Posts Tagged ‘Office Organizing’

Give Mom what she really wants! Less paper clutter, more family time

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Mother_and_Daughter

This year, why not give your Mom what she really wants for Mother’s day.

More time to spend with her family, and less time to feel overwhelmed by her clutter, especially all that paper!

Here’s what you can do:  Suggest to Mom that you’d like to give her the gift of organization so she can feel more in control of her life and less stressed by all the paper clutter in her home.  You can help her yourself or better yet, hire a Certified Professional Organizer, who can quickly identify and sort all it all.  Once sorted, you can purge what’s no longer needed and contain what’s left either in labeled paper or digital files according to your mother’s preference and ability.

If you decide to do this yourself, make it a time not just to plow through those piles but also to share the memories with Mom.  Whatever you do though, don’t chastise Mom for keeping everything. No one was born with an “organizing gene” and the rules around paper have changed considerably since she was young, especially now that we are in a digital age though she may not be.

Most of what we keep, as much as 80% according to several studies, we never refer to again. Old bills, especially utility bills, make up the bulk of what I’ve seen the most of when helping my clients tame their paper piles.

I’ve seen floors literally buckle under the weight of boxes upon boxes of retained paper.

Even if all the paper in these boxes were accidentally tossed the chances of needing anything in them is statistically small. That being said, there is always a chance that those boxes contain confidential information so to protect your Mom’s identity I recommend you arrange to have it picked up by a residential document destruction company in your area.

Shredding these papers protects your Mom from others using her confidential information fraudulently.  If you chose to to this yourself, be especially mindful when you are tossing documents containing the following:

  • Social Security Number (in full)
  • Credit Card Account Number (in full)
  • Driver’s License Number (in full)
  • Medical Record Number (in full)
  • Account Number (in full)

In recent years the practice of including full account numbers has changed to protect individual identities but that has not always been the case. If your Mom has kept documents for more than 10-15 years, it’s possible some contain this type of confidential information.  Note however, documents that contain just a name, address and phone number are part of public record (remember old phone books?) and nothing can be done with this information alone so it’s safe to recycle these.

To get started, you will need a cardboard or plastic box labeled “SHRED”  to contain documents for destruction. You will also need a supply of paper bags or boxes labeled “RECYCLE”  and a smaller receptacle for “TRASH” such as the plastic that contains magazines and other junk mail.  Lastly, you will also need a work surface. If table space is scarce, use a folding table or large ironing board if available. Use a “sharpie” for labeling if needed.

These record retention and destruction recommendations are general best practices and not intended to replace the advice for you or your Mother’s specific situation, especially if she is ill, disabled, or in dispute with the IRS.  In these cases, consult with your tax preparer or another legal professional.

SORT

To get you started, start with whatever loose paper is most visible on surfaces, tables, desks or the floor. Open all mail and sort all items, including individual files and documents into the following 5 categories:

  1. Financial
  2. Medical
  3. Legal
  4. Home
  5. Personal

Financial includes: old and unpaid bills, store receipts paid in cash (if you are tracking your mother’s cash expenditures), bank statements, investment statements, tax returns, pension documents, social security information

Medical includes: Medical history, prescription records, explanations of benefits, prescription receipts,  and health insurance and/or Medicare documents specific to your Mom

Legal includes: Life insurance policies, veteran records, estate planning documents such as wills, trusts, power of attorney, health proxies or living wills, birth, adoption, marriage and death certificates

Home includes: Property insurance records such as home and auto, mortgage records including records of satisfied mortgages, appliance warrenties

Personal includes: Educational and work history, cards, letters and other correspondence, general reference such as “project” or “idea” files.  Binders that contain old training material, photographs,  professional or published papers written or contributed to by your Mom and anything of a personal nature that could not be replaced if lost.

PURGE

As you do this you can toss the following: empty mailing envelopes, obvious junk mail, expired coupons, store receipts paid by by credit or debit card and old user guides or warranty information for products or appliances no longer owned.  Keeping a focus on sorting will make purging later go that much faster.

Next purge (shred or recycle) the following from each of the five piles:

  • Financial: Old paid bills, store receipts for low value items, checks from closed accounts, investment statements except current month or quarter, tax returns from more than seven years ago. ATM receipts – unless tracking cash withdrawals
  • Medical: Outdated medical information, explanations of benefits, receipts for prescriptions paid by insurance, any documents not specific to your Mom such as marketing and general information
  • Legal: Cancelled life insurance policies, cancelled or expired contracts
  • Home: Cancelled insurance policies, repair records for cars no longer owned, mortgage bills already paid, any reference material not referred to in over a year or that can easily be found elsewhere or online. Anything printed off the internet.
  • Personal: Any personal reference material that has not been referred to in over a year (such as old recipes, remodel ideas, maps, wellness or hobby information, old magazines, binders containing old training material, greeting cards signed by unknown people, out-dated resumes, any document that can be easily found online.  Children’s school records and drawings if not displayed. Take a digital photo instead. Personal papers such as these will most likely take up the bulk of your Mom’s paper files.

KEEP and CONTAIN (either file or scan)  

Use this as a guide for setting up your paper or or electronic file system

FINANCIAL RECORDS

  • Tax returns and current tax information including receipts used for deductions for future tax returns
  • Bank statements and investment statements by account name and last 4 digits of account number – most recent three months unless your Mom will be applying for assistance under Medicaid or MediCal. In this case she will need the last 5 years of bank statements.
  • Credit card statements by account name and last 4 digits of account number – last three months only
  • Life insurance by policy name – keep while active
  • Social security account information
  • Pension documents

MEDICAL RECORDS

  • Records of health history, prescriptions taken and major conditions
  • Lists of physicians, specialists and other providers seen or consulted with
  • Insurance/Medicare/MediCaid account information

LEGAL RECORDS

  • Estate planning documents (birth, adoption, marriage, death certificates)
  • Heath proxies, power of attorney documents
  • Veteran records
  • Records of satisfied contracts or any current contracts

HOME RECORDS

  • Mortgage documents for current home
  • Records of recently paid household bills (less than one year) – if possible, set up auto pay and have bills issued paperlessly via email.
  • Records of property insurance (home, auto, other assets)
  • Warranties, appraisals or certificates for high value items (value greater than $100 per pound)

PERSONAL RECORDS

  • School transcripts/Official records such as diplomas
  • Records of work history (most current)
  • Cards, letters and other correspondence if it has historical or resale value (emotional value is optional)
  • Professional, written or published work if it has historic importance to the general public or a particular industry for archiving purposes
  • Anything that could not be easily replaced with strong emotional value

TO-DO or ACTION Paper

Finally, identify any documents that require some kind of ACTION or to-dos that your mother feels are worth her time such as bills to be paid, forms to be filled out, greeting cards to be mailed, or items she wants to discuss with another professional. Put these items in a separate mail sorter on her desk or workspace, keeping the bills separate from everything else. Don’t put anything here that needs to be filed or contained. Any retained magazines should be placed where your Mom likes to read them.  Once she is done with these items they can be filed, contained or tossed as needed.

After you spend a few hours helping her, then take her out for lunch or dinner so you can both relax and enjoy some quality time together, knowing that you’ve made some room in your lives for what matters most.

 

 

10 Little Lies That Keep You Disorganized

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Little Lies


Anyone who juggles life’s internal and external demands, whether that be a promise to stay healthy or a need to get things done at home or at work, will recognize themselves in at least one of these 10 little lies.

The lies themselves are a kind of time rationalization, says Dr. Ari Tuckmam, author and subject expert on adult ADHD.  The lies people tell themselves keep them disorganized or stuck in bad habits. How close in time something has to be done is what determines whether or not we take or avoid action.

For example, if a deadline is looming within days or hours, we may be more apt to take action then if it’s weeks or months away.  The closer something is to the present the more we see and feel its impact. This can either be felt as pleasure, such as a having our favorite food nearby or painful, such doing our taxes or preparing to move.

In essence we are constantly asking ourselves, “Is it better to suffer in the present to experience joy in the future or should we aim to enjoy the present moment at the expense of possible future consequences?”  It is an ongoing tug-a-war between the pleasure-motivated side of our brain and the executive function that helps us to make wiser choices that can also feel inconvenient or downright painful.

How many of these 10 little lies do you tell yourself?

  • I can do that tomorrow
  • I’ll put that away later
  • I don’t need to get organized; I remember where everything is
  • I don’t have to write that down. I’ll remember.
  • This will just take a minute
  • Sorry, I was late….traffic!
  • I’ll just start after a quick break
  • I’ll just work twice as hard tomorrow
  • I’ll get to that in a minute
  • I don’t need to do that now

People fall somewhere on a continuum between complete impulsivity (those with attention issues) and overly diligent (those with obsessive tendencies).  Those with better self awareness fall somewhere in the middle, says Dr. Tuckman.  When you find yourself using one of these little lies, Dr. Tuckman advises stopping to pause and visualize the outcome as both your “today self”  and your “tomorrow self.”  Introducing that momentary pause and visualization can sometimes cause you to do something – like scheduling that appointment – and make the difference between staying on track or going off the rails.

Need help getting organized? Call us to schedule a free project assessment, by phone:  510.846.1976

 

*Used by permission: Ari Tuckman, PsyD, MBA West Chester, PA  For more information visit http://adultadhdbook.com/

Paper you can toss (or shred) today without fear

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Even if you do everything on your smart phone, paper is still a fact of life, as is identity theft. Knowing what paper is safe to toss is not only a good habit, it will help minimize your chances of being a victim of identity fraud and make it easier for you to know just what to keep (e.g., for tax purposes) for when you want to get organized.

TIP: If you don’t have a shredder, use a black marker to hide any confidential information on documents that contain an account number, medical record number or social security number before you toss. Items that may include this information are noted below with the word shred.

TIP: Be sure you keep and regularly empty a recycling bin in the area where you do your paperwork.

 *These are general recommendations for household paper. If you own a business or have extenuating circumstances, such as you owe back-taxes, consult with your tax preparer or consult an attorney about your specific situation.

 What to toss…

Pages you’ve printed off the Internet that don’t contain anything about you personally

Online account information you can easily find on the Internet

Brochures, flyers or marketing material for events or products that don’t interest you anymore

Outer envelopes of mail you’ve received, even if it has your address.

Paid bills after one year if you are not claiming them on your taxes (shred).

Business cards for people or companies you would never do business with or meet for coffee.

Loan documents when your loan has been sold or paid off (shred).

Closed bank account statements and checks (shred).

Greeting cards from people you don’t like or remember (Recycle)

Your child’s scribbles and instead curate and take photos of your favorite artwork and rotate their latest creation as part of your “collection.”

Investment statements, excepting your year-end statement and any records of trades (shred).

Bank statements after one year unless they contain expenses you’ve claimed on your taxes (shred).

Prescription receipts unless you claim them on your taxes (shred).

Credit card statements after one year unless they contain expenses you claim on your taxes (shred).

ATM and store receipts more than 30 days old.

Paycheck stubs more after one year. Keep your W2 and tax return instead (shred).

Copyright: Lis McKinley, 2017

 

Lis McKinley, M.A., is the owner of LET’S MAKE ROOM based in Oakland, California. She is a Certified Professional Organizer and Move Manager specializing in helping homeowners and other residential clients get organized to move, remodel or simply enjoy their homes more with less of what they don’t need.

Confronting our monsters

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At 8:00 this morning, I had my own private celebration. It took place in my head.

An hour earlier I was driving and thinking about how terrifying it must be for some of my clients to do the one thing that scares them the most; To finally confront what’s kept them from moving forward in their lives because they feel overwhelmed and stuck and it’s showing up as piles of papers, boxes and who knows what else, on their desks, on the floor, in their drawers, everywhere.

I was thinking about what it means to do the one thing that scares you the most and to have the courage to do it anyway because you know you have to. Because you know not doing so will have far greater consequences.

For people who are chronically disorganized, the consequence of not facing their fears can be enormous.  For some it’s a loss of control over their lives. For others, it’s isolation. I know people who have lost their children, their spouses and their very security because of their inability to face their fears head on.  I also know people who have shown great courage and have discovered the meaning of making room in their lives.

My fears are about public speaking. And yet, as a small business person I know the value it brings to others in the form of information and sometimes even inspiration. But I do it quite frankly because I have to. Working with people in their homes and in their offices or helping them move is tactical but it’s also very personal. I know that if people see me and feel I am someone they can trust, and recognize I  have the expertise to help them, then they often will remember me when it comes time to organize their offices, or their bedrooms or help them plan and oversee their move to a new home.

The Paper MonsterThis is what I was thinking at seven o’clock this morning, on my way to speak to a group of fifty small business owners and entrepreneurs about how to face their fears, specifically about how to confront their own Paper Monsters.  I did this presentation a few weeks earlier and it had not lived up to my expectations  – perfectionism, my monster, rearing it’s ugly head, yet again –  and now I was getting ready to face him again.  Was I scared? Petrified, which is why at that moment I started thinking about my clients.

“If  they can have the courage to hire me, then I can damn well find the courage to face my fears as well, ” I thought.  And so I did. And it went fine. It wasn’t perfect but it was good enough. And that’s good enough. But to be honest, I’m glad it’s over. At least for today I can celebrate.

Tomorrow, I do it again.

Are You A Hider or A Piler?

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Is your stuff – paper, possessions, or supplies – out in the open where you can see it?
Do you forget, ignore or lose what you can’t see?
For you, is out of sight is out of mind?’

On the other hand do you prefer to have everything you own tucked away  – in a drawer, cabinet, or closet?
Do you feel unsettled, anxious or out-of-control when things are not stored, stowed or put away?
Do people always remark at how tidy your home looks?

If the first example sounds more like you, consider yourself a Piler.  On the other hand, if the second example resonates more strongly with you, you are probably a Hider.

The terms Hider and Piler represent two types on an organizing continuum. Generally people fall somewhere along the continuum preferring one kind of organizing habit over another. These are not absolutes. Understanding your – and others – preferred type can help you learn ways to be and stay organized as well as to help you better understand the habits of others. For couples, its common for one partner to be a Hider and the other a Piler. Understanding your partner’s style and how they think about organizing will help keep the peace at home.

The most important thing to know is that both Hiders and Pilers can be equally organized or disorganized.

Take a look at the pictures below:

The column on the left represents two versions of a Piler organizing style: An organized Piler, as represented by the store that sells beads and other jewelry making s

upplies and a disorganized Piler  as illustrated by the photo of the cluttered office.

The column on the right represents two versions of a Hider organizing stye – an organized Hider as  represented by the physician’s examination room and a disorganized Hider as exemplified by the cluttered drawer.

Organizing styles can be dictated by function – such as the need for safe and sanitary conditions as in a doctor’s office or the need for customers to find what they are looking for quickly and easily as in the bead store example. For most people, however, organizing styles emerge from our individual personalities, learned habits or in some cases, physical or emotional conditions.

It’s helpful to think of Hider and Piler as preferences, rather than extremes, with most people falling somewhere between them but leaning towards one or another at varying degrees.

While I have not conducted a scientific study about organizing preferences, in my experience as a professional organizer, I have found that Hiders and Pilers also share some other characteristics.

For example, Pilers, because they like items out where they can seem them, may not benefit as much from conventional organizing methods.  An example of this is a standard two-drawer file cabinet.  A better solution for a Piler is an open file drawer on wheels that allows them to see and file their papers and then stow them away as needed.

Many of my clients who I would consider Pilers are artists, creative types or visual learners. They are stimulated by various forms of color, design, objects, and words. A Piler who does not feel comfortable expressing himself in a particular environment may find substitutes for filling the space in other ways.

An example of this are artists who earn income in an office setting. To compensate for the design of a standard office cubicle – with things like closed, overhead bins – artists and other Pilers often fill their surfaces with paper, piles or other bulky supplies. When I notice a client doing this, once we’ve worked together on organizing the paper,  I often recommend they find objects, artwork or photographs to fill the space (in lieu of the paper) that inspire them.

Conversely, a Hider may feel torn between her need for order and the desire to consume, purchase or own items of perceived value.  From the outside, everything looks fine, even beautiful. Until you open a drawer, cabinet or closet.  Then suddenly everything spills out in a jumble.   This is what I call the “Jack-in-the-box” phenomenon.

Typically hiders call me when their clutter starts creeping out from the drawers, cabinets and closets because they’ve run out of room.  I often recommend to Hiders that they examine their beliefs about what they value so that they can begin to edit down what they have.  I also remind them that storage areas are valuable ‘real estate.’ If they want to cut down on the clutter-creep they are either going to have to maximize the real estate, through editing, or else be at risk of spending more to house thier stuff. The worst case scenario is when people buy bigger homes or invest in expensive storage units to accommodate items they don’t use, want or need.

A hider can also lean towards the other extreme, purging themselves of all but the minimum necessities, sometimes prematurely, maintaining a tidy space albeit a bit sterile or overly staged.

In the fall I will be conducting an online seminar about Hiders and Pilers. If you are interested or want more information, email me at Lis@letsmakeroom.com.

 

Want to know my resolution for 2012?

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Get Organized for 2012I attended a workshop recently where I was asked to write down my three biggest accomplishments from 2011 and then later was asked to write down my top three goals for 2012.  I was surprised to discover that my biggest accomplishments were all related to my work life while my goals for 2012 were all related to my personal life.  It dawned on me that the bigger message in this was that it was time to start shifting some time and focus to my own well-being.

The top 10 resolutions people make, if they make them at all are, in no particular order:

  1. Exercise
  2. Quit smoking
  3. Lose weight
  4. Quit drinking
  5. Enjoy life more
  6. More time with family
  7. Get out of debt
  8. Learn something new
  9. Help others
  10. Get organized

Some resolutions are about stopping a behavior that is destructive to you and some are about starting a behavior that will contribute to your overall quality of life.

As an organizing specialist, I believe that getting organized does both of these things. Encourages you to end a behavior that no longer serves you and helps you develop new habits that will benefit you immediately and over time. That’s why our motto is “Make Room For Your Life; Not Just Your Stuff”

Here’s an example. Let’s say you decide 2012 is the year you are finally going to be prepared for tax time.  From the standpoint of ending a negative behavior this could mean anything from, “I will not wait until the last minute to prepare my taxes,” to “I will no longer just throw my receipts in a shoebox.”

From the standpoint of starting a positive behavior this could mean anything from  “I will make this year the year I organize and capture all my expenses, income and contributions electronically so that I will have everything ready when it’s time to complete my tax form or send it to my tax preparer,” to “This is the year I will actually get my taxes done on time.”

So this year, make a resolution that doubles it’s impact on your life. But be sure it’s something you really want and are ready to commit to.  Then track your progress by setting up mini goals that make it easier for you to move closer to your larger goal.

Here’s mine for example: I want to lose weight and feel better. Rather than put it in the form of pounds, I’ve decided to put it in the form of a percentage. Why? Because there are real and measurable benefits from losing even 5% of your body weight when you are overweight (as I am).

So here’s my goal with my three mini goals to follow

  • Lose 30% of my current body weight by January 2013
  • Lose 20% of my current body weight by September of 2012
  • Lose 10% of my current body weight by May 2o12 (my birthday month – what better present to give yourself?)
  • Lose 5% of my current body weight by March 2012

So if you are reading this, you can assume I am inviting you to encourage me as I will need to meet my goal.  I will keep you posted and if you like, send me your thoughts, encouragement, ideas and anything else you want to say that will keep me motivated.  Feel free to also send them to LET’S MAKE ROOM’s Facebook page  (http://www.facebook.com/Letsmakeroom) or my Twitter Feed @letsmakeroom or hashtag #letsmakeroom

Here’s to a healthier, happier and more caring 2012!