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9 Web sites that can make your life easier

What have your favorite Web sites done for you lately? Sure, they’re informative, entertaining or funny, and they probably help you talk to your friends and share pictures and take quizzes and buy nifty goods. But have they been pulling their weight in the relationship? Have they really … worked for you? We all know too well how easy it is to get sucked into the time waster that is the World Wide Web. Wouldn’t it be refreshing, not to mention helpful, to spend time on some sites that can actually make your life easier?

Using these sites is like hiring an assistant, but for free, and without worrying about hurting anyone’s feelings by being too demanding or barking too many orders. These sites will save you time, keep you organized in all sorts of ways, find things for you, and make sure you never run out of toilet paper. And, best of all, most of them are entirely free.Back to the future
Do you wish your present self could tell your future self something? Huh? FutureMe.org lets you write yourself a letter (via e-mail) that it will deliver to you on the future date of your choosing, from 30 days later to 25 years later. It’s totally free. Capture something you’re feeling this very moment and make sure that 20 years later, you remember how important it is. You can think about where you think you’ll be in say, two years, and see how accurate or wrong you were, and be reminded that life isn’t predictable. It also lets you send a letter to someone else’s future self. You could write one to your son the day he’s born and have it delivered 18 years later. There’s an option to make your letter public, as about 15 percent of users do. The public letters available for perusal range from inspiring to sad to intriguing.

The whole nine yard sale
Spending a Saturday morning finding treasure on the cheap is now a lot more manageable. Find all the yard sales on a given day in your area with Yard Sale Treasure Map. The free service mines Craigslist (where most yard sale ads are placed) and presents to you the yard sale information posted there in the easiest, most useful way. Plan your yard-sale-ing adventure by selecting the sales you wish to attend; the site will map them and determine the optimal route and order in which you should visit them You can search by items that will be for sale, for instance, “furniture” or “electronics.” Yard sales are back with a vengeance as we all try to reuse and recycle, and of course, spend less.

Go ask Alice ... for more toothpaste
Alice.com is a new online, replenishing convenience store for things like toiletries, cleaning products, garbage bags and laundry supplies. When you set up your account, you tell Alice about who lives in your home and what you use. Alice then stocks all your home essentials, keeps track of when it’s time to restock, and delivers the goods for free. Plus, goods are priced lower (often 20 to 30 percent) than at many other retailers. She’s so nice she also finds relevant coupons for you and applies them automatically.

Elephants don’t forget
One thing no one ever tells you about adulthood is that it involves an inordinate amount of time spent remembering to buy people presents, and then to write thank-you notes when you’re on the receiving end. Gift Elephant is an online system that keeps track of all the presents you’ve ever given and received, for free. It manages your thank-you notes and reminds you of upcoming holidays and birthdays and special occasions. For a small fee, they’ll even print and mail thank-you notes on your behalf, personalized with your own photos if you wish.

Taken to task
Task.fm is a productivity tool that really acts like a personal secretary, or nagging mother. You can use it to manage to-do lists, remember to pay bills and arrange a wake-up call, and most features are free. You don’t have to go in and manually set dates and times, because it understands natural language. For example, if I typed in, “DailyCandy dinner Tuesday at five,” that would be enough information to get it to remind me at just the right time. It’s pretty amazing. You can create reminders on the site, or you can e-mail it or Twitter it to set up reminders, and you choose whether it reminds you via text, e-mail or phone call. In the pro version, $3.99 per month, you do not see any ads and you have unlimited use, but the free version gives you a lot to work with.

Meet in the middle
Find coffee shops and other cozy places to meet almost exactly halfway between far-away friends that are a drive apart with A Place Between Us. It’s free. Type in the addresses each person will be coming from, then describe the sort of place at which you’d like to meet. The default is coffee shop, but you can also pick a certain kind of restaurant, like “donut shop” or “tacos.” It will find you a place like that as close to the middle as possible. It will map directions to the meeting place for each of you. You can enter as many addresses as you like and it really does find a perfect midpoint!

Vocally local
We all want to buy more locally produced food and products, but how to find them? Locallectual helps you search for products from wood tables to honey, made in your neck of the woods. You can search based on where things are made, down to 25 square miles of where you are. Search by type of product and/or distance from a certain place (“Soap” and “Pennsylvania”) or browse their edited listings of responsible, quality producers.

Stay centered
A superb, free online planning tool, Centerd saves you time, paper and sanity with online templates for school events — or any type of event, really. Coordinate and manage volunteers for everything from soccer games to fundraisers. E-mail reminds organizers which slots have been filled and which tasks still need doing, and alerts hosts about last-minute dropouts. Event details, including Google maps to destinations, are posted online. You can also browse ideas for things to do in your area, and “copy” other people’s great plans.

Candid panda camera
Ok, maybe this isn’t useful in the traditional or technical sense of the word, but there is no pick-me-up like watching live pandas frolic in their habitat. Panda Cam is a live feed from the home of the four pandas of Zoo Atlanta! The scintillating broadcast is live every Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. If all this organization and streamlining and usefulness has left you worn out, this is just what you need to unwind!

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