Don’t Stress Over The Holidays- Do This Instead

Happy Thanksgiving day greeting card calligraphy text with pumpkins, squash and leaves over dark wood table background

As we approach the holidays, there’s a lot of things going on that add stress to our already stressful lives. In addition to work, taking care of our kids or, in some cases, our parents, there are now holiday parties, shopping for gifts and pressures of visiting family.

However, its’ also a time to celebrate. Spend time with family and friends. Take a vacation or staycation. I know we all have to work BUT, we also have to take time to enjoy ourselves. Otherwise, what’s all the hard work for?

I hope that the following tips can help alleviate some of the stress that you may experience in the next couple of months and give you some ideas on how to wind down and take some badly needed and well-deserved time.

1. Say no.
a. You do NOT have to attend every party or event that you’re invited to:
i. Pick wisely. You can always explain that there is a conflict in your schedule or, if you’re like me you can just “tell it like it is”. Say thank you for the invitation and graciously decline.

2. Plan ahead.
a. Make a list of all gifts that you need to buy for others:
b. If you’re ordering on-line, take care of it sooner than later to make sure it gets there on time
c. If you’re out there shopping, map out the stores you want to go to, to save time
d. Go on off hours to avoid the holiday rush

3. Ask for help.
a. If you’re planning on having company over the holidays, make it easier:
i. Hire someone, if you’re having a lot of people over for dinner, to help serve and clean
ii. Order groceries on-line and have them delivered
iii. Have friends and family pitch in
iv. Cook in advance and freeze in portions

4. Budget. The holidays can get expensive. However, there are many ways to cut corners:
a. Use coupons
b. Shop on Black Friday when deals are plentiful
c. Use points to pay (check your credit cards to see which ones offer this option)
d. If you’re creative, make your own gifts
e. Agree with some friends and family to NOT exchange gifts.
i. Perhaps you can suggest time together to celebrate the holidays making memories

5. Take Care of Yourself.
a. Get enough sleep
b. Enjoy some downtime
i. Get up early when everyone is still sleeping
c. Meditate
d. Exercise
e. Eat properly

6. Celebrate.
a. Do something special for yourself:
b. Get a massage, facial, mani/pedi
c. Make a date with a friend or your significant other for a nice night out
d. Do something you’ve been wanting to do but haven’t had the time (or money)
i. If not now, when? Tomorrow is promised to no-one!

Wishing you and yours a very Happy Holiday Season.

This Is Important Information So I Urge You To Pay Attention

As many of you know, before I started my career as a Professional Organizer, I was a Paralegal/Legal Assistant for 30 years. After all those years in the legal industry, I just want to let y’all know that dealing with paper is something I know about. It’s boring, it’s voluminous, it’s lots of paper cuts but it is IMPORTANT!

It is important to:
1. Know what documents to keep and for how long
2. Know what documents to shred
3. Understand the “important documents” that you need for your protection: Insurance Policies, Wills, Trusts, Marital Agreements, Deeds, etc.
4. Make sure that these documents are up-to-date
5. Ensure that your “important documents” are properly executed.

I can’t tell you how often I see documents that haven’t been signed but should have been. Haven’t been updated, but should have been. Haven’t been notarized but should have been. Haven’t been renewed, but should have been.

The crazy thing is that the people that “should” have made sure that their important documents were current or properly executed are bright, professional, responsible people. Unfortunately, sometimes things slip through the cracks. The problem is that it can and does cause problems and those problems can cost a lot of heartache and a lot of money to rectify.

Examples: Both true stories

Story #1: My friend had an auto insurance policy that was on auto-pay. He liked that he never had to worry because his auto insurance was paid automatically every month. Until it wasn’t. There had been fraud on his credit card and the account had to be closed. The credit card associated with his auto-pay information wasn’t updated. The insurance company didn’t have the updated information and was unable to deduct the payment as the account was closed. Unknowingly, my client didn’t have insurance for 4 months. Unfortunately, the only reason he found out was because he got into a fender bender and called his agent to make a claim. He not only was unable to make a claim but he now needed to find other insurance as it was too late to renew the expired policy. The insurance company claimed that they had sent an email and left messages but my client claims he never received any communications from the insurance company. The end result was that my friend was out-of-pocket for the damage to his car. This could have been catastrophic had the accident been his fault and, worse, if anyone had gotten injured.

Story #2: Many years ago, I had made changes to my Trust and Will. My then husband and I went to the attorney to have the revised documents signed and notarized. He said he would send me the original in the mail as he wanted to make copies for his files. When I received the “original” in the mail I immediately filed it. I didn’t look at it again as I didn’t think there was a need to as we had just been to see the attorney and just signed and notarized the documents. A few months later a family member asked to see the Trust and noticed a HUGE issue. Apparently, the attorney sent me an incorrect copy. I immediately called the attorney but the damage was done. The family member who asked to see the document decided that I, having legal knowledge and experience, knew about the incorrect language and decided to hide it. She questioned my integrity which was hurtful but, more importantly, that relationship was never the same and caused a lot of problems. We ultimately received the correct copy Trust but the damage was already done. Had the family member not looked at the Trust, it could have caused even more damage as our estate would have been distributed incorrectly.

My points are many and are a result of lessons learned. Here are some things you can and should do ASAP to avoid problems:

1. If someone, anyone, even a trusted advisor, gives you a document to sign, READ IT FIRST.
a. It’s your responsibility to understand anything that you are signing.
2. If anyone sends you a copy of an executed document, make sure that the copy is the correct one and reflects the latest updates.
a. Do a comparison to make sure that you have the latest copy with the latest revisions.
3. If you receive a renewal on your insurance policy, compare it to your previous policy to make sure the coverage is correct.
a. Mistakes happen all of the time and situations change. That’s why its important to review your insurance policies every time they renew.
4. If you haven’t seen a bill on auto-pay deducted from your bank, call and find out why.
a. The missed payments will catch up and create a problem so don’t wait thinking they forgot to bill you.
5. If you’ve gotten divorced, had a child or your spouse has passed, update your Trust, Will, Health Care Directives and Power of Attorney.
a. This can avoid legal conflicts down the road.
b. Note: These documents should be updated every 5 years or so as the laws change.
6. Make sure that your beneficiaries on your Insurance Policies, Investment Accounts, etc. are up to date.
a. People come and go in our lives all too often. You don’t want someone you no longer speak to, get money because you forgot to make the necessary changes.
b. Note: These should be reviewed when you get married, divorced or have a child.
7. Think about naming your spouse, significant other or trusted family member on your contact information with insurance companies so that they can be notified if you can’t be reached.
a. This is a great precaution to avoid insurance policies from getting cancelled.
8. If there has been fraud on your accounts/credit cards, make sure that you notify any other institutions that they are connected to and update all of those accounts.
a. Make sure to also notify the three credit bureau’s: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.
9. Make sure any important documents (see the ones listed above) are signed, dated and, if/when necessary, that they are notarized.

YOU MUST BE YOUR OWN ADVOCATE so “Dot your “I’s” and cross your “T’s”.

Urgent! Valuable Information For National Disaster Preparedness Month

Everyone is talking about Global Warming. Whether you believe in it or not, what’s going on with the weather all over the world has been crazy. That’s a fact! Warmer than usual temperatures everywhere. Droughts in some areas. More flooding than ever before in others. Melting Icebergs causing water levels to rise. Yikes!

A Natural Disaster or other emergency situation can happen anywhere, at any time. If and when it does, are you ready?

Watching the news and seeing images of people who lost everything, their houses, cars, clothing, family heirlooms and photographs, in the aftermath of a natural disaster or other type of emergency, has always made me think about how they were going to put their lives back together.

While we can’t prevent or stop these events from happening, we can be prepared so that we can mitigate the damages.

September is National Preparedness Month. Sponsored by FEMA, National Preparedness Month aims to educate and empower Americans to prepare for and respond to all types of emergencies, including natural disasters and potential terrorist attacks.

Natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and/or fires, can have disastrous and far-reaching effects on our lives. Especially if we are not prepared! National Preparedness Month is a great reminder that it’s time to prepare yourself and those in your care for emergencies.

We all know that emergencies can happen unexpectedly and can result power outages that impact communities for days at a time. As commendable as they may be in their profession for assisting those in need, police, fire and rescue may not always be able to reach you quickly in an emergency or disaster. The most important step you can take in helping your local responders is being able to take care of yourself and those in your care for at least a short period of time following an incident. The better you are prepared, the quicker you will recover.

The following information will hopefully motivate you to do something, anything, towards getting you and your loved ones prepared, just in case…:

1. Be informed:
a. Get practical tips on preparing for disaster at ready.gov or fema.gov.
i. There you can find countless articles and detailed information on what may be most important to you and your family. You can also find information tailored to specific needs such as people with disabilities, seniors, assisting children, business readiness and even information for your pets.

2. Be connected:
a. Bookmark weather.gov to stay informed on severe weather.
b. Learn about Wireless Emergency Alerts – messages that will be sent to your phone during an emergency.

3. Be Prepared:
a. Make sure that you and your family are prepared for an emergency. Ensure that you can go for at least three days without electricity, water service, access to a supermarket or other local services.
b. Get a solar charger or generator in case there is an electricity shortage.

4. Create an Emergency Plan:
a. Your family may not be together when a disaster strikes so it is important to plan in advance.
i. Figure out BEFORE an emergency arises, how you will contact one another. If you can’t communicate for whatever reason, agree on a meeting place that everyone knows.

5. Be Proactive:
a. Make sure to have an emergency kit that includes water, flashlights, batteries, necessary medication, a first aid kit and non-perishable food (to name just a few items to have on hand).
i. Have an emergency kit in your car just in case you’re not home when a disaster strikes. If you’re at home you’ll still have access to your car so keeping one in the car is always a good idea.
ii. Make sure the supplies are kept up to date. Medical supplies do expire and old food/water isn’t going to make things any easier when you need them for survival.

6. Keep it together:
a. Make sure that you have all of your important documents together in one place so that you can recover your losses quickly (ie, insurance policies, photos of valuables, emergency contact list)
i. I keep mine in a 3 ring binder that is easily accessible. If you want some detailed information about which documents to put together and how, sign up for my newsletters (if you haven’t already) and get a FREE Emergency File Checklist. (Go to: www.organizingconceptsanddesigns.com)

7. Stay Safe:
a. If your home has been damaged and is no longer safe, go to a designated public shelter. To find the nearest shelter in your area, text “SHELTER + your ZIP code” to 43362 (4FEMA). Make sure you know:
i. Where the gas shut off valve is.
ii. How to turn of the main water supply.
iii. Not to light candles (you’d be surprised and how many people don’t know that!).

Interesting Facts About The Professional Organizing Industry

top ten reasons to get rid of things

Top 10 list

I’ve been thinking about this one for a while so I thought I’d just go for it and put it out there.

There are a lot of people who claim to be Professional Organizers out there. But are they really?

Professional Organizing is still a highly unregulated field. Even though Professional Organizers have been around for a very long time, it is still considered a “young” profession. We don’t even have a code for the IRS when we file taxes. In fact, some of us have to say that we’re movers or interior designers so that the IRS can categorize us. We’re trying to get acknowledged by the IRS and so many other governmental entities but given that we are still a growing industry it’s going to take time.

There are many people who choose this industry as an occupation because it doesn’t yet require licensing, a degree or certification. Due to the lack of requirements, people can just hang out a shingle and claim that they are a Professional Organizer. It seems easy. But, the truth is that this industry is anything but easy. It requires skill, patience, knowledge, business acumen, physical strength and stamina, resources and so much more.

The thing is, I take my profession seriously. I just have to hope that others seeking to provide services under the umbrella of Professional Organizing will do the same. Those that don’t actually do more harm than good. Those who are putting themselves out there as Professional Organizers should be experienced and prepared to handle the job they’re hired for.

NAPO, the National Association of Professional Organizers, is a worldwide association that provides its members with education, certifications in certain areas are now available and more importantly a code of ethics. IMHO anyone out there providing organizing services should be part of this association if they are serious about this profession. Those that don’t, will unfortunately undermine the success of this profession.

One of the most important lessons I learned as a member of NAPO is “do no harm”. Simply put, if you aren’t qualified to work with a potential client then refer them to someone that is. In this line of work, we come across people from every walk of life, every ethnicity, race, age and people of varying degrees of abilities, both mentally and physically.  Everyone has their own issues, reasons, circumstances and we must understand our limitations as Organizers as to who we should and should not work with based on our experience, skills, knowledge, etc.

So, I will leave you with some good advice when seeking the assistance of a Professional Organizer. Do your due diligence and ask these questions:

  • Are you a member of NAPO? You can check NAPO.net to see if someone you want to work with is a member.
  • Are you insured? Ask for proof of general liability insurance.
  • Do you have a business license? Ask to see it.
  • Do you have an on-line presence? As for their website, social media, blog info.
  • Do you have the experience and resources to undertake the task at hand? Inquire about their experience/years in business.
  • Ask to see before and after photos of other, and perhaps similar, jobs.
  • Ask for references from prior or present clients. Do check references!
  • Check Yelp or Google-My-Business to see their reviews.
  • Find out what their specialty is so that you can make sure they would be a good fit. There are many, many areas that organizers can specialize in (ie., photo organizing, relocations, digital organizing, etc.)
  • Find out if they are a sole practitioner or if they have employees as some jobs require more than one person.
  • Finally, make sure that whoever you hire understands what YOUR goal is.  Be clear about what you want the outcome to be so that your expectations are clear.  Make sure you’re on the same page as the person/company that you ultimately hire.

    If you want to get organized, or better organized, please give us a call. We’d love to be of service!

    What Is Disorganization Costing You?

    You know you have “it”. You just can’t find “it”. So, after looking and trying hard to remember where you put “it” or last saw “it” you go to the store to replace “it”.

    “IT” represents so many things that I can’t even give “it” a name. It’s your keys, glasses, the stapler, the phone charger, your ear buds, wallet, yada, yada, yada.

    We’ve all heard it a million times … “time is money”. We spend time looking for lost or misplaced items and that’s time we could be getting work done. Work that we get paid for. Hell, it’s time we could be doing just about anything else that would be better than searching for something and, its soooooo frustrating! Oh, and more importantly, it’s time you’re never getting back!

    Not being able to find what you want, when you want it, also costs money because when you finally give up looking, you wind up buying whatever “it” is again.

    Then, and it always happens, when you’re not even looking, whatever “it” is turns up again. Now you have 2 or 3 of the same thing. You have extras that you really don’t need and probably don’t have space for. It’s an endless cycle and it is costing you time, money and frustration.

    So, what to do? It’s really easy. Seriously…it’s easy. Just give everything a home and put it back where it belongs when you’re finished. Anything that doesn’t have a home, a place where it belongs, will become clutter. It’s just a fact.

    Look. We’re all busy! We all have the same 24 hours in a day. We can all choose how we spend that time. You can keep doing what you’re doing and waste time looking for things that you know you have but simply can’t find OR, you can decide to do things differently. It will take time to put systems into place and it will take time to form the habit to put things where they belong BUT, once you do, you’ll be so much better off.

    Wouldn’t it be great to not have to always be in search of your keys and/or cell phone? Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could find exactly what you need when you need it? Give yourself back the hours of wasted time each day/week and dedicate some time this summer to get your sh*t together.

    Purge. Rearrange things so that they make more sense. Put like items together with like items. Get organizing/storage products to store things in and around the house so that they are contained, especially the smaller items.

    Designate certain places for important items. For example, always drop your keys in a basket on the counter when you walk into the house. You’ll never misplace your keys again.

    I told you. It’s really easy. You just have to make the time to put systems into place and they don’t have to be extravagant or difficult. Keep it simple!

    If you need any assistance, give us a call. We’d love to be of service!

    In the meantime, take a look at these interesting statistics regarding the cost of disorganization:

    • So-called “crisis” purchases or fees related to disorganization can cost as much as 15-20% of your annual budget including buying duplicates of misplaced or broken items, last minute shopping at higher prices and extra interest and finance charges.
    • 15% of all paper handled in businesses is lost
    • 30% of all employees’ time is spent trying to find lost document
    • Average Americans spend one year of their life looking for lost or misplaced items. US News and World Report
    • On average, we spend 6 minutes looking for our keys in the morning. IKEA
    • The top five items men look for in their homes are clean socks, remote control, wedding album, car keys and driver’s license. IKEA
    • For women, the top five items are shoes, a child’s toy, wallet, lipstick and the remote control. IKEA
    • The average American wastes 55 minutes a day (roughly 12 days a year) looking for things they own but can’t find. Newsweek
    • The average office employee spends 1.5 hours a day (6 weeks per year) looking for things. OrganizedWorld.com
    • The typical executive wastes 150 hours a year (almost an entire month), searching for lost information. For someone earning $50,000 a year, this loss is equivalent to $3,842 annually. Forbes ASAP
    • Americans waste more than 9 million hours each day looking for lost and misplaced articles. American Demographic Society
    • 55% of consumers polled say they would save 16 minutes to one hour a day if they were more organized. Those consumers are then wasting 2-15 days a year! NAPO

    Less Really is More


    This is a true story. It’s my story.

    I realized late Saturday night that there was a leak in the ceiling of my bedroom. It started as a slow drip and within 8 hours turned into a HUGE project. I’ll spare you the details BUT, basically “they” had to remove the ceiling in my bedroom, do mold remediation and so much more. It’s was a 10 day ordeal and, needless to say, I’m not a happy camper.

    What a s*it show. I had to move out of my house for a few days and I had to pack most of the house to get things out of the way for the construction to begin. Even though the major damage was in the bedroom, the whole house was affected in some way or another.

    There’s more to the story obviously, but I just want to make a point. I wasn’t expecting this but, it happened and I had to deal with it. Thankfully, because I am organized, it was a lot better than it might have been. I was able to get my hands on all of the important insurance papers, warranties and service providers that I needed to take quick action. I was able to get the packing done in just a few hours as there wasn’t that much “stuff”. I’m not minimalist BUT the amount of “stuff” that I have is manageable.

    I can only imagine that if I had more “stuff” how much more difficult this would have been. I can only surmise that had I needed to dig through to find the information/documents I needed that this project would have taken a whole lot longer to get started. By the way, the fact that I was able to get started immediately probably saved me thousands as the mold issue would have gotten progressively worse.

    The lesson is that being organized really helped but, more importantly, ”Less is More”. It’s just a fact. The more you have the more you have to deal with. The packing, storing and cleaning is just ten times worse especially when an emergency arises. More importantly, the more you have the more the loss can be as well. Important fact: not everything that gets damaged can be replaced and not everything is insurable.

    You never know when an emergency will strike. I’ve done a newsletter already about Emergency Preparedness (which you can find on my Blog on my website) but this is a bit different. This isn’t about a major event. It doesn’t always have to be a major event for you to be prepared. This wasn’t life threatening. It was, however, a major disruption emotionally, physically and financially (ugh!).

    So, I am asking you to question whether you need it all. Ask yourself what you would do if suddenly you had to pack up and get out of the house quickly, even for a short period of time? Could you do that? Could you find what you needed to survive for a few days or a week without access to your home or belongings?

    I’m not gonna go all Marie Kondo on you and ask if you love everything you own before deciding whether to keep it or toss it. I am, however, going to tell you that you can literally downsize every day, a little at a time. Every time you go into a cabinet, cupboard, drawer really look for a minute and remove anything that:

    -Is chipped, broken, missing a piece
    -One of a kind when it’s supposed to be a set
    -Brings bad memories
    -Doesn’t fit
    -Isn’t “in” anymore
    -You never liked and/or got it as a gift but never wanted/needed it
    -Old books that you no longer need (think textbooks)
    -Decorative items that are just done
    -Medicines or supplements or food that is way past the expiration date
    -Magazines or newspapers older than 3 months old.

    We all accumulate stuff! But, we don’t have to keep it all forever.

    So, my advice is to get started. If this feels overwhelming, give us a call. We’d love to be of service!