Every time I enter a client’s home, I’m reminded of the sheer amount of stuff with which we surround ourselves. Does our stuff make our lives better or more difficult? And, what happens to all of the stuff we don’t want?
Most clients try to recycle as much as they can, but the truth is, much of what is donated ends up in the dump. Just this week, I was at a baby shower and the mother-to-be received so many gifts, she remarked they would need a storage unit. She wasn’t kidding.
April 22nd is Earth Day and a great opportunity to reflect on the world we would like to leave to our children and grandchildren. Take a look at the road sides as you drive around this month. Few places don’t have plastic bags blowing in the limbs of the trees and litter strewn about. While we need things to live, conduct business and improve our quality of life, do we want to leave a legacy of trash for the next generation?
Water bottles are a scourge on our earth and resources. According to Ban the Bottle, “Americans used about 50 billion plastic water bottles last year. However, the U.S.’s recycling rate for plastic is only 23 percent, which means 38 billion water bottles – more than $1 billion worth of plastic – are wasted each year.” The EPA estimates that 75% of the American waste stream is recyclable, but we only recycle about 30% of it and The Recycling Coalition of Utah states that “Americans represent 5% of the world’s population, but generate 30% of the world’s garbage.”
How can we stop burying ourselves and our loved ones in garbage?
Happy Earth Day!
Are you in need of a new beginning? The New Year resolutions have faded into the holiday glow, and now is a great time to renew and refresh your home, your space, your life. The best way to begin anew is to plan with intention. According to Deepak Chopra, M.D., Intention is the starting point of every dream. It is the creative power that fulfills all of our needs, whether for money, relationships, spiritual awakening, or love.
Intentions are the bedrock of goals and desires. When planning with intention, you want to come from a place of authenticity. Ask yourself what you genuinely want to achieve. For your intentions to take form, it’s important to set goals.
Goals should be specific and measurable for them to be powerful and effective. That doesn’t mean that your goals must come from a place of stress and guilt, be competitive or full of pressure. Setting measurable goals gives you the clarity that is needed to help manifest tangible outcomes.
Actions support your goals and intentions allow the goals to take form. Creating daily, weekly, and monthly actions is key to achievement and may involve building or changing some habits. Habits require practice to establish or break, and the cessation of action is more about the loss of support and accountability than failure or weakness.
Sometimes we all fall short of our goals. This is when a shift in perspective can help us overcome feelings of defeat. Be kind to yourself, practice focusing on what you have accomplished and allow yourself to make mistakes. Enjoy the process and have fun along the journey.
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To roll or not to roll…that is the question. There’s a lot of debate about the best way to pack a bag for travel. We’ve used three different methods with our clients. The best method depends on the purpose of the trip, the kind of clothing you are taking, if you prefer hanging your clothes at your destination and wrinkle control.
In the layering or bundling method, layer the clothes in a crisscross fashion in the suitcase and intertwine them into a bundle. This is a great method to reduce wrinkles and we were easily able to pack as many as 25 items of medium sized women’s clothing in one 22” carry-on. The downside is that the entire bundle has to be removed and unwrapped to retrieve your clothing.
Rolling the clothing is another popular method. You can roll each item individually or group like items together and roll as a bundle. We found that grouping like items together does save some extra space and reduce some of the wrinkling that can occur with various fabrics when rolled.
And finally, the folding method. This method does take up more space than layering or rolling. However, for some fabrics, it’s a better way to reduce wrinkling. Folding the clothing with a piece of tissue paper or plastic in the middle will reduce friction and therefore the wrinkles.
In the end, we found that a combination of methods often works best. Rolling items that don’t wrinkle easily and folding others with plastic were the easiest techniques to combine. Once the larger, bulkier items were placed in the suitcase, we filled in all the gaps with smaller items like underwear, tank tops, bathing suits and belts, so that every nook and cranny was filled.
Believe it or not, it only takes a few steps to get your online files organized. Below are seven steps to help you save countless hours and avoid those embarrassing situations that come from searching for lost files. Let’s get started!
1. Start at the Root
Determine where you want your file system to live on your computer. Having all your files and documents under one ‘root’ folder on your computer will make it easy to locate your files. Many single Windows users have all their folders, files, and documents stored haphazardly in the ‘Documents’ or ‘My Documents’ folder on their PC. If this sounds like your system, then you might want to consider starting from scratch. The easiest way to do this is to save all your current folders, files, and documents to a new folder and name it something like Archive_2015 or any appropriate name that’s easy to remember. Now you can start to create a new file structure with broad categories without losing any of your current information. After your new filing system is created, you can move previously created files and documents to the newly created system on an as needed basis.
2. Create a File Structure
File structure is the backbone of your filing system and it begins with using folders for general categories. Think big when creating filing categories and limit the number of folders to a critical few. Describe the contents of the folders with short commonly used, meaningful terms. Start broad and get more specific as you add files and documents to those broad category folders.
Examples for business folder names:
Examples for personal folder names:
Health & Wellness
3. Use Sub-Categories
After you have created your folders using broad categories, you will want to create files with sub-categories. Sub-categories are used to organized those files and documents within your folders. You may have a folder called ‘Projects’ and within that folder are several files or sub-categories called Project-A, Project-B and Project–C.
4. Determine a Naming Convention
It’s important to name your folders and files consistently and logically. Storing multiple drafts of the same document can get confusing, and a naming convention is one way to avoid that confusion. Also, adding a date at the end of the file name is a great way to keep track of multiple documents, and the addition of initials at the end of the file name will add clarity if more than one person is working on the same document.
Naming convention examples:
5. ‘Save As’ You Go
File your documents in the proper location by using the ‘Save As’ feature. ‘Save As’ allows you to save and file your documents as you go, so they will be placed in the correct file or folder from the start.
6. Clean Up Your Desk Top
Evaluate what you really use and delete those icons or shortcuts that are outdated or infrequently used. Note: deleting a shortcut is not the same as deleting a file, folder or program from your computer. Deleting the shortcut will simply remove it from your desktop. A program like Fences is a great way to automatically sort out all those remaining icons into organized, easy to see boxes and categories. The program can sort the categories for you or you can create your own categories.
7. Backup Your Files
Have a regiment in place to regularly back up your files. If your hard drive fails or is damaged and your only source of backup is your computer, then you risk losing all of your business transactions and correspondence. The rule of thumb for data protection is “if you need it to run your business, then back it up.” Having all your files saved to a ‘root’ will make that process easy.
One of the most confusing parts of getting ready for tax time is knowing what documents you need to prepare your taxes. Basically, the documents break down into three categories: Income statements, deductions, and receipts.
The Challenge of Receipts
Receipts are the most challenging documents to store and organize. This is especially true if you are a small business owner. Receipts are your main protection if the IRS decides to audit and details are critical. It’s imperative to keep all receipts pertaining to business and a very good idea to get into the habit of making notes on entertainment and dining expense receipts.
Consider Scanning for Added Protection
Scanning your receipts can help solve two problems. First, if the IRS comes knocking, they won’t care that your receipts from four years ago have faded; so scanning receipts is a great way to give you that added layer of protection. Secondly, if you set up a system to scan as you go, then you won’t have to wonder where all your receipts are stored, and you won’t have to deal with that shoebox full of papers come tax time. There are many smartphone apps dedicated to receipt scanning that are easy to use and can save you hours of searching, sorting, and organizing papers during tax time.
W-2 – wages and salary
W-2G – gambling winnings
Form 1099-R – retirement income
Form 1099-INT – interest
Form 1099-DIV – dividends
Form 1099-MISC – miscellaneous income, including self-employment
Form 1099-G – government payments
Form 1099-SA – MSA or HSA distributions
Form 1099-B – broker or barter exchanges
Form SSA-1099 – Social Security benefits
Form RRB-1099 – railroad retirement
Schedule K-1 – partnership income or loss
Form 1098 – mortgage interest
Form 1098-T – tuition
Form 1098-E – student loan interest
Receipts & Records:
Unreimbursed mileage related to work or volunteering
Contributions to retirement plans
Self-employment income and expenses, including any:
-Health-insurance premiums paid
Moving expenses, if you moved for a new job
Expenses for energy-efficient home improvements
Tuition or fees paid for education for you, spouse, or dependents
Retirement account rollovers
Child care and dependent care expenses, including the employer identification number (EIN) or SSN of the care provider
Your Social Security number (SSN) or taxpayer identification number (ITIN) and SSN’s or ITIN’s for spouse and dependents (if any)
Your birth date and birth date for spouse and dependents (if any)
A copy of last year’s return
Documents List Source: H&R Block
I don’t know about you, but spring is my favorite time of year, and the last thing I want to do is spend my weekend or multiple weekends focusing on cleaning and organizing my entire home. Instead of pulling out that long list of spring cleaning duties, consider breaking up the list into bite size pieces to be completed throughout the year.
Maintenance is a much easier solution and a tremendous time saver.
Pick Your Battles
Look at your list and determine the cleaning and organizing tasks that make the most sense for this time of year. For example, closets are a great place to start because this is the time of year we change from winter to spring/summer attire. Garages are another good area of focus. Now is the time to put away the snow blower and pull out the lawn mower. And, let’s be honest, things tend to get piled and tossed into the garage all winter, so it’s time for a garage clean-out. Your garden shed is another great fit for seasonal organizing. Inspect and sharpen your garden tools, take stock of your supplies, clean your clay pots and determine your tool storage area based on how often you use the tools. Also, with the onset of warmer weather comes the need to change to lighter blankets and comforters, and once the bed is stripped you can vacuum and turn the mattress to complete the process.
Maintenance is Key
Now that you have decided which areas make sense to organize during the spring season; let’s break the rest of that cleaning and organizing list into manageable tasks to be completed throughout the year. Baseboards, doors, and cobwebs can be dusted and cleaned during the winter when you’re stuck inside during a snowstorm. Lampshades and ceiling fans can be dusted at regular intervals when you dust the rest of your home. Draperies, blinds and carpets can be cleaned in the fall or the end of the summer. Many people have self cleaning ovens that can be cleaned any time of the year, and grease traps and stove filters are easy to replace or clean on an as needed basis.
Consistency is the Name of the Game
Having a consistent, year round routine will help you avoid investing large chunks of time in the spring. Instead, get out and smell the forsythia, spend time with family and friends, or do whatever makes you happier at this wonderful time of year. Organizing and cleaning are necessary for a functional life, so finding ways to spread it out and make it easier in the long run will save you endless hours each season.