Category Archives: Paper

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

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

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

Organize Your Passwords-Revisited

password-post-it

With all the cyber security breaches these days prudent password management is vital. Here is a refresh of a previous post about passwords.

Does keeping track of your online passwords make you want to pull your hair out? Having an organized system for password management reduces that frustration.

Just as people have to choose between digital and paper calendars these days, there are both digital and paper ways to manage your password information. Different methods have different advantages.

Digital

Managing your passwords digitally offers many conveniences but introduces security risks. While not nearly a comprehensive list – and not a specific endorsement — here are some options:

  • Maintain a list or spreadsheet on your computer…not named “passwords.” File could be stored in the cloud (Evernote, DropBox, Google Drive) to access across devices. You can password protect this document for an added layer of security.
  • Use Facebook, twitter or Google to log in
  • Use password management software such as 1Password, LastPass or KeePass. These typically work by storing all your individual logins under one main “master” password.
  • If you use a Mac, you’re most likely familiar with Keychain, which comes with OSX. Basically, it’s a password manager that uses your OSX admin password as the master password.

Paper

Some people don’t want their passwords stored anywhere in their computer. Storing them on paper prevents electronic hacking but it also limits your access to them when you are not home near the list. You also need to think about how to keep the list secure at home.

There are many options for managing passwords in paper form:

  • A small address book is an easy way to list passwords alphabetically by site name. Small address books are also easily hidden.
  • Some people keep a paper file in their file cabinet labeled “password”… you could make it a bit more secure by naming that file something random but unique to you like “junkdrawer” or “Rumpelstiltskin.”
  • An alphabetized index card box or business card box makes a handy place to drop in the post-its and scraps of paper you write passwords on.
  • To keep lists more secure, rather than writing down the actual password your list can be prompts that only you know. For example, if your password is some non sequitur like bootPolandgelato5, your prompt may be “footwear – country – food – number”. Or “147Guccigreen3970” could be prompted with “childhood address – favorite designer –color – past phone number.”

Password Strength

Regardless of what organizing tool you use to keep track of passwords, if you aren’t relying on software to generate secure passwords for you here are some tips for creating strong passwords:

  • Ideally use a mix letters, characters, numbers, and capitals
  • String together words to make a phrase. For example “I love ice cream” could become 1L0v31c3Cr3@m if you replace all the vowels with numbers or characters and capitalize the first letter of each word.
  • String together unrelated words as in the example of Boot, Poland, Gelato, and 5 becoming “bootPolandgelato5”

There isn’t one right solution or answer; ultimately it’s a personal style and risk management choice we all have to make. Whatever system you choose, pick one and stick to it.

What one smart step can you take to make your digital life more convenient AND secure?

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Filed under Decluttering, Office, Paper, Strategies, Technology

The A.R.T. of Clearing Paper Piles

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Does this dining room table look inviting?

Have you ever your faced dining room table or kitchen counter covered in paper, taken one look and turned around to find something else to do? Planning to host Thanksgiving dinner by shoving the piles into bags and sticking it in the closet to deal with “later?”

Despite the appearance of being hundreds of items, all paper piles boil down to only 3 types of items: action, reference, or trash.

Action

These are items that need actual action – the “To-Dos.” Bills to pay, calls to make, items to research, forms to return. There are many ways to store this kind of paper but generally they need to be very accessible and fairly visible. For many folks storing them in a filing cabinet is too “out of sight, out of mind.”

Reference

These are items that are purely informational that you want to keep for reference either short or long term:

  • Insurance policies, medical records, financial, tax related, legal, etc.
  • Travel, art, leisure, self growth, parenting, job ideas, etc.

These can take the form of clippings, articles, printouts, and statements, mailed documents, books or magazines. Books and magazines are best stored on a bookshelf, loose papers are best stored in a filing cabinet. Freedom Filer created this concept of “Simplify With The Art Of Filing™” which is a great option for handling all of your reference files.

Trash

Self-explanatory! Shredding, recycling, garbage. It can be helpful to sort your incoming mail while standing over recycling & shredding bags. The quicker it goes out, the less pile-up of true junk happens.

Not being sure if you need to keep something often creates stress, anxiety, and confusion. Check out our prior post: Paper: to Keep or Toss? Problem Solved.

Try This!

Set the timer for 15 minutes and see how far you get with this method.  Enjoy the leftovers from your family meal rather than the aftermath from a hasty clean-up.

 

 

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Filed under Decluttering, home organizing, homework, Office, organizing, Paper, paper organizing, Products, Strategies

The Best Wedding Gift Ever

Your child is getting married or graduating or having a baby…what is the most thoughtful gift you could give them that would last a lifetime? A filing system!

Now, a filing system may sound like the most boring, uninspired gift you could possibly give someone but bear with us while we explain…

A good basic filing system is an essential part of an organized life. Despite the promises of a paperless world, we constantly see people overwhelmed and confused by piles of paper in their homes. Often the problem starts at one of these of these major life events where suddenly the amount and types of paper coming in multiplies exponentially.

For a new graduate, having a central place to manage personal records, job history, and tax documents starts to teach them about leading an adult life.

For couples getting married, having a central place where all important insurance, ownership, certificates, account & tax documents are kept minimizes stress and will help them manage a life that will become increasingly more complicated.

For new parents, having a central place to keep health records, school paperwork, parenting resources, and sports/camp info prevents the stress and inefficiency of searching the house for needed documents. Providing a dedicated box for memorabilia/artwork is a great addition to a filing system.

You can easily set up a basic system in a portable file box, small or large, using categories you create or a kit such as Freedom Filer. The box doesn’t have to be their permanent container; they may already have a filing cabinet or one may be needed once all their papers are gathered.

Basic categories include:

  • Career
  • Health
  • Insurance
  • Finances
  • Personal
  • Resources
  • Vital Documents (passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate, etc.)
  • Taxes

Give your loved ones a head start on the challenges of paper management. A gift certificate to a professional organizer to help them integrate their papers into the system and further customize would be icing on the cake!

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Filed under Decluttering, Empty Nest, Paper, paper organizing, Products, professional organizer, School, Storage, Strategies, Wedding