Archive for the ‘information’ Category

Home Inventory

March 1, 2017

infographics about home inspection checklist and tips

One of the best ways to prepare for a disaster at home is to have a complete home inventory. Do you have an inventory of the contents of your home? Have you ever thought about taking or making such an inventory and then immediately stopped because the thought of all the work involved paralyzed you? You know that an inventory is the absolute best way to prove what your house contains in case of theft, fire, flood, tornado or any other disaster. I do understand that the creation of an inventory is a ton of work! I had to handwrite my first inventory back in 1979 since my husband’s job required us to submit a complete inventory when we were moving to Thailand. Imagine handwriting something such as that! Wow!! Even now I shudder at the thought. As the years went on and we moved from place to place technology allowed me to put our inventory in a spread sheet and then there was a program created for just such a purpose.

The program I use now is very flexible. It is called HomeZada. It does so much more than just keep track of your household furnishings. When you are ready to do the inventory, it allows you to take a picture of the item, identify what room it is in, put the date purchased and from where – if you know that information and if it is a valuable item (sentimental or expensive) you can even say who should receive it upon your death. Additionally, you can scan the receipt for the item so you have an accurate record of the date of purchase and how much it cost. You can also take a picture of a room and identify the built-in pieces of cabinetry.

I also love the fact that this program allows you to record the maintenance of appliances and keep track of home improvements. No more searching for that information. You don’t need to wonder when the HVAC was last serviced or your home last painted. The information is right there at your fingertips. If you’re planning to sell your home, you can easily retrieve the documents which identify the improvements you’ve made to your home.

Since this program is cloud based you will be able to retrieve all the information from any computer anywhere in the world. So, if disaster should strike and your home was destroyed you would be able to show an insurance adjuster photos of all that your home contained. No guessing involved.

This is real peace of mind. What a relief. Even better the program is easy to use. I recommend tackling a home inventory project the way you would any other large project – a little at a time. You could enter the information one room at a time. Or, if you decided this was simply too much for you to contemplate you can hire a professional organizer to do the original data entry for you. This is a service I offer as do other professional organizers.

 I recommend updating the information once a year, or as you trade out furniture or complete a home improvement project. It is very important to keep your home inventory information current as stale information defeats the purpose.

Please feel free to contact me if you’d like more information about the HomeZada home inventory program and how I may be able to with a home inventory project. Check out their website: www.homezada.com

 

Hallmarks of an Adult?

November 16, 2016

Together, success is a given

The other morning I was listening to my local news station as I was catching up on my ‘words with friends’ and I was really surprised. I had only been listening half way, concentrating mostly on my strategy in the game I was playing on my phone, when something caught my attention. It was something about millennials taking classes in what the reporter called ‘adulting’. I didn’t know what that meant and still don’t really. The report went on talking about things adults do, for instance; chores around the house, budget their money, pay bills, file papers, and manage their time (although that’s a subject for another day).

The point of the report was that some millennials seem to be so lacking in knowledge in these areas that they feel a need to take classes.

Actually, I do get that because some of my clients are millennials and they haven’t the slightest idea how to go about cleaning their house, organizing their kitchen, putting away their clothes – I could go on but I think you get the idea. These millennials, the ones I work with (and possibly the ones in the news report), have grown up without any sense of what it takes to lead an organized life.

They have successfully completed school and, for the most part, have jobs. They want to live independently – to be adults.

Unfortunately, schools do not teach home/life skills otherwise known as home economics. I never took home economics in school – I think that was phased out even before my generation. So, what happened? Why is it that some of these young adults are not equipped with the basic skills and information that are the hallmarks of being an adult?

I think it’s a combination of things.

Some of these young people did not have the skills modeled for them. Maybe their parents weren’t great at organizing themselves, maybe they outsourced things like bill paying, maybe they didn’t ask the children to help with routine household chores.

Whatever the reason, I’m happy to know they are taking classes to fill in the blanks.

What are the hallmarks of becoming an adult?

For me, it’s taking care of myself and those in my family, taking care of my home (meaning keeping it clean and tidy), being a good friend, doing my job to the best of my ability, paying my bills, and having fun working on my hobbies which are gardening, needlepoint, and dancing.

What does being an adult mean to you?

PS I have written a book which covers all of these subject areas and more. You can learn more about my book on my website: www.dnqsolutions.com

 

 

 

 

Paper File Maintenance

February 24, 2016

Close Up Of Folder For Household Bills

Over the last several weeks I’ve been talking about paper. We set up action files, files for your file cabinet, and archival files. There should be no more wondering what to do with the paper as it arrives in your home. I hope you’re not thinking that once your files are organized you’re done because you’re not.

A filing system only works if the system is used, updated periodically, and maintained.

You know that when you print a bank statement or an investment statement you look it over, check it to make sure it’s accurate, and then file it. At the end of the year, you can shred everything but the year-end statement. What a relief! No more hanging on to piles and piles of statements.

You also know that you have insurance files which hold the policy statement and the updated information. When the new information arrives remove last years’ update and replace it with the new document. This also serves to reduce the bulk of paper in the insurance file folder.

Your filing system must work for you. A filing system that works enables you to find the documents you need when you want them. No time lost hunting through the files or digging through piles of paper looking for a document.

This is the reason for taking time to label the files and folders in such a way that will spark you to remember that that is where the paper belongs.

This is also why I advocate looking through your files several times a year. Check them to make sure the files are current. If they are not either update them (if that’s what is needed) or remove them (if they are no longer pertinent).

Life is not static and neither are your files. As your life changes and things are added and subtracted your files should reflect these changes.

When you are doing your paperwork set aside some time to maintain your files. Just like any other part of your home if you attend to the files regularly they will stay up to date and organized.

 

Paper Filing

February 17, 2016

Last week I talked about setting up Action Files. These are the files which hold papers with which you will do something. You might file them, read them, respond to them, keep them available for easy reference. Whatever you do with these papers once you take action they leave the Action File holder and go …

That’s just it. Where do they go? Which papers do you keep? Those which you know you are over and done with get rid of right away otherwise they will just add to the pile and you will need to look at them once again. Only to find out that you didn’t need to bother. Will you need to look at them again (reference them)? Are they papers to keep but not to refer to? Will they help you with your taxes? How will you find them, if you need the information?

These are all questions I am asked by my clients.

If you are technologically inclined many papers can be scanned and saved in secure password protected folders in the clouds. These folders will still need to be organized and labeled appropriately so that you don’t waste time searching endless saved files. This will enable you to have access to this information from any computer provided you have the password!

Now, back to the papers.

I often get asked how to organize the files. My advice is to organize them in a way that makes sense to you. Some people like to file alphabetically, some by category, and some like to mix it up. There is no right way to file your papers. The important concept is that you are able to find what you’re looking for when you need it.

Organizing supplies to have on hand:

Manila folders, hanging files, a marker, and plastic tabs and/or a scanner

Label the Hanging file and the manila folder so that you will know exactly where to return the manila folder when you remove it from the file drawer.

Here are some basic categories:

  1. Let’s start with personal papers. I call these Vital Documents. These are papers which serve to prove your identity. You keep them forever. I advise keeping a copy at home in your file cabinet and the original in the bank. For the technologically inclined – scan these documents and keep them together in a folder in the cloud. Label them with something that will prompt you to remember the type documents the folder contains. Keep the original in a safe deposit box at the bank.

Here’s a short list, you may think of others:

Birth Certificate, Passport, Baptismal records, Marriage license, Divorce decree, Citizenship papers, Military records, Social Security numbers

2. Finances:

Keep the year end financial statements for 7 – 10 years in an archival box  (or scanned to the cloud)

    1. Keep the current year in an easy to reference file in your file drawer. You may have more than one file depending on how many accounts you have. Be sure to include any investment accounts, checking and savings, credit card information, any loan information, and retirement accounts. You might file these by category and then alphabetize the folders within the category. Just a thought!

3. Insurance:

    1. Sometimes the insurance is bundled. You may have one policy which covers a multitude of things. Be sure to keep the original policy and then add the updated rider when it comes in each year. Remember to remove and shred the past year’s rider so the file doesn’t contain stale information.

4. House:

  • List any service providers – name and contact informationAlso keep receipts for any expensive furniture or appliances or machinery – like a new HVAC unit.

 

Keep receipts for home improvements and repairs (make a copy of this for your tax file – some may be tax deductible)

  1. Keep an inventory of all your household furnishings and belongings here. (more about this next week)

5. Taxes:

  1. Keep tax returns forever in an archival box. Keep the supporting documents in an archival box for 7 – 10 years.
  2. Keep a folder in an easy to access file drawer labeled with the current year. Put any tax related information into it as it comes into your house. This way when it comes time to doing your taxes you have only to look in the one place.

 

This is just a few categories of files. You will probably have more as you continue sorting through your papers. If, when you were sorting, you created a pending or marinating file please remember to go back and take another look at those papers. As time has passed you may have figured out what your next step with those papers should be.

Let me know how your paper sorting is going and if this was helpful. I hope it was!

 

 

Paper Piles

February 3, 2016

paper pile

Are you buried in paper piles? Do you know what’s in the stacks?

Perhaps you like to see the stack of papers as a reminder of something to take care of? Maybe it’s a group – a category – of papers that you want to have easy access to? Is there anything important or vital lurking in those piles? Could your missing passport, marriage license, social security card be hidden amongst these papers?

Do you lose track of what’s there? Maybe some things slip your mind or bills are left unpaid because they remain hidden in a pile? Does that ever happen to you?

I often hear from clients that they have a hard time knowing what to do with certain financial and legal documents. Which ones do they have to keep? How long should they keep them? Where should they keep them?

Other questions revolve around household receipts, user manuals, and medical receipts.

Since tax season will soon be upon us it’s time to start getting these papers organized so that you can easily get those taxes done and so that going forward you’ll know where to find your important documents, your bills, and your project notes or any other category of papers you may have!

This month I’ll be giving you some strategies and solutions to get on top of this paper work. I’ll tell you about some different ways to file your papers so that you can find what you need when you want it. No more wondering where on earth you put … and spending lots of time hunting through the stacks!

Let’s start by bringing all the paper piles from around your home into one central location. Decide where you want to work on these piles and bring all the piles to that place. If you have a large table or even a card table that you can put up as a sorting spot that would be terrific! This way you can be sure that you are dealing with all the paper. Now, don’t get the idea that you have to tackle all of this at once. We’re going to break it down into small manageable tasks so that you can really take control of the paper as it comes into your home. I’ll also be giving you some tips on how to maintain this sense of order.

Label the piles that you bring to your sorting place. You might label them by the location from which you removed them. For instance if the pile came from the kitchen label it ‘kitchen’. That might trigger you to remember what’s in the stack.

You will want to gather some supplies to this sorting spot. You may need some paper clips, post-it notes, a marking pen, manila file folders (these can be either colorful or plain), hanging files (these can be plain or colorful also), and a notebook binder or two. As time goes along you may decide you want other supplies but let’s start with these.

Knowing where to put papers you want to keep so that you can find them at a moment’s notice will give you a wonderful sense of accomplishment and peace of mind!

Small changes?

April 16, 2014

Sometimes a small change in the way we do things can have a really HUGE impact. One of my clients had the habit of waiting until April 14th to begin gathering the information needed to prepare his taxes. It would take him all day and most of the night of the 14th to gather everything together, figure out what he had to do, download the forms, etc. You get the idea, I’m sure. Maybe some of you do this very same thing.

Last year, we created a current tax year file. All tax related information went into the file. I encouraged my client to begin preparing his taxes on April 1st which he did. He was finished with his taxes very quickly as he didn’t have to hunt down any information. His taxes were mailed by the end of the first week – without having to lose any sleep! The small change of creating a central place for all tax related information really helped.

Another client was talking to me about doing laundry. For her, laundry is one of those things that just never seems to end – there’s always more to do. To complete the laundry cycle it must be washed, dried, folded, and put away. This client was good about the washed and dried part but emptying the drier, folding and getting the laundry put away was a problem.

In conversation, my client told me that she starts laundry in the evening and remembers to get it out of the washer and into the drier but quite often she forgets about it and then goes to bed. I suggested that she start the laundry in the morning after taking her child to school. This way she’s up and around the house. I also suggested she set a timer to remind herself to take the clothes out of the drier, fold them and put them away. This small change has really worked! Changing the time of day to do the laundry has helped to keep the piles of laundry under control.

What small change can you make in your day which may make a HUGE impact? Write me and let me know.

Brain Dump?

September 25, 2012

Does your brain ever spin? You know, when you have so many thoughts and ideas swimming around inside that you haven’t a clue which one to attend to first? Well, that’s the way my brain feels today. I’ve just returned from a conference in Chicago sponsored by the Insitute for Challenging Disorganization. The speakers were simply outstanding!  Thankfully, the program book with the presenters’ handouts had room for me to take notes. Over the course of 4 days I attended the presentations, met with friends and reviewed the material presented. Now, it’s time for me to think about how this information applies to me and my business. Some of the material is simply awesome information to have and review from time to time. Other information can be directly applied to help me guide some of my clients (current and future) be better organized.

What do you do when your head is full of so many ideas? The routine I follow is to make a brain dump. That’s when I take out a pad of paper and a pen and write down all the ideas as they occur to me – in no particular order. Then when I’ve finished with this list I review the list and combine like ideas. This allows me to organize my thoughts. I can see which ideas naturally fit together and further see what I need to do to implement them. I’m thinking that I may need to tweak some of the forms I use and perhaps upgrade some of my methodologies.

Once I have an organized list I take out my calendar and start scheduling appointments with myself to work on these new ideas and skills. The good news is that I know if I follow my calendar these new ideas will be slowly incorporated into my business and will have a great impact!

If you have lots of ideas swirling in your mind… if your brain is spinning why don’t you try this strategy? I bet it will work for you as it does for me.

Overcoming Obstacles

September 19, 2012

I’m going to a conference in Chicago this week sponsored by the Institute for Challenging Disorganization. The title of the conference is: Overcoming Obstacles. In the interest of full disclosure, I am a member of the ICD and I am on the conference planning committee. My job as a member of the conference planning committee was to proof read the conference program book. So, I have read all the handouts from the various speakers! I am really looking forward to attending the presentations. The speakers are covering a fairly wide range of topics but each topic relates to an obstacle that many of us encounter daily. Here’s the presentation line up (courtesy of the Institute for Challenging Disorganization)

1. End Procrastination Now: Pause Ponder, Plan , Produce

2. Brain Injury and ADHD

3. Baby Steps – Radically Reducing Your Clients’ Time Clutter

4. Forgive For Good

5. Don’t Call Me Nuts! Beating the Stigma of Mental Illness

6. Walk in Their Shoes! (an experiential workshop that will give you new tools and a new appreciation of your elderly clients)

7. ADHD: What the Science Says

As a certified professional organizer specializing in chronic disorganization I am positive that each one of these presentations will provide me with new ways of approaching my work with clients. Are you wondering about the presentation on forgiveness? Well, think about this… many people blame themselves for the state of clutter or disorganization in their home and have a hard time moving past the blame. I am not a therapist but if I can have a few tips to present a client – different ways to look at the issue, perhaps I can refocus the client on the items to be organized.

Another huge benefit in attending this conference is networking with other professional organizers from around the world! Yes, I did say ‘around the world’. Last year, we had organizers from Japan, the Netherlands, Australia, Canada and the United States. It’s fascinating to hear (and learn) what obstacles organizers in different parts of the US encounter as organizing challenges as well as those from other countries.

Are You Prepared?

September 4, 2012

Did you know that September is National Preparedness Month? NAPO (the National Association of Professional Organizers) is working to make all homeowners more aware of ways they can prepare for disaster and emergenices in their homes and workplaces.

So, how prepared are you? Do you have an emergency medical kit? Are you curious about the items that make up such a kit?

My kit has: bandaids (a variety of sizes), gauze pads and paper tape, iodine, ant-bacterial hand santizer, latex gloves, tweezers, benadryl (topical ointment and tablets), asperin, an ace bandage and baby wipes

When you put together your kit think about the sorts of injuries that you generally take care of and then think about the items you use when dealing with those injuries.

Do you have a bag or file box that you could grab quickly with important documents/ information?  Are you wondering what documents are ‘important’? They are the ones that you would use to prove your identity (birth certificate & passport), home ownership, insurance – all types, bank and investment account numbers to name a few.    Do you have your important documents scanned onto a jump drive with the originals  in a safe deposit box at the bank. If you do, that jump drive could be in a prepared tote bag in your front hall closet.

Are you wondering if you should go to such extremes to be prepared? Well, you never know when disaster is going to strike and even though it does take time and effort to become prepared, as the saying goes – better safe than sorry.  Isn’t it better to have all the documents you would need to prove who you are, where you live, to give you access to bank accounts or investment accounts, insurance information etc. than to wish you could put your hands on them?

How else should you be prepared?  If there was a sudden fire in your house do you have smoke/carbon monoxide alarms to alert your family? Have you changed those batteries recently? Do you have fire extinguishers? Are they fully operational? You can take your fire extinguisher to a hardware store or the fire station nearest you to check their functionality. What if the fire was so sudden and enormous that everyone had to leave the house does everyone know the safest way out? In school we had regular fire drills so we would know exactly where to go should the alram sound. It’s a good idea to practice that with your family.

Take some time this month to look at ways you can prepare yourself just in case of a natural disaster!

For more information on this topic check out Judith Kolberg’s book: Organize for Disaster: Prepare Your Family and Your Home For Any Natural and Unnatural Disaster

Modifications are good!

October 13, 2011

This past Saturday I went to a yoga class. This was my first class in a few years. I had not taken in class since the surgery on my ankle and was a little fearful of some of the poses. As usually happens at the beginning of an exercise class, the instructor asked those participants she did not already know if they had any injuries. I told the instructor about my ankle and then the class started. It was a wonderful class and I was so happy to have set aside the time to attend. At one point during the class, the instructor helped me modify one of the poses so that I would not strain my ankle and so that I would have the full benefit of that pose. After she provided me with that modification she told the class that we were all there in the class to have the benefits of personal instruction and modifications and not to hesitate to ask for help. Further, she said that if we wanted to we could have rented a yoga DVD and practiced yoga on our own. Then she said sometimes students are afraid to come to class and try new poses because they think they will not be able to do it. As I thought about what the instructor was saying I thought it related directly to my professional organizing services. Sometimes people are reluctant to begin the organizing process because they don’t know where to start. It is easier when you have a professional organizer by your side to guide you through the process and to teach you strategies that are modified to suit your learning style and your lifestyle. Just as it was easier for me to complete the yoga class with the instructor helping me and teaching me how to modify certain poses. If you have an organizing project in mind and don’t know here to start or if you are feeling overwhelmed by the clutter in your life find a professional organizer to make it easier for you!