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!

Creating an Emergency File

When you see news images of people who lost everything after a natural disaster, doesn’t it make you think about how they are going to put their lives back together? http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-earthquake-image11182826

You never know when your home will be struck by a flood or an earthquake or when a personal crisis will arise. I hate to be so morbid but this is important stuff to think about and it is important to be ready for such an event.

As we live longer and collect more things-more documents, more data-there are that many more things to be managed when a crisis arises. I was stunned to read that state governments in the U.S. have taken possession of up to $400 billion in assets that relatives never claimed. Not knowing what bank accounts, other financial holdings, or insurance policies a family member has that you may be entitled to can cost you a lot of money in lost assets, professional fees and taxes. Why not collect everything you may be entitled to?

Your best course of action is to be proactive. Should you fall victim to a natural disaster, become incapacitated or g-d forbid die, you will have done your loved ones an invaluable service if you’ve provided them with all the information and documents they might need in the case of any emergency.

If there were an emergency, you wouldn’t want the people in your life to be even more stressed trying to figure out where things are and who to call. Imagine what it would be like if you had to find all of the account numbers, passwords, and important documents for a loved one without any clues? How long would that take you? How stressful would that be? What if you couldn’t figure it out? What if time was of the essence?

Although the hope is that none of your family and friends will have to look at this information for a very long time, you should, at the very least, start getting this information and documentation together. Should an illness, injury, or other emergency occur, friends and/or family members can help carry out your responsibilities while you recover.

Take a few minutes each day or a couple of days each week to pull the information and documentation together until you’re done. When you are finished, make a copy and give it to someone else, such as your lawyer, children, or parents.

If both you and your spouse or significant other were to have an accident, someone else needs to know what steps to take. To make the information as useful and comprehensive as possible, pretend at the time you’re compiling it that you’re doing so for a complete stranger. As I mentioned, in a time of crisis or grief, your loved ones may not be thinking clearly or may forget things that would otherwise be obvious.

The following is a list of the documents and information that your loved ones might need to take care of you in the event of a natural disaster, or should you become incapacitated or die.

* LAST WILL & TESTAMENT
* REVOCABLE LIVING TRUST OR OTHER TRUST DOCUMENTS
* LIST OF ALL TANGIBLE PERSONAL PROPERTY
* MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE
* PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENTS
* DIVORCE DECREES OR SEPARATION AGREEMENT
* CHILD SUPPORT DOCUMENTS
* ADOPTION RECORDS
* MORTGAGE PAPERS/REAL ESTATE DEEDS
* BENEFICIARY DESIGNATIONS
* MOST RECENT TAX RETURNS
* POWER OF ATTORNEY
* HEALTHCARE DIRECTIVES
* MILITARY SERVICE RECORDS/MILITARY DISCHARGE PAPERS
* INSURANCE POLICIES (MEDICAL, DISABILITY, AUTO, HOMEOWNERS, FLOOD, EARTHQUAKE, UMBRELLA, LIFE, TERM)
* AUTOMOBILE LEASES/VEHICLE TITLES
* BIRTH CERTIFICATE
* EMPLOYMENT CONTRACTS/BUSINESS AGREEMENTS
* CONTACT INFORMATION (FRIENDS, FAMILY, DOCTORS, BANKERS, LAWYERS, INSURANCE BROKERS/AGENTS, BUSINESS ASSOCIATES)
* SOCIAL SECURITY CARDS/PASSPORTS/VISAS
* MEDICAL RECORDS FOR EACH FAMILY MEMBER (INCLUDE BLOOD TYPE IF KNOWN)
* DRIVER’S LICENSE OR OTHER PHOTO IDENTIFICATION
* COPIES OF ALL CURRENT CREDIT CARDS
* ALL EDUCATIONAL DEGREES AND/OR CERTIFICATIONS
* PASSWORDS & ID NAMES FOR ALL ONLINE ACCOUNTS (INCLUDING SOCIAL MEDIA)

Make sure to update your Emergency File when you change insurance policies, update your will or trust, buy or sell property, get married or divorced, have a child or experience other significant life changes.

IMPORTANT! PLEASE READ. Next month I will provide a detailed breakdown of information to be included in your Emergency File so STAY TUNED for next month’s newsletter.

If you find that compiling this information is too daunting to do by yourself, enlist the help of your spouse or your children. Of course, you may also contact me to help you, as this is a service I offer.

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