You’ve Got Mail

July 23, 2009

Now what?

Don’t let that mail pile up! Attacking your mail each day only takes a few minutes.  Really…follow me!

#1 Pick up mail

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#2 Open mail, separate by category (55 seconds)

Here are my categories:

  • recycle (all envelopes, marketing stuffers, junk mail)
  • shred (credit card offers)
  • publications to read
  • bills to pay

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#3  Place piles in their “homes”  (1 minute, 5 seconds)

I traveled to:

  • paper recycling bin in laundry room
  • magazine basket in living room
  • “to shred” box in office
  • “action, bill ” center in office

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See, literally minutes.

Having “homes” and a process set up will help you do this in minutes as well.  Clutter is delayed decisions.  When people don’t have a system, they will tend to leave items, like the mail, where they land.  Entry tables, stairs or kitchen counter tops become overwhelmed by mail piles.  Take a few minutes to set up a system.  It will be worth it!

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Freedom from Clutter

July 3, 2009

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Happy 4th of July!

4th of July weekend is perfect to spend quality time with friends and family and celebrate our country.  Celebrate the people who  have sacrificed for us and our democracy.  The “land of the free”…free is such a powerful word.

If clutter or disorganization is a cause of distress for you, you can start now, in the spirit of freedom, to declare your independence from clutter.  Taking the time to tackle these challenges will help free you not only from physical clutter, but emotional clutter as well.

  • Commit the time
  • Create goals
  • Make decluttering a priority
  • Enlist the help you need
  • Refer to this blog for tips on specific areas

Remember…

Organizing is a Process not an Event

You can start small with  1 drawer, the kitchen counter or the bathroom vanity.  Edit out what no longer benefits you and create a home for what does.  Free yourself from the clutter.

But first, have a great weekend…I am wishing you and yours a very happy and safe holiday weekend.

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Old news is No news…

June 16, 2009

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Last night I had a good newspaper catch up night.  I was bound and determined to have all the newspapers that were backed up be in the recycling bin by end of the evening.  Last week was a busy week and I did not get through them all.

Many people keep their newspapers  for weeks and months on end, thinking that they will get to them.  But even if they did, the information is old.  Do you want to spend your precious time in June reading about the Inaugural (happened in January) or who won the Kentucky Derby (last month)  about the Swine flu outbreak (a month or so and it changes every day?)

Many people I know just keep getting the daily newspaper because it is just something they have always done.  But it adds pressure to the day.  The stack sitting there saying “read me, read me.”  Here are a few tips to make getting the newspaper a less stressful experience:

  • Think about how much you really sit and read it.
  • Consider subscribing to less days per week.  Perhaps Thursday – Sunday.
  • Each day remove sections you know you will not read and put in recycling right away.  For me it is auto, sports and classified.
  • At the end of the week, recycle anything you have not read.

I still enjoy flipping through the newspaper, especailly the “local” one.  I hate the thought of newspapers coming to an end as we know them.  But that said, narrow down what you read, and spend quality time with it.

Off to the recycling bin….

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School is Out!

June 11, 2009

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Many school systems are either out for the summer or will be with in a few short weeks.  Some kids will be staying home and others are off to camp or a combo of both.

But mom or dad…you are not done yet.  There is a little wrap up yet to be done.

Now is the time to go through the kids paper and artwork from this year.  Many families don’t make the time and this can be a yearly or multi-year collection.  Take the time now and go through them.  You’ll be amazed at how much you have kept is no longer of interest (aka trash or recycling.)

When choosing the “keepers,” think about when you moved out.  What would you have wanted to take with you?  You can let the kids help choose too.  What we may think is important  to them, really is not.  It is important to us.  Keeping a few from each year that are creative, funny, representative of a milestone or a super achievement is fine.  Keeping every math test is not.

The same goes for art.  Remember you can photograph artwork easily.  This takes up less space and you can keep a digital, printed album or print and frame.

Create an “archive” area that is free from the elements to store.  Create container for each child.  Store “keepers” by year.  Each year end it is good to look through the previous years to edit out ones that may not be so important now.

Also, think about how you managed the kids paperwork this year.  What worked, what didn’t, what backed up?  Use these lessons for creating a better system for the Fall.

Wishing all the kids out there very fun and safe summer!

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Licensed to Drive?

June 9, 2009

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In an effort to save money by the state of Massachusetts, the Department of Motor Vehicles will no longer be sending reminders to drivers that their license is up for renewal.

Without peeking…can you accurately tell the date and YEAR that your driving license expires?  I can’t!

If you live in Massachusetts, take a minute, pull it out of your wallet and put the expiration date in your calendar.  If you don’t live in Massachusetts, it is a good idea to do it as well in case your state makes similar cuts or changes to policies or if your reminder gets lost in the mail.   You won’t want to have to go through the pain of  “sorry officer, I didn’t  know…”

Don’t let “I’ll never get stopped” keep you from doing this either.  A recent study here  showed that there were over 20% more people being pulled over on the highways as a way to increase state revenue.  So with these changes, it is more likely that you will be pulled over, and more likely that you may not have an up to date license.

It is a good idea to review the other documents or  licenses that need renewal.  Put the expiration dates on your calendar. Actually, putting a flag in your calendar earlier as well will help you schedule time to deal with the renewal.

  • Professional licenses
  • Passport
  • Business licenses
  • Car Inspection

Off to get my passport renewed…

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Hey Mr. Postman…

May 14, 2009

Did you know that the price of stamps went up this week?  It is now 44 cents for a 1st class stamp.  If you planned ahead and bought a bunch of “forever” stamps you are all set.  If not be aware.

It is a good time to remind folks to create or maintain a “mail center.”  In one place (kitchen drawer, desk drawer, etc.) keep what you will need for mail.

  • Return address stamp or stickers
  • Stamps
  • Extra blank envelope

Following are some other helpful tips regarding stamps…stamps

  • You don’t have to save EVERY free address label you get from charity, etc.  There are only so many you will use.  Remember, they sent them to you without you asking for them.  It is ok to get rid of them…
  • Never have time to get to the post office or when you can the lines are just too long?  Many post offices have self service centers.  They are fast and easy to buy stamps and mail packages.  You can also purchase stamps on line at the USPS website.
  • Keep all stamps in one place.  Once you gather, see what you need to use them.  You may need some stamps to make up the difference from various prices increases.  Right now, you may need some 2 cent stamps for the recent increase.  Make an effort to go to the post office and get.  That way you will use them up.  The US Postal service has a \”Make Up Package\” on line where you can purchase 2 cents stamps.
  • Paying bills on line will cut down on purchasing stamps and all the organization that comes with it.  It will also save a lot of trees, gas, man-hours of processing paper bills.

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I figured I would give you all a few days to breathe and not think about taxes…

You are probably thinking “will she stop talking about taxes already.”  Well, unless you have put away your 2008 documents  in an organized fashion and shredded what you don’t need, then you are not done.  Consider lessons learned from this past year.  Do you need to set up a more efficient system for 2009?  Do you need to track any expenses in a different way?  Set systems in place now to make the process easier next year.

That is what I am going to do this morning before I head out to work.  Here is how it works at my house.

  • All back up documents and receipts I need to retain are put in a clear bin.  Label indicating the year is adhered to the front.  I keep mine in a closet in my office.  High shelf that is hard to use for anything else.
  • I will be shredding any receipts and documents I do not have to keep for tax record keeping purposes.
  • I keep a copy of my tax forms submitted to the IRS and State in a file in my filing cabinet by year.

So what do we keep?  It can be different for different people –based on what you claim on your taxes. You should check with your tax professional but the general rule is keep tax back up for 7 years.  I hear 3 years, I hear 7years.  Here is the scoop.  The IRS has 3 years to audit you for cause or a random audit.  But if the suspect someone has done something fraudulently then they can go back further.

You  want to keep anything that is back up to what you claim on your taxes.  I always think of it this way.  If I got a call from the IRS about an audit, I will need to show them a receipt or documentation for anything I have claimed.  Those are the receipts that should be in the “tax box.”  If you have receipts for expenses that are not claimed on your taxes, before you toss or shred, consider if you need them for any other purpose:

  • Insurance
  • Warranty
  • Legal

Be sure to check with your accountant or investment representative to see what you need to keep regarding your investments.  There are specific requirements relating to buying and selling of stock.

Here are a few links that can help you as well.

IRS – Record Retention

What to Keep

Ok, now I’ll stop talking about taxes!

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