Saturday, October 25, 2008

Sorting through Books

Here are the questions to ask...

1) Which books have I not touched for 5 years?
2) Which books have I not touched since I bought them?
3) Which books do I no longer need?
4) Which books are on topics that are easy to find on the web or research in a bookstore?

Next, look at your shelves...
5) How full are they, are they more than 2/3 full?
(2/3 allows room for new books
6) Do you need room for other books?
7) Could you use the space where the bookshelves are for another purpose?
8) Are the books collecting dust such that they might cause you to get sick?
9) Are there books that stress you when you pass by? (don't keep them)

Friday, April 11, 2008

Kitchen Organization Tips

Monica Ricci, a fellow organizer, has written an article that walks you through the steps to organizing your kitchen.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

In The News!

The Contra Costa Times ran an article written by Colette Lamm in the newspaper on Saturday, September 1, 2007. The title of the article is "Right desk and tools key to children's productivity".

Great Tools Come In Small Packages

One of my favorite organizing tools is plastic drawers. They make it easy to separate items into different categories. Sterlite makes a very small set of three drawers that works well for a number of uses.

1) On Your Desk
2) Cabinets In The Kitchen
3) Work Bench
4) Art Supply Room

Examples of items to put in them...
1) pens, pencils, highlighters, permanent ink pens
2) stamps
3) electronic equipment, instructions, and cords (cell phone, camera, voice recorder, ipod)

The key is story grouping the items into categories and then making sure each type of item has its own drawer.

While the Sterilite container in this picture works well, I prefer plastic drawers whose handle is built in as one solid piece into the drawer. When purchasing plastic drawers, always check every corner to make sure the drawers are not cracked.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

"Stuff" by Paul Graham

Here is an interesting article that studies our accumulation of "stuff".

Here is my commentary...

Many of the things said in the article on "Stuff" were intriguing. As a Professional Organizer, I find that books do fall under the same category of stuff people accumulate.Books are seldom used more than once and are often left untouched. They collect dust which isn't healthy and add a lot of weight to a move. Psychologically, a sitting book can eat away at a person who had intended to read it/study it making them feel guilty and lowering their self-esteem. I have not met many people in my life who have read a non-reference book more than once. A huge percentage of books go untouched entirely. We have the dream of reading them some day. Books in some fields are outdated the moment they are published. With the advent of the Internet and the availability it brings to information, we no longer need to keep as much stuff as reference. The Internet brings up-to-date information to our finger tips the moment we need it without adding clutter to our home. Think recipes, for example, for decades people have been collecting recipe books. Recipe books are often bought on impulse, sometimes go out of style, and many old ones are no longer considered healthy. The Internet can be overwhelming, but it provides a wealth of recipes. Imagine the space available if one's recipe collection was thinned down to family recipes and selected favorites from the books.While books are treasured by some and a status symbol for others, for many they are equally "stuff" adding to clutter in the home.

For those struggling to part with books, focus more on the future than on the existing collection. Once we have spent money, it is hard to "waste it". So, instead, remind yourself next time you want to buy a book, to think about whether you really need it and what will your need be for it down the line. Consider treating books stores like libraries, one does not need to walk out with a book.
Here is a strategy that you can use...
1) Changing your buying habit in the future will help keep the collection from growing.
2) Begin to weed out the items from the collection that you are not attached to, will never read, or have no use for. Start with a quick glance at the shelf, anything you see that you can quickly pull out, do so. Skip anything that causes you to ponder.
3) For the tougher books, give yourself some time to think about whether you really need them. Ask for help, discuss your thoughts with someone else and see what they think.
4) When you are ready, consider the idea that you could be helping someone else by providing the resources they need which are no longer needed by you. Donate the books to Friends of the Library, Craigslist, or FreeCycle.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Tax Preparation for Small Businesses

It’s approaching April 15th and a voice in your head says, “You need to do the taxes”. You are up late one night trying to find all the receipts, trying to remember the information you will need, and looking for your stuff from the previous year. The voice is now saying “I have to do this differently next year”. Wouldn’t it be great if all of your tax related items were collected and grouped throughout the year, so all you have to do is punch in some numbers or hand over all the information to your tax preparer?

Each business is different, but there are some simple steps you can take to make the year-end process go smoothly. The key is to setup a simple system for collecting the information throughout the year. Keeping information in one place and doing data-entry over time will dramatically reduce your time spent and stress level as tax time approaches.

Designing the System
Think about your existing system. What has worked and what has not? Which aspect would you like to get a better handle on for next year? Define a system to manage receipts and income/expense transactions.

  • Collect receipts in standard sized envelopes at the front of your desk drawer. Label the envelopes “home”, “business”, and “taxes”. Empty the receipts from your wallet directly into these envelopes. “Taxes” is a catch all for random receipts (i.e. donations, medical visits). Alternatively, carry envelopes in your purse or car and merge them with the envelopes in your desk at the end of the week.

  • If you shop at the same stores for home and business, write “home” or “business” on the top of the receipt while paying at the store.

  • Flag transactions in your check register that you will need for your taxes by putting a note to the right of an entry indicating the category.

  • Add a file to your filing cabinet called “Taxes”. Use it as a catch all for miscellaneous items you receive during the year (i.e. donation receipts and thank you letters).

  • Mark tax-related transactions on your credit card or bank statements with highlighters. Create a legend to keep in your “Taxes” folder for use each year (i.e. Yellow=medical, Pink=car, Green=supplies expense). Remember to download credit card and bank statements monthly or quarterly, since some companies do not keep the records very long.

  • Use a spreadsheet and enter the information throughout the year. Create tabs that emulate the tax forms (i.e. “Schedule C Business Expenses”, “Form 8829 Business Use of Home”, “Schedule A – Donations”). Use the spreadsheet to keep track of your expenses, income, mileage, travel expenses, and other tax information unique to your business.

  • Keep tax information from prior years together in a box or a secondary filing cabinet. Thin your file drawer by removing statements you want to keep. Place them with a copy of your tax return and any supporting documents into an envelope or file folder. The large FedEx envelopes are useful for complex tax returns.
Elements of this system will be useful for most businesses. Evaluate it, implement the pieces that you like, and modify it to fit you. Re-evaluate your system at tax time. Make changes while they are fresh in your mind. Fine tune your system each year. With time, the voice will say “wow, taxes were a breeze this year”.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Digging Out - Organizing Your Financial Affairs

Tom Herman's article in the Wall Street Journal provides valuable information about organizing your financial affairs.