Great Tips for Staying Organized While Traveling During the Holidays (or Anytime)

While going on vacation is exciting, I think we can all agree that returning from a vacation is usually stressful. There’s a lot of mail, a ton of e-mails to go through and dozens of other things you need to get to that have been piling up while you were gone. It can almost seem like a punishment for ignoring your responsibilities.

Hopefully you will be relaxed and ready to tackle the many tasks that have been waiting for you upon your return both personally and professionally. However, just in case you get overwhelmed, here are some tips to help you ease back into reality:

PERSONAL:
1. Plan: Make a list of the things you need to do. Keep this list with you so that you can refer to it while you’re out and about.
2. Calendar: Schedule some time on your calendar when you can and will actually do the thing on your list. (See #1 above)
3. Easy Does it: If you’re overwhelmed with the amount of things on your list, break it down into smaller, more do-able pieces. You don’t have to do it all in one day.
4. Consolidate: When planning and calendaring, group items in the same area together. For example, if you’re going to the mall, perhaps you can make a bunch of stops that you need to make while you’re there.
5. Delegate: Your husband, your children, your significant other or another family member who will be involved in the festivities can and hopefully will be happy to help. LET THEM! Afterall, the holidays are for everyone.
6. Call in the Pros: You don’t have to do it all. Free up some time by hiring someone to do something that you just don’t want to do. One thing that comes to mind is to hire a cleaning crew instead of doing it yourself.
7. Re-think it: Maybe you don’t have to do something that was on your list. Just because you did it last year or the last several years doesn’t mean you have to do it every year. If there was something that didn’t work out or wasn’t necessary, cross it off your list.
8. Get started: The earlier you start, the less stressful it will be. Sh-t happens so give yourself ample time.
9. Make it fun:. Some suggestions: listen to great music while you’re doing whatever it is that’s on your list, ask a friend to meet you for lunch when you’re in between your errands, treat yourself to something nice when you’ve completed something on your list.
10. Take an extra day before heading back to work to regroup and catch-up on your life. Use the extra day to get things done at home so that you can focus on work when you return to the office.

PROFESSIONAL:
1. Communicate: Notify people you regularly interact with that you will be unavailable and away from the office. If people know you’ll be gone, they (hopefully) won’t try to contact you which will significantly reduce the amount of voice mails and emails.
2. Clear it Out: Clear the inbox on your desk and your email inbox so that the new items you must attend to when you return will be obvious.
3. Get it done: Wrap up all of your “To Do’s” . This may be difficult depending on the type of job you have, but do the best you can. See if you can delegate things that haven’t been finished so they can be taken care of while you’re gone.
4. No Appointments: Make sure you don’t have any meetings or appointments the first day (or two) when you return to the office. You will definitely appreciate the time to get caught up.
5. Arrive Early: Upon your return, arrive an hour early to work. Use this time to check your schedule, messages, mail and e-mail before your colleagues get in and start asking about your trip and giving you more things to do.

Okay, now go and relax and know that when you get back from your vacation, you’ll have everything under control.

Have a great trip and HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Organizing & Advocating for Your Health

In the past month, three of my closest family members have had to undergo surgical procedures.   Thankfully, everyone is doing well and on the road to recovery.   

The events of the past month really made me to stop to think about how much easier this past month was because we were organized.    I don’t like to throw around the “should” word but when your health is involved, you really SHOULD be organized. The following is a list of things you “should” have in place prior to undergoing a medical/surgical procedure:

1.  Make sure that you have an updated and legal Health Care Directive.  Give a copy of your Health Care Directive to your primary care physician as well as the physician performing the procedure.   

2.  If you don’t already have a Health Care Directive, you can download one from the internet.  Make sure that the person you designate to make decisions for you in case you are not able, knows and agrees to taking on that responsibility.   The Healthcare Directive must be signed and dated and, in some cases, notarized.   

3.  Make sure that you bring all necessary paperwork with you on the day of the procedure ( ie., insurance card, identification, checkbook and/or credit card).

4.  Know your medical history and provide this information to your primary care physician and the physician performing the procedure.

5.  Make a plan, in advance, to have someone drive you to the appointment and pick you up.   If worst comes to worst you can always call a cab or Uber but don’t make the mistake of driving yourself.

6.  Ask your physician’s office, before the procedure, to call in your prescriptions to your pharmacy.  Pick them up before the procedure.  The less you have to do after a procedure, the better.

7.  Go to the market before the procedure and get whatever you might need for at least a couple of days.   Again, the less you have to do after a procedure, the better.  You may not be able to drive or do much walking afterward and, even if you can, you may not want to. 

8.  Ask your doctor before the procedure to give you the After Care Instructions.  It’s best to review them prior to the procedure when you are more able to comprehend them.   

9.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions both before and after a medical procedure.   Remember to write down any questions and/or concerns so that you don’t forget them when you’re with the doctor.  It is important to be your own advocate.   

10.  Dress comfortably on the day of the procedure!  For example, don’t wear restrictive clothing or shoes that need to be tied.  Leave your jewelry and other items that you don’t want to lose at home.

Are You Committed?

I’ve been organizing now professionally for 6 years and there’s a common “issue” I come across time and time again.   The issue being maintenance or upkeep.  
 
There are times (many times) when I get a call from a client several weeks after our work together was completed asking me to come back for another organizing session.  To be honest, sometimes it’s just after a few days.  They were thrilled with the work we did and felt really good when I left, however, apparently, things didn’t stay quite the way we left them and they express frustration.
 
As a Professional Organizer this is one of my biggest frustrations as well.
 
We work WITH our clients, “WITH” being the operative word, to create organized spaces. Spaces that are functional, accessible and efficient.   We show our clients what we’re doing, while we’re doing it and explain why in the hopes that when their space is organized that they will be able to maintain it.   We TRY to transfer our knowledge so that our clients will understand the basic principles of organizing.
 
If a client hires us to implement a filing system, for example, we do so with their needs and goals in mind.  We show them where to file the current-incoming paper and what to do with incoming mail so that the system doesn’t fall apart.   This requires time and effort as with anything new.
 
We also explain that it will not stay that way unless they maintain it.  You can’t clean your house once and expect it to stay that way right?.  You have to do a little each day or each week to keep a clean house.  Same principle applies to getting and staying organized.   
 
Maintenance requires a commitment.  It means that the space, wherever it may be (filing system, master closet or garage) needs to be tended to regularly.  Organizing requires time, just like anything else, if you want it to stay that way.
 
While I prefer to maintain my own spaces daily (think OCD), many people won’t or can’t and that’s fine. For those of you who won’t or can’t maintain their space daily try the following:
 
1.     Pick a day and time, each week or each month to get things done.   
2.     Put this day/time in your calendar so that you set up a routine for yourself.
3.     If, when you sit down to tackle whatever area you’re working on, you feel overwhelmed, move up the date.   Perhaps once a week might be better than once a month.
4.     Make sure that you have the tools and/or supplies you need (for example, if you’re working on paperwork have files, a shredder and a trash bin next to you so that everything you need is at your fingertips).
5.    Use the right tools and/or supplies.  Use good tools/supplies that won’t frustrate your efforts (for example, if your shredder is constantly getting jammed get one that works properly so the shredding doesn’t pile up).     
 
Bottom line, you must be committed to the process.  If you are not that’s fine too but at least admit it and figure out an alternative so things don’t revert back.  One way would be to hire an organizer, hopefully us, to maintain it for you.   
 
OC&D offers weekly, monthly and bi-annual maintenance services so that your systems or organized space(s) stay that way.
 
Call us anytime!  We’re here to help you get and stay organized

Staging Your Home Can Increase It’s Value

LISTEN UP.  This is important! 

It’s moving season and many people are getting ready to list their homes for sale.   

If you’re selling your home, it’s important to get it ready for your realtor to show it to prospective buyers. The better your house shows, the more you’ll get for it.  The goal is for people walking through your house:

  •   To be excited about the potential of living there
  •   To imagine themselves living in your home 
  •   To want to make an offer

Here are a few helpful hints to stage your home to increase it’s value:

     1.   Remove the clutter from all surfaces.  Clutter is the stuff you don’t need every day to function.

     2.   Put away all personal photos on surfaces and on walls.

     3.   Remove any excess furniture (think eating trays for example).

     4.   Clean up as if you were expecting company.

     5.   Beautify a bit: make the beds and put on some pretty throw pillows if you have any, put fresh flowers on the table…

     6.  Make sure that the house smells good.  If necessary, drop some lemon down the garbage disposal.

     7.  Easy fixes:  Patch holes in the wall, touch up where paint is needed, clean the carpet.

     8.  Open the blinds and curtains.  Let in some natural light.

     9.  First impressions are really important so make sure the entry to your house looks nice and inviting.  

     10.  Give the outside some love too.  Plant some flowers outside, mow the lawn, sweep the stoop.

These are just a few easy, do-it-yourself, things that you can do to get your house ready to show.

If you need some help, please give us a call.   We’re ready when you are!

Good luck!

 

STORAGE: To Have or Not to Have? That is the Question.

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I was talking to a prospective client last week and he brought up a subject that I think warrants some attention. Storage! He said he was currently sharing a house with other people and was running out of room in his quarters. He wanted to know if I thought he should get a storage unit. I was actually THRILLED that he asked for my input before just going out and renting a storage unit.

Needless to say my answer was a resounding NO. However, I was able to give him some ideas as to how to get more out of the space he has. For the moment, I was able to talk him out of renting a storage unit.

I can’t tell you how many times in a month that we get calls from people who want to clear out their storage units after years (and I do mean years) of paying for storage. Most of the time after we’ve finished clearing out the storage unit, our clients are amazed at how much money they’ve spent (or should I say wasted) on rent because most of the time the contents weren’t worth holding on to or, for that matter, storing.

Here’s some interesting facts:
• If you rent a storage unit you’re contributing to a $154 billion industry – bigger than the Hollywood film industry
• 1 in 11 American households has a self-storage space and spend over $1,000 a year in rent
Before I give you my many reasons why I think storage is a waste of money, I want to acknowledge that there always extenuating circumstances and there are times when storage is necessary.

Here’s a few good reasons to rent a storage unit:

1. When you’re moving but don’t know where and, therefore, not sure of what to take (or not)
2. When you’re remodeling and don’t want your belongings to get ruined in the process
3. When you have to clear the contents of a loved one’s home and you don’t have time or the wherewithal to figure things out
4. When it’s for the short term (ie, the end of a college year but you’re returning the following season)
5. When you have no other options and it’s only for a short period of time

Now for my rant about why having a storage unit is usually NOT a good idea:

More often than not, storage units become an abyss. Once again, more often than not, it becomes a catchall. We wind up putting anything and everything in there that we’re not sure of or that we don’t want to make a decision about. Sometimes it’s because there’s no more room in the house or garage.

Before long the storage unit is full of who knows what and the thought of getting in there to figure it out is, in itself, overwhelming. So it just sits there. Month after month, year after year. In the meantime the costs keep adding up. At the end of the day, you’re using your hard-earned money to pay for storing “stuff” that you aren’t using and probably don’t need.

So, if you have a storage unit, spending who knows how much money, let’s talk. Maybe you really don’t need it after-all. Perhaps we can figure out another option. I do know one thing for sure and that is I can help you come up with countless other ways to spend that money.

Part II – Creating an Emergency File

More tips for Organizing Important Information

As you may recall from last month’s newsletter, I provided a list of some of the important documents that you “should” have in one, easily accessible but safe place. While there are many more documents than the ones I mentioned, this is a good start.

I suggest putting these documents in a three-ring binder with dividers for each section. You can also use an expanding file. Use whatever is easiest for you. I’m just thrilled if you get the process going (and your family will be too).

Make sure that whatever you wind up using is accessible and can easily be carried out of the house if and when necessary. Be very thoughtful about where you put this file. You do not want it to end up in the wrong hands. Store it in a waterproof safe that is bolted to the floor or hide a copy under a false name in a filing cabinet or on a shelf. Whichever you choose, make sure someone else knows where it is.
If you decide to keep this information on your computer, don’t forget to:

1) Encrypt & password-protect any folder or list you have on your hard drive
2) Remember the password & write it down someplace that is not accessible to stranger
3) Give it to a loved one who is not your spouse or significant other
4) Consider downloading the information and documentation from your computer to a flash drive & keep it somewhere safe;
5) You might also consider storing your important documents on a cloud server

Here’s a breakdown of what to include:

Financial Institutions & Insurance:
• Name, address, phone number & email of each company & your advisor/broker
• Account number(s)
• Location of Safety Deposit Box & key (you may want to include a description of the contents as well)
• Login Information (Password, Username, ID Number)
• Security questions or other instructions for accessing account(s) online
• All pertinent information of beneficiaries
• Name of anyone that has signatory power on the account(s)

Property:
• If you own one or more properties, a list should include the following for each property:
o The address
o Name, address, phone number & email of any co-owners
o Name, address, phone number & email of Mortgage company
o Type of Ownership (Include timeshares, rental units, etc.)
o If property is rented or leased include the name, address & phone number of the renter/lessee
o Where the Deeds can be found

Utilities & Other Service Providers:
• Name of company & type of service
• Account numbers
• Login information if you have an account on-line
• How & when bills are paid (e.g., auto withdrawal, mail, etc.)

Memberships/Subscriptions:
• Passwords, User ID, Account Numbers, etc. for:
o Social media accounts (Facebook, Linked-In, Twitter, YouTube)
o Websites (personal & business)
o Email Host
o Domain Host
o Online Shopping Accounts (e.g., Amazon, eBay, etc.)
o Frequent flier accounts

Credit Cards:
• Name of Card
• Names of Cardholders
• Account number
• Security Code
• Expiration Date
• Make a copy of front & back of card

Last Wishes:
• If you haven’t done any pre-planning, this is your chance to let your loved ones know your wishes. Take some time to think about what you want with regard to:
• Funeral, burial, memorial service
• Preferred funeral home
• Specific requests:
• Graveside
• Pallbearers
• Cemetery plot location
• Type of casket or urn
• Obituary information
• Body/organ donor
• Burial clothing
• Preferred music

Medical Information:
• Names, addresses & phone numbers of treating physicians
• Allergies (include allergies to medications)
• Important diagnoses/disorders
• Important medical procedures
• Medical appliances (i.e.: pacemaker)
• Family history
• Medications you are taking
• Name, address & phone number of pharmacy
• Name, address & phone number of emergency contact

Assets/Inventory:
• List of Personal Property that has significant value including, but not limited to:
o Cars (list each one by make & model number if there’s more than one)
o Furs
o Artwork
o Antiques
o Family Heirlooms
o Jewelry
 List of who you want to have these items when you pass on. Make sure to attach a copy of the list to your will & make sure to give the executor of your will a copy as well.
 *Note: Be specific & describe the item if there’s more than one!

Insurance Information:
• Name, address, phone number & email address of broker
• Declarations Page
• Premium Amount & Due date
• Elimination period
• Policy number & Group number
• Policy period

Employment:
• Name, address & telephone number of employer and/or immediate supervisor
• Copy of Employment Contract
• Copy of any Stock Certificates
• Copy of any Retirement Plans, Pension Plans, 401K Plans, etc.
Once again, this is not a comprehensive list but it’s a great start.

If you need help with an organizing project of any kind, give us a call. We’d love to help!