Thursday, October 18, 2012

Garage Sale or Donate?

Every year I have clients ask me if I can help them set up for a garage sale. They want to eliminate the clutter and sell all their unwanted items in a garage sale. The issue then becomes will their items bring in the money there are hoping? Most of us think our items are worth much more than someone else is willing to pay for them. If you are not willing to accept this, than a garage sale is clearly not for you. Take into account the amount of time you will spend preparing for the garage sale and the amount you will make. If the time you spend on preparing for the garage sale is more than the time you will be open for the garage sale, you might want to reconsider. If your garage sale has most of the items being priced under $10, then you will get far more as a tax write off then you would receive from buyers at a garage sale. When you donate to a charity, you can write off every item you donated on your taxes. The only requirement is to write down each item you are giving away. Now if you keep a bag in a closet for all your donations, you can write down the items being donated each time the bag becomes full. You then attach the receipt to the list and put it in your tax file. It adds up fast if you purge often. You must take into account the weather which you can never predict in time to advertise for the garage sale. That leaves you vulnerable if it turns out to be cold or rainy. If you only have a few large more valuable items and mostly under $5 or $10 items, consider putting the larger and more expensive items on Craigs List and donating the remainder. You will be much happier with the results and have much more time to do the things you really like or get more important things completed.


Organizing Your Time To Fit It All In

Time management is for everyone not just businessmen. If you are one of those feeling that you just can't get it all done, then you need to start by writing down your schedule for everyday for a week. Write down the time, the activity, and how long you spent on it. Include everything such as your morning routine, making meals, driving kids around, grocery shopping, even choosing clothes. After a few days you might start to see a pattern and some events you spend too much time completing or others you need to spend more time on. For instance, if it is taking you 20 minutes in the morning to choose what to wear each morning, then possible going to choosing in the evening will save you time each morning. Pay close attention to times that you are wasting much of your time or it is taking longer than it should to complete a task. If you are a morning person, then the evening should not be the time you are trying to make a multitude of decisions. Leave that for afternoon or morning. The same goes for those of you who are not morning people. Make those decisions in the evening. Continue to look at your schedule and the events you’re spending time on during the day.

Once you have a good idea of your days and weeks, sit down and decide what you can let go of and what can be tweaked. If you are spending 2 hours a day reading the paper, can you reduce that to just the main parts and then watch the local or national news? Don't save the papers and think you will read them all later, that trick never works. Your goal is to add some time to your schedule to fit more pertinent events in. You might decide that you need help in some areas such as cleaning or grocery shopping. Maybe you need to arrange more carpooling for kid’s practices or parties. Do not feel bad if you have to miss one or two games during the season. It happens and kids adjust much easier than we think. Do not be afraid to ask for help. Maybe you cannot afford a cleaning service every week or every other, but maybe once a month. Delegate some of the chores to others. Don't try to me super mom or dad as that will just wear you down and get less done. If you are going to the grocery store every day, maybe spending a little time planning the week of meals out will help you cut your time at the grocery store down. Spending a little time and planning ahead will award you with more time.

Learn to say no too. Do not feel the urge to say yes to every task someone asks you to take on or help with. Sometimes you just have to say your schedule currently does not allow you to add the time and maybe the next project you can help on.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Why Purging Your Office Is So Important


Purging your office frequently can be one of the most important tasks you can perform whether you have a home office or share office space with others. I have many clients who call me to help them organize their office and we soon discover they have many items they will never need again. We usually find things they kept from their last job or calendars from 10 years ago. They are unable to find items they need now and often do a task twice because they lost the original.  They also waste a considerable amount of time because they are constantly looking for things. If you are wasting time everyday looking for lost reports, notes or files, then you need to purge and only keep those things you use and refer to often. Someday it could mean your job. You could be up for a promotion or downsizing could be happening in your workplace and if you are the least productive because you are always looking for things, the more organized worker will win.

Files also seem to be a problem as far as keeping paper never looked at again. Statistics show that 80% of the paper we keep, we will never look at again. Ask yourself what would happen if you did not have that piece of paper? Can it be obtained elsewhere? Keep completed projects in a space that will not interfere with your everyday job but where you can refer to them if need be. If a project was completed 5-10 years ago and you have not looked at it since and the information or technology is out of date, it is possible that purging is the best. Always purge the outdated information. You certainly do not want to have the older version of a report while you are in a meeting. Take time to purge monthly and your productivity will improve greatly.


Organizing For Big Storms

This year has brought many violent storms to all parts of the country. Families have lost their homes in wild fires while others have been without power for days. Being prepared and organized for these catastrophic events will help you get through them a little easier. The storms that have brought down power lines and trees this year have been particularly dominant. A small amount of time spent organizing a tote will help you greatly. You probably have a cloth tote sitting around that you received at some conference or event you went to that you have never found a use for since receiving it. That will be a perfect item to pack with just a few necessities. For loss of power, make sure you have batteries to fit your best and brightest flashlights, large candles that are self-contained, and a radio with batteries. For those who still might have a land line phone, more than likely, you will not have it available, but you will have your cell phone. Having a car charger is going to be a big benefit for you to keep in touch with loved ones and the outside world. Have this tote in an easy accessible location such as the coat closet. If you have a generator you will be able to keep your food and if not, it's a great time to clean out that freezer. You probably have food you have been staring at for years. Make sure you get a cooler out to keep the necessities cold and using paper plates and utensils will be a big help. Most of my clients have paper plates and plastic ware left over from parties and cookouts. Keeping those in one place will be beneficial when the power goes out.

For natural disaster areas facing hurricanes for forest fires, your emergency tote will be a little different. If you are required to evacuate, the items you must have in your tote, should be a copy of birth certificates, social security cards, one bank statement from each account, copies of investments, marriage certificate, any military records, divorce papers, adoption papers, and any other paper that would be hard to replace. All these are replaceable, but the time and energy spent to do so, could be used on other tasks. If you have medicine requirements, a copy of the prescription or bottle will be helpful.

Every 6 months look in your tote and make sure the batteries are still good and you have everything you need. Having these items handy will make your time easier and less stressful.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Having An Organized and Enjoyable Cookout

Summer is the time to have cookouts with family and friends but it can be stressful for many when planning.   The key is planning ahead and setting up beforehand.  The menu is obviously the biggest part to plan and whether you will be having others bring parts of the menu.

A small gathering can be invited by phone while a larger group may need invitations by mail or e-mail and dates for the RSVP.  Make sure you have plenty of time if an RSVP is required.  The last thing you want is to have the reply date 2 days before the event.  If your cookout includes others bringing some of the food, make sure you know what they are bringing so you do not get 5 potato salads.  Once the menu has been decided, start the planning of set up.  What will you need to put outside?  Make sure you include a trash receptacle for your guests and if your cookout includes kids, have a separate cooler of drinks for them.  A great idea for kids is to also have a marker so they can put their initials on their drink.  More drinks get opened and not consumed because they forget which one is theirs.  It also helps prevent germs to be spread.   Check your gas or charcoal supply the week before the event.  Nothing could be worse than having that go out while you are preparing the food.

The shopping list should include all the items needed, but you can shop for many of the items in advance such as paper products, soft drinks, bottled water, and other drinks not requiring refrigeration as soon as you get them home.  Shop for the food you will need 2 days before your event.  This gives you time to make sure you have everything and time to go back for those things forgotten.  Prepare anything you can the day before the event.  Many deserts and salads can be made a day ahead.   IF your dinner includes hamburgers, hot dogs, or sausages, make the patties and take the links out of their packaging the morning of and place on a platter.  Cover the platter and it is ready for your cook.

Set up the items that can be set up early in the morning such as a tent, chairs, tables, and the placement of the coolers.  Put your condiments in a basket in the fridge so you can quickly grab them when it is time.  Pick out all the baskets or serving pieces for your cookout.  Place the bag in the basket and then right before your guests arrive your just open the bag and dump.  Cut any vegetables for serving in the morning so they are easy to place on their serving dish.  Put out the plates, napkins, and silverware before guests arrive.  4 hours before guest arrival place ice and drinks in the coolers.  Make sure the coolers are in a shaded area.

As your guests are arriving, put out the appetizers.  Have your oven ready for anyone bringing a dish which needs to be kept warm.  Have extra serving pieces in case someone needs them for their dish.  Now it is time to have a relaxing cookout.  Set a timer for when you want to start cooking the main course.  Many of us can get caught up in the conversation and forget to start the grill.  Enjoy your guests.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Organizing Your Kid's Summer

It's that time of the year again when school is out and the kids need something to do. Many families send their kids to a day camp all day when both parents work. If you are one of the lucky parents who is home all summer, or your kids are old enough to be home all summer, then it is time to organize your kid’s summer. You certainly do not want to spend the summer hearing, "I don’t have anything to do". If your child is old enough to stay home while you work, but not old enough to get a job, then a daily list is definitely the way to go. Allow them some time to do the things they want to do, but add chores you need done. Older kids can help with many projects like painting the deck, mowing the lawn, weeding the garden, or washing the windows. Doing their laundry, dusting, and vacuuming can be a weekly task.

If you are home all summer with your child, then daily chores will help keep them busy for a few hours a day. Helping with a project will also keep them busy. Any project you plan to work on can use an extra hand. Trips to the pool, library and park can still be a part of the summer but getting some projects done will help you and teach your kids responsibility.

The list should start our detailed so they get the hang of how to schedule a day. Put in times too as this will help them to schedule in the future. Be sure to include a few things they like to do such as video games or television. Just make sure you are limiting them just sitting around. Get them outside for much of the day with duties like walking the dog or taking a walk.

Arts and crafts can also be on the daily schedule for kids

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Look Into a Professional Organizer's House

Over the past 7 years of being a Professional Organizer, I have been asked by many of my clients what my home and office look like. "I bet your house is super organized", they always say. Yes, my home is organized, but it does not look like I live in a magazine. We live in our home and so we might have a newspaper out on the counter or the kitchen table for the afternoon or my son might have his clothes on the floor when he wakes up. It is not about being a neat freak, it is about being able to find the items you need in a reasonable amount of time. Yes, this is something I can do. I know where the items I need are and can obtain them within 5 minutes. Now, five minutes might be too fast for you, so maybe you need to obtain your items within 10 minutes. It is an individual issue. Mail on the counter might not bother you, but dirty clothes on the floor does. Clutter and its limits are individual

choices. So when do you know your clutter is a problem?

You should not have to buy something because you cannot find it. This is when you know you need to do something about the clutter in your home. Think about the amount of money you can save by not buying items multiple times. This goes for bills too. I have many clients who spend hundreds of dollars a year on late fees because they cannot find the bill to pay. This again, is when you know clutter has messed up your life and you need to gain control.

My house has a place for everything and many places are labeled for the rest of the family to know where to get items and where to put them back. Do not assume that once you unclutter a space and it looks great, that everyone else will know what you did and where to find the items again. Decluttering is a household affair and labeling just makes it easier for everyone. If mail is the issue, then as soon as the mail comes in the house, eliminate the junk mail. Have a recycle bin or trash can out in your garage or where ever you enter the home. Do not bring junk mail, ads you will never use, or flyers into your home. I find more grocery store ads and flyers in my clients home and most are to stores they never enter. Also, remember that most grocery stores have the current ad in the store as you walk in. Put your bills in a place that will be easy to find, will not attract other clutter, and you have access to anytime. Do not just set it on the counter. That is where they can accidentally get thrown out or lost in a sea of paper.

Take control of your clutter by making sure you need and use the item. If it was purchased on a whim and has been sitting there for years, get rid of it. I live with the items I actually use. For the things I use occasionally, I try to store those in the basement or a top shelf, so they are not taking up space where everyday items can be placed. Every season and holiday, as I put items away, I ask myself if I will be wearing or using that next season. Purging on a regular basis will also keep your clutter under control.

Be proactive when it comes to your space.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Spring Cleaning and Organizing Made Easy

Spring cleaning can be any easy task for anyone to do if you just have a few basic rules. First, do not try to spring clean your entire home in one day or even one weekend. Spread the process out over a month or two depending on how much you want to accomplish. Second, write out a plan as far as the goals you would like to accomplish. An example would be to clean out all closets or just yours and the guest closet. List each task separately so that planning the time is easier. Are there tasks that can be accomplished in 30 minutes or less such as wiping out the fridge or washing out the garbage can.   Those are tasks you could accomplish one evening after dinner or one weekend morning. Divide the tasks into time frames such as 30 minutes or less, 1-4 hours, or half a day. This too will make it easier to plan your time. Next, decide what days you will accomplish the bigger projects by putting them into your calendar. If you don't schedule the project, it will never get done. Keep your list handy so when you find you have a little extra time, you can get one or two smaller tasks accomplished. Make sure to award yourself after you have completed a few smaller spring cleaning tasks, or a larger one by buying yourself something you need or having coffee or lunch with a friend. To keep yourself motivated and not discouraged, start the spring cleaning with a few of the smaller tasks and then move into the larger projects. Remember, a few projects might become interrupted, so plan your schedule to be flexible. An outdoor event might be cancelled due to weather, so can you move your project up a weekend? Spring cleaning is a time for renewal and de-cluttering areas you feel need to be revamped. Make it fun and the goals attainable.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Organizing Tax Papers-Keeping it Simple

Tax season is upon us and it is time to gather those papers and either complete your own taxes or hand them over to your accountant. Either way, you want them to be easy to understand and easy to complete.

If you start out the new year with a plan, your gathering at the end of the year will be easier. You should always have a folder in your filing cabinet marked "taxes". Most of us do not receive any tax papers until January, but you do make contributions and donate items to local charities throughout the year. A single file will be so much easier and simpler in January then looking through drawers and hundreds of papers. Many of us have medical bills we pay throughout the year. If you have a health savings account through work, you should keep the receipts for those bills you paid through the debit card you were given. Many individuals do not have enough medical payments throughout the year to deduct, but for those you do, a file with all those receipts will be much easier for you or your accountant to add up in January.

If you own a business, as I do, keeping the receipts for your business is just as important. This too should be a single file. I separate mine into an excel spreadsheet by the type of expense it is according to a Schedule C. You might you use Quicken or Quickbooks which will help you in this category organization too. If you write off a room as an office, you will want your gas and electric bills as well to write off the percentage that pertains to your situation.

Other tax items I have not mentioned may pertain to you and those papers should be in a separate file if they come in throughout the year. For those papers you receive only in January, a large expandable file is a great way to collect them and keep track of them until you are ready to complete your taxes. Do not lay them down in an already cluttered area where you may never find them again. I find donations and receipts in many of my clients homes that they could have used in previous tax years. It might not be a big amount, but if you add them all up and over the years, they could have reduced their tax bill.
If you have to spend hours looking for all your tax papers, complete the search in sections. Break the area down to small manageable spaces you can search in an hour or less. Try the tips above to eliminate this process next year.

Organizing Your Desk

Your desk is your world whether it is at home or in an office. You have important papers, reports, miscellaneous papers and not so important papers. The biggest question is, are you able to find items you need in minutes? Do you know where that report you have been working on is, or where your passport and social security cards are? If the answer is no, you probably need some help with your desk and the paperwork that comes in on a daily basis and the items you should be keeping and know exactly where they are at all times. A bulletin board makes a great choice for all papers that have an end date. For home, those might include schedules for your child's sports, the school year schedule, and invitations to birthday parties or weddings. For the office, the bulletin board makes a great place for meeting dates, conferences you will be attending and project schedules. Overall, avoid making the bulletin board a place where miscellaneous items just end up in a mish mash of placement because important dates will be lost and missed. Hopefully we have gotten a few papers off your desk. What remains and where should it go? The rest of the papers more than likely require an action of some type. You might need to call for an appointment, or to get information for a report. Keeping it straight and not losing it is the key. You can try the calendar and schedule each task when it is due or needed. Whether you use a wall calendar, your computer, your smart phone, or a day calendar, make sure you use only one. I have been in many clients homes who have to check more than one calendar to schedule our next appointment. This just causes confusion, stress and a way to over schedule which inevitably happens at least once during our time together.

If piles are more your style but you don't like them all over the place because they end up mixed up and you miss dates, try a pile filer. Many companies make such a product for very little cost to you. Just Google "pile filer" and you will find many products to help you keep your piles in order with separate tabs. You can have tabs for calls to be made, orders to be placed, or correspondence to answer.

For your home office and desk, make sure you bring in all the papers in from around the house. Have a place for bills and and a place for important papers. For your personal documents such as passports, social security numbers, house deed, and other papers that would be very difficult or costly to replace should be kept in a waterproof, fireproof safe.
Make sure that to do pile is reviewed weekly and if it has been in the pile for over 30 days, you are probably not going to move forward so give yourself permission to throw it out. Keeping your desk organized will help your productivity and relieve the stress.