Category Archives: Office

Home Organizing for Couples

Work with your sweetie to get your home organized

Work with your sweetie to get your home organized

In our work with couples we have found that often they have different organizing styles, for example, one might be “the keeper” the other might be “the minimalist.”  It is our belief that couples come together to learn something from their partners.

We have put together a top ten-list of ways that couples can work together to have their house better organized, easier to navigate and set up with systems that make the household run smoothly for everyone.

1. Identify each partner’s strengths and weaknesses. While focusing on the positive, keep focused on your own particular problem areas. It’s pretty easy to fall into the trap of focusing what your partner can do to change.  Most of the time, both members of the team each have their own challenges.

2.  Make a list of the roles each of you play in the household.  Who is in charge of purchasing food?  Who buys the clothes for the kids or for each other?  Who cleans the kitchen?  Who keeps up the yard or front area?  Who is in charge of the information?  Is one of you the family archivist?  It’s important to value the different roles that each of you play.   The keeper of the family is often the one who is the heart of the family; and the minimalist will help keep stuff from taking over the house

3. Establish ground rules for what is acceptable behavior towards each other (i.e. no name calling, asking instead of accusing, etc., staying focused on your part of the problem)

4. Come to an agreement about doing the project together.  Don’t let one person take over the whole project…unless the partner is totally unwilling to participate…then the willing partner needs to start with their own space and their own stuff first.  This often inspires a recalcitrant partner to take care of their stuff…especially if they aren’t nagged about it.

5. Reframe the problem in financial terms.  Identify the cost of keeping the clutter.  Given their rent or mortgage, figure out the square footage that the clutter takes up, what are you paying to keep the stuff?  $2,000 per month for rent for 1,000 square feet of living space.  $2.00 per square foot.  Clutter takes up one 10 X 15 foot room.  That is 150 square feet times $2 per square foot = $300 per month which works out to $3,600 per year.  It gets easier to figure if you have a storage unit that is used to house items that you don’t need at home…The costs for a storage unit at $100 a month can really rack up.  It’s common for folks to have units for 5 years or more…is the stuff you’re storing in there really worth the $6,000 you’ve paid to hold it?

6. If one of you is resistant, try this game:  Pretend you are going to be traveling for 6 months.  Then, set aside what you would need if they were going to be away for that long, pack up what is left, put it in off-site storage for 3 months.  Notice what it feels like to live with less.  Notice what you miss, if anything.

7. Decluttering may upset the balance of the relationship.  Be gentle with each other.  You may also consider counseling to deal with the emotions and feelings that are bound to come up in the process of extensive decluttering.

8. If you as a couple cannot reach consensus on decisions, it is sometimes helpful to divvy up areas of the home.  One person gets to decide on the family room – the other gets the kitchen.

9. If your space allows for both — it’s better to share a bedroom than a home office.

10. Keep it light — decluttering almost always opens the door to a better sex life.

This article was co-written with Deborah Silberberg of www.ShipShape.com

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Filed under Bedroom, couples, Decluttering, General Organizing, Office, Perspective, Strategies

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 Chaos of Business Card Collections

We’ve all been guilty of it – hanging onto business cards that somehow end up on dresser tops, stashed in drawers, or floating around on counters. We sort of know we probably don’t need them but there’s a nagging sense of importance about them that makes them seem valuable. So, we neaten the pile or shove them back in the drawer and forget about them for a while.

Why are you keeping them?

Managing clutter is all about making conscious choices.  The first step to getting a handle on those stacks is to take a clear look at your motivations for hanging onto them:

  • You may want to use that person’s services
  • Something you want to do someday
  • Somebody you want to network with
  • Neighborhood services
  • Cards of services you use regularly
  • Nostalgia – cards of family members, cards of your past careers
  • Cards whose designs you like

Figuring out why you’re keeping them helps you get clarity on how relevant the info actually is. That informs whether you really want to continue to keep them and how you store them. Part of what makes business cards a less precious resource than we think is there are so many ways other ways to find services and people – Facebook, Yelp, list serves, LinkedIn, Google… put in bits of information into a search tool and have that person show up.

After you do a serious purge of the stacks its time to decide how to store the keepers.

Store for easy retrieval

Ways to store them

  • Electronically – scan or enter into your favorite digital address book tool
  • In a mini-file box
  • Rubber-banded in a drawer or on a shelf
  • In a rolodex
  • Binder sleeves designed for business cards
  • File in a resource section of your filing system (can attach card to larger piece of paper)

Make them useful

If you are keeping cards, it can also be helpful to jot a few notes of relevant info to help you remember why you have the card.  Write on back (have a sharpie close by):

  • Next actions/promises you made to them
    • Where you met them
    • Your follow-up plan
  • Interesting fact about the person (their dog’s name, for example)
  • What you have in common with them
  • Who you both know
  • Key words (name and date of event, category of contact)

business card boxes - 1

It’s perfectly fine to hang onto cards you may not actually need or use — so long as the stacks of cards don’t stress you out and don’t impact your usable space. If they impact your peace of mind or are getting in the way – take action to clear the clutter.

When you browse through your business card hoard, what is the wackiest card you find?

 

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Filed under Business Organizing, Decluttering, Memorabilia, Office, organizing, Paper, Products, Strategies

Untangling Electronic Cable Clutter

cable salad

Who hasn’t opened a desk drawer to see a snarled rats nest of cables and electronic devices from the past? An intimidating and unappealing cable and device salad?

We live in a time of amazing technological advances but one of the drawbacks is that devices quickly become obsolete. Our consumer culture pressures us to keep replacing things, which creates a constant stream of electronic litter in our homes.

The charging and connecting cords that go with these items create an extra layer of frustration and confusion around the issue. Hot tip: when you get a new device, take the time to wrap the cables! Purging old electronics becomes so much simpler when you can quickly grab the device and all it’s parts and cables.

bundled cables

Many people get rid of the electronics but don’t search for the cables (and even the CDs that that go with them) to dispose of at the same time. They’re left with a box of cables they are afraid to get rid of.  There might actually be a useful one in there for a device they still have. The box of chaos becomes a project for that mythical weekend when you’re going to organize your garage, sort your photos and finally deal with that box of cables. Yeah, right.

The simplest way to bundle cables is using twist ties. You can use the grocery store variety or a heavier duty kind – silicone twist ties, which are sturdy and easy to use. Ziploc bags work well to group accessories and software with the cables making it even easier to dispose of the group when the time comes.

It sounds like such a straightforward solution, but sometimes the simplest solutions are the most elegant.  And they can save you from future frustration. Your time is precious, invest a little bit up front to save yourself hours later.

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Filed under Decluttering, disorganization, Garage, General Organizing, home organizing, Office, organizing, Products, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, Technology, Time Management

Couples and Clutter – Conquering Criticism

birds-communicating

As Valentine’s Day approaches we are reminded of the challenges couples face managing clutter in a shared space. “Clutter” is incredibly subjective. One person’s state of chaos is another’s state of total harmony. Do a quick Google search on “couples and clutter” and dozens of articles and statistics come up. You’re not alone if you’re feeling frustrated.

What to do when your styles and thresholds for clutter don’t match up?

Relationship researcher and expert John Gottman identified 4 key behaviors that undermine relationships and are barriers to communication: criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling. Each has an antidote. In our next 4 posts we are going to illustrate how each one can show up when navigating clutter between couples. First up…Criticism.

Expressing a legitimate complaint is different than launching into a criticism. Criticism uses blame which can backfire and hinder communication. Talk about your feelings using I statements and then express a positive need. What do you feel? What do you need?

The antidote to criticizing is to state your complaint in a gentler way. A complaint focuses on a specific behavior, while a criticism attacks the character of the person. The antidote for criticism is to complain without blame.

Example: Messy Bedroom

Criticism: You never put your clothes away. Why are you so lazy and messy?

Complaint: The laundry on floor is making it hard for me to move through room. You said you would put them away today – what happened?

Example: Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Criticism: Who told you you could move my stuff without asking me? You’re such a neat-freak!

Complaint: I’m having trouble finding things after you clean up. I was late today because I couldn’t find my work bag. I want to be part of the process for deciding where my things live. Can we choose a dedicated spot for my things?

Example: Paper Issues

Criticism: PG&E is going to shut off our electricity! Are you so busy that you don’t have time to take care of this simple task?

Complaint: We just got a late notice from PG&E. You are in charge of the bills and this isn’t the first time they didn’t get paid. Can we talk about how to resolve this?

Relationship conflict is natural and has functional, positive aspects. Successful couples learn how to manage and live with differences by honoring and respecting each other.

Our next post is about Conquering Contempt.

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Filed under Bedroom, Decluttering, General Organizing, Office, Perspective, Strategies

Dedicating Space for Household Management

homeoffice

Do you find your household paperwork doesn’t have a home? Is your bedroom getting used for stashing unmanaged mail? Do you have papers and mail all over the house? Are you frustrated that your home never looks tidy? Many people use a large portion of their kitchen counter to manage notes and mail…and it spills over from there. But the kitchen counter space often doesn’t provide enough room for a tidy work space.

All these scenarios point to the importance of dedicating a space for a household management center.

Location

The ideal location for a household management center is close to where this work usually gets done. Kitchen, dining room, living room are very common areas. Look where your paper is accumulating and see if you can dedicate a bit of space to make it an “official” work area. Active projects need to be out and accessible where you will really work on them. Where does the work actually get done?

If you have a more remote home office but don’t find yourself staging the mail and active projects there, you might find paper clutter creeping into the living space. It would be appropriate to create an active work station more centrally and store overflow and permanent files in the office. For example, if you find yourself most often sitting on your couch paying bills online, can you create a space there to catch incoming bills?

The Critical Bits:

  • Active projects: to-do’s and bills to pay
  • Active reference: family schedules and phone lists
  • Basic office supplies (stamps, envelopes, paperclips, post its)
  • Dedicated containers to get the recycling and shredding out of the way and off the countertop

Nice to Have Nearby:

  • Printer – can be hidden or made wireless so it can be stored in a back room or closet
  • Main household filing system – including past years taxes and permanent records
  • Overstock office supplies
  • Kids’ art portfolios

Instead of berating yourself for being messy, embrace the idea that household management needs dedicated space. And give yourself the gift of organization.

 

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Filed under Decluttering, home organizing, homework, Kitchen, Living Room, Office, organizing, Paper, paper organizing, Perspective, Storage, Work

Organize Your Charitable Giving

Giving for Change

It’s end of the year and the charities are out in force with their hands outstretched. Do you succumb to every request?  Or do you give nothing out of overwhelm? Having a strategy will help make this process more satisfying and deserving charities will appreciate you.

Who to give to? 

  • You can sort charities by their mission to focus on the ones that have the most meaning to you or your family.  Charity Navigator and BBB Wise Giving Alliance are two organizations that research charities based on their financial health and accountability. A good benchmark for a worthwhile charity is having at least 75% of their income spent on the the non-profit’s mission.  One of our clients recommends Charity Navigator because they provide a rating for each of the 1,600 charities they research and you can do all your donation tracking and giving through them.
  • Ask your friends who they give to.  It can be a very enlightening conversation.
  • Keep a running list of your favorite charities and donations given. This helps at tax time but the bigger purpose is to avoid confusion about what you’ve given and to whom.“Did I give to ‘Children’s Alliance’ or ‘Children’s Allies’?” A spreadsheet or chart can help you track how much you give year-to-year.

How often to give?

Taking control of how often you give helps avoid feeling pressured every time you get a solicitation in the mail.

  • Rotate donations into monthly bills
  • Recurring automatic donation payments have the convenience of knowing you’re supporting your cause without having to remember to do it. Guaranteed monthly donations also help with an organization’s cash flow.
  • Setting aside a time to donate once a quarter or once a year helps you keep perspective.
  • If you are concerned about tax or estate planning considerations, work with a wealth manager, estate-planning lawyer or certified financial planner on your giving strategy.

Do you give a donation and later find yourself inundated with multiple requests from other charities?

Charities have varying privacy policies. According to Charity Navigator, the more small donations you give, the more likely your name will be sold to other organizations.  Charities are more likely to protect the privacy of their larger donors. The reason is; small donations barely cover the cost of processing them.  They can make more money by selling your name. Once you establish your list of favorite charities, just recycle any solicitations that aren’t on your list.

What to do with all the solicitations that flood the mail?

This depends on how complete your list of charities is. If you feel the need to hang onto solicitations to consider “later” create one box or folder to catch them and sift through them regularly to eliminate duplicates.

Does this make giving any easier? If so, then go out there and share the wealth.

 

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Filed under Decluttering, home organizing, Office, organizing, Paper, Strategies