Archive for the ‘Piles’ Category

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!

 

 

Action Files

February 10, 2016

Last week I started a series talking about the paper. Even though it’s possible to receive notices and statements via email paper is still a problem. Many of my clients complain about paper. Organizing paper, finding the documents they need quickly and efficiently, and eliminating paper piles are on the top of the ‘to-do’ list. While this is a problem for many it comes front and center around this time of the year when taxes are looming on the horizon.

I suggested, last week, that you gather the paper from around the house and bring it to a central location. I also recommended that you set up a card table or clear a surface so that this week we could work on sorting this paper into categories to file, recycle, or shred.

Speaking of shredding, I recommend you have a cross-cut shredder. If you don’t have one or don’t want to get one then take the papers you want to shred to a place that will shred them for you. Office Depot, Office Max, and some Mail Box shops offer shredding by the pound. Put the papers you want to shred into a box or a bag. When the bag is full take it to be shredded. Another option is to look in your newspaper for Free Shredding. Organizations will take turns sponsoring a mobile shred truck in a parking lot from time to time.

Remember to look at every sheet of paper. Sometimes things get stuck in between the sheets. One time a client of mine found her social security card stuck in between some pages that were stapled together.

Now, let’s start by creating action files.

Action files are just what the name indicates – full of papers which require you to take action. I recommend you use a table top file holder for these files. Schedule a time to check these files every few days. This is not a place to store papers long term. Rather a holding spot for papers for which there is an action.

Here are some basic steps to follow:

  1. Warning… this can get tedious and boring. When we’re bored we tend to make mistakes or want to just grab a handful of papers and think “I know what’s in this stack so I’m going to just shred them without checking” That’s when critical papers get misfiled, lost or destroyed.
  2. So, SET A TIMER for some time between 20 and 30 minutes. When the timer rings either take a break and come back in a little while or schedule another work time for tomorrow.
  3. Look at each piece of paper and decide what your next ACTION will be.
  4. Your action may be to Recycle – you know if you’re not going to look at a catalogue or a magazine or an advertisement so recycle these items right away.
  5. Your action may be to Shred if so put those pieces of mail into a shred box or bag
  6. Other typical actions are: READ, FILE, PAY, SCHEDULE
  7. What do you label it when you don’t know what your next step should be? Put it aside for another time – I call that MARINATING or PENDING. The next time you look at these papers you may have figured out what action to take.
  8. You may also want a file for CONTACTS. You could put contacts to input into your data base here. You may also put your children’s class list or other contacts you’d like to have at your fingertips.
  9. If you sort the mail into these action files as it comes into your house you will not have an accumulation of paper piles!

Before you go out and buy a table top file organizer figure out how many files you want to have at your fingertips.

You can find file holders at Target, Office Depot, Staples and The Container Store.

Good luck sorting your papers into these action files. Next week I’ll review what to do with the remainder of your papers!

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.

Make a Change

March 19, 2014

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could snap your fingers or wiggle your nose like either Samantha on Bewitched or Jeanne on I Dream of Jeanne and have something be changed? The problem is nothing changes if nothing changes. Think about that.

It’s tax season. We all have to locate the documents so that we can find the numbers to fill out the forms for our taxes. Some documents may be filed in the cloud, some may be in a pile on the floor, some may be in a file cabinet in multiple files. What if you changed the way you stored ALL tax related documents? You could, for instance, scan all the documents as they arrive in your house and store them together in a file in the cloud labeled ‘TAXES’. You could also print all tax related documents and store them in a file in your file cabinet labeled ‘TAXES’. This way when you were ready to prepare your taxes all you would have to do is take out your taxes file from the cabinet or refer to the file marked ‘taxes’ in the cloud. Simple, right? Sure, it’s simple but you have to buy into the process and change how you file your documents to make it happen. You can do it, if you’re ready to change how you file your documents. Maybe you already have such a file and preparing your taxes is a snap!

How about the mail? What do you do with the mail when you bring it in your home? Does it land on the counter in a pile? Do you look at the contents of the pile everyday and sort through it? Perhaps you wait until the end of the week to look at the mail. If that’s the case, I bet the mail is spilling all over the countertop and getting in the way. Why not change this situation? You can get an inexpensive stadium file. Create a few categories that resonate with you and your family. Some suggestions are: Bills, Filing, Read, Pending. Now as you bring in the mail sort it into these categories. You might put magazines and catalogues in a basket to look over later. Put anything you are not going to even open into either a recycling bin or a shred basket and file the remainder into the stadium file categories. Now you’ve changed the system and the mail has a place to go – instead of making a home all over your counter.

What about laundry? Are there clothes all over the floor in your room? Have you heard the expression ‘the floor is not an option’? When you change your clothes put clothes you can wear again away – either hang them up or fold them neatly and put them where they go. Shoes go in the closet or on a shoe rack. Any clothes that need to go to the dry cleaner can be placed in a pile on the floor of the closet or in a basket. Other clothes that can be washed should go into a laundry hamper ready for you when you tackle the laundry! Tweak the system a little and the bedroom floor will be clear of clothes! The added benefit is that your clothes do not get crumpled laying on the floor.

Speaking of laundry. You know it’s not really done until it comes out of the drier, is folded, and put away. Some people I know think that the laundry is done – finished – when it’s been put in the drier. Sorry, get the laundry out of the drier, complete the process and then you can call it done!

What habit will you change to create change in your home?

Feeling Overwhelmed?

February 18, 2014

What do you do when you’re feeling overwhelmed? Do you walk away from whatever it is that is overwhelming you? Many of my clients are challenged by that feeling of overwhelm. It doesn’t matter if it is piles of paper, too much to do and too little time, too many emails to respond to or deal with or too many household chores when you’re feeling overwhelmed you don’t know where to start.

My advice is to pick a place and start small. If we’re talking about household chores, look at your calendar, figure out how much time you can give to this task, turn on some music that you love – it should probably be upbeat – something you can (and want to) move to, set your timer for the allotted amount of time, and start. You don’t have to finish. When the timer goes off you’re done! Do the same thing again everyday for a week tackling a different spot each day. Before you know it those household chores won’t be so monumental.

Use the same technique to conquer your piles of paper. Start with one pile and for a specific amount of time. Label each piece of paper with its next action. File it appropriately. I’ll talk more about filing paper next week. The point is if you start tackling the paper a little bit at a time you will get control of it.

If your to do list has too much on it and that is overwhelming you try to delegate some items. Then, look at the tasks you can’t delegate and prioritize the list. Now, pull out your calendar and schedule a few of the tasks each day. Taking action on these items will reduce your feeling of overwhelm. Try to only have two or three of your ‘to-dos’ scheduled on any one day. It’s less imposing when you have only a few things to take care of.

Small steps can have a big result as long as you keep taking those small steps forward! Give yourself permission to only do a little bit at a time. Don’t think about ALL you have to do – that is overwhelming. Focus on the small tasks you’ve set aside to tackle today. Do them, reward yourself and be done.

Let me know if this helps reduce your feeling of overwhelm!

Stuck at Home?

February 12, 2014

Here we go again. I’m in Atlanta and listening to the news reports of the catastrophic storm that is hitting this area. I’m so thankful that the media has given us ample warning this time and that most everyone has followed their advice to stay off the roads. I’m sure you remember the pictures and stories of just a few weeks ago when so many were trapped on the highways around Atlanta.

So, what to do… I’m at home as are many. Are you wondering how to occupy your time? I have some suggestions.

1. Catch up on your paperwork and filing. Take this day when you have to be at home and really clean your desk. Take everything off and only put back those things which you need. Make a pile of things to follow up on – bills to pay, invitations to respond to, emails to answer, documents to file. Make a folder with anything tax related to tackle when you’re ready to prepare your taxes! Take a little break after you clean your desk. Then go back to it and tackle one section at a time. When you’re finished – celebrate! Treat yourself to something wonderful!

2. If you have children at home get out a board game and play the game with them. You could also involve the children in going through their toys, games, stuffed animals. Help them figure out if there are games with missing (never to be found) pieces that should be tossed. Maybe they have outgrown some of the toys and games. Perhaps there are games or toys which they no longer really want. Put those aside to give to younger cousins or to donate to your church nursery school or another charity you support. You accomplish several things by doing this with your children: you teach them how to cull their belongings and you teach them the benefit of giving to others. 

3. Sort through your winter clothes (and your children’s). Put aside anything that still fits and that you still like but that needs mending. Make a separate pile of clothes that don’t fit, are too old, or that you no longer love. These go to a charity of your choice or if they are really tattered – into the trash.

4. Get out a project you’ve been working on and tackle the next step! I have a few more hours work to do on a needlepoint tapestry I’ve been sewing for the past year and am looking forward to finishing it today!

In other words, put this time that you are housebound to good use. No need to be wondering what to do with this day that you’re stuck at home. I’ve told you what I’ll be doing, I’d love to hear from you how you spent your time.

Paper piles?

January 28, 2014

Paper is everywhere. As much as we want to be paperless it still comes in our homes. What do you do with it? How do you keep from having paper avalanches? How do you stay on top of the things you have to know and do?

These are all questions that have come my way from time to time during the course of a home-office organizing session.

Paper can be managed but you must get in the habit of dealing with it everyday.

Here are a few quick tips:

1. Sort the paper as it comes in your house into the following categories: File, Shred, Recycle, Toss

2. Have a desk top action file holder. Create action files. These could be something like: Bills to pay, Articles to read, Pending or Things to think about, Follow up …

3. Sort the papers to file into your action files

4. Schedule a day every week to go through and work on your action files.

This system works and will help you gain control over the incoming paper. The next step is to have a main filing system that resonates with you. It is critical that you know where to put the documents you need to file and even more critical that you can find them when you need them. For this to happen, your filing system must make sense to you. It can be alphabetical, categorical or a mix. Whatever works for you is how it should be set up.

Once it’s set up – use it. File those papers, don’t pile them!

Blinders?

April 3, 2013

Do you wear blinders in your house? So many of my clients admit that they are so bothered by the chaos and clutter in their homes that they intentionally pretend it’s not there. Do they actually wear blinders? They do not. However; the fact remains that they pretend the piles of paper or clothes or empty boxes aren’t there.

This is where I come in. As a Certified Professional Organizer who specializes in Chronic Disorganization I help my clients remove these blinders and devise strategies for clearing the chaos and removing the clutter. 

This means that I work closely with each of my clients to figure out what they want to keep and how they want to be able to find their belongings. We talk about their priorities and make a plan to tackle each area of their home.

 This is not an overnight easy fix. Creating organization out of chaos is time consuming and requires scheduled organizing sessions. I even assign homework! The goal is to teach basic organizing skills and to develop maintenance routines so that  home becomes a place my clients want to be.

Even those who do not have chaos reigning in their home sometimes wear blinders as they travel through their home. Really open your eyes and look to see if there are things out of place. Maybe there is a pair of shoes beside a chair because you kicked your shoes off and curled up in a comfy chair last night while you were watching TV. There’s nothing wrong with that! Just open your eyes, see the shoes, and take them with you to your room as you pass by that chair.

It’s the daily looking around, noticing what’s out of place, and putting it away that keeps the clutter from gathering in your home.