Check out our video interview with Mac/Apple Coach Ben Rosenthal of Sustainable Computing as we discuss all the options for dealing with old phones – how to clear your personal data and what choices you have for getting rid of them!
Did you know organizers don’t just organize? Professional organizing comes in all sorts of flavors. Some organizers are more generalists and cover lots of areas; others pick one specialty and stick to that. Have a look at the variety of challenges where professional organizers can help:
No matter the size or scope of your project, we can help you find an organizer with the specialty you need! Ask us for recommendations or go directly to the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals — NAPO.net.
All of us, at one time or another, get that sinking feeling of having way too much to do in way too little time. It’s demoralizing to feel overwhelmed by the routine tasks of everyday life. While barely treading water with the routine tasks, it doesn’t take much – a flat tire, an unexpected potluck, a roof leak – to push your schedule into full chaos. How can you reclaim your sanity and sense of control and competence?
Here are some strategies from a recent workshop we took from Productivity Coach, Steve Kirch.
Busy is a choice, but often doesn’t feel like it. You may not feel like you have choice or control over your time. But even in the most obligated person’s schedule there is enough wiggle room to create space for reflection, planning, and some choice-making. Regaining control of your schedule and your life, starts with making a little time to evaluate the bigger picture and consciously deciding what tasks are essential and where they fit best in your schedule. Otherwise, we get pulled from our important goals into other people’s priorities.
One of the most essential things to do is re-evaluate how much you take on. Just as our spaces get cluttered, so do our schedules. Given your personal priorities, figure out both your essential tasks and those that make you truly happy — and fit those in first.
It doesn’t have to take oodles of time to plan. Start with 10 minutes of any day and be intentional about how you are going to spend your day. What are YOUR critical few priorities for today? The ideal time to do this is first thing in the morning.
Consider getting up a little earlier and incorporating this short morning routine that grounds you for the day and helps you feel in control of the ship:
Try these strategies for actually getting tasks done:
Try to incorporate one or two of these tips into your day and see how it feels. If you need more help, consult with a Professional Organizer, Coach or Productivity Specialist. Asking for help can be one of the most productive tips of all.
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.
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.
Do you have piles of photos stored somewhere in your basement or attic or the back of your closet? You’re not alone. Many of our clients hit a wall when it comes to tackling the photos and memorabilia. It always seems to be the lowest priority until a life event like a birthday or graduation prompts the need for quick and easy access to your loved ones photos. It’s then that you realize how inconvenient you’ve made it for yourself to view your family memorabilia.
Organizing photos (digital or printed) is a lot like organizing anything in the house – the first step is to determine why you would be keeping them.
Take a few minutes to consider the bigger picture…what do you want your photos for? Do you imagine that you’ll pass the unfinished project on to your kids? Would you like to have some on display or in albums? How important is it to identify people or events for others?
Before you dive into the backlog spend some time framing (pun intended) the picture of your immediate and long-term goals – it will give needed clarity to your sorting and purging.
Figure out what you’re keeping. This takes setting aside time, regularly, to gather and weed your collection.
These are the best of the best; the ones you would be sad if they were destroyed. You may never actually create the album, but it’s important to make the separation in case you or your family member gets motivated.
The second cut, those you want to store or archive for safekeeping and possible future use.
Even if they are not perfect, don’t automatically toss a great picture if it tells a significant story. They can be illustrative of some specific point in time or mark a milestone.
Come on! Do you need to keep the 5th copy of a photo you don’t even like? Blurry photos, poorly composed photos, photos of people you don’t even remember can all be tossed.
Set up containers with the 3 separate categories labeled — Album/Display, Archive, Trash — so it’s easy to separate them. The pictures that tell a story can be tagged with notes and put in the appropriate category.
Once the initial sort happens, you can drill down into more specific categories. Categories help with retrieval. They help you browse the archive for retrieval or help determine the structure of an album.
Would a picture of Aunt Mary on vacation with you in Hawaii get sorted into Vacations, Aunt Mary and Her Family, the year & month of the trip or …?
There are no right or wrong choices, but you will need to make a choice.
Post-its and index cards, Ziploc bags are great temporary ways to sort printed photos until you arrive at your final organization. Start with broad categories or themes and know that you can come back and fine-tune, if desired, later. To keep the process moving, limit your time with categorizing of each particular photo to a couple seconds. Resist the urge to reminisce; there will be plenty of time for that later.
Digital photos need this kind of attention and maintenance also! Don’t kid yourself – the accumulation of thousands of unsorted digital photos will create just as much overwhelm and hassle as the boxes or bags of printed photos taking up closet space. Digital photos can be tagged with multiple categories. This is a great advantage; it’s the equivalent of having the same photo in 3 or more different places.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, tackle bite-sized chunks. Commit to just one box of sorting, or time yourself and do one-hour blocks of time or enlist an interested party and make a date to do it together.
IMPORTANT! Moving forward, make sure you have a sound system of photo management in place so you’re not contributing to the backlog. For most of us this means managing digital photos. Here are some tips:
If this article has left you feeling completely hopeless and overwhelmed instead of inspired, it’s time to ask for help! Search the Association of Professional Photo Organizers (www.APPO.com) for a local resource.
Technology changes so rapidly it seems we are constantly generating electronic waste. Other than avoiding buying new products to begin with, the main way to prevent ewaste ending up in landfill is to responsibly recycle it. Here are 3 local resources for properly disposing of your electronic waste.
Since 1995 OTX West has been redirecting computers and electronics away from landfill and into the hands of Oakland public schools and low income families.
They accept donations at their warehouse located at 1680 14th Street in West Oakland. They will pick up larger donations from businesses and organizations. They were recently featured in an article in the SF Chronicle.
All donations are tax deductible and there is no cost assciated with donating. They state they securely erase data from all hard drives.
OTX West accepts:
Convenient drop off location in west Berkeley near Gilman Ave. They take all manner of electronics; here’s a full list of accepted items. All donations are tax deductible. They also have a program for distributing refurbished computers to schools and individuals though it isn’t their main focus. Bonus – they also accept bubble wrap and packing peanuts.
El Cerrito Recycling Center (El Cerrito)
Basically this is the mothership of east bay recycling. Aside from a few controlled items you do NOT have to be an El Cerrito resident to drop items here. They accept all kinds of ewaste for free, however your donation is not tax deductible. Here is their full list of accepted items.
—>Have an additional resource you’d like to share? Let us know!
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.
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:
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:
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:
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?
Have you ever had that feeling of overwhelm when you look at your to-do list, see a million items, feel unsure about where to start or even that the work will never end? We have too!
Inspired by her business coach, Sean Hicks, Katherine has been experimenting with using “goal periods” to help bring focus to her workday.
A goal period is a set block of time when you plan to get things done: seeing clients, doing administrative work, paying bills, running errands, doing chores.
Depending on what’s going on, each day can have several goal periods. A typical length of a goal period is 1.5-3 hours. You decide for yourself how long it should be. But it should be consistent for you.
The first step to trying this out is to set aside ½ hour 2 times a week for a planning session. This is the time where you will take stock of your giant to-do list, review your schedule for the next few days and decide when your goal periods will be and which tasks will be in them.
Start by having a look at your master to-do list. Ask these questions to narrow the possibilities of what you’re going to tackle this week:
Now it’s time to take a look at your calendar and set aside some goal periods for the week. Remember, it’s a good idea to do this planning twice a week so you’ll have a chance to shift items around if needed.
When a goal period occurs, get to work on the items designated for that time. When the period ends, stop working on those tasks.
This is essential! Once you have committed to doing something within a goal period, if you don’t finish it within that goal period you have to wait until the next planning session to schedule time to work on it.
So how do you get through tasks that will take longer than a goal period allows? Split that task up into parts and schedule those. If your goal period is 2 hours and you have a task that you think will take 6 hours, you need to break that task down into parts and schedule them into 3 different goal periods.
Maintaining these boundaries is a critical part of the goal period strategy. It has helped Katherine feel the joy of accomplishment without feeling the burden of an unending list of to-dos. This technique also helps give you permission to put a period at the end of a work session, with the opportunity to get refreshed and ready to take on the next set of pre-decided tasks.
Have questions on how to implement this for yourself? Ask them here!
Sheila is 85 years old and has decided to downsize into a retirement community. Her house is worth a whole lot more than what she paid for it 60 years ago. Let’s say she paid $25K and is able to sell the house for $625K. That means she may have to pay taxes on as much as $600K profit – or gain (minus a $250K exclusion the IRS grants).
Sheila’s accountant tells her she could pay significantly less taxes because she can add the costs of various improvements she made over the years of ownership to the base amount she paid for the house. This is called increasing the cost basis of the home. But where is the documentation?
This is where being organized comes in handy. With a simple system, homeowners can preserve the records of improvements they have made to their property. When the house sells and the accountant is asking for ways to reduce your tax burden, the seller can produce the receipts and records which could save them thousands. Selling the family home and moving is stressful enough without adding last minute scramble to dig up old documentation.
The simplest system is a single file drawer or filing tub to hold all the purchase and improvement related documents. From there you can get more organized if you desire by separating different types of documents into different folders. If you’re planning a full remodel or major improvement it is helpful to keep all the permits, contracts, inspections, receipts and invoices together labeled by the name of the project.
Here is specific info from the IRS’s publication, Pub 523 – Selling Your Home, which outlines what qualifies as a cost basis improvement
These add to the value of your home, prolong its useful life, or adapt it to new uses. You add the cost of additions and improvements to the basis of your property.
The following chart lists some examples of improvements.
Repairs done as part of larger project. You can include repair-type work if it is done as part of an extensive remodeling or restoration job. For example, replacing broken windowpanes is a repair, but replacing the same window as part of a project of replacing all the windows in your home counts as an improvement.
Examples of improvements you CANNOT include in your basis.
Exception. The entire job is considered an improvement if items that would otherwise be considered repairs are done as part of an extensive remodeling or restoration of your home. For example, if you have a casualty and your home is damaged, increase your basis by the amount you spend on repairs that restore the property to its pre-casualty condition.
Obviously everyone’s tax situation is unique and there are other variables that can affect the picture, even year-to-year. We are simplifying for the point of illustration.
So no matter when you bought your home, now is the time to gather up all the house related receipts and start keeping any original improvement receipts. If you neglected to keep them, at least make a list of known improvements and try to estimate what you spent.
Did you find this article helpful? Let us know!
‘Tis the season for shopping and gift giving. Keeping track of what to get everyone is essential to managing holiday overwhelm.
This is a great opportunity to use technology to make your life easier. Here are 3 digital ways to track and sort gift ideas:
In all cases you can create one note, board, or notebook for each person on your list OR one general one for gifts and the details within that.
Happy shopping! Got a great method for keeping your gift lists organized? Share it here!