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Author: Barb BermanOrganizing Paper Receipts Tips Uncategorized

Four (4) Benefits to “Emptying Your Wallet” Now is the Time to Feel Lighter

While we’ve been sheltering-in-place and social-distancing, I’ve been thinking about all the traveling I’ve done. Whether it’s a quick overnight or weekend trip or something longer, like 2 – 3 weeks, I’ve been remembering my wallet and how it gets filled with all sorts of paper not related to anything I needed to carry with me.

My wallet has been filled with receipts, ticket stubs, candy wrappers, etc. Were all these extraneous things necessary to stuff into my wallet? For me, this was the best place to keep all these items temporarily until I got home, when I could empty my wallet, file what I needed to keep in their respective “homes”, and discard the rest (I sure didn’t need to keep a candy wrapper). Do many of you have things like this in your wallet all the time?

How much you can fit in your wallet is really a metaphor for how much you can fit in your surroundings. Are you ready to “Empty Your Wallet” (and I don’t mean emptying it of money)? I’m talking about your wallet representing how light you would feel if you emptied your life of all the extraneous things that don’t need to be kept in it. What is actually important to you? What do you really need, not want, to keep in your life to make it seem less weighty? The 4 benefits of having an “empty wallet” are:

  1. Defining what success looks like to you so that you can determine what you need to do to move forward.
  2. Clarifying your goal(s) so that you know exactly where and on what you want to work. 
  3. Making decisions so that you stay focused on reaching your goal.
  4. Not throwing you off balance because your pocketbook on your shoulder is too heavy or not ripping your pocket. ☺

“Do not wait: the time will never be ‘just right’. Start where you stand, and work whatever tools you may have at your command and better tools will be found as you go along.”  Napoleon Hill

Now is Your Time to “Empty Your Wallet”

Author: Rie BroscoClutter Document Management Organizing Paper

MOUNTAINS OF MAIL AND PAPER

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?

Keep:
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:

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.

Toss:
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.

Toss:
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

Author: Darla DeMorrowDocument Management Filing Home Office Organizing Paper Tips Uncategorized

17 Ways to Go Paperless without Scanning

Photo by ron dyar on Unsplash

I’ve been reading articles about the promise of a paperless office my entire life, and for the most part, those articles have just created more paper.

For the first time in modern history, we now have the tools to go completely paperless. But before you go invest in a new gadget and hunker down to scan all of your paper, you can probably do a lot to reduce the amount of paper in your life.

Turn Off Paper Statements

  • The first thing is to turn off any statements for accounts, especially if you aren’t opening them. Bank statements are usually the prime offender. Call your bank or go online to shut off those statements. Check to be sure the bank’s retention practices will meet your needs, and that you can access statements online if you need to.
  • Then turn off any billing statements, especially if you have them on auto-payment arrangements and can check your account online.
  • Check with your medical offices to see if they can eliminate or reduce your paperwork there, too. Most medical offices have PHRs (personal health records) and can email you copies of office visits, tests and prescriptions.

Turn On Auto-Pay

  • If you have some but not all of your bills on auto-payments, turn those on, too. Many institutions will allow you to set a minimum payment amount each month. You can always pay more, if you choose, by making additional online payments.
  • If you are concerned that you’ll either miss a payment or somehow be out of the loop on your accounts, write up a simple list of accounts being paid automatically (either by hand or using a spreadsheet), and check these online the same day you get your paycheck. This adds one piece of paper to your life, but might be exactly what you need to keep it all straight. 
  • Set up folders in your email program to file e-statements. Folders allow you to organize emails into groups for long-term storage, out of your inbox. Rules allow you to automate routine statements to be filed without you having to be the one to do it. If you need help with learning to use folders (or tags in gmail) and rules, search the internet for “how to set up folders on {my email} service.”

Get Off Mailing Lists

  • Contact https://dmachoice.thedma.org/ and https://www.catalogchoice.org/ to opt in or out of paper mailings. They won’t stop all of the mail, but it will stop much of it.
  • Be generous, but be selective, too. Stay off the “sucker lists,” which are lists of people who are likely to respond and donate to charitable appeals. Charity fund raising is big business. The more organizations you donate to, the higher the chance that data mining companies will identify you as an easy target, selling your information to even more charities. Honor your nature to be generous by donating to fewer causes that are important to you, and that have good ratings from  https://www.guidestar.org/. Be selective to stay off the lists that generate even more charity mail in your mailbox.
  • Opt out of unsolicited credit card offers. Many of these are generated by companies data-mining your credit reports. Reduce these unsolicited offers by contacting each of the three main credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion and Experian), and requesting that they not allow your data to be accessed for the preapproved offers. The toll-free number for all the national credit reporting agencies is 1 888 5OPTOUT (1 888 567 8688).
  • Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the Consumer Credit Reporting Companies are permitted to include your name on lists used by creditors or insurers to make firm offers of credit or insurance that are not initiated by you (“Firm Offers”). The FCRA also provides consumers with the right to opt-out of these offers. If you choose to opt-in or opt-out, you can visit www.optoutprescreen.com to make your request online.” (excerpted from Experian.com)
  • Reduce the amount of credit accounts you have. Stick with one main all-purpose credit card and another one for backup. Reduce the urge to sign up for store credit accounts just to get short term offers. Cancel promotional cards as soon as you fulfill the promotion. The more cards and credit accounts you have, the more mail they will generate. 

Utilize Online Information Sources

  • Recycle most manuals for household items. Chances are you don’t need the manual for small items like toasters and coffee makers. You can access manuals you do need online at https://www.manualslib.com/ and http://www.manualsonline.com/. If you can’t find it there, which is rare, you can usually find a manual for an older product at the manufacturer’s website.
  • Support your school’s, church’s and community’s efforts to go paperless. Learn how to use online forms and payment options like e-checks and Paypal. 

Say No to Paper Offered to You

  • Don’t bring home fliers, brochures and free magazines. These rarely get read, and they rarely have information that you can’t find online.
  • Instead of collecting business cards, scan a card on your phone and enable your settings to send information right into your phone’s Contacts app. ScaBizCards and Evernote both can upload details directly to your contacts app.

Reset your Reading Habits

  • Cancel your newspaper and magazines if you never read them. Continue to get your local news by purchasing a digital subscription, and request a daily email of headlines and topics that interest you.
  • Are you really serious about having less paper in your life? Get an e-reader and learn to use it instead of buying and storing books you’ll need briefly. Sure, you love the feel and smell of actual books, but you can have HUNDREDS of great books and magazines in less space than your unread piles are taking on your cluttered nightstand right now.

If you really want to go paperless, start with these steps to have less paper in your life. You’ll find more space in your home. 

Author: Annie Amoon RichardChallenging Disorganization Clutter Document Management Emergencies Filing Paper Receipts Tips

EZ File Your Paper Piles

Everyone hates to file papers and we all have piles of them on our desks, tables, and any other flat surface around. No one likes to deal with all the papers that we still have even in our modern “paperless” society. Today I offer an easy, simple system that is not overwhelming and will have you binging Netflix in no time. The best part of this solution is that it’s only two steps!!

Even as a professional organizer, my ADHD gets in the way of keeping my attention on sorting papers for any significant length of time.  As everyone knows, dealing with papers is boring. It becomes overwhelming so we give up and give in to the piles. So, out of necessity, I created this quick and easy system for dealing with the paper piles.

Are you ready to change your paper filing system forever?  Here goes. Two steps. Two easy steps.

Step 1: Get 2 containers – boxes, plastic bins, baskets etc. to hold your papers.  They can be pretty or they can be from the liquor store. The look of the container is up to you.

Step 2: Answer one yes or no question for each paper: “Does this paper have anything to do with my money, property, legal identification, or taxes?” If the answer is yes, it goes in box #1. If the answer if no, then it goes into box #2.

That’s it, you’re done filing! Even if you never do anything else with either box, you will be able to find any important paper that you need, when you need it. Most papers that we think we need to keep are rarely, if ever, referenced again. 

If you need to find an important legal document, receipt or tax info you only have to look in Box #1. You don’t need to be distracted by all the non-legal or non-financial papers to find what you need. Your stress level is greatly reduced or even eliminated. If there is ever an emergency, storm, fire, or other need to evacuate quickly, you just have to grab Box #1.

Now, a lot of people would just not feel completely comfortable with this simple system. If you fall into this category, then take the next step. Get a 3-ring binder and some sheet protectors. Place all of the most critical documents – your birth certificates, passports, Social Security cards, marriage and divorce documents, property deeds, college transcripts, etc. and put them into the page protectors in the binder. Keep this binder in or near Box #1 and let all household members know about it and where it is. Believe me, this will save you so much time and stress when you need to locate these documents.

I know that this system works well as I just completed the process of getting both my Real ID and my passport. It was so much easier knowing where all of the documents were and that they were all together.

Now that you paper piles are tackled, grab some ice cream and enjoy your favorite show or activity. Guilt free.  Now you are organized…at least with your papers!

Author: Adriane WeinbergDocument Management Organizing Paper Time Management Tips

The Truth About OHIO

While helping clients organize their papers, they express concern that they’re doing something wrong when handling them more than once. What they’re unknowingly asking about is the OHIO (Only Handle it Once) rule. 

Keep in mind, though, that OHIO is a guideline, not meant to always be applied. The intent is to Only Handle It Once, or as few times as necessary to completion.

Scenario 1 

  • While scanning the mail, you open an invitation with an RSVP to a neighborhood block party. You put the mail pile on the counter to deal with later. One touch.
  • A couple of days later, you notice the invitation in the growing pile of mail and move it to the to-do pile. Second touch.
  • Later, you think your spouse may want to go. You pick it up and put it on his desk. Third touch.
  • After work, he hands it back to RSVP. You put it back on the to-do pile. Fourth touch.
  • Your son is busy at college but maybe he’d like to see his friends. You pick it up to have the details ready, call him but get voicemail. It goes back on the to-do pile. Fifth touch.
  • He calls back. You pick it up again and give him the details. He’ll think about it. The paper goes back on the to-do pile. Sixth touch.
  • He texts back that he’d like to go. You pick up the invitation, RSVP for your family, then recycle it. Seventh touch.

Scenario 2: 

  • You get the invitation, text your husband and son with the details to see if they’d want to go. You put the invitation on the counter. One touch.
  • They both reply, you pick up the invitation, RSVP, note the date and time in the calendar, then recycle the paper. Second touch—and done.

We don’t stop to think about how many times we handle the same papers — and how much time we waste. A lot!

Here’s a favorite productivity tip from David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done. His Two-Minute Rule states that if it takes less than two minutes, do it now. That doesn’t mean two minutes exactly, but just a few minutes to complete quick tasks. Brilliant!

Contact a pro organizer if you want to learn how to get more done in less time.

© 2019 Adriane Weinberg. All rights reserved.

Author: Robin StankowskiHome Office Organizing Paper Project Management Time Management Tips

Keeping track of your To-Do’s

Remember the Trapper Keeper days? And the 5-subject notebook? We all used them as students but why don’t we use them today? The concept is still the same, it’s just the subjects have changed.

To-Do’s: Instead of subject, separate your to do’s into broad categories (personal, business, church for example). Use a 3 or 5 subject notebook as your one place to store it all. Create a system to prioritize like highlighting or numbering. Don’t forget about those to do’s that you keep putting off. Mix these in with some of your urgent ones.

Projects vs. To Do’s: There is a difference. Projects are made up of a lot of to do’s. That’s why a project can seem so overwhelming and never gets done. Break up that project and add those to do’s to your list.

Notebook vs. Stickies: Is your desk or computer overrun by sticky notes? Use the divided notebooks to keep track of your to do’s/ideas/projects. Stickies should be used temporarily. Regularly transfer that information to the appropriate section of the notebook.  

There is no one way to keep track of your to do’s. Build upon the systems that are currently working for you. But take it one task at a time and be patient. Conquer a couple each day or set a time limit. And in today’s digital era, sometimes a good old notebook will do just fine. Just be sure that you don’t lose it because you can’t back it up!