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Author: Suzanne KuhnClutter Document Management Donating Estates Executors Family Filing General Project Management Receipts Tax Prep

All About Executors

A picture of a Will for Suzanne Kuhn's postIf you are reading this, chances are that you will need an executor and/or will be an executor at some point in your life. An executor is the person named in a will to administrate the estate of the person who died leaving that will. The job of the executor is to make sure that the deceased person’s wishes, as described in the will, are carried out.
Here are some of the tasks executors perform:

  • Inventorying the assets of the deceased: cash money, financial investments, real estate, collections of valuable objects, the contents of a home, as well as personal articles such as clothing and jewelry (this collection of assets is known as “the estate”).
  • Obtaining contact information for far-flung beneficiaries and heirs named in the will, as well as notifying them.
  • Identifying any outstanding debts of the deceased person and paying them off. Working with banks and other financial institutions to transfer money from living accounts to estate accounts.
  • Calculating the taxes due on the estate, filing the estate tax return, and paying those taxes on time.
  • Assisting an attorney, accountant, or other professional associated with the will.
  • Distributing the estate to the beneficiaries and heirs after all the above has been completed, and disposing of what remains.

These tasks can be complex, full of “red tape” and frustrating, so it is important to choose the right person for the job.

A good executor is:

  • Detail-oriented
  • Comfortable with numbers
  • A good problem-solver
  • Willing to make decisions
  • Patient when faced with frustration
  • Able to be fair and impartial with family members and other heirs
  • Available to spend the considerable time it can take to administer an estate

Too often, people making a will choose their executor based on family dynamics or out of a wish to bestow an ‘honor’ on a special person in their life. They give little consideration to the personal traits and skills needed by the executor, with disastrous results. As a professional organizer specializing in finances and paperwork, I have witnessed these horror stories when the wrong person was chosen for the job of executor:

  • The sibling who was emotionally closest to the parent was chosen as executor. The executor was impatient and unable to be impartial; emotional blowups were frequent during the distribution of the estate, and assets were distributed first to the executor and then to the ‘squeaky wheel’ among the heirs.
  • The will-maker chose the child who had pursued the same career, believing this ensured the necessary qualifications to be an executor. But this executor lacked the time to administer the estate and was easily frustrated when faced with red tape. The will-maker died five years ago and the estate is still not wrapped up.
  • An executor with a lifelong fear of math procrastinated with the numbers and details of the estate, potentially missing tax deadlines and paying penalties and interest as a result.

The key take-away from this post is to choose your executor carefully, based on the skills needed to do the job. But perhaps, you have already chosen an executor who lacks some of these skills, and you don’t want to make waves by changing. Or maybe, you have been named as someone’s executor and feel unqualified for the job. In either case, don’t despair, because help is available. Professional organizers can help inventory the deceased person’s possessions, and can help sell and/or donate possessions not inherited by a specific individual. Some organizers specialize in the organizing of finances, paperwork and information, and can help with these aspects of the executor’s job. A good place to find an organizer to help with the administration of an estate is the ‘Find an Organizer’ link at www.napo-gpc.org.

Author: Kelly GalfandClutter Donating Feng Shui General Organizing Spiritual and Holistic

When You Give, You Get…

conversation hearts: "goodbye" & "Adieu"

Letting go isn’t easy — but when you allow yourself to say goodbye to books you haven’t read, children’s toys that have been outgrown, and clothing that no longer suits your style — you get more than a tax receipt. When you give, you get…

SATISFACTION: Allowing someone else the pleasure of enjoying your stuff feels good (so does recycling).

SPACE: You will literally regain space…

• Whole drawers can be emptied

• Shelves will no longer bow under the weight of your old textbooks

• Closets will sigh with relief that they’re not overstuffed and cramped

Being able to see your belongings enables you to enjoy and appreciate what you have.

FREEDOM: We are privileged to live in a free society, but some of us are slaves to stuff and the need to acquire more. When you let something go, a wonderful emotional freedom grows.

As a professional organizer, I am privileged to witness people stand straighter, smile more freely, and breathe easier by letting go of things that were holding them back. Releasing physical items from our spaces gives us the freedom to decide what will take its place. Let it be positive memories and new opportunities.

Author: Naomi CookClutter Donating General Holidays Recyling Seasonal

Recycling Christmas

Recycling arrows decorated for Christmas

The magical holiday season has come and gone and now it’s time to face the reality of the New Year…and the inevitable task of taking decorations down and cleaning up. You can just toss your tree to the curb, but what if you want a more meaningful way to lay your tree to rest? Read on for some great ways to tackle your clean up list and do some good for the planet at the same time!

Recycle Your Christmas Tree: Yes, you can recycle your tree! Just make sure that you take all the light strands, tinsel, and ornaments off before doing so. Earth 911 (earth911.com) offers a great link for anyone to be able to recycle their tree and turn it into mulch.  Type in your zip code and find the closest drop off spot near you.

Recycle Your Shipping Boxes: Of course you can break them down and put them into the recycling bin, or pass them along to a friend who will be moving soon. Note to my colleagues — as Professional Organizers, you can also offer them to clients who are moving, for their belongings and/or for taking away any donations.

Recycle Your Wrapping Paper: If you were careful to unwrap your presents because you love the paper — hang onto it for another gift. Or if it’s a larger piece, create a placemat (by simply cutting the sheet into a small rectangle) or a pretty tray liner. Another fun idea is to use a hole puncher on your wrap scraps to create confetti for your next party!

Recycle Your Gift Bags: Keep your holiday spirit going throughout the New Year! Use them as a lunch bag to bring to work or as a catchall for coupons and sale ads when you’re headed out shopping.

Recycle Your Greeting Cards: Treat your favorite cards to a frame and use them for your décor next year, or keep them up year round. You can “re-gift” them by cutting off the back of the card, which has the writing on it and give it a postcard look, writing on the flipside of the front of the card.

Recycle Your Gift Boxes: Smaller cardboard jewelry boxes work well as organizers in your catchall drawer, while shirt size cardboard boxes can be used to separate stacks of items in drawers and keep them vertical.

I hope you learned some fun tips to make recycling fun. Here’s wishing you a very Happy New Year full of special times ahead with your family and friends, and of course…a clutter-free home!

Author: Annette ReymanClothing Clutter Donating Family General Goal Setting Home Organizing Paper Room Transformation Seasonal

De-Clutter Countdown to 2014

Annette's blog picAs you anticipate watching the ball drop in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, why not use these last days of 2013 to start your own countdown to the New Year? If clutter’s been an issue, here’s a countdown that will help you shake off the dust of the past so you can embrace the promise of the future. Ready? Here we go:

10!  De-clutter your family room –  Choose ten catalogues or magazines to recycle.

9!  Lighten up your bookshelves – Select nine books to donate to your local library.

8!  Make room for your new holiday clothes –  Go through your closets and drawers to see what you still love and what still fits. Remove eight articles of clothing to donate to your local Good Will Store.

7!  Unburden over-stuffed cupboards – Remove seven old, broken, or mismatched mugs, glasses and plastic cups.

6!  Manage a messy ‘junk drawer’ – Recycle or toss six items: old pens, dried up white out, and unknown stray parts that have been there for too long.

5!  Streamline your pantry – Remove five food items: throw out any food past its expiration date and find something you could donate to a church or local food bank.

4!  Freshen up your sock drawer  Remove four pairs of socks that have holes, worn-out elastic or that you no longer like to wear.

3!  Reduce bathroom clutter – Discard three toiletry items that are expired or used up.

2!  Clean out your jewelry case  Find two pieces of broken jewelry like mismatched earrings or broken chains, which you can discard or bring to have repaired.   

1!  Reclaim lost counter space in your kitchen – Remove one large item that you do not use daily such as an appliance or basket that’s serving no useful purpose. Store it away or donate it if you no longer need it.

I raise a glass to you – here’s to a healthy, happy, and organized New Year!

Author: Ellen TozziClutter Donating Family General Home Organizing

WHEN SENTIMENTAL ATTACHMENTS GET IN THE WAY

Antique cabinetAre you ready to downsize? Do you get stuck when trying to let go of items to which you have a sentimental attachment? Well, here are some tips to help you move forward:

HAVE A TREASURE HUNT
Consider the process of downsizing a treasure hunt.  You’ve collected and inherited a plethora of items, now it’s time to select your treasures and let go of the rest.

USE MEMORY TRIGGERS
Ask yourself if you have other items that can serve as better memory triggers. For example, could you let go of brochures or souvenirs from travels because you have photos of the trip? Could you let go of Grandma’s broken sewing machine because you have her pearls? Another great option is to photograph items to preserve your memories, then release what you don’t use or love.

THE HEAD VS. HEART APPROACH
Let your storage space dictate how many of a category you will keep. You might decide that one shelf in your closet is practical to store your vases. If you have more than will fit that space, let go of your least favorite or seldom used ones.

Consider using numbers to help keep you logical, rather than emotional. For example, ask yourself how many of a specific item seems practical to keep. Four black purses seems generous. You have nine. Let go of five of your least favorite ones.

THE JOY FACTOR
Another way numbers help is by using The Joy Factor. Use a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 meaning ‘great joy and 1 meaning ‘not so much’. Now, ask yourself where on the scale an items falls. If you want to downsize in a big way — you might keep only 5’s as these are your treasures.

PLEASE DON’T TOUCH!
Some people find that holding and touching an item greatly increases their attachment. If that’s you, you’ll want to have a friend, family member, or professional organizer help you. Have the other person hold up items so you can say “yay” or “nay.”

Letting go can be hard, but I assure you that the results will be well worth the effort. Living in a clutter-free environment promotes clarity, focus, peace and happiness.

What items do you find hold the most sentimental attachment?

Author: Anna SicalidesClothing Clutter Donating General Productivity Shopping

What Would Anna Say?

It’s always reassuring to know that my clients take my advice to heart. We joke that when I’m not around to help them get organized, they often ask themselves, “What would Anna say?”

What would I say? I ask a lot of questions that help me determine what’s going on beneath the surface. Then I can focus on the appropriate solution.

“What is good enough?” Perfectionism gets in the way of moving ahead. If you find a system that works for you even a little, go for it! You can always modify and improve as you go along. “Good enough” does not have to be 100%. One client has gained so much insight with this question that she has been able to accomplish more because she spends less time on the details that do not matter, more on what does matter.

“How does that define you?” If it doesn’t define you in a meaningful way, why do you keep it, take care of it, and devote valuable space to it? One client has been able to look at her life’s treasures and been able to really choose what defines her versus being defined by all of her belongings.

“How do you feel when… you are buying your 15th green long sleeve cotton tee shirt?” Increasing self-awareness is the first step in modifying or accepting behaviors. A client with eight of the same type of jacket was amazed when I asked this question — a huge Aha moment!

“Do you notice any patterns here?” What items do you end up donating? What’s hanging in your closet? Are there patterns of excess or waste? When reviewing the items that a client was donating, I asked her this question and the pattern was that most of the items came from a specific store, now she only goes to that store when she needs something basic at the last minute.

“Start anywhere.”  When a client doesn’t know where to start, I like to suggest that they just start somewhere, anywhere. You can start right to left, or left to right, sometimes starting with the floor might be the right solution.

“Start with the low hanging fruit.” Many times when looking at a room full of clutter, all you see is the clutter. A client used this approach when looking at her garage full of years of accumulates stuff. When she looked at the large items and the items on the surface, she was able to make immediate decisions. Once these items were removed the process became more manageable.

When we recognize habits that bog us down with extra “stuff” or cause chaos in our lives through disorganization, we are on our way to a more peaceful and productive life!