Blog

Author: Naomi CookGeneral Home Office

Setting up a Mobile Workstation Anywhere in your Home!

You may have an entire room designated as your home office, but what if you don’t?  No problem!  You can create an environment that is well organized wherever you prefer to do your work, and with products that are easy enough to stash away when you’re done!

Do you like to work spread out on your bed, or on the sofa in the living room?  Or do you prefer to sit at the kitchen table?  Here are some inexpensive products that may help you:

  • Decorative Photo Boxes – Great for storing small items of any sort, they can be stowed away easily in a tight space!  Find inexpensive ones, in a variety of colors and patterns to suit your style, at your local craft store!  You may even want to keep them out because they look so nice… which is a good idea because you don’t want to forget to pay your bills!  The boxes often have a label slot in the front for you to fill out so you can know what is stored in each box.

Box 1 – for all your workstation essentials like pens, pencils, sticky notes, scissors, a notepad, stapler and calculator.

Box 2 – for billing essentials like stamps, address labels, envelopes and your checkbook.

Box 3 – for stashing receipts.*

Box 4 – for incoming bills.

*Photo boxes often come with dividers – use them to separate receipts from different credit cards, ATM and deposit slips.

  • Lap Desk – If you like to be propped up on the bed or on the sofa, this works great as a flat surface for your computer or for writing out checks.
  • Folding Tray Table – Place it by your bed, sofa or living room chair for an extra surface.  Since it folds up, you can keep it flat when not in use, and you may be able to store it underneath your bed or sofa.
  • Plastic File Box with hanging folders – Use this to file away your bills after you’ve paid them.**
  • Small Paper Shredder – Use this to shred your bills after you’ve paid them.**

**This all depends on your preference.  If you are an online bill payer, then you can send your e-mail confirmations of your paid bills to a folder designated for each company.

Whatever you do, find a system that works for you and you could find yourself enjoying paying your bills each month…but probably not!

Author: Sue FrostFamily General

Looking for the perfect gift? How about memories for a lifetime?

To prove a theory for this article I asked my husband, “What was the greatest gift you have ever received?” His reply, “You, my dear.” He actually said that, but he’s British so it’s normal. I pushed further to prove that giving the gift of an experience, a shared memory, far outlasts any tangible possession. So, I asked, “What is your favorite childhood memory?” His response, “Going to the seaside with my family.” Exactly!

As an organizer I often work with families who struggle to organize and maintain all of their possessions. The number of their belongings conflicts with their desire for space. When I ask why, there is often a common thread in their responses. They tell me that family and friends are generous with gifts for them and for their children. The abundance is both a blessing and a curse.

We can sort all of the toys by categories, find bins to accommodate them, place them at accessible heights, and add labels (or pictures for pre-readers). However, as a Professional Organizer, it’s my job to help clients organize their belongings AND transfer skills to help them maintain order. So, I feel obligated to explain that the more you have the more you need to maintain. More stuff = more work.

My kind hearted clients are faced with two problems, 1) where to put all of the toys and gifts and 2) how to politely discourage more. In Annette Reyman’s (another NAPO-GPC Professional Organizer) July 11 blog, she told us that in the event of an emergency home evacuation, pictures rank second only to living things (people and pets) for items we want rescued. I agree but believe that it’s not the photos themselves we want to preserve. It’s the memories. So, how do we discourage abundant gift giving?

Ask your generous friends to plan a special day together. My brother, cousins, and I often reminisce about happy childhood memories. Our parents and grandparents were of modest means, but they kept us busy enough not to notice. Our outings included dozens of us meeting up at the beach, backyard parties, surprise visits, ice skating lessons, the Easter show at Radio City (their multi-million dollar renovations were likely a result of my younger brother’s stomach virus), and seeing the Nutcracker at Christmas just to name a few.

Never keep anything out of guilt. Every item in your home should be useful or something you love. Space is finite and excess can be more of a burden than a blessing. Be ruthless about what you let into your home. You’ll have to make room for it, dust it, polish it, store it, dry clean it, mend it, fold it, and then when you’re sick of it, you have to get rid of it.

Life is busy. Our schedules are hectic. Often the best gift we can give the people we love is our time.

If you’re really stumped about what to buy the person in your life who has everything, consider a session with a professional organizer. I’ve heard it said that it is our memories that mold us. Let a professional organizer help you create a home that’s a true reflection of you and your happiest moments. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Author: Kathy LuskusClutter Family General Home Organizing

RECLAIMING SPACE AFTER CHILDREN LEAVE HOME

Even the most organized of us will get to a point after years in the same home where we find ourselves somewhat overwhelmed by the things we’ve collected. Raising children will attract items that represent memories that make us smile, and some that will send us screaming from the attic and basement. Now that you’ve saved all those art projects, sports trophies, posters and various collections of Beanie Babies, Polly Pocket paraphernalia, Matchbox cars, baseball cards, etc. over the years, it’s time to reclaim your space and do some purging. One word of caution here: Don’t purge the baseball cards. You’ll never live it down – believe me!

Funny thing about kids, even after they’ve gone to college or married and moved to another city, they still often feel like your home should serve as a storage locker for the items they no longer need and don’t want to sort through. As a result, 18 years multiplied by the number of children you’ve raised results in – well, you do the math on the clutter.

Sooner or later when you can no longer get into your attic or basement because it’s become a warehouse of memorabilia, it’s time to take control. You might want to use the space to create an office, craft room, exercise room or an organized storage room for other items that are sure to arrive at your doorstep in the coming years. At some point you’ll probably inherit your parents’ furniture and important files and begin to start saving all those photographs, art projects, and hand-made gifts from your grandchildren. Having gone through this transition, I have some things to share in the way of processing what to keep, purge and move along to someone else.

ALLOW TIME

Be sure to allow plenty of time to complete this project. After all, it took many years to amass these things, so it’s probably going to take more than an afternoon.

SERVE NOTICE

A good way to start is to alert your family that you are taking on this project and ask if there’s anything in the storage area that they would like you to pack up and send to them. They may have a short list of things they want you to hold onto for them. You’ll probably find that they can’t remember what’s in the attic and aren’t interested in most of what’s stored up there. If, however, they want to do the sorting and purging themselves, you can agree to use part of the room to be organized as a staging area where you’ll hold the items up to an agreed upon date.

GET HELP

This is not for the faint-hearted, so instead of trying to take this on yourself, ask a friend to work with you who is emotionally detached from your possessions. This is where it’s prudent to engage a professional organizer who is trained in what questions to ask so that you can make good decisions on what to keep and what to do with those things that need to be moved out.

PREPARING THE ATTACK

Before you start, gather some materials to help you work more efficiently.

  • trash bags – dark green for trash, so once something is placed in there you won’t need to see it again.
  • trash bags – white for donations, whether to friends and family members, or charities.
  • permanent black marker – for labeling the white donation bags.
  • boxes/bins – one for each of your family members for items they want to keep.
  • plenty of water and some snacks.

There’s some value in creating a place for items that you want to decide on later, but try to refrain from delaying decision and having to pick up the same item(s) multiple times.

THE PAYOFF

Completing a project like this will give you great satisfaction and probably inspire you to continue your organizing throughout your house. One additional benefit of this exercise is that it helps you to better identify what items are really of value and should be stored for posterity and what is probably not worth keeping as you move forward. That knowledge will help you to better maintain the area that just opened up for your craft room, or whatever purpose you decide for this reclaimed space.

Author: Suzanne KuhnGeneral Home Organizing Special Needs

Organizing for a Person Who Visits Doctors Frequently

When my mother died in June 2007, my father came to live with me.  He had advanced cases of prostate cancer and Parkinson’s disease, and my life soon became a whirlwind of visits to doctors, hospitals, and testing facilities.  I quickly discovered that these visits were much easier to manage when I developed a one-page summary of all Dad’s pertinent medical information that I could hand the health care providers at each facility.

Do you have medical conditions that cause you to doctor frequently?  Do you care for someone who does?  Then you, too, would benefit from a brief document listing all of your diagnoses, drugs and doctors.  Use your favorite word-processing program and include the following:

Contact Information

  • The patient’s full legal name (important for Medicare and other medical assistance programs), street address, home phone, cell phone and email address.  Dad didn’t have an email address, but I provided everything else.
  • If the patient has given anyone a Health Care Power of Attorney, give that person’s same full contact information too, along with the indication that they are Health Care POA.  In my case, this was my brother.
  • If the patient has a regular caregiver who should be contacted with updates or reports, give that person’s full contact information as well.  On Dad’s summary, this was me.

Diagnoses

  • List each condition for which the patient has a formal diagnosis from a physician.  If you can, include the diagnostic billing code, obtainable from the billing department of the doctor who made the diagnosis.  Also include the date of diagnosis if you know it.  Even noting only the year can be helpful.  Dad’s diagnoses included prostate cancer and Parkinson’s; they also included medication-related depression, Parkinson’s-related dementia, and prostate-related urinary incontinence.  The point here is to note secondary conditions, too.  They all have a bearing on the patient’s treatment.

Medications

  • List each drug the patient is taking, along with the dosage and frequency.  Example:  “Levaquin, 500 mg., 2x/daily.” Later, if a medication is removed, leave it on the list with a note “Discontinued, [date.]”  It’s all about sharing useful information.

Doctors

  • List the name, address, telephone number and specialty of each and every physician the patient sees, including their primary care physician.  Doctors often send reports to the other physicians treating their patients, and this information simplifies that process.
  • If your patient has multiple medical conditions, as my father did, it can be challenging to fit all the information on one page.  Fiddle with font sizes, margins, spacing, and the use of tabs and columns to try and get everything on one sheet.  What is true for employment seekers’ resumes is just as true for patients’ resumes:  The more concise they are, the more likely they will get read and used.

Store the document on your computer, and update after each medical visit that causes a change in the information. Create a header or footer with the notation “Updated [date.]” Print out a fresh, updated copy for each new medical visit. Keep a couple of current copies on hand for “grab and go” situations like emergency room visits and ambulance transports.

Throughout the two years I cared for my father, I was told over and over again by doctors, nurses, billing clerks, testing technicians and others how helpful this information was, and how much time it saved them as they cared for Dad.  In turn, it gave me satisfaction to know that I was doing something concrete and beneficial for my father.  This can be so important for the caregiver facing the discouragement of tending to someone with a difficult, chronic or terminal illness.

Author: Annette ReymanClutter General Home Organizing

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

This June my husband and I were fortunate enough to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.  In preparation for this milestone, I decided to organize the last 25 years worth of photos.  Some were already stored in albums.  I must admit, however, that somewhere before the halfway mark of our quarter century the momentum was lost and batches of photographs found their way into drawers, boxes and bags, randomly scattered throughout the house.

True to the saying, a single glance at a photo of an early vacation or one of the kids with a missing tooth was enough to elicit warm memories and funny stories – a thousand words.

Wait, a thousand words?  Too bad they’re not worth a thousand dollars!  It seemed like I had millions of them – and that’s excluding the digitals.

In a recent training on organizing and preserving photos I learned that in situations involving home-evacuation, pictures rank second only to living things (people and pets) for what we want rescued.  If these precious and priceless memories are counted among our dearest and most prized possessions, finding a better way to keep them might be worth the effort.

Thanks to my recent endeavor, I am happy to report that the process for organizing photos is more fun and less painful than I had imagined (mind you, I had avoided this for over a dozen years and what I had imagined was not pretty).  Since my experience was a pleasant one, I would like to share the process that took me and my memories from random chaos to easy-to -find, -use, and -share treasures.  I suggest tackling the task through four steps: Gather, Sort, Scan, and Store.

Gather:

  • a photo-labeling pencil or pen to mark dates on the back of your photos
  • photo-safe storage boxes (or shoe boxes)
  • Index cards for dividers
  • ALL of your printed photos

Sort:

Unless you have a deadline, two hours once or twice a week works well for this step.

  • Mark the date on the envelope
  • Flip through the pictures – throw away any that you don’t want, return duplicates to the envelope and write the date on the backs of the keepers
  • Put the photos and an index card dated by year into one of your storage boxes

Whatever your objective – whether you are looking to create albums for each of your children, vacation or anniversary albums – I found that organizing by year gave me the most flexibility and easiest search-ability later on.

Scan:

There are certainly ways of doing this process yourself.  You could use your home scanner if you have one, bring them in batches to scan at a local store or buy some type of bulk photo scanning machine.  But, if you are facing years of photographs like I was, I highly suggest paying to have them bulk-scanned by a reputable company.  There are several online companies that will accept your boxed photos and send them back to you along with CDs of all the scanned pictures.  I personally used a local company, SaveMyPix.com.  The prices are reasonable, they are timely and reliable and Max, the owner, picked them up and delivered them back to my doorstep.  If you consider that you may wish to keep one to two hundred per year and multiply that by the number of years you are sorting through, bulk-scanning is well worth the money.

Store:

Finally, once you have all your photos on discs, you can decide how you’d like to “store” them.  You may want to choose some to make into digitally-printed photo albums like the kinds offered by companies like Snapfish.com.  Or you might want to organize them by person or event and break them down into multiple CD’s to make as gifts or screen-savers.  You can also upload them to an online storage company to save in case something happens to your own discs.

In the end, I guarantee that the results of your effort will put a smile on your face worthy of a thousand words!

Author: Ellen FayeGeneral Productivity

Clarify Priorities for Best Results

Time Management has changed.  It is no longer about getting it all done, it’s about making smart choices about how to spend your time.  Time Management theorists have been discussing methods for identifying what to do next for years.  While in concept it would be great to have these options, all too often we spend our days putting out fires and doing what we have to do.  By setting priorities we make better choices about which tasks we spend our time on.  This results in fewer “fires,” greater satisfaction and better results.  Over the years I’ve found the following process helps my clients in clarifying priorities:

1. SET GOALS – this helps you to become clear on what is really important to you.  The process doesn’t need to take a long time.  I suggest to my clients that they create one action statement for each relevant life area such as family, business, self-care, community, leisure, etc.

2. MATCH TASKS TO GOALS – when making a decision about if you should do something or not, determine if doing the task will assist you in meeting your goals.  By thinking about the task in context to what is important to you/your goals, you will gain better insight and make better decisions.  You might also notice:

  • that a task you’ve been doing a long time no longer serves you.
  • that doing something because you think you “should” just isn’t a good enough reason anymore
  • that you are spending time on things that don’t have the highest pay-back

3. CREATE A FILTER LIST – before you say yes to a task, a position, or an opportunity run it through a list you’ve created for yourself.  There are no standard questions that should be on your list – this is your list, you get to create it and you get to evaluate it.  What is important is that you are clear in determining what is important to you.  Here are some questions you may want to include:

  • Will it help me to reach my goals?
  • Will it help me grow my business?
  • Will it help someone who is important to me?
  • Will it give me joy?
  • Will I have fun doing it?

4. BECOME OK ABOUT SAYING “NO” – not just to others, but also to yourself.  Giving up opportunities is hard, but never accomplishing anything important is harder.  If you want to be true to yourself, saying “NO” is an important part of the process.

The final step is determining just how much time, energy and effort you want to put into a task you’ve decided is important to do.  For this, we go to 80/20 rule or Pareto’s Principle – you get 80% of the results in 20% of the time.  To get 100% of the results takes 80% longer.  That means you can get it done fairly well in 1/5th of the time.  For example I could write a really good blog post in an hour, or I could write a perfect blog post in 5 hours.  I need to decide which things need to be perfect and which things are sufficient when they are really good.  You can decide that too – that’s all part of setting priorities.  I hope my 80% effort has inspired you to make smarter decisions about how you spend your time.