Articles & Advice
I enjoyed your presentation at the Women’s SCORE breakfast at Morgan Run about two years ago. I was fascinated with your ideas and have read your book.
I like your advice to skip over the chapters that don’t apply. The clothes closet one didn’t apply to me, but I read the chapter anyway. My closet is organized by color first, and by season second. (My best organization starts upstream at the store.)
Where I struggle is with the pieces of paper. The action pile is the problem. All of the other categories are organized very well. My manuals are on the bottom left of my lateral filing cabinet. When an iron breaks and I buy a new one, I pull out the old directions and put the new directions in the file folder. All the retirement information is in one place. My file cabinets are very organized. Just like my spices turntables – all in alphabetical order.
So, I think there’s hope for me. Four of the five categories of paper are organized well. And have been for 40 years.
But the action papers. I don’t know what to keep and what to throw away. I’ve learned to throw more away sooner because, as you point out, the history is available on the Internet. I do purge my statements folders once each year. And thanks to your presentation, I toss some receipts or statements immediately.
Have you written a new chapter, or are there websites you can recommend, to help me with this final bit of mastering my muck? Here are examples: Do I need to keep paystub statements? How much medical paperwork should I keep? The dental office has my records. The medical clinic has my records. I use Quicken, so as soon as I’ve downloaded the transactions, I verify things and toss the receipt (unless it’s a big purchase and I need to keep the receipt).
I’ve told many friends and colleagues about your presentation and your book. I look forward to hearing back from you about new ways to think.
Thanks so much for reaching out with your questions. You are not alone and I commend you for the great work you have done so far. Here are a few tips for each of your specific questions:
Do I need to keep paystub statements?
You do not need to keep your pay stubs if you trust that your employer is deducting the right amount and that you will receive an accurate year end document, ie W2 or 1099. If you are on commission, you might want to save each pay stub until you have been fully compensated for your wrok. After this is verfied, you can shred them.
If you receive a regular salary from a reputable company, you can toss or shred your stubs as soon as they arrive. If your pay is automatically deposited, you can also request that you no longer receive a pay stub.
How much medical paperwork should I keep? The dental office has my records. The medical clinic has my records.
You need to keep your medical bills until they are reimbursed or paid.
If you are on an HSA plan, you can use your HSA funds for many expenses not covered by your health insurance plan. Dental and vision care expenditures are common examples. Keep these receipts for these items and then organize and total them each year and file with your tax return receipts. Keeping 2 files will serve you well and keep your expenses separated for tax time, one for odd year, another for even.
There are many points of view about which medical records you should personally keep such as test results and x-rays. Many people feel that they want to keep and track their complete medical history. If this is your case, create a permanent file folder and save only your test results etc. Do not keep bills or other papers here, only test results. If you get an x ray, ask for it to be given to you on a disc so that it will also fit within this file. I personally keep my annual wellness results and also any blood work results and let my doctor save the other documents and x rays. Do whatever falls within your comfort zone.
I use Quicken, so as soon as I’ve downloaded the transactions, I verify things and toss the receipt (unless it’s a big purchase and I need to keep the receipt).
Keep receipts for every expenditure over $75 that appears on your tax return. If you are an employee as opposed to an home-based business. you dont need to keep many receipts as your tax return is simple: medical (as of this date, you can deduct eligible medical expenses to the extent they exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income), tax docs such as W2 and earned interest and charitable donations are typically the only items that you record to the IRS. These will be the only receipts that you need to keep and archive with your tax return.
All other receipts can be tossed as soon as they are input into Quicken. As an aside, I keep an envelope in my purse for purchases that I might possibly need to return. I toss the grocery receipts into the grocery trashcan as I leave the store or sometimes even tell the check out person to toss them for me! Once a month or so, I go through that envelope and get rid of the receipts for the merchandise that I am satisfied with. This way, I dont bring receipts and extra papers into my house or office that are not relevant to my tax return.
You might also want to watch this quick news braodcast where I provided more tips for managing and eliminating your paperwork.
I hope that this helps you finish your organizing process. Keep up the good work and feel free to connect again if you have more questions!
PS, I love the use of turntables and organizing your spices in alphabetical order, Yay!
It’s almost time for work and you don’t have a clue what to wear. You’ve plowed through heaps of sweaters, knocked several blouses off their hangers, and have a pile of pants accumulating on your bed. And the clock is ticking.
We’ve all been there—buried in a monstrous mountain of clothing, but unable to find a single thing to wear. Don’t worry. Your days of wardrobe frustrations are over because—there’s an app for that. In fact, there are several.
Can’t see your headscarf for the trees? There’s an app for that.
If your walk-in closet bears a resemblance to a large department store, this may be the app for you. Equipped with the ability to manage a behemoth amount of garments, Netrobe not only allows you to store photos of everything you own, but it also divides said belongings in to nifty categories.
Unlike your bursting closet, Netrobe has seemingly unlimited room for every one of your fashion must-haves. It allows you to create and save outfits galore and it keeps track of what you’ve worn—enabling you to avoid dreaded reruns.
It even allows you to pack a virtual suitcase for trips and provides you with a checklist to ensure that these actual items make it into your real-life luggage.
Another nifty feature is that it allows you to remove the background from photo shots—creating a more magazine-like image.
* This app is only available right now for iPhone but you can get on a waiting list to get notified when the android version is released.
Tired of wrestling with an overstuffed suitcase? These apps can take the “ack” out of packing.
This handy organizational tool enables you to snap photos of and catalogue every solitary item in your wardrobe. Once your inventory is complete, selecting outfits is as simple as that guy down the road with no branches in his family tree.
Can’t remember what tops match those hot pink skinny jeans? No problem. This app has a feature that allows you to view every single look that you’ve ever fashioned with those very jeans.
You’d like a nice pair of boots to wear with them? Stylebook offers a cool shopping feature too. Search out the styles that you’re after and where you want to get them from and add them to your closet. Now you can pair them with your pants and see how they look. Once you find the boots of your dreams, e-mail yourself the link so you can buy them later.
This app even lets you keep track of what pieces are in the laundry, so you’ll never be caught off guard again.
* This app is only available right now for iPhone
Avoid unnecessary purchases like those banana-colored shoes that don’t match a thing in your closet.
Like similar apps, Cloth allows users to catalog their plethora of fashion must-haves and organize them into handy categories. It enables you to mix and match items, creating outfits for every occasion.
Cloth also enables fashionistas with mad photography skills to crop pictures, add stickers, and enhance their photos in loads of novel ways.
What truly differentiates Cloth from other apps is that it is designed for sharing your favorite looks with others. This is the perfect way to get your friends’ opinions before you showcase an outfit in the flesh. Are you going to an event that requires you to dress semi-casual and you’re not sure what this means? No sweat. You and your friends can share your outfits with Cloth and make sure you’re all on the same page.
Cloth even rewards avid “sharers” with badges and points—and if the company is impressed with your fashion know-how, you could land a spot on their blog.
Is confusion over the term “semi casual” hurting your head? No worries. There’s an app for that too.
With these new closet-organizing iPhone apps, you will never find yourself at the bottom of an avalanche of clothing again. And, in no time, you will become the mighty fashion guru that you always wanted to be.
Contributor Kimberley Laws is a freelance writer, avid blogger and illustrator. As a Manhattan-trained makeup artist and former fashion student, she knows how important it is to achieve the right look. Kimberley also how important it is to protect her on-line reputation.
Spend a day with the average Work At Home Mom, a.k.a. WAHM, and you will come away wondering how the heck she manages to get through the day without yanking all of her hair out. WAHMs are like superheroes. They can cook pasta, wipe Johnny’s runny nose, change Susie’s diaper, and do a sink full of dishes—all while fulfilling an order for their home-based business. But no one, not even Super Mom, can do it all. And the duty that is usually swept under the proverbial rug is bookkeeping—the dreaded “B” word.
“I used to have long, lustrous locks. Then I tried bookkeeping and ripped all my hair out.”
Unfortunately, your bookkeeping duties can’t remain buried beneath your Berber forever. Someone might trip on them. They must be tackled. But don’t start sifting through the yellow pages for a wig supplier just yet. Here are a few easy tips to help you get that nasty bookkeeping done, keep your signature tresses in place, and avoid nasty letters from the I.R.S.
It is important to purchase software that is designed specifically for small business bookkeeping and not a program meant for personal finance needs. Bookkeeping software will make your life so much easier and actually make a loathed task fun—almost.
All you do is input the information and the software adds up the numbers, generates invoices, keeps track of what is owed to you, and makes your tax preparation a breeze. Some programs that you might want to check out include Quickbooks, Peachtree, Sage 50, and Bookkeeper.
Unlike New Year’s Resolutions, you cannot abandon your bookkeeping routine. Ignoring these duties will result in an intimidating mountain of receipts and invoices that, once again, will have you mangling your auburn mane.
Maintaining a regular routine, however, will allow you to keep on top of things and no longer dread this necessary task.
“Since I’ve gone paperless, I have saved a fortune on bandages.”
Nothing is more frustrating and time-consuming than sifting through heaps of paper—and that’s assuming that what you’re looking for hasn’t been lost. Creating a “paper trail” made of actual paper is no longer the best route to take.
While it is impossible to eliminate all paper, you can significantly decrease the amount that crosses your desk. You can use on-line banking to manage your accounts, set up automatic debits to pay bills, and use a business credit card that will track your business purchases. This way, all of your statements are readily available to you with the click of a button.
Sometimes paper cannot be avoided. Stores still issue paper receipts for purchases. And some businesses still deal in paper invoices. In order to maintain these often tiny pieces of paper, you need to develop and stick with a filing system.
Whether you choose to use actual filing cabinets, accordion files, or some other clever storage device, you need to find the one that works best for you. This means it will come naturally to you, allow you to retrieve information easily, and that you will be able to keep it up.
There may come a time when your business warrants an outside bookkeeper and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. If you’re too busy making sales to engage in your bookkeeping duties or if you have hired employees and are considering payrolloutsourcing, go for it. Trying to juggle too many balls at once will only stress you out and make your business suffer.
Whenever we commit ourselves to a new course of action and stick with it—particularly when it involves doing something we despise—we need to be rewarded. Some may say that avoiding an I.R.S. audit should be reward enough, but it isn’t.
Find an extrinsic reward that motivates you—a dinner out, a new sweater, a manicure or something completely different—and give it to yourself for a job well done. This will encourage you to keep up the good work.
“I’m so happy that my hair has grown back in.”
Once you have the tools and the know-how, bookkeeping is really a doable chore. Super Mom can now officially do it all—and you can finally get rid of that unsightly lump under the carpet.
What bookkeeping tips can you offer your fellow WAHMs? Let us know in the comments section below!
Contributor Kimberley Laws is a freelance writer, avid blogger, and illustrator who also harbors a fear of bookkeeping and all things related to numbers. And, yes, she has followed her own advice.
Here’s an easy way to organize your jewelry. Simply buy a fishing tackle box with dividers, and add plain white rice (not quick cook rice because of extra dust). Move the dividers based on the size of your jewelry. Once it is set up you can open the lid and see exactly what you have at a quick glance. If you have lots of jewelry, you can buy multiple boxes and store them on top of each other with labels on the side. This is what my friend Brianna does with her jewelry. Isn’t she smart?
More and more people are working from home offices, either part time or full time.
The challenge is that often, the house they live in does not have room for a full scale office. Perhaps they are stealing part of their dining room or a corner of their bedroom (not recommended by the way.)
Most frequently I find clients using part of the guest room to conduct business. Most guest rooms cannot completely commit to business alone and still need a place for the occasional guest to visit!
This was the case of this particular client. We needed to use the closet for luggage, extra clothes and of course, leave a little space for the guest suitcase etc. With that in mind, I recommended that we implement a portable office supplies system in the form of this little cart on wheels.
When the office was in action, the cart could be rolled out of the closet and positioned by the small desk. When guests arrived, it could be parked inside the recessed area to the right of the closet.
My favorite organizing categories were used and you might want to try using them as well. They work great to combine ‘like items with like.”
The categories we used were:
Things that Stick – Tape, glues etc
Things that Bind – Staples, paper lips, rubber bands etc
Things the Write – Pens, pencils, markers etc
Tools – Scissors, stapler, hole puncher, etc
Mail Supplies – stamps, address labels, envelopes etc
Batteries – this one is obvious. You might not need it positioned in this area like this client did, but please make sure that you have a designated battery storage bin somewhere within your home. It will save you hours of frustration each year.
Other potential categories I have created over the years and that you might decide to use could be titled:
Things to Write On: Paper, post it notes etc
Things to Write In: Notepads, journals, day planners etc
However you decide to organize your office supplies, make sure that the majority of your collection is stowed into one contained area and not scattered throughout your house.
There is nothing more frustrating than finding the box of staples and not being able to find the stapler. Right?
If you have created other successful solutions for this common problem, please tell me about it in the comments section below. If you have a photo that you wold like to include to show off your idea, please email it and your tip to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will post it with your comment.
As you clean up after the holidays, you might have a pile of holiday cards lying around that you received last year. Here is a win-win solution and a challenge for you and one of the easiest ways for you to donate to a good cause! St. Judes Ranch gladly accepts used greeting cards and recycles them to raise money. You will only need an envelope and postage to complete this task.
So go ahead and sort through that stack of cards. As you examine your pile of cards, be honest with yourself and keep only the cards that have significant meaning. Remember this – you are not obligated to keep the cards with your friends and family photos on them! Only save them if you absolutely love them. Remember it is the thought behind the card that counts! You can look at each photo card and say ‘my, how they have grown’ and then recycle it.
Please keep only the cards that have significant meaning to your life.
Over the course of a lifetime, if you dont use discretion and hold onto every greeting card you receive, you will end up storing and taking care of literally thousands of cards. Trust me, I witness these massive collections and get paid to get rid of thousands of cards every year!
So, go ahead, get rid of your clutter and purge the cards that you dont need. Sort through your cards, put the photo cards into your recycle bin and send the rest off to St Judes to repurpose and multiply their value again!
Here are the details about the program:
To Donate Your Cards:
Year round, St. Judes happily accepts used all-occasion greeting cards. Please review the following tips before sending in your donation.
Card Donating Tips:
1. If you are looking for something and you are unable to find it immediately, unclutter the area surrounding that object as soon as possible.
2. Ask your family or housemates to help you declutter and rearrange your home in a more organized fashion. The more buy-ins you have from others using your space, the easier it will be to maintain your new systems!
3. If you can no longer see the surface on your counters or tabletop, it’s time to clean up your act and ditch the muck!
4. Set up a particular area for the items that you use daily – install hooks to serve as key holders, a bin for magazines, etc.
5. Make it a habit to clean up and stow random objects from your living room before you go bed each night.
6. Be uncompromising. Throw out papers, such as newspapers, magazines and useless mail every week.
7. Create a list of household essentials and hang it on the inside of your pantry door. Checkmark the items when you run out. This will let you see at a glance what you have on hand and what you need to restock during the next shopping expedition.
8. Set a regular schedule to rid the house of unnecessary objects such as dead batteries, dried-up pens, burnt out lightbulbs and other garbage. Make it a point to find the locations nearby your home that recycle those items.
9. Do not be sentimental on things! Donate or trash items if you are no longer using them.
10. Set up a donation box somewhere in your home where it can live permanently. Place it in an easily accesible location and add to it every time you run across something that you no longer need, love or use.
Find your closest donation facility and go there every month to empty your box. Getting rid of at least one box per month will make a big difference in your lifestyle!
According the the US Soap and Laundry Association, clearing your clutter will save you 42% more time cleaning your house. How’s that for a bit of motivation?
This is the perfect year to create new opportunities and positive shifts in your life. I am committed to helping you see for yourself how and why you might be having a difficult time creating the life of your dreams. I will also provide tips to help you create the dramatic and positive changes you are waiting for. So here is tip #1:
If you truly want to begin a new chapter in your life this year, it will help if you begin to let go of as many possessions as you can tolerate. Too many possessions will keep you from moving forward and chasing your dreams. On the wall of a restaurant that I went to just last night was a painting that read, “A simple life promotes a long life.” They were referring to eating close to the source, but this also applies to possessions. When you add space to your life and your surroundings, you create a vacuum for new things to enter into your life, giving you renewed energy and more vitality.
Make sure to check back often because during this series of blogs, I am going to highlight the many ways that I have seen clutter stop people from reaching their full potential. I will also provide strategies that will help you jetapult toward your dreams!
The most important organizing tool you can have in your bedroom is a hamper. All clothes should be placed into your hamper when they are dirty. When selecting a hamper, purchase one that will fit into the space where you get dressed and undressed.
Hampers with lids can be a problem. I find that when a hamper has a lid, clothes end up outside and stacked on the lid because you cant get into the hamper because the clothes are stacked on top of the lid. See the problem? Keeping your hamper ‘open for business’ will keep your laundry challenges under control. If your hamper lives inside of your closet (which by the way is ideal) and has a lid, please get rid of it. This is one of the first things I do when I work with clients in their master bedroom.
You might be moaning at this point that you don’t want to see all of that dirty laundry and you need a lid. If you are one of the few that actually don’t pile clothes on top of your closed hamper, then feel free to keep it. BUT if you are one of the many who use the hamper as a secondary table, do yourself a favor and ditch the lid!
If you are fortunate enough to have a walk-in closet, get a hamper that fits inside your closet. Get dressed and undressed within the confines of your closet. This will eliminate the possibility that you will toss clothes onto the floor, spare chair or side table when you get undressed. It also keeps all clothing items sorted following the ‘like with like’ category!
Also, make a rule with yourself that no clean clothes can enter your bedroom unless they are put away where they belong. This means that you have to make this step a part of every laundry load. Actually getting dressed or choosing your clothes from a pile instead of from a neatly folded or hanging selection guarantees that you will have a day that begins with the stress of being disorganized. Will you really feel confident and in the mood to take on the world if you have to dig through piles in order to find 2 matching socks?
Tips for what you might consider the in-between clothes ~
If you wear a lot of clothes that are either gentle wash or dry clean, consider adding another hamper to keep items separated. If space is not an issue you can also the old school technique and divide by whites versus color.
Tonight before you go to bed, tackle the “chair of clothes” that you probably have waiting for you. Put them away and don’t let the clothes pile up ever again. The mound of clothes is horrible for your mental attitude. Just looking at it brings about guilt and a nagging feeling of inadequacy.
I just discovered your website and really enjoyed it! But what do I do with all my magazines? They are from our professional associations and a few leisure ones too. For some of the professional ones, I tear our articles I haven’t read yet and hope to do so later. What about ones I havent read but want to or just want to keep the whole thing? Recipe magazines are the hardest to let go of.
I applaud the fact that you are tearing articles out of your trade publications as you receive them. Once you tear them out, I would recommend that you save and store them into one area that has a confined amount of space, perhaps an active file folder that can sit vertical near your desk or an actual reading basket.
I always recommend that every client has one or two reading baskets placed in the areas that they read. I use two in my home, one by the couch where I read and watch tv and the other beside my bed so I can catch up on reading at night.
Old school reading baskets are still around for a reason. They keep your magazines vertical and contained into a small area so that you are prompted to get rid of magazines once your collection exceeds the space within, typically over 20.
Regarding recipe magazines, these can be a slippery slope from which you never recover. Think about all of the incredible recipes that you can find online with the click of a mouse. I understand if you want to save great recipes that are tried and true but keeping entire magazines can lead to piles and piles, which is why you have emialed me this question.
Magazine subscriptions are tough to keep up with and I never recommend having more than one. Ask yourself if you might be better served buying one or two magazines at the grocery store when you know you will actually have time to read them. I understand that it will cost a bit more but it will save you time and frustration. This savings is often worth more money than the extra money you spend by simply keeping those piles out of your home.
OK, I know you are probably saying to yourself, “but I love looking at the pictures”. There are almost always pictures online with each recipe. In fact, something that you might enjoy is to do a google search: images of key lime pie, or images of spring rolls or whatever you want to cook. Once you see an image that looks good, click on the image link and it will usually take you to the website that has the recipe online.