TIME psychology

How to Get Organized: 2 Solutions From Philosophy and Kindergarten

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Being disorganized causes huge problems.

Via Organizing from the Inside Out:

• Americans waste nine million hours per day searching for misplaced items, according to the American Demographics Society.

• The Wall Street Journal reported that the average U.S. executive wastes six weeks per year searching for missing information in messy desks and files.

• Cleaning professionals say that getting rid of excess clutter would eliminate 40 percent of the housework in an average home (National Soap and Detergent Association).

• “ Crisis ” purchases related to disorganization could cost as much as 15 to 20 percent of your annual budget— buying duplicates of misplaced or broken items, last-minute shopping at premium prices, and unnecessary interest, rush, and finance charges on late payments.

But figuring out how to get organized is a struggle. How to stay organized can be an even bigger challenge.

Most people have no idea where to start and even if they do get things functional it doesn’t stick because there’s no underlying system that reliably produces results.

But don’t fret — your favorite psychological MacGyver has answers. Organizing can lead to a better understanding of yourself, your goals and what you want. Crazy as it sounds, it can be a road to a better life.

Believe it or not, ancient philosophers and kindergarteners can teach us all we need to know about getting things straight. Let’s get to work.

Marcus Aurelius Beats Martha Stewart

Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius has some thoughts about how to organize your home and office.

Okay, okay — he didn’t actually write about how to structure your linen closet. But some of what he had to say is definitely applicable.

When you look at most anything he suggested you ask a question.

Via Meditations:

What is this, fundamentally? What is its nature and substance, its reason for being?

And expert organizer Julie Morgenstern says the answer for any room in your house is you need a “theme.”

By theme I don’t mean “country-western.” We’re talking about organizing, not decorating. (I am the last person you want as your interior decorator — unless you love Star Wars posters and sitting on the floor.)

By a theme she means asking, “What’s this room for?”

The reason you’re so disorganized is because most of us don’t answer this question specifically. And I mean specific to you.

Your living room theme could be “a place to entertain friends.” Or “the ultimate spot to watch movies.” Or “where you relax after a hard day.”

Why does this matter? Your theme becomes the filter by which you determine what belongs and what doesn’t. What takes priority. What should be placed next to what. Because now everything has to serve a purpose.

This is why most organization methods never stick: they’re arbitrary. And underneath it all, you know that. So you fall into the same old bad habits of throwing things here or there.

So before you start throwing things out or moving them around ask: what is this room for?

And don’t get stuck on “shoulds.” Your theme must be personal, not what mother would approve of or what decent, upstanding citizens “should” put here. Serving someone else’s purposes is another big reason why systems don’t stick.

Context is a powerful influence on you. The right theme can help you achieve a goal, whether that’s streamlined productivity or hedonistic relaxation.

So which room should you start with? Morgenstern recommends you go with the place you spend the most time in.

Via Organizing from the Inside Out:

…choose a space that you spend a significant amount of time in every single day. You’ll feel the benefits for your efforts immediately. This provides you with the reward, energy, and encouragement you’ll need to undertake the rest of your home or office.

(For more on how to stop being lazy and get more done, click here.)

Okay, so you have the theme for the room you’re trying to organize. But how do you get started?

You Need SPACE

SPACE is an acronym for:

  • Sort
  • Purge
  • Assign
  • Containerize
  • Equalize

Let’s break them down:

1) Sort

Start going through the things in that room and ask:

Is this a part of my theme? Will this help me further my goal? Does this make me happy?

2) Purge

All that stuff that doesn’t align with your theme? Throw it out or move it to a room where it will serve a theme.

Via SHED Your Stuff, Change Your Life: A Four-Step Guide to Getting Unstuck:

How often do we hang onto things that served us well at one point in our lives but are no longer relevant or useful? And while our attachment to these items makes sense on a certain level, by continuing to carry them around we limit our ability to invite new and more relevant experiences, opportunities, and growth. The best way to get unstuck is to free up your space and time of the things that are no longer relevant.

Yeah, I know it’s hard to toss stuff. Andy Rooney had a great method for addressing this.

Take the square footage of your place and divide it by the amount of your rent or mortgage payment. Take that number and multiply it by how much space this stuff takes up. That’s how much rent you should “charge” those items every month. Are they worth it? Probably not. Get rid of them.

3) Assign

A huge problem is that a lot of important items have no “home.” The stuff that is related to your theme needs a place where it always goes.

And that place needs to be convenient. Plain and simple: if something is hard to put away, you won’t put it away. (Remember the 20 second rule.)

You don’t need to go moving everything. You always put your glasses next to the lamp and therefore you never lose them? Fine, keep doing that.

Keep what’s working because it’s easier to leverage old habits than to establish new ones. You want to replicate the systems that work for you, not use some method that “should” work but doesn’t click for you.

Morgenstern says this is why a lot of organization attempts fail: you start using a system you don’t trust and you find yourself not putting things away because you’re terrified you’ll never find them again.

So you can never find your keys but you always know where your jacket is because you hang it on that hook? Maybe your keys need a hook, too.

4) Containerize

You can’t just cover every flat surface with your stuff. (Okay, you can, but that’s not working, is it?)

Use those drawers, shelves, storage bins. Pretty simple: related things go together. But they’re related by your theme and by how you use them, not by some generic label other people use.

5) Equalize

Start using the space. Is it achieving your theme’s goal of productivity or relaxation or whatever? If not, focus on what’s not clicking and do regular tune-ups.

(For more on how the most organized people get things done, click here.)

Okay, I know what some of you are thinking: I don’t have a room for every single goal, Eric. I have rooms that need to serve multiple purposes.

Way ahead of you. Get out your crayons, we’re heading back to kindergarten.

The Kindergarten Method

Remember being at school when you were five? The room was divided into activity zones.

This was where you made macaroni pictures. And this was where you did show-and-tell. And this was where you napped.

You can do the same thing — but without the zones being so obvious and formal.

Via Organizing from the Inside Out:

In a living room, your activities may be entertaining friends, watching television, listening to music, reading, and playing board games and cards. In an office, your activities may be working on the computer, making phone calls, doing paperwork, and assembling mailings. Your core activities comprise the zones of the room. Keep in mind that the average room can accommodate three to five activities.

So for any room with multiple purposes you need to define your zones, with each one getting a mini-theme.

To some degree you already do this. Think about the kitchen. Loosely, you probably have a Food Preparation Zone, a Cooking Zone, a Dishes Zone, a Food Serving Zone, a Food Storage Zone, etc.

Apply this same strategy in other multi-use rooms.

Via Organizing from the Inside Out:

First, try to build them around your natural habits and preferences…Second, think about the relationship of one activity to another in determining where your zones should be.

Once you know your zones, run through the SPACE acronym for each.

Do these items relate to my theme? Does the stuff that does belong have a home? Is it accessible? Containerize things that go together. Use the area, see if it’s working and tweak as necessary.

(For more on how the most productive people get things done, click here.)

Okay, let’s round this all up so we can put it to use.

Sum Up

Here’s how to get organized:

  • For rooms with a single purpose decide on a specific, personal theme. “What is this room for?”
  • For rooms with multiple purposes, use the Kindergarten Method. Define your zones and their themes.
  • Apply the SPACE acronym.
  • Sort: Is this item aligned with my theme?
  • Purge: The stuff that isn’t serving your theme gets tossed or moved to another room.
  • Assign: Cluster by your theme and by how you use things, not where they “should” go.
  • Containerize: Like goes with like.
  • Equalize: Is it working? If not, tweak the system until it does.

Obviously, this is a big picture overview. There’s more info in Julie Morgenstern’s books which you can check out here and here.

But this will get you on your way not only to a home that’s more organized, but toward a place that helps you get what you want out of life.

Research shows the place you live says a lot about you. Make sure it’s saying what you want.

To quote William Morris:

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.

Join over 180,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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TIME advice

34 Life-Changing Tips for a More Organized Home

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Organize any part of your home from entryway to bathroom to kitchen to bedroom

We asked pro organizers for strategies that help them conquer chaos in their own lives. The result: secrets that will streamline your day and restore your peace of mind (promise!)

Entryway: Furnish the Space

Take inspiration from Jenkins, who uses a Victorian-era dresser to organize her entry. “The drawers hold gloves, hats, and other outdoor accessories, and the mirror on top gives us a place to do a spot check before we leave,” she says. Another popular option: cube storage systems with fabric bins for each family member’s gear.

Entryway: Map It Out

Make organization a no-brainer with thoughtful placement. Put sports equipment or school bags on the way to the car or very nearby. Then kids can grab them as they’re headed out the door and put them right back as they return. “The farther away you put those things, the harder kids have to work and the less likely it is that things will get back to where they belong,” says Tokos.

Entryway: A Place for Everything

Get the most out of entry storage by giving each group of items its own designated space. Labels can help. Says Morgenstern: “If a shelf or a cabinet or a drawer is marked miscellaneous, it’s easy to put things into but impossible to retrieve things from.”

Entryway: Peg Rail

Shaker-style wood pegs hung by the door make it easy to hang hats, scarves, and even leashes on your way in or grab on the way out.

About $25; landofnod.com

Entryway: Charging Station

Create a neat place to power up phones and tablets. Make one, as we did, by drilling holes in the bottom of a wood mail sorter, to thread cords through, then give it a coat of color.

Read the full list HERE.

This article originally appeared on This Old House.

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TIME advice

How to Have the Most Organized Year of Your Life

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You can start this big project by breaking it down into little steps

Being organized means something different for everyone.

For some, having an immaculately clean and minimalist workspace is the only way that they can get things done. Others do their best work surrounded by clutter and with good reason–research has linked messy workspaces to heightened creativity.

Regardless of what your organizational fantasy looks like, bringing it to life can be tricky–especially when you’re bogged down with day-to-day responsibilities and still trying to crawl your way out of the post-holiday fog.

The best way to tackle an overwhelming and intimidating task like getting organized is to break it down into steps. So, if you’re trying to make your morning routine more efficient, clear the cobwebs from your to-do list, or just clean up your desk, buckle up. We’re about to get organized.

1. The Commitment

Carving out time for involved projects is tricky and in order to follow through, you’re going to have to own it and fully commit. Just like a visit to the doctor, a hair appointment, or dinner plans, you need to block off time for this project. Writing out a specific plan of exactly what you want to accomplish during your chunk of time can also be an effective way to stay focused.

Once you find an available slot, mark it off on your calendar and don’t make any other plans. Another helpful strategy is to find a friend or roommate that you can discuss your plans with, and then arrange for this person to hold you accountable to your original commitment.

MORE 10 Apps to Take You From Overwhelmed to Organized

2. The Purge

Exactly what it sounds like–put it all out there. If your mission is to set up a storage system for your bedroom, empty out all of your drawers, dump out your ‘miscellaneous’ bin and grab that stack of papers from underneath the chair. If you’re trying to organize outstanding tasks, make a list of literally every single thing that you need to do. It doesn’t matter how small or insignificant it is, if it’s something that needs to get done, put it on the list. A notebook, white board, or dedicated Google doc are great places to house this master list.

3. The Trimming of the Fat

This part of the process is also known as “ruthlessly prioritizing.” Do you really need that magazine from 1994? Probably not. Haven’t worn that shirt in three years? Say goodbye. Is one of the items on your to-do list no longer important to you? It’s gotta go. Some would argue that this is the most challenging part of getting organized because it requires you to be firm, decisive, and clear about your priorities.

4. The System

Making something part of your daily routine increases the likelihood that you’ll stick with it, even when it feels inconvenient or uncomfortable. Implementing an organizational system will help you automate and before you know it; straying from your routine will feel odd and being organized will be your new norm.

For organization involving time and task management, apps like Things or Wunderlist can help you schedule your tasks in advance and set deadlines. For room and desk organization, Muji and The Container Store are good places to get the tools you need to create a system that will work for you.

MORE Don’t Let Your Inbox Run Your Life

5. The Maintenance

So, you’ve just finished your organization session and your closet/calendar/desk looks incredible. Then, a particularly busy month strikes and everything is exactly how it was when you started. Prevent this from happening when you’re initially creating your system by setting up reminders to jog your memory. These could be Google calendar alerts, a sacred 15 minutes of desk organization every day, or a weekly half hour dedicated to managing your calendar and tasks.

This article originally appeared on Levo.com.

TIME

Your Messy Desk Is Ruining Your Career

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Make a New Year's resolution to organize your workspace

So you’ve made the New Year’s resolution to clean out your closet and your garage. Great. What about your office or cubicle?

A disorganized, sloppy workspace detracts from your ability to focus and get tasks completed efficiently. Physical clutter has a funny way of creeping into your head and creating mental distractions, say pro organizers. Here are their best tips for corralling your stuff.

Give your stuff a designated home. “Flat surfaces seem to attract clutter like a magnet,” says Donna Smallin, author of Clear the Clutter, Find Happiness (Storey 2014). “Before setting anything down, ask yourself, ‘Is there where this belongs?'” she says. To keep your desktop from becoming a sea of papers, coupons and memos, buy or make different spaces for different types of items.

Revamp your to-do pile. Rather than have one big, overwhelming pile of paper (that you’ll probably never wade through), create “action files,” suggests Barry Izsak, past president of the National Association of Professional Organizers and owner of Arranging It All. “There are two types,” he says. “There are permanent action files for the tasks that we will never be finished with.” Bills to pay, letters to write, people to call — you’ll always have these kinds of tasks, so keep permanent folders for these kinds of tasks. “The other type of action file is a temporary action file… for the projects that have a beginning, a middle and an end,” Izsak says. Label them with the specific name of the person, project or task.

Figure out if you need visual cues. If you’ll forget about something as soon as you aren’t looking at it, Izsak says your action files should be right on top of your desk. “Create this system… in a stair-step folder holder or with hanging files in a desk top hanging file folder,” he says. If that’s not your speed, he suggests using the file drawer of your desk or an easily accessible file cabinet drawer. “It really doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you create and use it,” he says.

Keep all the things you travel with in one place. Not only will this make your space neater, it’ll prevent you from forgetting things, says pro organizer Standolyn Robertson, who owns the company Things in Place. “In the office, [use] a credenza, desk drawer or even a canvas bag on your coat hook,” she says. “Get in the habit of putting things there that will leave with you.” This is where you should stick your keys, phone, train pass, empty lunch bag or food containers, newspaper and umbrella.

Have multiple charging stations. If you plug in your phone, tablet and so on every day when you get to the office, you’ll probably have ugly wires and cables hanging all over the place. “The transition to laptops and tablets has led to pop-up work stations at home and work,” Robertson says. Eliminate that by investing in duplicates and tucking the plugs and most of the wires out of sight on your desk or a cabinet. (You can use magnets if you have a metal surface, or zip ties for bundling cables out of sight behind furniture.) Robertson points out that this also prevents the problem of leaving a charger behind and lightens your commuting load.

Get your junk off the floor, already. “The floor is not the place to store or hide the things or piles we don’t know what to do with,” Izsak says. “Everything needs a home to keep our offices productive and clutter-free and the floor space under our desk is not that place.”

TIME How-To

Gmail Tips: Get Organized with Labels and Filters

Hi, there. I’m going to use an email message from my friend Ben to show you how to organize your Gmail inbox a little better.

First order of business: never delete messages. We’re going to archive them instead. This is the equivalent of taking every piece of physical mail that’s ever been sent to your house and putting it in your basement instead of throwing the mail you don’t need or don’t care about away. If you do this in real life, you’re crazy. If you don’t do this online, you’re crazy.

There are three buttons above every message: one that looks like a box (Archive), then an exclamation point inside a stop sign (Report spam), then a trash can (Delete). Unless you’re running really low on Google storage space (you probably aren’t), always use Archive when you’re done reading a message that you’d like to file away and retrieve later (or never).

Gmail Tricks
Google

Now, I need a place to file this message away. I’m going to create a label for it. Click the label-looking thing up at the top of the message and choose “Create new” to — you guessed it — create a new label.

Gmail Tricks
Google

I’m going to call this label “Emails from Ben” since it will contain emails from Ben.

Gmail Tricks
Google

Now that the label has been created, you’ll notice a little link that says “Emails from Ben” next to the subject of the email message. Clicking that label will take me to a list of all the emails I’ve labeled as “Emails from Ben.” There will only be one email on that list right now, though. Oh, and I can add multiple labels to each message if I like. If Ben were a member of my family (he’s not) and he emailed me about some bill that needed paying, I could label that message “Emails from Ben” and “Household” if I wanted to. That’s for the advanced class, though.

Gmail Tricks
Google

Now, I could just manually label every email from Ben under “Emails from Ben” but I’m a busy, important, handsome man who doesn’t have time for that nonsense. Let’s automate this process. Under the More button, I’ll choose “Filter messages like these” to create a filter.

Gmail Tricks
Google

Here is where you’ll need to be wearing elastic-leg undergarments if you tend to get too excited by technology. I’ll create a filter that does something (I’ll denote the “something” next) every time I get an email from Ben. This filter will work off of his email address, but I could set different parameters or additional parameters. That’s also for the advanced class. For this go-around, we’ll stick to Ben’s email address. Click “Create filter with this search” to move on.

Gmail Tricks
Google

As you can see, I have a lot of options here. Every time I get an email from Ben, I can archive it immediately, mark it as read, star it, and a bunch of other fun stuff. I’m going to choose to “Apply the label” and choose the “Emails from Ben” label we made a few steps earlier. And since I want all past emails from Ben to get categorized under the “Emails from Ben” label (but I don’t want to label them all by hand), I’m going to choose the “Also apply filter to matching conversations” checkbox at the bottom before clicking the “Create filter” button.

Gmail Tricks
Google

Now every email that Ben has sent me from that particular email address should show up under the “Emails from Ben” label that’s accessible from the left-hand column. And every email I get from him in the future will automatically get the “Emails from Ben” label applied to it automatically. When I’m done reading a message from him, I’ll archive it and know where to quickly find it later.

Gmail Tricks
Google

“Well, that was stupid,” you’re saying. Maybe so, but this sorcery can be applied to a whole bunch of other stuff.

Let’s say, for instance, that I want to sign up for a website that requires an email address but I don’t want to give this website my real address. I can add a “+” to my Gmail username between my name and the “@” to create a Gmail alias. I can then filter messages sent to “doug+spam@gmail.com” to either skip my inbox altogether and/or to get automatic labels applied to them.

Here’s a quick video of the process in action:

In essence, learning how to work with labels and filters allows you to create several automated traffic cops that can sling your email around as you see fit. Once you’ve tweaked everything a bit, you’ll notice a cleaner inbox despite spending less time dealing with email.

TIME How-To

Here Are Some Apps to Keep Your Family Organized

Appointments, medications, game schedules, chores — to make a household run smoothly, you need a safe place to store and share information. That’s where apps come in handy.

I found apps that fit every family from traditional nuclear families — parents and kids living under one roof — to grown children taking care of parents to divorced parents with joint custody to people who want to track their pet’s care. Plus, there are specialized apps for playdates, carpooling and chores. Check out my picks below.

For families with young children

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Cozi

Cozi

Cozi lets you keep everyone’s calendar in one place. Each family member is assigned a color, so it’s easy to see who’s busy and who’s free at a glance. And you can make appointments for anyone in your family and sync appointments with Outlook. There’s a very robust reminder system, with the ability to send text and email reminders, as well as a weekly digest. In addition to calendaring, you can share shopping lists and to-do lists with family members, plan meals and create a family journal, which everyone can contribute to.

For $29.99 per year, Cozi Gold members get an ad-free experience, shared contacts, calendar change notifications and a birthday tracker, among other features. The subscription is good for the whole family.

Price: Free at iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Appstore and Windows Store (for Windows Tablets and PCs)

AboutOne

AboutOne knows that there’s a lot more to keeping your family organized than keeping a family calendar. The service goes beyond, with easy ways to store medical information and your home inventory, share pictures, notes and videos and save important documents — receipts, college applications and family-member care sheets. And, you can manage everything with the AboutOne app on your iOS, Android, Windows Phone or Windows 8 device.

The basic service is free and comes with 1GB of document storage, room for six family members and contacts and emergency management. For $5 per month you get 5GB of data, 10 family members and, when available, a family calendar that syncs with popular calendar programs.

Price: Free at iTunes, Google Play and Windows Phone app store

Two Happy Homes

Managing the lives of busy children between two homes can be challenging. But Two Happy Homes makes it a little easier with a communication and organization service built specifically for co-parenting. Parents keep a joint calendar and contact list, can send private notes and share medical information, documents and pictures. There’s even a place to track and pay expenses online.

The basic service is free and includes the calendar, notes, expense tracking and 10 contacts and documents. For $14.98 per month, you get unlimited documents and contacts, plus medical information sharing and payment of expenses through PayPal.

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Carpool Kids

Carpool Kids

Coordinating carpools can be stressful, but Carpool Kids makes it easy. Set up one-time or recurring events, assign a driver and add kids to the car. If there are changes, updates can by pushed to everyone through the app or email. If you want to set up more than one carpool at a time, there’s a $4.99 yearly subscription fee.

Price: Free in iTunes or on Carpool-Kids.com

InstantPlaydates

Who’s free to go to the park right now or meet at the museum on Saturday? InstantPlaydates lets you easily schedule playdates with your Facebook friends. When you’re heading to the park, you broadcast your availability and how long you’ll be there. Or, you can check to see who’s currently available.

Price: Free at iTunes or on InstantPlaydates.com

You Rule Chores

You Rule Chores ($3.99 on iTunes) makes it easy to set up a chores and rewards list. Throughout the day, kids can check off their chores and earn coins to gain rewards. Kids can choose from a great selection of avatars and level them up with new powers and gadgets as they complete chores. A quick glance at the opening screen of the app shows how many chores are left for each child, making it into a competition to see who gets them all done first. A good choice for Android is iRewardChart ($3.99 on Google Play and iTunes), which has a similar chore and rewards system, but no fun characters or weekly competition.

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CareZone

For adult children taking care of parents

When parents need the help of their adult children, caretaking can become a family affair. CareZone helps ease the way with a free service that lets family members share care. The CareZone Senior app has a journal to record what’s going on, notes for day-to-day communication, a place to store important documents and a shared to-do list. Medication dosages, doctor’s visits and prescriptions can be easily tracked. And, there’s one shared contact list and calendar. Better yet, everything can be tracked on your smartphone.

Price: Free at iTunes and Google Play

For pet parents

Keeping on top of feeding, grooming, exercise and medical care of a pet requires organization. Pet Master Pro keeps you organized with easy tracking features for medications, vaccinations, insurance and even microchip information — invaluable in any emergency situation. In addition, you can manage appointments with the groomer or dog walker.

Price: $2.99 at iTunes or $4.99 at Google Play.

This article was written by Suzanne Kantra and originally appeared on Techlicious.

More from Techlicious:

TIME organization

4 Apps That Will Save You Time

Modern life comes with many hassles that eat up your precious time. There’s sorting through the daily influx of junk mail, waiting on hold for customer service and trying to find a parking spot when you’re late for an appointment, to name a few.

Fortunately, there are apps to help you deal with all these inconveniences. We list the best ones that help you stop wasting your precious time.

Reduce junk mail

PaperKarma

Do catalogs, coupon books, mass-mailed fliers, credit card offers and more clog your mailbox? For those of us trying to be more organized, not to mention going paperless, it’s a daily annoyance — and that’s where the PaperKarma appcomes in.

Available for iOS, Android and Windows phones, this free app helps you eliminate the steady stream of junk mail that comes your way every day. Once you’ve loaded and registered the app, you can use the camera on your phone to take a picture of the offending piece of junk mail. A few taps later, the app will send a request to the junk mail sender to take you off their mailing list.

It may take a few weeks to see results, but it will be worth it to see a reduction in the amount of useless and wasteful solicitations in your mailbox. The one type of junk mail they can’t stop is distributed based on zip code alone (i.e. local grocery store coupons or restaurant offers). These are usually addressed “To Our Friends/Neighbors.”

I tried it out with a postcard I got from Proctor & Gamble for Mach 3 razors. After I took a picture of the offending junk mail, the app needed my name and address. Once I confirmed I really wanted to unsubscribe, it sent off a request promising to resend if it didn’t hear back in 13 days, but I received confirmation about 60 seconds later that I have been taken off their list. It also provided the contact info for the mailing company if I wanted to reach out to them myself.

The company doesn’t share your information to third parties unless you explicitly choose to opt in. In fact, they even go so far as to state: “We will never share your information due to a creative interpretation of our privacy policy.” If only all companies were so straight forward with our personal data.

Price: Free at iTunes, Google Play and Windows App Store

Reduce drive time

ParkMe

Whether you live in New York, Los Angeles or points in between, finding an available parking spot can eat up a good amount of your valuable time. Enter the ParkMeapp. This handy service will show you available garage and street parking either immediately around you or anywhere you search on the map, along with the cost for each one. The app lists over 28,000 locations across 7 continents, and you can set it to look for either daily or monthly parking.

You can filter your search by either garage or street parking, as well as cheapest or closest spaces. Still can’t decide? Tap the ParkMe button at the bottom of the screen and the app will recommend the cheapest option in the area.

In addition, the app will tell you how many spaces are left in the garage or on a particular metered street, so you can judge if you can make it there in time to take advantage of their availability. Some garages allow you to pay for and reserve a space directly through the app (the parking icons with the price tag icons.) If that option is not available for the space you’re interested in, you can still see a picture of the parking area, the opening and closing times for the garage, as well as how much it will cost you based on how long you are going to stay.

Once you’re parked, there is a handy in-app timer you can set to warn you when you have to move your car (great for metered street parking.) In case you can never remember where you parked, you can also mark the location of your spot in the app before you walk away.

After a day battling traffic, it doesn’t get better than that.

Price: Free at iTunes and Google Play

Cut customer service hold time

FastCustomer

Sitting on hold waiting for a customer service rep to get to you is about as fun as a root canal. This is where the FastCustomer app comes in. Choose from the app’s list of thousands of companies and it will call for you, navigate through the choices and then call you back when a customer service rep is ready to speak to you.

I tried it out with three different companies in their directory: Time Warner, Verizon and Amazon. Both Verizon and Amazon worked as advertised: When my phone rang me back a few minutes later, I picked it up and heard a customer service rep ready to talk to me. But when the Time Warner call came through I got an automated voice telling me a customer service rep would be online in two minutes, then it hung up on me. In instances like this, FastCustomer encourages you to let them know so they can look into it.

While this app is only available for iOS and Android phones, the same service can be accessed for Windows Phone and BlackBerry using a texting option. For iPhone 4S, 5, 5c and 5s users, the same texting option allows you to use Siri to tell your phone to contact customer service of any company in FastCustomer’s database.

FastCustomer also has a strong privacy policy, only using your phone number so the app can call you back when the customer service rep you want is ready to speak to you.

Price: Free at iTunes and Google Play

Block spam calls

Mr. Number

No one likes to see their privacy and time violated by a telemarketer calling your mobile phone. Fortunately, with a smartphone, you can outwit them. There are apps that identify incoming calls from telemarketers and even outright block the call.

If you have an Android phone, you get the best of both worlds with Mr. Number. This app automatically blocks calls and texts listed as Private or Unknown. For all other calls, Mr. Number checks against a crowd-sourced list of known spammers and, if it finds a match, you can choose for the app to automatically hang up on the caller or send the call directly to voicemail.

Price: Free on Google Play (reverse look-up for a fee)

For iPhone users, it’s a little more complicated. No apps allow you to block incoming calls or texts, but that function is built directly into iOS7. Go to the Contacts app and tap on the contact you want to block or find the number on the Recent Calls tab (clock icon) on your Phone app and tap the circled “i” icon to the right of the number. Both these methods will take you to the contact page for that caller. Scroll to the bottom and click on Block This Caller.

There is help in identifying incoming telemarketer calls, though. The Truecallerapp will check incoming calls against its database of top spammers and let you know right in the call screen if the caller is a known spammer. If so, simply decline the call then use the method listed above to block them from contacting you again. If the number isn’t in the top spammer database, you’ll need to pay a fee to look up the number.

If you want to be able to look up numbers, opt for Lookup+ by PrivacyStar. You’ll pay $4.99 up front, but after that the app provides unlimited number lookups and even lets you file complaints against unlawful callers.

Price: Truecaller is free on iTunes (reverse look up for a fee); Lookup+ by PrivacyStar is $4.99 on iTunes

We hope these apps help you navigate the daily time-sucks that you encounter. If you know of any other great ones, please let us know in the comments!

This article was written by Dan O’Halloran and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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