It’s Still Not Too Late! Are You Prepared For An Earthquake?

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!

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, 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.  

 Since we (at least most of the people getting this newsletter) live in California, earthquake territory, I put together a list of five important tips for how to be or how to get prepared for an earthquake. Hopefully this will provide information and motivate you to do something, anything, towards getting you and your loved ones ready, just in case…

1.  Be Informed:

 

2.  Be Proactive: 

  • Make sure to have an earthquake kit. 
  • Keep one in your car just in case you’re not home when an earthquake hits. 
  • 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.
  • Prepare an Emergency Kit that includes water, flashlights, batteries, and non-perishable food. For a full list of recommended supplies Click Here.

 

3.  Take action:

  • Put together a communications plan with other family members or friends NOW so you’ll have it when you need it. (notice I said when!) 
  • Figure out where to meet if you are not together.
  • Agree on who to reach out to in another area to let others know you’re okay.

 

4.  Be Smart:

  • Make sure that you have all of your important documents together in one easily accessible place so that you can grab it and go in an emergency:
  • This will help you be prepared so that you can recover your losses quickly: (ie, insurance policies, photos of valuables, emergency contact list). 

 

5.  Stay Safe:

  • Make sure you know where the gas shut off valve is
  • Make sure you know how to turn of the main water supply
  • Don’t light candles (you’d be surprised and how many people don’t know that!)

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)

How To Organize Your Closet In A Few Easy Steps

Click on this link to watch a video that will demonstrate how to organize your closet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oojwOEk73wc

For those of you who’d rather read about it than watch the video, here’s some tips on how to organize your closet.

1. The first step is make sure that you have the right supplies on hand before you begin. You will need: 

·     Sturdy bags or boxes for donations;

·     A full-length mirror so that you can try things on in the process to help you decide between what to donate and what keep;

·     A basket for loose change, papers, rubber bands, hair clips, and other things that you might find in the process.  You don’t want to have to stop to put away these small items so just put them aside for now and integrate them into their proper homes later.

2. You might also want to consider investing in:

·     Over-the door organizers (check out Stock-It-Pockets below);

·     Stackable shoe bins;

·     Matching bins for accessories

·     Drawer dividers; and 

·     Under-the-bed bins. (You can store some of the rarely worn or used items that were in your closet under your bed and free up some valuable space).

3.  The next step is to empty the closet completely. Yes, completely.  Everything out!’ It is best to have a clear, clean space to plan and visualize how you’re going to re-organize your closet.    

 4.  Next, you need to decide what to keep and what to toss or donate. To help you decide, ask yourself these three questions: Do you love it?; Do you wear it? Does it fit? 

·     If the answer is YES to all 3 questions, then you can place those items into the pile of things to keep.  

·     If it doesn’t fit, put it directly into the donation pile along with other items that you no longer like or want. 

·     If you have haven’t worn something for more than 6 months, it is probably time to toss it, sell it or donate it.

5.  The next step is to sort through everything and group like items together. For example, put all jackets together, all socks together, dresses with dresses, etc.

6.  Now you’re ready to put everything back. 

·     The important thing to remember is that you should put things back in a way that makes sense to you, utilizes all of your available space and is easy to maintain.   For example, you might want to reserve the front and middle of your closet for clothes you wear most often, making sure your work clothes are easily accessible. Lesser-worn items like formal dresses may be put towards the back of your closet, out-of-season clothes towards the back or on the upper shelves.

7. Make sure to get all donations out of the house, into your car and off to your local donation drop-off to avoid the temptation to change your mind. Go with your initial intuition.

8.  Finally, I highly recommend completely re-organizing your closet either once a year or, you can break it into smaller pieces by organizing seasonally.

·     If you choose to reorganize once a year, choose a date that you’ll remember and make a habit of sticking to it the same time each year. 

·     If you choose to do it by season, the first day of each season should make things easy to remember!

If you want or need assistance or another perspective about ways to organize your closet, give us a call. We’d LOVE to help!

To Be Or Not To Be (Organized)? That Is The Question.

After working as a Professional Organizer for the past 9 years, it seems that everyone has a different idea as to what being “organized” is, what it means and what it looks like. I think that being organized is in the eyes of the beholder.  Everyone’s circumstances are different and, therefore, what works for one person may or may not work for another.

While there are hundreds of different definitions for the word “organized”, here are the two that resonate the most with me:

“Having one’s affairs in order so as to deal with them efficiently”

and

“Having taken something that is messy, chaotic, or unordered and rearranged it logically, into a structured or coherent layout, or into specific and/or defined groups”

A search on thesaurus revealed some adjectives to describe what “organized” means.  Here are a few: orderly, prepared, systematized, logical, planned, well-thought-out, structured.

No matter what your definition is (or isn’t), if you want life to be organized, here are 5 helpful tips:

Write it down. Whatever it is. It can be something that needs to be scheduled, something that you need to do, something you need to get. If you’re not old school, instead of writing it down, get the information on whatever device you use, ie., phone, computer, app.

·     If you run out of something that you need regularly (ie., milk or ketchup), put it on a list so that you don’t forget it.

·     If you have an appointment with someone, put it on the calendar.

·     Make sure to check your list and calendar either at night before you go to bed or first thing in the morning so you know what you have to do and when.

Make sure that everything has a place and then make sure to put things in their place.

·     If something doesn’t have a place it will always be considered clutter.

·     Find a place that makes sense for that particular object.

·     If there’s no room, it’s time to purge.

Have a plan.

·     Put a day/time on your calendar to go and get what you need or do what needs to get done

·     Batch things together.

·     When you need to run errands, get as much done in one area as possible. Then, on another day, go to another area (ie, the mall) and get other things done. Pay attention to drive time/traffic, etc. to make the most of your time.

·     If possible, schedule the same things on the same day each week so it becomes part of your routine.

·     For example, go food shopping on the same day each week

Ask for help. It takes a village.

·     Try and get everyone who lives with you on board so everything doesn’t fall on your shoulders.

·     Even young children can and should help. If you show them how at an early age, they can help. It might not get done perfectly but it will get done.

·     Again, make it a routine

·     Each night before bed, your children should be picking up after themselves

Maintenance is sooooo important.

·     Keeping up with whatever systems you have in place is very important.

·     It’s easier to maintain a space than to do it over all of the time.

·     If you know where the dishes go, put them there. Don’t just find any place that has room. That’s how systems fall apart.

Tax Preparation and Filing Systems. Good Times!

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.

How To Deal With Sentimental Clutter

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!

Highly Organized People Do These 10 Things

top ten reasons to get rid of things

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.