Seems like every article I’ve received for the last few months has been about tax preparation. So as not to inundate everyone on my email list with yet another article about tax preparation, I chose to write about other things the past few months. However, now that “tax time” is over (for most of us), I thought it would be a good time to put this information out there.
First of all, I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who wouldn’t rather be doing anything else besides getting their taxes ready or “doing” their taxes. I know, and I’m sure you know, a lot of people that have to scramble or spend many hours to pull their paperwork together to file their taxes year after year. So many people just can’t seem to get it together timely and have to file extensions even though we all know that every year on April 15th we have to file our taxes.
Of course, there are extenuating circumstances and some do have to wait and file in October, but, for the rest, in my opinion, filing an extension just prolongs the agony of having to get this paperwork done.
Think about this…What if it only took an hour every year to pull your tax documents together? Don’t you think that most people wouldn’t dread it as much? Of course nobody wants to give the government their hard-earned money BUT, I’m thinking it wouldn’t be such a dreadful task if it only took an hour to pull it together. Truth be told, it should not take more than an hour to pull your tax documents together.
Here are some suggestions as to how to make tax preparation and other paper challenges less daunting:
A. If you don’t have a filing system, start one that is easy to use and maintain:
- Think about what kind of system would work for you:
- Alphabetical, Numerical, etc.
B. Get all of your supplies together:
- Files: make sure you have the right size files for your cabinet or container.
- Decide if you will use interior files, hanging files, color coded files.
- Labels: Use a label-maker or labels that you can print from your computer
- Make sure to name the files correctly so that you can find what you’re looking for.
C. If you already have a filing system but the papers are busting out of the filing cabinets, purge to make room for the current files:
- Talk to your CPA to ask how long you need to keep your documents before tossing or shredding anything.
Putting a filing system into place isn’t that difficult. Moreover, once it’s done it’s done! All you have to do is use it and maintain it. If done right, it’s just that simple. Then, whatever you need is there when you need it. No more wasted time looking for papers.
If you don’t have the where-with-all to do this, CALL me. I can and want to help. I started Organizing Concepts and Designs 9 years ago after spending 30 years in the Legal Industry as a Paralegal and Legal Assistant. I am familiar with the IRS Retention Guidelines and am well aware of what documents to keep, what documents can be tossed, which ones should be shredded and what needs to be archived (and for how long). We can implement a filing system tailored to your needs.
Bottom line is…keeping your paperwork organized will save you a substantial amount of time and money.
We all struggle with sentimental clutter. However, if we’re being honest, objects are just objects and their value doesn’t magically change just because you have a history with them. Try to remember that the value you’re assigning the object comes from your memories, not the object.
Whether you’re having trouble letting go of old love letters from your high school sweetheart, your children’s artwork or struggling to let go of countless items following the death of a loved one, purging items that have sentimental value is extremely difficult.
Making decisions about emotionally charged objects is tricky. It may bring up emotions, good and bad, reminding you of happier times with family members or memories of those who have passed away.
Then, there are times when you’re forced to make decisions. For example, when you’re moving to a smaller home and have to downsize or if you have to sort through the belongings of a loved one who has passed away.
Whether you’re ready to purge or forced to make decisions,
striking the right balance between how much to keep and how much to let go of can also be difficult.
If you keep in mind that you can’t keep everything, then you’ll be able to part with items that are truly clutter and keep the ones that mean the most to you.
How do you decide what stays and what goes? Here are some ideas for how to keep sentimental items from getting out of control:
Keep the best and let go of the rest.
• Save heartfelt letters, not every card everyone ever sent you
Only keep items you want to display/use.
• Then…display/use them.
If you must have a keepsake chest, limit it to one box and only keep things that can fit inside that box.
• When your box is full, you’ll need to remove something when adding something new. DO NOT ADD ANOTHER BOX!
Be sure the keepsake chest/container is sturdy, pest and water resistant.
• Once you decide to keep an item, take the steps necessary to store it the right way. Do a little research to determine which containers to use to preserve the items. Please note that just storing items in plastic bins is not enough to keep things safe from the elements. All plastic bins are NOT equal.
Keep the memories and let the objects go.
• Photograph or take a video of the objects you want to remember but don’t want to keep. One digital photograph saved on your computer (and backed up in the cloud) is all you need.
Don’t feel obligated to keep something just because it was a gift.
• There’s no obligation to keep things you don’t like, don’t need and/or won’t use.
Avoid feeling guilty.
• It is your home and you have the right to make room for what matters to you most.
Share heirlooms with other family members.
• If you inherited something and no longer want it, ask your family members if they might want it.
When saving items for family members ask yourself these questions:
• Will they want this?
• Do they have room for it?
• Is the item valuable only to me?
The answers will help you decide to save or let go.
Repurpose a keepsake into something new if you’re crafty.
• For example: You can repurpose your children’s baby blankets into a quilt.
Keep one if there are multiples.
• If you know that you won’t use all the holiday wreaths your mother gave you, just pick one that you’ll display during the holidays.
Don’t keep anything you wouldn’t want anyone else to find.
• If something were to happen to you, your friends and family will eventually sort through your things. Don’t keep anything that you wouldn’t want them to see or that would cause them pain or embarrassment or damage their memories of you.
If you need help with this process, give us a call. We’d love to help!
1. Keep a calendar and refer to it daily: This is key. If you don’t make time for something the probability is that it won’t happen. If you made an appointment with your doctor, you’d put it in your calendar and wouldn’t miss it (hopefully). Well…your time is important as well. Put all appointments in your calendar and, of course, look at it at the beginning of each day or the night before to make sure you don’t miss something important.
2. Learn how to schedule their time: You don’t have to schedule every moment but, sticking to a schedule is key for time management. Figure out what you have to do and approximate how long that will take. Then put a schedule into place that works for you. Leave yourself plenty of time so that you’re not always stressed out about being late.
3. Bundle errands: This is a huge time saver. When you’ve got so much to do and so little time, every minute counts. Don’t run all over town in one day. If you have to go to one particular area that is near your cleaners, grocery store and tailor, do all of that in one day. The next day to other errands that might be in another part of town. Consider the time of day as well as you don’t want to run errands in the middle of rush hour.
4. Have a home for their things: You know what “they” say, “A home for everything and everything in its place”. That’s the motto for Professional Organizers near and far. It works! If something doesn’t have a home, it is considered clutter. Clutter begets clutter which ultimately results in more stress. Don’t just shove something in a drawer or closet. Figure out where it should live, where it would make the best sense and put it there.
5. Put things away: Come on now. We’re all adults. This is housekeeping 101. We all have time to put our “stuff” away. If not, don’t take it out. If you don’t have time, perhaps your schedule is too full! We all have the same 24 hours in a day. Use them wisely.
6. Maintain their spaces: Taking time to maintain whatever systems you have in place is a huge time saver. It’s a lot easier than having to start from scratch every time things get disorganized. It happens quickly so you “should” really try to stay on top of it before things get out of control.
7. Purge periodically: This is the hard part. Deciding what to get rid of and how. But, there’s just so much space and if you don’t purge, eventually things will wind up either in the garage, attic or on the floor because there’s no more room in the drawers or closets. You may even wind up getting a storage unit to store things which costs a ton of money. So, schedule time in your calendar (see #1 and #2 above) to purge. You can sell things “that have value”, donate and get a tax write-off things that don’t have enough value to sell or simply trash anything if it’s broken, stained, soiled or missing a piece. Also, if you buy something new, a good rule of thumb is to get rid of something old.
8. Have a To Do list. This is my personal favorite. I don’t know how I’d remember anything without my To Do list. It’s easier to remember things when you’ve written them down. Plus, you can refer to the list and cross things off when they’ve been done which kinda feels good.
9. Prioritize. In this 24/7 world we live in, there’s just so much time in a day, week, etc. Deciding which things are urgent as opposed to things that just need to get done eventually is important. Get your priorities in order and the rest will get done when they become priorities. Make sure to make time for you. You are a priority!
10. Know how and when to say no. We’re all busy. We can’t do it all. We can’t be everywhere. Decide which activities are a “must” and which ones you can say goodbye to. Perhaps you can even delegate some things to another person.
If you or someone you know needs assistance with any of the above, give us a call. We’d love to help.
“Organization isn’t about perfection; it’s about efficiency, reducing stress and clutter, saving time and money and improving your overall quality of life.” ~ Christina Scalise ~
If you are going through a major life transition that’s left your home in disarray, have a big move in your future or are simply overwhelmed by clutter, a Professional Organizer could provide the help you need.
Here are the 10 top reasons/times why people should consider hiring a Professional Organizer:
1.You Want to Get Organized But Don’t Have The Time:
· Decluttering and organizing, whether a single room or an entire house, are time-consuming.
· If and when you are able to devote time to your organizing project, it’s always better, quicker and more fun with help. It also helps to get another perspective.
· If “getting organized” has been on your to-do list for weeks, months or even years, consider whether it’s time to finally make it happen.
· A Professional Organizer can guide you through the process, handle the removal of unwanted items and put systems into place so that you can make the most of your space.
. Hiring a Professional Organizer to help before, during or after a move can be a lifesaver. Leading up to a move, an organizer can help declutter and organize your home and stage your home for sale which can, in turn, help you get more money for your home. A survey by Coldwell Banker Real Estate Corp. found that staged homes spent half the time on the market than non-staged homes and sold for more than 6% above asking price.
· Scaling back before moving also means less weight and less space in the moving truck, which results in a less costly move, something that can have a significant financial impact, especially if you’re moving long-distance.
· Finally, an organizer can help you unpack your belongings in your new home and set up systems so you’re organized from the get-go.
· We make sure that your new home is organized so that things are accessible, functional and look great too.
· Make the most of your new space by hiring a Professional Organizer to optimize every shelf, cupboard and drawer so that your new space functions as beautifully as it looks.
· As much as we’d like to believe that our gorgeous new kitchen will never have piles of clutter on the counters, the truth is that without a plan, we’ll just fall back on our old habits.
· An organizer can make sure your space is set up in a way that encourages order, so it’s easier to keep things organized, even months or years down the road.
4.You Work or Run a Business From Home:
· Whether you telecommute one day each week or run a business from home full time, staying organized can help you stay at the top of your game.
· Office workers waste an average of 40% of their workday. Not because they aren’t smart, but because they were never taught organizing skills to cope with the increasing workloads and demands, Wall Street Journal Report.
· A Professional Organizer can help you rein in a messy home office, organize files and paperwork and set up your space to best support your business.
5.You’re in a Major Life Transition:
· When big life changes are happening — health challenges, the death of a loved one, divorce, the arrival of a new baby, aging parents — the last thing you may want to focus on is organizing. Yet when you have other things going on that leave you without the physical or emotional energy to keep your home life running smoothly, that only adds to the stress and chaos.
· A Professional Organizer can help bring a sense of order to your home when you need it most. Here are just a few ways we can help in a trying time:
o Organize baby gear for new parents
o Help aging parents who need to downsize
o Help you sort and organize a deceased loved one’s belongings
o Get a fresh start and reclaim your space after a divorce
6.Your Papers Are a Complete Disaster:
· Are piles of unsorted papers the bane of your existence? Instead of putting off organizing them yet again, consider hiring a Professional Organizer to help you sort through them.
. Paperwork has been voted the biggest burden for small businesses.
· A Professional Organizer can help you figure out what needs to be kept and which documents can be safely discarded. We can then set up a filing system uniquely tailored to your needs and help you discern which paper management system works for you.
7.One Area Is Driving You Nuts:
· There might one area in your home that just feels disorganized. It could be the garage, attic or basement — or even a storage unit you’ve been renting for so long that you hardly remember what’s in it.
· Professional Organizers are not fazed by overstuffed spaces! We can help you tackle even the most daunting storage area and transform it into a functional space.
8.You Want to Make Everyday Tasks Easier:
· Proper organization can go a long way toward making everyday tasks and routines run more smoothly.
· If you want to eat more healthfully or cook more meals at home, a Professional Organizer can whip your fridge and pantry into shape, making it easier to find ingredients and prepare meals.
· We can also help create a neat laundry room, streamline cleaning supplies and set up routines and systems to make your household run more efficiently. You can then spend your time doing more of what you want to be doing and less time managing your stuff.
9.You Need Accountability:
· If you really want to get organized but you’re just not getting it done on your own, accountability could be the missing piece.
· The great thing about hiring a Professional Organizer is that this person can also act as an accountability partner. Simply knowing that someone will be checking up on your progress can be enough to spur you into action between visits.
10.You’re Totally Overwhelmed:
· If clutter is taking over your home and you just can’t take it anymore, a Professional Organizer can immediately begin to ease your burden.
· You don’t need to feel embarrassed by the state of your home. Most Professional Organizers really have seen it all. Further, as a Member of NAPO, the National Association of Professional Organizers, we abide by a code of conduct and ethics. We do not pass judgment. We’re there to help you.
Nearly once a week I get a call from a prospective client that says… “my INSERT BLANK is a hoarder and they need help”. What they are trying to tell me is that that person has a lot of stuff and, in their opinion, more “stuff” than most. That said, although I know what they mean, often, that person is probably not “hoarding”. I hope this information helps clarify some of the misconceptions about hoarding.
The following information is from the Institute for Challenging Disorganization (www.challengingdisorganization.org) and from the American Psychiatric Association:
What Is Hoarding:
People with hoarding disorder excessively save items that others may view as worthless. They have persistent difficulty getting rid of or parting with possessions, leading to clutter that disrupts their ability to use their living or work spaces.
Hoarding is not the same as collecting. Collectors look for specific items, such as model cars or stamps, and may organize or display them. People with hoarding disorder often save random items and store them haphazardly.
The Institute for Challenging Disorganization, aka ICD, has devised The Clutter-Hoarding Scale which is an assessment tool to help determine what hoarding is and how to identify the level. This tool helps professionals determine what kind of help is needed. The Clutter-Hoarding Scale is not used for diagnostic purposes or for any psychological evaluation of a person(s).
There are 5 categories and 5 levels of the Clutter-Hoarding Scale:
The 5 Categories are:
1. Structure and Zoning: Assessment of access to entrances and exits; function of plumbing, electrical and HVAC systems, appliances and structural integrity.
2. Animals and Pests: Assessment of animal care and control; compliance with local animal regulations; assessment for evidence of infestations of pests (rodents, insects or other vermin).
3. Household Functions: Assessment of safety, functionality and accessibility of rooms for intended purposes.
4. Health and Safety: Assessment of sanitation levels in household, household management of medications for prescribed and over-the-counter drugs.
5. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Recommendations for PPE (face masks, gloves, eye shields or clothing that protect the wearer from environment health and safety hazards).
The 5 levels indicate the degree of household clutter with Level I being the lowest and Level V being the highest. Below are the criteria regarding two of the above categories: Structure and Zoning and Household Functions. I chose these two as they are the ones that most people can relate to and/or identify with. The others can be found at https://www.challengingdisorganization.org/clutter-hoarding-scale)
The 5 Levels are:
Level I – This level is considered standard.
• All doors, stairs and windows are accessible, plumbing, electric and HVAC are operational; fire and CO detectors are functional.
• No excessive clutter; all rooms properly used, appliances functional; good housekeeping and maintenance.
Level II – Household environment requires either Professional Organizers or related professionals who have knowledge and understanding of chronic disorganization.
• One Major exit is blocked; 1 major appliance or HVAC device is not working for longer than one season; some plumbing or electrical systems are not fully functional; fire or CO detectors are non-existent or non-functional.
• Clutter beginning to obstruct living areas; slight congestion of exits and entrances, hallways, stairs; some household appliances not functional; inconsistent housekeeping and maintenance.
Level III – This Level is the pivot point between a cluttered household and a potential hoarding environment.
• Outside clutter of items normally stored indoors; HVAC devices not working for longer than one season,;fire or CO detectors non-existent or non-functional; one part of the home has light structural damage which occurred during the past 6 months.
• Clutter obstructing functions of key living spaces; building up around exits, entrances, hallways and stairs; at least one room not being used for intended purposes; several appliances not working; inappropriate usage of electric appliances and extension cords; substandard housekeeping and maintenance; hazardous substances in small quantities.
Level IV – Household environment requires a coordinated and collaborative team of service providers including, but not limited to, Professional Organizers, family, mental health professional, pest and animal control officers, licensed contractors, financial counselors, etc.).
• Excessive outdoor clutter of items normally stored indoors; HVAC devices not working for longer than 1 year; CO detectors non-existent or non-functional; structural damage to home lasting more than 6 months; water damaged floors, damaged walls and foundations, broken windows, doors or plumbing, odor or evidence of sewer backup.
• Diminished use and accessibility to key living areas; several rooms cluttered to extent that they cannot be used for intended purposes; clutter inhibits access to doorways, hallways and stairs; inappropriate storage of hazardous/combustible materials; appliances used inappropriately; improper use of electric space heaters, fans or extension cords.
Level V – Household environment requires a collaborative team including, but not limited to, Professional Organizers, mental health professional, family, zoning, fire and/or other safety agents, etc.).
• Extreme indoor/outdoor clutter; foliage overgrowth; abandoned machinery, ventilation inadequate or non-existent; HVAC systems not working; water damaged floors, walls and foundation, broken windows, doors or plumbing; unreliable electrical, water and/or septic systems; odor or sewer backup; irreparable damage to exterior and interior structure.
• Key living spaces not usable; all rooms not used for intended purposes; entrances, hallways and stairs blocked; toilets, sinks and tubs not functioning; hazardous conditions obscured by clutter, appliances unusable; hazardous and primitive use of kerosene, lanterns, candles, fireplace/woodstove as primary source of heat and/or light.
Although I have provided information regarding the categories and levels of hoarding, this only skims the surface. If you want more information, please go to challengingdisorganization.org where there is a plethora of information on this subject.