Tag Archives: Paperwork

Organizing your home office paperwork and creating a good file system

Dear Kathi,

I have a small home office and I don’t know what to do with all of my papers. I bring work projects home periodically and then my personal correspondence and bills get lost. Do you have any recommendations?

Kyle, Solana Beach


When you mix business with personal paperwork, items will invariably get lost. Create an area in your office for large work projects. This can be as simple as a basket where your project is stored when you are done for the day. For multiple work projects, use a file drawer or free-standing file unit to hold resources and information separately for each project. When a project is just getting started, you can keep it in your current projects vertical file described in the last paragraph.

Create a filing system for all work projects, personal bills and correspondence.

There is a super duper file system that I recommend to all of my clients. It is called Freedom Filer. This system is self-purging and rotates your files so that you have paper archives for two years and tax archives for ten. It makes filing a breeze and also teaches you what to keep and what to throw away. It is expandable and works well for personal file systems, home-based businesses and corporations. You can learn more about this filing system at www.freedomfiler.com.

For papers aren’t yet ready to file and need attention, designate a holding area. Your desktop is a logical space because they will remind you to work on them when you see them every day. Stack these folders vertically and label them Current Projects, Waiting for Response, Bills to Pay, Calls to Make etc. There are many labeling possibilities for your folders. Use whichever label titles work best for you and work on these files a few minutes every day. Implementing these practices will keep you free and clear of the black hole syndrome.

Kathi is a professional organizer, image consultant and event planner based in San Diego California.

Please submit your questions to: advice@addspacetoyourlife.com
San Diego Professional Organizer

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Easy Ways To Prepare Your Tax Return Faster

tax papers 2

If you are feeling overwhelmed as the April 15th tax deadline approaches, you are not alone. Many people delay filing and experience a huge sense of dread as they try to get their tax documents organized and ready to file.

We all know that tax receipts that are disorganized and lying around in piles, musty boxes, and paper clips make it super difficult to prepare the information needed to complete a tax return.

There is a better way. 

If you place your receipts, as you receive them, into file folders that are divided into your actual tax return tax line categories, your avoidance and overwhelm will disappear and tax time will become a breeze! 

For instance, if you are an entrepreneur, consider changing your habits and, all throughout the year, place your receipts for office supplies into a folder marked office supplies.

When you do this, at the end of the year, all that you would need to do is take out those receipts out of their folder, add them up and voilà!  you have the total for the tax line deduction for office supplies! 

After adding up the office supply receipts, you can then staple them together and write the total with a sharpie on the top of the pile. Very low tech, I’ll admit, but super easy, organized and effective!

 If you are an employee, your tax return is super simple. Simply make files for charitable, income, medical, taxes paid and any other categories on your return.  Place your receipts into these files as you go about your year.

Hanging file folders in an actual file drawer, by the way, is considered by industry professionals, including myself, as the best practice method. Hanging files keep your files vertical, and out of potentially collapsed piles, within your drawer.

If you want to ‘up your game’ even more, make duplicate files and mark them odd year, even year. This will keep your receipts separated and you will no longer have 2 years of receipts to sort through when you are compiling your tax return for that one year.

This might sound simple and it is. In fact I have come to realize that the most simple strategies often take the longest amount of time to figure out.

Seth Odam, the inventor of the system I am describing (Freedom Filer) spent 6 years studying IRS tax codes and  also how we remember things when he began developing the ultimate system to keep your tax papers and all of your other papers organized. All of the tips I have given you are based on the amazing Freedom Filer paper flow system.

You can put this system together on your own without the need to purchase the system. If you want to cut corners, save time and get your system put together once and for all – Freedom Filer will save you boatloads of time!

Freedom Filer helps you get a jump start join the process because the Freedom Filer Kit comes with pre-printed labels so that you can quickly set up your system.

This is one of the many emails I receive every year after the April 15th deadline:

“Kathi’s tools and training are amazing. it took me 5 minutes to grab my tax information for my accountant and 30 minutes for her to complete them. Thanks to Kathi’s systems.

Just for the record I have personal business and investment components to my taxes. this was not just a W-2 fill in the blanks EZ return.”

Kathryn A Christensen

Remember – preparing your tax return does not have to be an overwhelming and exhausting task. Check out Freedom Filer to learn more.

Feeling overwhelmed but motivated to change your habits once and for all? Contact us to set up a time for a private consultation and get started creating a new way to organize your papers.

We are available to jump start your paper organizing process, in person or virtually. We know that you, like the thousands of clients before you, can solve your paper receipts problem once and for all! Click here to contact us.

By the way, we are in the process of revising the Home Office Organization Course. If there is anything that you need to help you get your office organized, we would love to have your feedback. Give us your ideas and suggestions in the comments section below.

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Daily tip #4: Stop paper clutter from entering your home

Here’s a staggering statistic: The average disorganized home contains over 3000 documents. Papers often enter your home without effort. Come rain or sleet or hail or shine, the mailman always delivers. Maybe this is the year that you should unsubscribe from all of those pesky mailing lists, unread magazine subscriptions or perhaps even sign up for paperless online bill paying.

Click here to read more…

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Daily tip #3: Switch to Online Banking and Turn off the Paper

Here’s tip #3 for 2015. Ditch the paper bills and take advantage of online access to your banking information, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week- no mailing or filing necessary! 

If you have been meaning to convert to online banking, make it a priority this month. You will save boatloads of time and money by taking control of your finances and becoming proactive with your bank account!

While you are at it, turn off the related paper bills. Save the trees and save your clutter! If you do implement online banking, make sure to download and save your financial statements onto your computer hard drive or onto some type of cloud software like Dropbox so that you can access it years later if necessary.

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7 Healthy Habits for Entrepreneurs

7 Healthy Habits for Entrepreneurs

Take time to schedule and manage your emails and phone calls

a. Never check email or voice mail first thing in the morning

b. Schedule regular times to check emails and stick to it

c. Read recent emails first

d. Allocate the amount of time you will spend and stop promptly

e. Create email signatures to sign off with one    click

f. Read it, delete or move it

Pre-plan and then plan again – keep your eye on your large goals

a. Plan next week either on Friday afternoon (business) or Sunday evening (mom)

b. Plan your day before it plans you!

Set your intentions and goals for the day in advance of that day

The day before, the night before or in the morning before you begin your tasks for that day

c. Allocate specific time slots for recurring tasks, do them over and over at the same time each week

Gasoline, banking, grocery shopping

Calls, reports, marketing

Arrive early for appointments

Spend the time you wait for others to plan what you want to accomplish in the meeting

a. This will decrease your stress level

b. You will appear poised, professional & in control of your schedule instead of harried and disorganized

Umbrella Your Day

(create chunks of time for related activities)

a. Divide your main responsibilities into 5 days, for example:

1. Planning Day – (Friday or Monday)

2. Current Large Project

3. Outside Appointments, Errands

4. Bills / Paperwork

5. Research

Create an exit area in your office for all items that need to leave your space.

a. Place things there as you find them.

b. Choose an area on your desk or credenza that is positioned towards the   door

Create ‘To Do’ Lists

a. Complete the three most important tasks each day before you move onto anything else

Take Control Your Papers

a. Check it, move it into a predetermined place off the counter until you are ready to take action

b. Handle it only once before you work on it

Learn to say NO

a. Don’t volunteer until you take a moment to determine whether      you have the time to fulfill the commitment

b. Give yourself permission to reconsider commitments

Delete unnecessary tasks from your schedule that detract from your BIG picture goals

c. Don’t automatically respond to another person’s  problem / fire before you determine whether it is going to foul up your agenda

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Paper Shredding Services

Paper Shredding A question recently came through my InBox and I thought many of you could use this information as well, so here it is:

Where can we take old paper files that we want shredded? (e.g. old tax and biz records with Soc Sec and credit card numbers). I have an office shredder but… (more…)

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5 Office Organizing Solutions

Dear Kathi,

My desk is overloaded with papers and bills. I have tried several different systems but I still end up buried under paperwork. How can I make my desk function?

Emille, San Marcos


Your desk sounds like it under attack from your paperwork. You are not alone. You can take charge by delegating a space for each type of aggressive paper that enters your office/desk area.

Businesses typically handle these categories of paper every week.

1. Business Cards
2. Reference Materials
3. Client Information
4. Mail
5. Work in Progress

Use these simple solutions:

1. Schedule a regular time every week to enter Business Card and new contact information into your computer database. If you don’t use a computer, file these cards weekly either by category or alphabetically into a rolodex or a card binder. If you use a computer and can’t seem to enter the data quick enough, consider purchasing a business card scanner. These little $100 scanners are huge time savers with built in programs to enter the data into your email or Excel program for easy retrieval.

2. Skim through the publications that you wish to read as they arrive and either tear out the important articles or earmark them with sticky notes. Remove these papers from your desk area and place into some type of a “to go” basket. Once mobile, you can read during lunch, at home, or whenever you have a free moment. Make sure to toss the information immediately after reading unless it needs to be archived for future reference. If this is the case, file it as it re-enters your office area. Do not let it land back onto your desk!

3. In most professions, every client should have a space within a filing system. Clients will be represented by either active or archival files. If you several active clients at a time, consider creating an easy access desktop vertical file folder area. As clients become inactive, file their folders either alphabetically by last name or if you have different types of clients, by category and then alphabetically.

4. Mail should be sorted, separated and conquered before it enters your office and hits your desk. Consider auto-paying bills online to eliminate monthly mailings. Here is an entire article written about mail flow. The second question in this column addresses (no pun intended) the mail conundrum that we each experience.

5. If you have several projects underway at a time, create a space for each project. Separate into a file folder, basket or bin depending on how much paperwork is required to complete each project. Make sure to contain projects individually so they won’t accidentally merge into one another. This will save time, frustration and increase your productivity.

Most importantly, make sure your work area is large enough for your particular profession. It is counterproductive to work in an area that doesn’t hold the tools you need within arms reach. For the majority of us, a large desk is mandatory because we have to support a computer, printer, phone, day planner, files and often more. When everything is stowed in your desk area, don’t forget to leave space for taking notes with old-fashioned pen and paper!

If you would a copy of the free eBook ~ Master Your Papers, click here.

Kathi is a professional organizer, image consultant and event planner based in San Diego California.

Please submit your questions to: advice@addspacetoyourlife.com
San Diego Professional Organizer

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Car organization

Dear Kathi,

I am a sales rep and work out of my car. There are always disorganized piles of papers, pens and trash. I have to keep my sales kits, phone, laptop and many other types of collateral materials with me throughout the workweek. I need a good way to organize these items along with a strategy to declutter my car easily for the weekends when I am not working.

Keith, Oceanside


Car organization is a common problem and clutter can get out of control quickly. Begin by completely emptying your car. Sort your items into work related and non-work related piles.

After your car is completely emptied, sort through these piles. Discard the papers and objects no longer serve a purpose. Divide the remaining items into ‘like with like’ sections.

Papers should be sorted and categorized either in a plastic file box or an accordion folder, based on the quantity involved.

It is a good idea to keep small plastic boxes with lids in the trunk. Use shoebox or larger sizes to hold extra office supplies.
Keep extra pens in the side door pocket along with a small notepad. Make sure to keep a trash receptacle of some sort within your car.

On the weekends, simply sort any loose paperwork into the file box and move the entire box to the trunk. Collect any other loose business items and put them into your supply boxes in the trunk. Your car should then be clear and ready for non-business activities on the weekend!

Please submit your questions to: advice@addspacetoyourlife.com

San Diego Professional Organizer

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Too Much Junk Mail? Here is an Easy Solution

It is no wonder most of my clients experience paper overwhelm. With no action required on our part, we are barraged by our mailbox every day. Through rain or snow or sleet or hail, papers and magazines arrive without any assistance or invitation. As the holidays approach, junk mail accelerates into our life and this is the perfect time to begin to stop the flow.

This is the perfect time to opt out of mailing lists and now there is an easy way to take control and make change to reduce the paper that comes into your home. Check out this new service:

Kathi Burns provides mail overwhelm solutions

Catalog Choice Launches New Service to

Combat Increasing USPS Junk Mail

BERKELEY, CALIF. (November 8, 2011)—As the U.S. Postal Service aggressively seeks to increase direct advertising mailings, Catalog Choice—the leader in mail efficiency—is working to help consumers combat the impending tidal wave of junk mail. The Berkeley-based non-profit today launched MailStop™ Envelopes—the first in a line of premium services set to roll out this fall.

Users can purchase MailStop™ Envelopes for $6.75 each, fill them with up to 15 mailing labels from unwanted mail and send the envelopes back to Catalog Choice. Their staff will then scan the labels, fulfill the opt-out requests and record the transaction in customers’ secure accounts. Companies have 90 days to honor requests before formal complaints are filed and then submitted to the FTC. Customers can use the envelopes to opt-out of any unwanted mail including catalogs, donation requests, circulars and coupon mailers, as well as phone books. The envelopes are available for purchase at www.catalogchoice.org and can also be gifted to friends and family.

Catalog Choice has been testing the MailStop™ Envelopes with customers for the past several months. Brad Barrish, one such customer, said, “Catalog Choice is a no-brainer for anyone who is tired of receiving so many catalogs in their mailbox and just doesn’t have the time to write letters and follow up with the companies sending them. At $6.75 an envelope, it’s hard to find an excuse not to participate. Thanks so much for such a compelling and easy way for people to opt out of junk mail.”

“MailStop™ Envelopes enable individuals to stop unwanted mail seconds after they pull it out of the mailbox,” said Chuck Teller, Executive Director, Catalog Choice.  “Since the beginning, Catalog Choice has empowered people to take control of their mailboxes. MailStop™ Envelopes offers another way to improve the relevance of mail for consumers, reduce mailing costs for businesses and garbage disposal costs for cities and counties. It’s a win for everyone involved.”

MailStop™ Envelopes is the offline version of Catalog Choice’s online service, which allows consumers to control who can send them unsolicited mail. In recent months, Catalog Choice has also partnered with communities across the country includingChicago, Ill.; Seattle, Wash; San Jose, Calif. and Kansas City, Mo.-Kan to provide localized mail preference programs for their residents.

About Catalog Choice

Founded in 2007 to provide consumers greater control over the marketing materials that enter their mailboxes, Catalog Choice is the world’s largest preference and privacy portal with more than 1.4 million consumer members and 4,100 direct marketing companies.  By reducing unnecessary mail and phone books, Catalog Choice’s free and low-cost services reduce deforestation, greenhouse gases, solid waste and water consumption. Catalog Choice, a non-profit organization based in Berkeley, Calif., is supported by grants from the Overbrook Foundation, Kendeda Fund, Merck Family Fund and Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, as well as donations from members.





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For more information:

Kathi Burns, CPO®

addSpace To Your Life!





San Diego, July 11, 2011— Kathi Burns, CPO® founder of addSpace To Your Life! A Professional Organizing and Image Consultancy announced today that she has been selected as a speaker for the 2011 Moms in Business Unite Conference in San Diego on August 3, 2011. Her presentation, Become the Master the Muck of Your Business, Take control of Your Papers and Inbox will be part of the Running Efficiently Track at the unique educational conference, which enhances the professional and personal lives of women and mom business owners.

“We were overwhelmed with submissions from many eminently qualified speakers, so we had a tough task to choose those we feel will add the most value,” said Randa Cote, President of Moms in Business Unite, Inc. and founder of SPE Solutions. “We’re excited to have Kathi as part of the program, since she’ll provide a content-rich presentation that provides immediate dividends to conference attendees.”

As the contributing expert to FOX 5 and NBC 7/39 News, founder Kathi Burns is frequently called upon by national media outlets such as Better Homes and Gardens, Good Morning America and Martha Stewart Living Radio. During Kathi’s session, guests will learn how to  keep their papers out of piles, maximize their productivity and master their email overload.

The 2011 Moms in Business Unite conferences in Atlanta, San Diego, Denver, Boston and Detroit include a keynote speaker, panel discussions, breakout sessions, resource marketplace, New Inventor Showcase and plenty of networking opportunities throughout the day. To learn more and register, visit www.momsinbusinessunite.com.

About addSpace To Your Life!

addSpace develops organizational systems for homes and offices which maximize space and minimize clutter. addSpace also re-wardrobes clients who want their image to match their full potential.

About Moms in Business Unite

The Moms in Business Unite Conference is the vision of five women entrepreneurs who united to empower and educate women in business. The annual event, provides business education and solutions for establishing a balanced work and family life by bringing together accomplished instructors, relevant life and business topics, and a truly unique learning environment. It helps women business owners pursue their entrepreneurial dreams by providing tools, resources, and guidance through the various stages of business ownership. Learn more at www.momsinbusinessunite.com.


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