A recent RieOrganize! poll on Facebook came up with the following: Stay at home. Boredom. Facebook. Zoom meetings. Gratitude for front line workers. Frustration about having to wear a mask. Death. Telecommuting. Homeschooling. Social isolation.
Until recently, I knew of only a handful of friends who were dealing with COVID-19. Most were friends who live out of town or who were dealing with their friends/family members who were dealing with the virus. Yesterday, I was told that a friend is in the ICU with novel coronavirus. While we were not close friends, we did keep in touch over the 30+ years that I’ve known him and his husband.
What I realized today, however, was how much I did not know about them. For instance, who is my friend’s next of kin? My immediate answer would be, of course, his husband. But his husband died last week of a non-coronavirus-related illness. I don’t know if he has a health care directive or, if he does, who is listed as the alternate proxy because his husband just died – or where this document is located. I know that his husband took care of most of their financial, legal and daily responsibilities. I don’t know who will be responsible for all of that now and, more importantly, nor does anyone else. Everyone is scrambling to try to figure out what to do!
While this is indeed stressful and sad, I have to ask myself and you…
· How many of us or our friends or family members could find themselves in a similar situation?
· Have we taken care of our own medical, legal and financial paperwork? If we have, does anyone know where it is located or have easy access to it?
· Will you or someone you know find themselves sick or dying alone with no one who knows what you would want to happen medically or, if you should die, with your belongings?
According to our informal Facebook poll, not everything in our world today is discouraging, heartbreaking, disheartening or grim. Looking at some of the memes on Facebook or Instagram can make you smile or laugh out loud.
There is little wrong with cooking or baking too much, using Zoom or Facetime to be connected to friends, relatives and colleagues, binge watching Netflix or taking naps. There is much kindness, laughter and sharing. Neighbors are helping neighbors.
This can be a time of transformation – interpersonally, socially, economically and globally. It can be a time to focus on the people and things that are important in our lives.
And this is where we all come in to transform our world into a better place in which to live. Thinking about medical and financial preparedness is not high on most people’s lists of things they want to do, but, especially during this time, it is essential.
First, we should examine our own paperwork. How prepared are we? Then, we should take a look at our contact lists. Who do we know who may need help?
Few people want to talk about the possibility of being sick or dying. In this age of COVID-19, it is imperative that we do so and that we talk with those whom we love and help them to prepare as well.
This is something that cannot wait. Please take steps to ensure that someone will know what you want to happen if you are unable to speak for yourself.
Stay well, stay safe and stay home… and if you are one of the many who must go to work to keep us safe, healthy, fed, informed or otherwise (relatively) sane, thank you.
We all have too much paper in our lives. Diane, who is the business manager at RieOrganize! tells the following story:
“I have always had a fairly high tolerance for paper clutter before I reach my limit and, even then, it’s often not a conscious decision to sort through everything – I just start small and then usually keep going. The other day was one of those days. Although I missed being outside on a beautiful day, I opened the windows and just applied myself. The reward? Being able to sit back, that night, and look around at so many cleared off spaces with a sense of calm. AND I reaped the side benefit of finding two things for which I had been searching!”
Mail and other paper is a huge source of clutter for everyone. Every day your mailbox is full of paper, and 90% of it is probably useless to you.
Review the mail you get and look for opportunities to switch to paperless billing or automatic payments. You’ll eliminate the possibility of losing the electric bill in a pile of mail, plus you’ll have one less piece of mail coming to your house in the first place.
It’s important to have a system for processing mail. You know it’s coming every day, so figure out a system where you can sort it right away. Glance through the mail on your way back from the mailbox. Then when you’re in the house, toss junk mail in the recycle bin (or shredder if it includes personal information) and take immediate action on anything else.
Want to stop getting some of that junk mail altogether? Check out this resource from the Federal Trade Commission on ways to opt out of prescreened credit card offers, telemarketing calls, and other direct mail marketing.
WHAT TO KEEP AND WHAT TO TOSS?
You should keep your tax records safe and secure, whether they are stored on paper or electronically. The same is true for any financial or health records you store, especially any document bearing Social Security numbers.
Keep copies of your tax returns and supporting documents for at least seven years. Remember to keep records about property you own for seven years after the year in which you no longer own the property. This time frame allows you to file a claim for adjustment in cases of bad debt deduction or a loss from worthless securities. Always check with your tax advisor for further clarification and updates in tax regulations as they change every year.
Dispose of old tax records properly. Never toss paper tax returns and supporting documents into the trash. Because of the sensitive nature of this data, the loss or theft of these documents could lead to identity theft and have an economic impact. These documents contain the Social Security numbers of you, your spouse and dependents, old W-2 income and bank account information. Therefore, your federal and state tax records, as well as any financial or health records should be shredded before disposal.
Lots of mail looks like it’s official and even says “keep this for your records”, but sometimes you really don’t need to if the same information can be found online. If you bank online, you don’t need to keep the monthly paper statements since you can access them through your online bank account. You should reconcile your account before shredding the statements, but you don’t need to file and store that paper indefinitely. The same can be done for paper bills, but if you took our tip above, you’ve enrolled in autopay and paperless billing and don’t have to worry about paper bills anymore.
Not all of us can be as diligent and apply ourselves as easily as Diane did, so if you need help sorting through your clutter, contact an organizer. For a list of NAPO organizers, click here
Someday, you may be brought to a hospital in critical condition. You may be confused or unable to answer questions that are asked of you. You are not dead and, in actuality (and hopefully), you might not die.
If you are sedated and admitted to the hospital, how will the staff know who to contact and what you like or want?
When I worked as a hospital chaplain, I cared for a young man who was in a coma. The nursing staff realized that he became agitated when the room was quiet. His family brought in music from several of his favorite recording artists. When the music was played, he rested peacefully. How did his family know what to do? He told them in advance.
This can even help when the situation is not as critical. For instance, my wife, Naomi, hates to sleep with the blankets tucked tightly around her feet. If something should happen to her, I want to make sure that she is as comfortable as possible. Because I know her wishes, I will be able to relay this to the nursing staff.
While writing an Advance Directive is detailed and usually focuses mainly on end-of-life or death decisions, the following questions may help others care for you when you are critically ill.
Can you answer the following questions?
Remember, you may be healthy and active now, but don’t put off making some of these decisions today. Think of it like a health insurance policy. Hopefully you will never have to use it, but if you do, it is great to know it is available! Knowing what you want to happen is only the first step in the process. Writing your wishes down is the second. Telling someone whom you trust is essential.
Many of us focus on making resolutions that will benefit us individually, improve our lives (stick to my diet, exercise more, declutter the house). This year, I suggest that you do something different; something that is not only for yourself but will be appreciated and remembered by others. This year, I urge you to plan for the future by thinking about and documenting your end-of-life wishes and estate plan.
None of us know what the future will bring. Now, I wish all who are reading this a long, healthy and active life but as my mother used to say, “You never know if you will be hit by a bus.” Now is the time to plan and put into place systems that will serve you for the rest of your life.
I challenge you to make this year’s resolutions ones that will benefit others as well as yourself. Remember, making these decisions in advance and communicating them to the appropriate people is a gift of love that is given to those who will have to make the decisions if /when you can’t. It is a kindness that will never be forgotten.
“Help! I can’t stand it anymore! My office is a disaster. Papers are piled everywhere. I don’t know where things are. I don’t know what supplies I have until I run out. My bulletin boards have announcements for events that happened two years ago attached to them. I’m behind on my work, and I hate being in my office. My life is a mess!”
“Was this a phone call I received from a potential client?” you may ask. No. This is what I said two weeks ago when I felt like I was drowning in paperwork, and my life was a mess. “But wait,” you exclaim. “You’re a Professional Organizer. You know how to organize stuff. Why can’t you just organize your office?” The answer is that even we, who are experienced and proficient organizing other people’s things, sometimes cannot do it for ourselves.
Every morning I would walk into my office with incredible determination. “This will be the day that I finally and completely organize my office and my life!” But when I walked into my office, something happened. I looked at the piles of paper and the disorganization, and I became paralyzed with dread.
It doesn’t matter whether the area that is disorganized is an office, a kitchen, a bedroom or a play room. Sometimes it just feels as though as much as you really, really want to get organized, you’re just having a hard time doing it. So I asked myself what I would tell a prospective client if they called me with a similar situation.
But what do you do if you can’t get yourself to commit to tackling that cluttered area for even five minutes? Take a tip from a professional who has been-there-done-that. Either call a friend who is nonjudgmental and willing to help or call a professional; which is what I did. I figured that if I call a doctor when I’m sick and go to the dentist when I have a toothache, I should call a professional organizer when it feels like my (insert name of area here) needs organizing. What about you? Take just 5 minutes and call for help. Now? Yes! If not now, when?
Recently, as I was sitting in my office, I heard a loud thunk on my front porch. When I went to investigate, I saw that I had two new phonebooks (of the paper kind). When was the last time I had used an actual phonebook? It got me to thinking.
Usually, when I am in my office, I have access to the internet, and it is easier to just search on-line for the information that I want. If I am out of my office, I have my handy cellphone with all the bells and whistles that allows me to search for almost anything I want, anywhere I am, at anytime I wish. But…
Last week, I was in need of a personal phone number. I knew the person’s name and where they lived (or at least I thought I did). Easy, I thought. I pulled up “white pages” on Google and searched for the phone number of the person. I got all sorts of information and numerous listings but no phone numbers. If I wanted more information, I had to pay a nominal fee. NO WAY! I tried several different sites and still came up empty handed. Then a light bulb went off in my head. If memory served me correctly, I had an old phonebook sitting in the buffet drawer. Granted, it was four years out of date, but maybe… Down to the dining room I raced, opened the buffet drawer and EUREAKA! There it was. Let’s see… D…. Do… Down… yes, there is was – “Martha Downing” on Pine Street with a phone number! Twenty minutes searching the internet. Less than three minutes looking in the phonebook. Hmmmm. The expediency of technology? Not always.
It is different if you are seeking the number for a business but, even then, you should weigh all your options and determine if you truly need a paper phonebook or if the internet serves you just as well. For a great article read 5 Things You Need to Know to Avoid Wasting Phone Books and then decide. Just remember, if you do opt for the paper phonebook, when the new one arrives, be sure to recycle the old. Happy searching!