5 Ways to Manage Your Holidays

Pacing Yourself During the Holidays

If you regularly have a lot going on in life the added tasks of the holidays can wreak havoc on your time management. Shopping, hosting, holiday cards, parties, travel…where does the time come from to fit everything in?

Time Estimating

One of the biggest traps of time management is magical thinking around how long tasks will take. An easy rule of thumb is to estimate how long a task will take then double it! If you end up with time on your hands you’ll have no trouble filling it.

Be realistic about your schedule. Some things have to give to make room for the extra tasks of the holidays. Time isn’t going to magically appear in your calendar. Be vigilant about passing on opportunities that arise that don’t help your goal of having a wonderful holiday. That could mean saying “no” to the 7th Christmas party invitation!

Simplify Your Task List

There are many ways to enjoy your holidays and some are less time consuming than others. For example, if you realize it will take you 10 hours to put together holiday cards (including addressing, stamping and getting them to the mailbox) you may choose to do something simpler – or choose a different time of year to reach out and connect. Remember your original desire to make connections with family and friends. Realize there are many ways to do that.

Other time saving examples:

  • Store-bought food instead of homemade
  • Pot-luck instead of full hosting
  • E-cards instead of mailed cards
  • Gift bags and tissue instead of gift wrapping

Don’t Go It Alone

It’s easy to feel like we are solely responsible to make a memorable and magical experience for our loved ones. That can be pretty unrealistic and overwhelming. Have a look at your task list and see how you can share the load…where can the kids participate or invite a friend to work with you- baking or gift wrapping are examples. Is there cleaning or errands you delegate or actually hire out? Where possible, focus your time and energy on the tasks you really enjoy and figure out how to get help with the others.

Learn from holidays past

Think back on what worked before.  Was there a year where you breezed through the holiday with ease?  What worked?

If there was a December that went poorly, you felt more stressed, you didn’t enjoy the celebrations – ask yourself what could you do to avoid those pitfalls?

You could jot notes and track how long it actually took to: prepare for a party, to do the gift shopping, to pick out clothes to wear to the gala, to find the best gifts for your friends and family or to determine which character you’ll come as to the Dickens Faire.  These estimates could provide a template for happy holidays to come.

Balance

Holidays can be a time when life gets out of balance. In order to make more time in our schedules we often sacrifice personal time for exercise or re-charge. Make it a priority to plan in time for self-care so you can give the gift that really matters – yourself!

Taking this time to practice time management can help you in the rest of your life!

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Filed under General Organizing, Holidays, Strategies, Time Management

These 3 Types of Paper Are Clogging Your Files

If you’re still getting these in paper form they are likely clogging up your filing system … or creating piles!

Pay stubs – They are informational only.  When you get your pay stub each period, check it over to make sure your vacation, sick balance and other deductions are accurate. If all is okay, you don’t need to keep it. Your W-2 form at the end of the year is the only record to keep for taxes. If you need written evidence of accrued benefits, keep your last pay stub of the year. That would have your year-to-date accumulations. If you get electronic paystubs, then for sure, shred the archived ones from long ago.

Expired insurance policies – once the term is over, the policy isn’t valid.  Having a claim or loss in the previous period, might justify keeping it. But most folks don’t have this issue and old policy statements can be tossed (shredded) when they expire. You’ll be surprised how many years back these bulky documents go. Hit all the categories – auto, home, life, umbrella, etc.

Monthly investment statements and activity confirmation statements. Once you receive the quarterly or annual statement, these documents are redundant.

 

BONUS! Banks and credit companies CYA privacy policies and term sheets. Have you ever had to refer to these in the lifetime of your credit card or account? They could trigger you to update your privacy settings with the institution (online or in writing) but if you know you will never get around to it, just let them go.  All these are available online.

Give yourself the gift of a clear desk or roomy files by removing things that just make you feel unsure and guilty. If you truly can’t imagine letting these items go, get them in a box (labeled, with a “date to destroy” in a reasonable amount of time) and store them far away from your active work space.

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Filed under home organizing, Office, Paper, paper organizing

The Reality of Tiny House Living

Hillary's Tiny House outside

Could you imagine living in a house this small?

Small and tiny houses have increasingly become popular and known. Tiny House Nation and Tiny House Hunters TV shows have heightened the public’s interest in this style of living.

Tiny houses on wheels are often compared to RVs. However, tiny houses are built to last as long as traditional homes, use traditional building techniques and materials, and are aesthetically similar to larger homes. A tiny house is often considered one that is under 400ft2.

So, what’s it really like to downsize and live in a tiny house? We interviewed our friend Hillary who’s been living in one for the last 6 months. Her space is under 200ft2. The footprint of the home is 8.5’ x 18’ and it sits on a trailer.

Why did you choose tiny living? Basically, the cost of living. It was a creative way to afford rent, and work to live instead of living to work. Also, I was interested in the environmental benefits and owning less.

What surprised you most about tiny living? How comfortable it feels. I’m getting along really well! It took a leap of faith but there have been more positives than negatives. I’ve realized I don’t have to own a lot to be content.

What has been an unexpected benefit? Buying less stuff. Even less food. I don’t go to home stores anymore for random décor. I’ve saved money and affirmed to myself I don’t need as much stuff as I used to.

What has been the hardest part? Finding the right place to put my tiny home took about a year.  I ended up finding my landlord through an East Bay Tiny House meetup. He has 3.5 acres in Diablo Valley area so I am surrounded by nature but also able to connect into utilities. My water comes from a hose line. I have a direct electricity and sewer line hook up. I have propane tanks for heating water and gas stove.

Another challenge is the lack of space for food and clothes. Clothing storage has been the hardest. I still use some offsite storage at my mom’s house but hope to gradually eliminate that.

What was the process of downsizing your possessions like to prepare to move here? I’m still transitioning through the downsizing process because I’m still storing some furniture at my mom’s. Also, most of my book collection. I’m an English teacher and I’d really like to have my books with me but I haven’t figured out how to integrate them into the space. I still need to sell or donate extra stuff. I feel like I haven’t yet had the cathartic moment of truly releasing things that didn’t fit. Other people I’ve talked to in tiny houses have described how freeing it is to let go.  That said, I do realize that there are lots of things I haven’t needed or thought about for 6 months. I still want to take on the personal challenge of only owning what will fit in my space.

Kitchen, sleeping loft and bathroom

Tiny House Living Room and Entry

Kitchen, Living Room, Entry

STORAGE

Let’s talk about storage – how do you get by without a garage? Right now, I’m not fully addressing that; I still store low use items such snowboarding & camping supplies offsite. There is some space underneath the trailer where I can store tubs – I have my backpacking gear in a heavy-duty tote as well as extra blankets & shoes.

How have you had to modify your shopping practices? I shop more often and buy smaller amounts of things when I do. I’ve had to become more aware of what I’m buying. I still buy a few things in bulk and use the storage area adjacent to my sleeping loft to hold low-use pantry items such as baking supplies.

Storage loft with overflow pantry items

How do you get by without a closet and a dresser? The home does have a really thin closet – 1.5’ wide. I have to be very selective about what gets hung. Reducing clothes was hard because I like to have options of what I wear.  I use open crates in the sleeping loft for folded clothes.

Has living in a tiny house changed your relationship to stuff? Not dramatically, but I feel like I have a higher level of awareness of nice-to-haves vs. have-to-haves. And I’m OK with that. I realized I’m not feeling the loss of giving up on the nice-to-haves as much as I would have thought.

LIFESTYLE

How has the move affected your social life? Not too much. I do have folks come over. I haven’t had big gatherings but I have outside space so that could be used in good weather for gatherings. Having 2-3 people within the house is tight. Having over one extra person is pretty comfortable. I find myself sitting outside more often both when I’m alone or with others. Seating inside a little cramped, especially for tall or larger guests.

Do you have a full bathroom and shower? The toilet and shower are separate and spacious enough. They are average size. I have an on-demand water heater and originally I had a composting toilet but then was able to connect into the landlord’s sewer line so I replaced it with a regular flush toilet.

What life circumstances would have to change for you to feel like you have to move? I feel like I could live here indefinitely if I was living alone. Cohabitating with a partner doesn’t feel very feasible to me here.  If I had a child it feels like it would be feasible maybe for the first year or so.

What are people most curious about? Mostly they just want to know – “Is this working for you? Are you comfortable?”  Anyone who comes to visit quickly sees how doable it is!

Want to watch the entire interview? Let us know!

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Filed under Decluttering, downsizing, Guest Experts, home organizing, Moving, organizing, Perspective, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse

Tools For Emptying Your Storage Unit

Storage Unit Tools (1)

Storage units have their place and can be a great solution for the right situation. Too often they get filled with the intention of being temporary, but end up languishing for years. Derek Naylor, president of the consultant group Storage Marketing Solutions is quoted in the New York Times:

“Human laziness has always been a big friend of self-storage operators,” … “Because once they’re in, nobody likes to spend all day moving their stuff out of storage.”


Also, according to the Self Storage Association, only 30% of renters say they will rent for more than 2 years
.

Here are some practical approaches to finally clearing out that unit and recovering that monthly rent back into your budget.

Come Prepared

Don’t make the mistake of setting aside time to deal with the unit and show up empty handed or with just a garbage bag. These basic tools will enable you to effectively sort, purge and pack both items you’re keeping and those for donation. Be prepared to keep the kit in your unit for use across multiple days.

  • Small folding table
  • Step stool and/or folding chair
  • Marking pens and tape for labeling containers
  • Small and medium moving boxes for containing loose items
  • Packing tape, box cutter or scissors
  • Notepad for listing items in boxes or making notes of to-do’s
  • Smartphone camera
  • Garbage bag
  • Headlamp
  • Gloves/dust mask
  • A friend or helper for motivation and company!

Separate the Wheat from the Chaff

Just like organizing within your home, one of the first steps is to decide what you’re keeping and separate it from things you are not.

  • Borrow a rolling cart from the facility and load it with things to just make enough working space in the unit to set up a table. Or use the hallway outside the unit if that’s allowed.
  • If possible, start to physically create zones in the space to separate keepers from things going out. If it isn’t possible to literally remove items and take them with you that day, you’ll want to save yourself time in the future by staying organized throughout the process.
  • If you’re holding things for other people, use your phone to snap a picture and text it immediately asking the person what they want to do with the item.
  • LABEL, LABEL, LABEL! Once you’ve made a decision or opened a box to determine what’s in it, LABEL the outside so you can know at a glance the status of that box.

Storage Unit

What Next?

  • Arrange for a charity donation pickup
  • Load donations and take them yourself
  • Arrange for a hauler to help with donations and trash such as 1-800-Got-Junk, Eco-Haul, or Lugg.com
  • Deliver items to family and friends or arrange a pickup day when they come to you
  • Arrange for a mover or hauler to bring the keepers home (if they won’t just fit in your car)

Emptying a storage unit can be a laborious process but you get the ball rolling, it takes less time than you’ve been dreading. Don’t plan on getting it all done in one day or one weekend! Be realistic and you won’t set yourself up for disappointment.

Once you manage to get it empty,  don’t forget to reward yourself! Take ½ the monthly rent you’ve been paying and go out for a nice meal or treat yourself to a fun experience — you’ve earned it!

 

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Filed under artwork, Closets, Decluttering, downsizing, Garage, Memorabilia, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, Seniors, Storage, Strategies

4 Cornerstones of a Successful Senior Move

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Have you thought about moving but feel paralyzed at the prospect of how to go about dealing with everything involved? You’re not alone! Moving can be an extremely overwhelming project. A good way to approach the task is to think of it in 4 areas.

What To Do With All Your Stuff?

  • The sooner you start paring down belongings – whether you’re moving or not – the better.
  • It can be easier to think about your possessions from the perspective of what you want to keep rather than what you want to get rid of.
  • Start with low-hanging fruit…it is way easier to purge accumulated office supplies than the decades long backlog of photos.
  • If you’re stuck, enlist the help of friends or family (only if they will be non-judgmental), or enlist a professional organizer or senior move manager. These can be found at net, NAPO-SFBA.org, and NASMM.org.

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Deciding Where To Live

  • Work with a Placement Specialist – ideally someone local, not a general internet service. Placement services are free because they are compensated by the living facilities. Local professionals really know the features and culture of all the available options and will work to find the right fit for your personality and needs.
  • Choosing a home or retirement community is as much about the outside life you’ll have there as the place itself. Do you want/need to stay near your current doctors, family, friends, and familiar areas? How will moving impact your social circle and support network?
  • There are many different options for downsizing – including staying at home! Sometimes the best choice will be plan for support services so you can age in place at home.
  • Start looking before you’re ready to move. It can take awhile to make a decision about where will be the right fit…it’s much better to do the legwork and take your time about this major decision than feel pressured or rushed if something happens and you have to move quickly.

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Manage Your Emotions

  • Moving can be one of life’s most stressful events; expect to feel a range of emotions both positive and negative.
  • Don’t go it alone! Create and rely on a support network – friends, family, hired professionals to share the tremendous workload and stress of the move.
  • Be aware that feelings about a move can come in different stages and layers.
  • Having conversations early on with your adult children (or parents) about moving can bring clarity and more ease when the actual move happens.
  • Document your desires around long term and emergency care in writing to ensure your wishes are honored if you aren’t able to advocate for yourself.
  • The move doesn’t end on moving day – adjusting to your new space and life can take time and support.

Selling Your House

  • There are real estate professionals that specialize in working with seniors. Look for the designation: SRES – Senior Real Estate Specialist.
  • There are different financing options available to help make a move happen. Consult a reputable mortgage broker or realtor to discuss options.
  • Work with a realtor who really knows your area and takes all the specifics of your situation into account when making the plan for how best to sell .
  • Staging matters – Most buyers have the easiest time picturing their life in your home when the home is staged rather than filled with your things.
  • Work with a realtor who partners or can refer to a professional organizer or senior move manager to help you downsize.

Intimidating as it is, getting started on any of these items is the best way to start! Pick something that feels relatively easy to get the ball rolling. Every step you take brings you closer to the end goal!

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Filed under couples, Decluttering, downsizing, Empty Nest, Moving, Seniors

5 Reasons To Get Organized Before You Get “Old”

5 Reasons Organize Before Old

1. Moving is challenging at any age

And it only gets harder the older you get. Having a really organized home dramatically simplifies a move — if you decide that’s what you want.

2. Alleviate hidden stress

You will have many years without the nagging feeling like you “should” be getting organized. Studies show that the volume of possessions can elevate stress hormone levels.

3. Make your own choices before someone has to make them for you

1 in 10 people over 65 and older have Alzheimer’s dementia and almost 2/3 of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women.

4. Expect the unexpected

Sudden illness may strike, leaving you with your pants down. Who do you know who has looked forward to their retirement years to catch up on all those postponed house projects and been caught off guard by a stroke or onset of dementia?

5. Get a fresh start now!

Getting organized is like starting a life chapter. The process of decluttering enables you to take stock of your past and make decisions about what you will bring forward into your future. What do you have from your past you’d like to leave behind?

Start organizing today by tackling one small space…a drawer, a shelf or countertop.  And reward yourself for your efforts!

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Filed under Decluttering, downsizing, General Organizing, home organizing, middle-age, Perspective, Seniors

It’s Crisis Time: Do You Know Where Your Documents Are?

disaster preparedness - 1

The worst time to try and find something is when you need to have it and have little time to find it. Crises strike in many forms – natural disasters, family deaths, sudden moves, illness, divorce. Hindsight is 20-20 and that’s when we often get total clarity about what could have been done to prepare and alleviate some of the stress of the crisis.

You can be one step ahead by finding and organizing critical documents. Believe it or not, we have found all these for clients hiding among hundreds of other papers in drawers, bags, and boxes…

  • Titles for cars
  • Deductible receipts and statements for the current year
  • Grant deeds for owned property
  • Passports, birth certificates and death certificates
  • Original stock certificates
  • Improvement receipts so homeowner could deduct from purchase cost of house to reduce taxable profit
  • Genealogy records
  • Open bank and credit accounts that had been forgotten
  • Will and trust documents
  • Life insurance policies
  • Contact info for all companies that insurance you
  • Passwords
  • Social Security card
  • Pension and retirement plan records
  • Marriage and divorce documents

Many of these can be replaced if lost but often not without cost and hassle.

If you aren’t ready to create an entire filing system at least make sure to create a dedicated home for these essential documents.

Bonus: keep your important documents in something portable that you can grab in an emergency.  If all you have is a cardboard box to collect your important documents, use it.  Progress is better than perfection!

If you want to go a step further, there are products available to help you capture your vital documents. A few to consider are: FreedomFiler®Vital Records PORTAVAULT® or Suze Orman’s Protection Portfolio.

“The Freedom Filer kit is fantastic and was easy to move when I evacuated. Everything I needed was there. I love it!” Kathleen, LA wildfire evacuee

See our prior post about how FreedomFiler® works.

 

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Filed under Decluttering, Moving, Paper, paper organizing