, I finally did the deed and disposed of the records (although I still have their collars and id tags).

So this month's challenge is as follows:

- Go through your computer files and get them organized. Create files if they don't already exist and place pertinent documents in the files. Do the same with your email account. Get those electronic photo albums under control, too. Take action, file or delete. Clean out the e-clutter.

- Go through your current paperwork and address it. Purge. File. Tend to things. If you don't have a filing system in place, create one. Then get a routine. Maybe you address your paperwork/mail as soon as it comes in, at the end of each evening or once a week. Whatever works for you.

- Clean out old paper files. Get rid of what you don't need and tuck away the things you do need so that they are easily findable if you need to get your hands on them. Shred the old stuff. Ahhhhh, feels good....

- If you use an online back-up system, make sure you back your work up after it's completed. If you don't use an online back-up system, burn your files onto CDs and make sure you have back-up copies should your computer crash, or someone steal it. As always, make sure your sensitive information is protected and kept safe.

- Anything computer-related or paper-related that isn't listed above, but that you've been wanting to tackle - do it, and share your project with us.

Tell us about your progress in the comment section and email photos in by August 31.

Rules are here, so read them and get going. We may feature two mini-challenges next month to catch up. We know that we've picked up readers since the challenge debuted, and if we feature a 2010 Challenge, we'll change the rules a bit so that newbies have a better shot at winning some prizes. Some of you won't be able to win the grand prize because you didn't start in January, but it's a good idea to get organized no matter what, so play along anyway. We may put everyone who has participated in x-number of challenges into a pot, draw names and send the winner something because we're just nice like that.... We'll see how it goes.

Oh, I guess you want to know what this month's prize is, don't you? Okay, here it is:

First, you get one of these:

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And finally, the winner will receive a special organizer.

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