Organizing our Physical Home
Bottom line: Have less and organize what we do have better.
Put systems in place
Bottom line: Finding things without rummaging saves mental energy for more important creative tasks (Levitin, 87).
Group like things together
Bottom line: Group similar things together so that it's easy both to find the item and to remember that you need it (Levitin, 80).
Design our environment as an extension of our brain
Bottom line: Off-load some of your memory function into your physical environment to keep you visually organized and not distract you when you're trying to relax, work, or find things. This will help declutter your crowded mental world.
See what you need, hide what you don't
Bottom line: Having a junk drawer is OK, but if you find yourself having multiple junk drawers, re-sort and re-group into better categories
Organizing our Digital Home
Bottom line: Help our brain switch gears by providing visual and physical cues to the tasks at hand.
Paper sorting: Scanning vs. Filing
Use OCR mode so that PDF files are easily searchable, which makes document text readable rather than just a photo of the document (Levitin, 93). I scan everything and have hard copies of only what I absolutely need (wills, legal documents, and some keepsakes, which I've scanned as well). Everything else I scan and destroy, making sure to keep copies online and on a few hard drives. Our life is too mobile to risk losing everything. Scanners are inexpensive and such files take up so little memory. I like to keep my desktop and files uncluttered so that my computer feels neat and tidy and isn't overloaded with things I don't need. I have copies of all credit cards and passports in case a wallet or bag is stolen.
For physical paper, a good filing cabinet and system is a must. Design your categories so that your files contain five to 20 or so separate documents (Levitin, 94). Be sure not to spend more time filing and classifying than you'll reap on searching (Levitin, 95). An organizer I respsect recently recommended a file system called Freedom Filer. I don't have enough paper to warrant such a system and I can't give a personal review, but you may want to check it out if you have a lot of paper and feel your filing system needs an overhaul.
Bottom line: Organization isn't the same for everyone. Find what works for you to free up your mind for more important tasks that really matter.
The time is long gone when we only had to remember a couple of passwords. Today, smart password management is critical. We all know the basics: don't use your birthday, phone number, dog's name, firstborn child, etc. Still, we sometimes make the mistake of using the same set of passwords on a variety of sites simply because we can't remember them all. That's dangerous and there's a much better way. Levitin suggests using a key phrase, taking the first letter of each word, throwing in some numbers and symbols, and customizing it with the particular site it's for (p.104). For example, let's say your key phrase is Mary Had a Little Lamb (which I'd advise against...) so your letters are MHALL, which could become MH1ALL4^, which could become MH1ALL4^AZ for Amazon, etc. It might take a little work getting things adjusted but in the long run it will be safer and easier to remember. Then you could keep a list in a safe location with something like, "passphrase minus numbers", or "passphrase plus month" or whatever. Online password management sites such as LastPass keep track of everything and work on in a variety of browsers or devices. Just make sure to change your master password frequently.
Bottom line: Being intentional and strategic with your passwords is safer and conserves cognitive energy.
Levitin, Daniel J. 2014. The organized mind: Thinking straight in the age of information overload. New York, NY: Plume.