Travel Lists for a Bon Voyage

Travel Lists for a Bon Voyage

Travel is supposed to be fun and relaxing, but getting ready to take a trip can be stressful!  Being organized with travel lists can take the stress out of your preparation.

These three types of travel lists should be comprehensive enough to encompass all things travel: Pre-Travel Tasks, Packing List, and Vacation Activities. We always recommend using an electronic device to create and store lists lists (instead of paper).  And we give double points to those who sync the action items from the list to their digital calendars!

Pre-Travel tasks that can be accomplished well in advance of your trip include making pet arrangements, booking transport to and from the airport, stopping mail (most zip codes can do this online), pausing any home services, arranging childcare if necessary, paying bills that will be due while away, filling necessary prescriptions, and gathering passports and travel documents. If you print boarding passes and the like, you can do this well in advance as well.

For packing, we find that  separate lists for clothing and for toiletries is most helpful. Pack away the items that you can early, leaving only the outfit and toiletries that you need up to departure day. For toiletries, remember there are limitations to liquids and other personal care items. Think travel size! Consider also the potential for shipping clothing and necessities to your destination. This can be a safe alternative to checking bags and can reduce hassles at the airport.

Now, while you are on vacation, is there a once in a lifetime experience awaiting you?  Make sure it is not sold out by doing some research and planning before leaving home. Booking excursions and making reservations ahead of time ensures your good time, helps you manage your vacation calendar, and keeps you from “working” to have a good time while you are away.

A word to the wise, travel experts recommend that you not post your travel information or destination locations on social media until you are home. This could help prevent any potential crimes here or there.

Now, relax and enjoy your much needed and deserved vacation!

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A Daily Dose of Tidy for the Medicine Cabinet

A Daily Dose of Tidy for the Medicine Cabinet

Do you keep supplements and/or meds in the pantry, or utility closet, or in a designated medicine cabinet in the kitchen or mudroom? Wherever they may be, chances are it is an area that becomes unruly quickly. Small bottles, awkward packaging, and measuring tools don’t rest well on shelves.

We have a few tricks for keeping the meds and supplements in good order. First we recommend separating children’s meds from adult’s, using the right containers for your shelving size, and generously applying labels. So if you have 30-minutes to  “conquer the cabinet” here is what we recommend.

We especially like these as a go-to container for the Rx cabinet (from the Container Store and Bed Bath & Beyond):

Pantry Storage

The shape, the handle and the clear plastic makes these easy to access, to view, and to label.

There are a lot of ways to categorize meds, but we find these labels apply to most:

  1. Pain Relief
  2. Allergy and Cold–don’t forget the thermometer! Also good to have measuring cups and spoons to dispense with.
  3. Digestive
  4. Supplements. If supplements are used heavily, you may want to separate by person or gender.
  5. Wound Care, such as bandages, peroxide, Neosporin, etc.
  6. Rx. We always separate the Rx bottles from the over-the counter. Depending on the situation we sometimes separate them by person. This helps you track refills and review dosage. It is good to keep a pill cutter and pill box here as well.
  7. Children’s in their own container.
  8. And don’t forget your pet meds too!

So set the thirty-minute timer, and give it a shot! Start with reviewing expiration dates and discarding any old medicines, and you will quickly be on your way to a tidy home-remedy area.

 

 

 

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Paper Organization 101: Financial Files

Paper Organization 101: Financial Files

Whether you love record keeping or hate it, it is that time of year that we all have to do it; or at least, think about doing it. Pulling together tax documentation can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. There is a simple formula for keeping financial paperwork throughout the year. Here are some tips for Paper Organization 101.

Keep in mind, when we work with our clients, we customize a filing system according to the individual’s personal needs. But there are some basic guidelines we can apply to all.

In general, you can start with short-term and long-term files. Short-term means one fiscal year, and can be purged annually after taxes (with the exception of items that will help support tax filing). Here is an example of what you might find in your short-term financial files:

  • Bills to Pay
  • Paid Bills
  • Bank Statements
  • Credit Card Statements
  • Health Records
  • Health Care Accounts
  • Receipts (may be kept long-term)
  • Business Expenses if applicable
  • Income Tax Records/Deductions/Income
  • Employment Records and Resumes
  • Pet Records

For long-term files, you generally are keeping things with a life span, such as policies, home ownership documents, etc.

  • Insurance Policies
  • Investment Titles and Statements
  • Major Purchase Receipts
  • Home Improvement Documentation
  • Titles of Ownership, home, car, property ownership, etc
  • Vital Docs i.e., birth certificates, SS Cards, passports, immunization records
  • Education Records and transcripts
  • Legal records like wills, power of atty, trusts, inheritance
  • Legal docs like marriage or divorce records
  • Tax returns and supporting documents for 7 years

These basics will cover the majority of your paperwork. You will find other categories as you begin to work through your piles. We want to be sure to recommend that you scan any long-term files that you can to reduce your paper load, keep a safe copy of your important records, and shred any unwanted papers that include your identifying info.

Happy tax season!

 

 

 

 

 

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Put Away Helpers: Storage in the Play Room

Put Away Helpers: Storage in the Play Room

We’ve had questions about what products we might suggest to help store toys so that they fit well in the play room, in response to last week’s blog.

In general, look for furniture that takes advantage of vertical space–not just low-to-the ground storage; make sure there are varied depths of bins or shelves to harbor everything from the miniscule to the absurdly large; and use child-friendly labels to help ensure that your kids know what to do when it comes time for put away.

Here are a few products we like which vary storage sizes and have enough height to be versatile:

(First 2 images are KidKraft.  Third image Pottery Barn for Kids)
Whether you are dealing with small toy figurines, Legos, or building blocks, you need bins! We like bin storage units such as the ones from IKEA to keep the pieces categorized and together:

Toy Organization

In addition, puzzle pieces, Legos, art supplies, etc. stack nicely in these clear “brief case” bins from The Container Store that can fit on any shelf:

Organized Supply Case

In our own product line, we like to use closet space as much as possible for bins. They come in a variety of colors and sizes and can be designed to be placed at kid Height:

Toy Storage

And for additional storage at floor height where kids can play, you can’t beat floor tables with bin storage built-in underneath (from IKEA and Pottery Barn):

These are especially great for toy cars and trains, crafts, and Barbies or action figures with accessories.

Sometimes handling toy clutter means using all the available square footage to your advantage! We can help you get organized and stay organized!

Happy play and put-away!

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Space Takers: Play Room Edition

Space Takers: Play Room Edition

Frequently I hear my clients say that the play room always looks like an explosion. Kids toys often are stored at kid height along the perimeter of rooms nearly encasing the entire space with what can feel like continuous clutter. So many toys these days require their own floor space like doll houses, and play mats, and lego sets. So much so, that it really is important to understand square footage and choose the items carefully to get the right fi. Even the neatest room will look cluttered if it is over filled.

The truth is, full rooms do not necessarily mean fully engaged kids. You especially want to eliminate space takers that don’t get used or simply have been outgrown. Here is a short list of things we frequently see that eat up square footage with low frequency of use:

  1. Painted furniture like wooden rocking chairs and rocking horses. These are things often purchased by adults who seek to make the room” look” child friendly. But in reality, kids hardly choose this hard surface sit in or use, even if their name is painted on it, or if it was a gift from their favorite grandparents.
  2. Riding toys. Carpeted rooms are not the best place to play with these items or to store them. Consider where these will be used, and remember that they can be hung with hooks on the vertical space of our basement and garage walls.
  3. Stuffed animals. Rarely are stuffed animal a “toy of choice” during active play time. A few may be useful for nap time and story time, but once they start filling up toy chests and shelves, and are strewn across the floor, these are stealing space.
  4. Large motorized toy vehicles. These need to be purchased with care–understanding where they can be stored so they can be played with instead of parked. If they are an outdoor toy, is there convenient outdoor storage? If they will be used in a basement, can they be kept in that area?
  5. Tented play houses. If these are something your kids love, then they should be given the space to enjoy. But you do not want these to end up in hallways or rooms intended for other things, or blocking beds or desks. Plan accordingly.
  6. Race Tracks and Doll Furniture require lots of horizontal space. Consider other areas besides the floor to place these.
  7. Desks. Desks are also useful, but flat horizontal tables with no storage may take up more room than it should without providing a home for crafts or school work. Make sure desks and play tables have plenty of storage designed for your child’s needs.

Having planned homes for toys is critical to achieve an uncluttered look. It also helps at put away time to know exactly where the items fit and belong. Overfilling a space will lead to the same cluttered results as never picking it up in the first place. So purchase with square footage in mind, and don’t be afraid to move things along that take more than they give.

 

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Banning the MISCELLANEOUS Label

Banning the MISCELLANEOUS Label

If you look at what constitutes most piles of stuff or paper, you will likely find 90% of it is unnecessary or no longer useful and one or two things may be something of value. The lonely thing of value tends to be the glue that holds the rest of the useless items together–and useless items tend to proliferate. This is actually how most piles originate and grow. The pile then becomes a source of aggravation rather than a good place to return to find things.

Furthermore, if you tried to label this pile for longer-term keeping, it could not be described in one category or word. It would likely be called “Miscellaneous.” I seek to eliminate the Miscellaneous Label with clients as they generally represent a mishmash of things that aren’t valuable enough to be categorized. What might seem like a simple fix to store a few unrelated things over time becomes just another pile of unfound and unused items.

If you look inside your miscellaneous paper file for example, you might find a couple kept  business cards, a few papers about upcoming events that have passed, an old list of things to do, some receipts, an advertisement with a coupon to your favorite store, a recipe, and the vaccination card for your child’s school records. They have been in there for over eight months now, and you had to review them again to remember what was placed in this catch-all file. There is one item of value–the vaccination card that should be filed away in a specific place such as Vital Records for that person. The other items can be managed in other ways or discarded/recycled: the business cards can be entered in your Contacts list and tossed; the recipe can be found online or can be photographed and kept in your favorite digital program i.e.; Evernote, the coupon is likely expired because it was forgotten; the to-do list is no longer relevant; and the receipts should be reviewed to see whether any impact taxes or should be kept for proof of ownership–most likely the receipts will be eliminated too.

From this example, you can also discern real file categories that might be needed, instead of the MISC label: Contacts, Recipes, Coupons, Receipts, Vital Records, etc. If something is important enough to keep, then it really should be important enough to have a category that won’t create a bottomless, mismatched pile.

So give it a try–attack one of your miscellaneous stacks and see what you come up with! Start by eliminating what isn’t needed/expired. Then apply categories to the items that remain and assign a better labeled home. Let us know how it went!

 

 

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Taking Us To Task

Taking Us To Task

Often times new clients will ask why we have a minimum session of 4 hours. Some may think it is about accruing business hours, but it is really about good time management, good task management, and being vigilant about reaching goals.

The question is: is it better to put a little time toward a task or none at all? In my organizational opinion, I believe that working toward completion is better use of time than pecking away at something without reaching your goal. For example, if you have paper piles that you want to get through, that means you need to review the papers, discard or shred unwanted papers, file or scan, and list any action items noted from this paperwork. If you have only an hour and a half to dedicate to this, you will likely barely get through the sorting, more paper will accumulate in the meantime, and you will soon be back to square one.

Large organization tasks are different than other household tasks. They require dedicated amounts of time and focus, whereas chores like laundry or cleaning floors are routine, short-term tasks that can be completed relatively quickly. In addition, household chores can also be done while multi-tasking. But many times with organizational sessions, focused attention is what is needed to complete the task. That 90 minutes you considered putting toward a larger organization task might have better been spent taking care of the routine areas of your home that need attention, finishing errands, or simply enjoying some deserved downtime.

When focus and time management are a challenge, longer organization sessions with a professional are especially beneficial. Because many of our clients have attention challenges or time management issues, we seek to help you discover what productive task management looks like to meet your personal goals and to FINISH what was started.

So to tackle your larger organization tasks, we recommend:

  1. Giving yourself several dedicated hours of time
  2. Breaking down the goal into efficient tasks
  3. Creating an environment that helps you focus. This could mean turning off the phone, putting on the stereo, having grandma watch the kids, etc.
  4. Having needed supplies ready, especially garbage bags or boxes for donation, etc.
  5. Making sure to take breaks and reward yourself for each portion of the task completed

We’d love to know what tasks you may have conquered recently! Keep us posted on your progress!

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The link between shopping habits and disorganization

The link between shopping habits and disorganization

We focus a lot on discarding and decluttering when it comes to organizing. The truth is there are three main components of organization: consumption patterns, keeping habits, efficient storage.  Once a purge is complete, we need to look toward the primary source of clutter to avoid disorganization: our shopping habits.

A closer look at our consumption patterns reveals these behaviors that contribute to disorganization:

  1. buying things not needed or used
  2. making repeat purchases of the same type of goods
  3. buying trendy or low-quality goods that don’t stand the test of time
  4. buying in bulk or large quantities that don’t get consumed
  5. purchases related to stock piling or collecting

We don’t have to be a victim of mindless habits. There are some key strategies to reducing overall consumption–and in effect, preventing disorganization.

First, take stock. Make lists of things that are running low or depleted, and be deliberate about purchasing only what is on your list.

Second, limit the amount of time spent in stores. For example, if you like to shop a lot for clothes, challenge yourself to go to your favorite clothing store no more than one time a month. Understand what influences you to make “feel good” purchases, and try to avoid those shopping atmospheres or go only on special occasions.

Some shopping is necessary such as running errands. But frequently running errands is not a good way to manage time or reduce purchases. Plan your errand exercises and dedicate only one time a week to errand shopping. Recognize that the time it takes to commute to a store, shop, and stand in line takes away precious time from our personal lives. Make the connection that less shopping equals more personal time and fewer mindless purchases.

And finally, if shopping is considered a fun pastime, consider branching out and trying other activities for entertainment. It is a new year after all, a great time to explore new likes!

When it comes to having less stuff to organize, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of things discarded!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Gifter’s Prep List

A Gifter’s Prep List

For the big day…and big weekend for some, we would like to offer a prep list so you can sail through your holiday gift exchange with only thoughts of sugar plums dancing through your head:

 

 

  1. My dad always has a pocket knife available on Christmas morning to cut through tape and ribbon and difficult boxes. We highly recommend!
  2. Batteries of various sizes. Sometimes the batteries are worn down in the products we bring home, and sometimes we just didn’t see that “Batteries not included” warning.
  3. Speaking of batteries, be sure to give your gifts with lithium batteries a charge before wrapping if you want them to be ready when opened.
  4. Got gift receipts? Separate gift receipts from your own, and have them available to wrap with the gift or hand over in person.
  5. Food Containers that you can part with, such as GladWare. Whether you are bringing home cookies and leftovers or sending them along with someone else, you will want to have these handy.
  6. For easy paper and box clean up and recycling, have an extra large bin available where you will be unwrapping.
  7. If you are exchanging gifts, it is a good idea to have a stockpile of tote bags to help yourself or others carry home received gifts.

The night before:

  1. Charge cameras and video equipment and cell phones
  2. If you have a coffee pot with a self timer, set it for early!
  3. Set out cookies for Santa!

Happy Organized Holidays!

 

 

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Holly Jolly and Organized

Holly Jolly and Organized

As we are approaching the final holidays of 2016, it is easy to think we have more time than we actually do between now and the end of the year.
It is a great time to look at the calendar and consider all the cherished and necessary activities we would like to do to get the most out of the holidays. Are you hosting a holiday party? Traveling out of town? Baking holiday cookies? Volunteering at a local food pantry? Plotting these activities on a calendar now will provide a realistic overview of your holiday timeline, so that you can accomplish your seasonal goals in a paced and enjoyable way. This type of planning is key to managing tasks and devoting your time to the people and traditions who help make the season meaningful.
Here are 8 holiday hacks—from now until the end of the year to help keep your holiday household fluid and festive:
1. Stage your special days. Find and sort through your holiday décor. Set aside the items that you want to use in one convenient place so they are available when ready to use or display. Donate any unwanted items.
2. Plan your giving. Set your budget, make your holiday list, plan a shopping/donation schedule.
3. Stock your gift wrap supplies. Tissues, tape, bows, tags. Fra la la la la…la la..la la
4. Stock your pantry and holiday spirits. Peak through your cabinets, make a list, and get to the store before the rush.
4. Retire any tired traditions. Which activities bring you and your family the most joy? Give those your full attention…and retire the rest! It may even require saying “no” to conflicting activities.
5. Update your list of contacts. Do you send gifts or holiday cards in the mail or via email? Review and update addresses in your favorite contact portfolio. The postal deadline is almost here!
6. Book your travel. Whether you are ringing in the New Year in the big city, going to Grandma’s, or heading back home, the time is now to reserve flights, hotels, and rental cars! Don’t forget to review your perks programs to see how many points you can take advantage of this year.
7. Be ready for the weather. This may include preparing our vehicles for cold-weather care, packing some supplies in our travel vehicle, and reviewing coats/gloves/hats for condition. In addition, we may fireplaces and furnaces that require maintenance.
8. Find an app or paperless note taking program on your favorite device where you can keep your holiday lists. Be sure to purge these when the season is over.
Enjoying the holidays really is about being available to enjoy the everyday moments with cherished family and friends. The small things you do today will help you stay mindful and in the moment when it really matters. Enjoy your organized holidays; happy planning!

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