Managing Client Expectations

Managing my clients’ expectations is a huge and SUPER important part of my job as the sole owner of my business. It’s up to me to make sure that there are no misunderstandings, that my clients understand what we’re going to do and when. That they understand and agree to the terms of my contract. It is imperative that we’re all on the same page.
I can only imagine that we all have struggles when it comes to managing our client’s expectations throughout the course of a job. I want to share a just a few of the things that I come across on the different kinds of jobs that we handle and how we handle them. Maybe the types of situations that arise for you are different but hopefully you can take away something from these examples and apply them in your life or business.
First and foremost, I tell it like it is. I don’t sugar coat anything. Those of you who know me already know that I’m a straight shooter.  It works for me. It works for them.
RESIDENTIAL ORGANIZING
We’re not magicians. We can’t make room where there isn’t any. If there’s no room, we let our clients know that they have to get rid of something somehow. They can sell, donate, trash or put it in storage (which we do NOT usually recommend). Or, they can build more shelves or remodel and add a closet.  We do an amazing job organizing anything and everything in the house BUT there’s gotta be room to put things away where they belong.
OFFICE/PAPER ORGANIZING
Paper takes time. It’s tedious and time consuming.  It seems that most people (and this is from my personal experience) aren’t sure what to do with their papers. So, they just keep everything just in case. They’re not sure when or what to archive, how long to keep something, if something should be shredded or just tossed so, they just don’t do anything and then it just builds and builds until there a voluminous amount of paperwork to deal with. I always suggest that having a goal in mind will help in determining how to move forward. Budget is also an important consideration. Once our client figures out what they want to do, we will sort through everything, archive whatever needs to be saved for the long term, toss the trash, shred anything with an account number and then implement a filing system tailored to their needs.
ESTATE SALES
Everyone thinks that their “stuff” is priceless. On rare occasions we come across items of significant value but, for the most part, we all have stuff. Nice stuff probably, but not extremely valuable. So, our advice is, if they want to sell something, they should probably do their homework first so they are educated about the value. It’s as easy as looking it up on e-bay or Amazon. When we tell them, something isn’t valuable or worth selling it’s not to insult them, it’s to make sure they understand that they are not going to get a lot of money selling “stuff” that isn’t valuable. Further, just because they paid a lot of money for something doesn’t mean it still holds that value. Also, just because their grandmother gave them something doesn’t mean its an antique and doesn’t mean that it is valuable. It may be valuable to them but not to anyone else. The truth hurts! Ouch. If there’s enough value, we will do an amazing job selling their treasures and will do so ethically and responsibly.
DOWNSIZING
If we can’t sell their valuables, we will offer to either take their donations and drop them off or coordinate a pick-up.  BUT we do not donate everything that they don’t want. We let our clients know that we are selective so that we don’t inundate the donation companies with items we know they won’t take. Because we do this kind of work daily, we must be respectful and only donate items that the donation companies can use or sell. As a reminder, most donation companies will not take anything that is:  ripped, stained, missing a piece, broken, old and/or large furnishings (i.e., floral upholstered couches, armoires).
RELOCATIONS
When moving companies say that they will unpack we make sure that our clients understand what that means.  Most moving companies that offer unpacking services will open the boxes and put the contents on a shelf or counter but will not put anything away. Others might offer to put things away but they don’t care where anything goes. They don’t unpack with an eye towards functionality, accessibility or organization. However, we do! We will unpack EVERYTHING in 1-3 days (depending on volume). We will unpack so that everything is organized, functional, accessible and is easy to maintain.
CLEARING
We clear we do not clean. While we will occasionally sweep or wipe down a shelf, it is not part of the job nor something we want to or are hired to do.  This is something that clients/potential clients need to know. They need to be prepared with a rag, cleaning product, dust buster or vacuum if they think they’d like to wipe down or clean areas that we’re working on. They can also have their housekeeper there on the same day to clean as we go to keep things moving along.  We are happy to recommend cleaning services that we have worked with over the years and have vetted.
Communication is key. I do my best to leave the lines of communication open at all times to avoid any misunderstandings.  We always return calls, texts and emails in the same day. Always!

How Do You Know What Questions to Ask When You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know?

A friend of mine was telling me a story this week about her conversation with her doctor. She was undergoing a surgical procedure and, in addition to some questions she had prepared, she asked him “what questions should I be asking”. This was the first time she was undergoing this type of procedure and wanted to make sure she was fully informed.

What a great question! How would you know what to ask if you’ve never done it (whatever “it” is) before?

So, I’m going to give you some information/suggestions to think about and questions to ask next time you’re hiring a company/business/doctor for the first time. 

Do your due diligence! It is so important to get all of the information you need before you hire anyone.

  • Look them up on Google or Google-My-Business, Yelp, etc. for reviews
  • Look at their website
  • Check references

Ask if what you want done is within their expertise. 

  • Just because someone is an attorney doesn’t mean they litigate. They may just do transactional work. Just because someone is a dentist doesn’t necessarily mean they know how or want to do esthetic dentistry. 
  • Get as much information as you can so everyone is clear and expectations are managed

Ask how long have they been in business?

Ask if they’re insured?

  • Clarify kind of insurance they carry? 
  • Worker’s Compensation? 
  • General Liability?
  • Errors & Omissions?
  • Cybersecurity?
  • Ask for a copy of the declarations page of the policies that would be necessary for the job you are hiring them for

Ask if they are licensed? (Not all occupations require licensing)

  • Get their license number?
  • Find out if they need a license to do what they do?
  • Make sure their license is in good standing?                                                                     

Find out if their workers are employees or independent contractors?

  • How long have the employees/independent contractors been working with you?
  • Do the independent contractors have insurance?
  • What kind of insurance do they have?
  • Ask for a copy of the declarations page of that/those policies?

How do they charge?

  • What kind of payment do they accept?
  • When is payment due?
  • Are there any extra charges NOT included in their estimate that you should be aware of?

The more questions you ask, the better informed you will be. Don’t be afraid to ask these or any other questions.  It lets people know that you want to make an informed decision. Getting information is the first and most important step to making the right decision.

Technological Clutter – What is that Exactly?

Clutter comes in many shapes and sizes but, for now, let’s just talk about technological clutter. You know…all the extra cables, wires, chargers that are in random drawers and boxes around the house. The hard-drive that is buried at the bottom of a closet. Oh, what about the old flip phones that are in a bag in the garage. Yup, that’s all technological clutter.

I can’t tell you how often I come across boxes or bags of old outdated technology in my line of work. Seems like everyone has tons of old technology that they haven’t discarded for one reason or another.

These are the common answers I get when I ask why they’ve kept the old and/or outdated items:
• I may need that cable or wire for something else
• There’s still information on the hard drive that I need
• I don’t know how to purge the information
• I keep just in case I lose mine or mine breaks

This type of clutter is much the same as any other. We keep it “just in case” or, we keep it because we don’t know what to do with it.

Technology changes fast. Things become obsolete quickly. If you have a new cell phone, chances are you will never need the old phone. Even if your phone breaks or is lost, you probably won’t go back to the previous phone because it will be antiquated. So, donate your old cell phone(s). Did you know that you can donate old phones to our troops overseas? Well, you can and they can really use them so hopefully that will motivate you.

Then, there’s the old hard drives. Since we all keep important information stored on the hard drives, it is essential to make sure that they’re wiped clean before discarding them. If you know how to retrieve the information, do it and get rid of the old hard drive. If you aren’t tech savvy, either give it to your IT professional or bring it to the Geek Squad at Best Buy and have them do it for you. They’ll even recycle it for you.

Cables, wires, chargers. Where do I even begin? Once upon a time they obviously belonged to some kind of device but now you have no clue which ones they belong to. So, why keep them? Each new device that you buy will have its’ own cables, wires or cords. As soon as you get your new device, get rid of the old device and all of its cables, wires and cords so they don’t get mixed up. For the most part, they are no longer useful. And, if you do wind up needing a cord or cable that you tossed, you can always get a replacement quickly and at a low cost.

So, in conclusion, if you have a device that you’re currently using, get rid of the older one that you no longer use. You can bring your old technology to the Geek Squad at Best Buy or another place of your choosing where they will wipe out the data and recycle them for you. Some places, like Apple, will allow you to trade in the old technology and give you a credit towards a new device.

Trust me, you’ll feel so much better when you purge these old, outdated and unnecessary items. Just do it!

Do You Have A Storage Unit? Do You Really Need It?

Okay people. Let’s start this conversation right now. No beating around the bush. Let’s just get right to it. There are only a few good reasons to have a storage unit and even those are limited.  Here they are:

  1. If you are remodeling and are using a storage unit to keep your furnishings clean and safe during the renovation.
  2. If you are moving and using it to store your things for a SHORT period of time until your new residence is ready.
  3. If you need it to keep inventory for your business.

That’s it. There’s really no other reason to have a storage unit for an extended period of time. Sorry but that’s the truth. 

 

As a Professional Organizer, I have to say that if you haven’t used it (whatever “it” is)  in 6 months to a year, chances are you won’t and don’t need it.  Further, having the option of putting things in storage enables and may even subconsciously tempt you to acquire more since there’s “somewhere” to put it. Finally, knowing what storage can wind up costing, I can assure you that it is not worth it. Just do the math!

Here are some questions for you to think about: 

  • If you’re storing things that you have no room for, how important can those things be?
  • Why don’t you have room for the items you’re storing?  
  • Can you get easily access the things you need that are in storage?
  • How long have you been storing these things?
  • When was the last time you went to retrieve something from storage and were able to find what you were looking for?
  • How much money are you spending on storage?

Here’s the facts:

  • Storage costs a lot of money!
  • People usually store things because they can’t decide what to do with those items. 
  • Most of the items that people store never find their way back into the homes of those that stored them.

So, before the weather starts heating up and it’s just too hot to even think about going through your storage units, let’s do this now, together! This is how we can help:

  • We will empty everything out of the unit so that you can see everything;
  • We will go through each and every box and/or item to determine what to keep, what to donate and what to toss;
  • We will facilitate each of these options;
  • We will do this in one day!

Sounds good right? So don’t put this off for another day.  Let’s do this!

Organizing When You Live With Other People

Organizing means different things to different people. What one person considers organized may not necessarily mean the same thing to someone else. In fact, it rarely does. 

Some people like things put away as they don’t like clutter. Others like things out so that they can see them. 

When I lived at home as a child, my Mother’s way of organizing meant being able to access what she needed when she needed it so it didn’t matter if something was in the “right” place.  She spent a lot of time in the kitchen and, therefore, a lot of things that didn’t “belong” in a kitchen were there because it was easier for her to not have to go to another room in the house to get them. It worked for her and she knew where everything was. She was organized in her way and it worked for her.

 

When I started living on my own, I organized so that like items were with like items. Everything had its’ place and there was little, if any, clutter.  That is what worked for me and still does.

There really is no ONE right way.  

When we live with other people, whether it be a roommate, your children or a significant other, we need to figure out what works for everyone. Here are some suggestions that I believe will help so that everyone living under one roof is on the same page to avoid conflict (and, not necessarily in this order):

Mutual Respect: We all need to respect the people that we live with. We “should” pay attention to their needs and wants and, in turn, we can hope that they will respect ours. Example: If leaving your shoes in the middle of the floor irritates someone in the house and they’ve asked you to put them away or at least out of harms’ way, the respectful thing to do is to put them away or at least out of harm’s way. It doesn’t take long and it’s not a big deal. More importantly, you can avoid an argument or possibly an injury. Sometimes it’s the little things that make a big difference. 

Compromise: I think we can all agree that compromising is key. Sometimes we do things that we don’t necessarily want to do BUT it will keep the peace in the house so it’s just easier to do. Example: Men “should” put down the lid to the toilet seat if they’re living with a woman and sharing a bathroom. Yes, it’s an extra step but it’s important. Or, if there’s another bathroom in the house perhaps having different bathrooms might work. 

Combined effort: Having a plan in place is a great start. Discuss your wants, needs, expectations and together you can devise a plan that works for everyone. Chores can be divided so that all of the housework doesn’t fall on one person. For example, in my house, the agreement has always been that the common areas of the house (kitchen, living room, den) are always to be left clean and tidy after use. Examples: Dishes go directly into the dishwasher.  Beds are always made before leaving the house. Do whatever works for you but, having the conversation/understanding and an effective plan is a great way to avoid conflict.

Realistic Expectations. Like I mentioned above, everyone has their own way of organizing and their own level of organizational skills.  You can’t expect everyone, or anyone for that matter, to do things exactly like you do or when.  Come up with ways to divvy up the tasks so that they are commensurate with skills/likes of those in the house. Setting a schedule is also helpful so that everyone knows when they need to get their chores done.  

If you find that you need assistance with Organizing, Downsizing, De-Cluttering or Relocating please give us a call. We’d LOVE to be of service!

 

 

Ugh! Paperwork

It’s the time of year when we need to start getting our tax documents together.  We’re all, or most of us are, getting ready to either prepare our taxes or meet with a CPA to have them prepare them for us.  Fun times!  

April 15th, the deadline to file taxes, is only two months away.  Even though that sounds like a lot of time, it goes quickly.  Also, remember that if you’re using an accountant, they are probably wanting you to get your appointment on the calendar now as they’re getting booked up.

I know NOBODY looks forward to preparing or paying taxes but, we all have to do it.     Good thing is, tax time does not have to be stressful!  If you have your financial documents together things will be soooo much easier.  So, if you’re not organized this year and you’re stressing over it, why not get your sh*t together now.  This would be the time!

As a quick reminder, paperwork is one of my specialties. Having spent 30 years in the legal industry as a Legal Assistant/Paralegal before starting OCD, I can implement a filing system tailored to your needs.  I can go through your files or piles and make sense of them.  I can gather up the information/documentation needed for your CPA to file your taxes.   I know the IRS retention guidelines and know what to keep, what to shred, what to archive and what to toss.   If you need help, please give me a call.

While you’re dealing with paperwork, this is also a great time to review your important documents to make sure everything is up to date. Think of it as Financial Spring Cleaning. This is the perfect opportunity to make sure that your legal and financial documents are in order.

 

Insurance:

When was the last time you looked at your insurance policies?  Do you understand your coverage?  When was the last time you had your insurance policies reviewed?

It’s a good idea to have all of your insurance policies reviewed annually.  Get quotes to make sure you’re properly covered and that your rates are competitive.

More importantly, if you’ve gotten married, divorced or had children you might want to consider changing/updating your beneficiaries.

 

Estate Plan:

Do you have an Estate Plan?  When was the last time you updated your Trust and/or Will?

If you already have a Trust or Will in place, talk to your attorney every few years to make sure that everything is up to date.  Laws change and your estate needs to be updated accordingly. 

Further, if you’ve married, divorced, had children since you initially had your Estate Plan done, these documents need to be updated.  I’m sure you wouldn’t want your ex to inherit your assets or make important decisions about your healthcare if and when necessary.  These big life events are emotionally charged and making changes can slip through the cracks.  This is a gentle reminder.

If you don’t have an Estate Plan and have property and/or children, you might want to consider meeting with an Estate Planning Attorney.  Otherwise, your heirs will have to go through probate which is both costly and time consuming. 

Further, most people don’t know this BUT, if you have a child that is 18 or over, they SHOULD have a Health Care Directive in place.  Even if your child still lives with you or is in college and you support them, you do NOT have the right to make decisions about their healthcare unless you are the designated person on their Health Care Directive once they attain the age of 18.

 

Retirement Plan:

Do you have a 401K or other Retirement Plan in place?  Perhaps you forgot to roll over your Retirement Plan from a prior employer. 

Do you have any investments? Consider meeting with a financial planner to make sure that your investments are sound.  Again, things change and your portfolio may need to be re-allocated.   

If you’ve gotten married or divorced or had children you might want to consider changing your beneficiaries or the amount allocated to your beneficiaries.

I know paperwork is tedious. I also know that many people avoid it because they don’t really know what to do with it all.   If you need assistance, please give us a call.  We would love to help! 

Finally, if you need a referral to an Insurance Agent, CPA, Estate Planning Attorney or Financial Advisor, we would be happy to refer you to the right professional.