Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Paper Management - Now Where Is That Stuff I Need For Taxes?

If you are like many of us, you are just now getting around to panicking about if you have all that you need for taxes - and where those papers might be.

What do you need and not need is always a question. I suggest first looking at your last year's return to see what you needed then.

Probably Needs:
1. income documents (W-2 and 1099 forms)
2. expense documents
3. documents for any additional income like rental income or alimony
4. cancelled checks, receipts, or a spread sheet for additional expenses - this would include gifts to charity and medical expenses
5. If you paid estimated taxes, a summary of estimated payments and cancelled checks

Dont' Need:
1. receipts for prescription drugs - instead go to your pharmacy and ask for your 2012 printout
2. receipts that are not tax related - like for snacks or groceries

Now, where is all this stuff?

I recommend having a hanging file at the back of your active file cabinet and labeling it taxes. Every time you receive a tax related paper - tax on car or house, donations, professional membership fees, bank fees - drop it into that folder. Don't take time to sort by category when the paper comes in - just immediately drop it into that tax folder. When tax time comes, pull out your folder; look at last year's tax preparation and check off what you have.

For receipt documentation, keep the receipts in envelopes by month. I also suggest you enter the amounts into QuickBooks or a spread sheet every week. At the end of the year, total up from the spreadsheet and then put the receipts into a large manila envelope. Label this envelope with the year. Since most accountants agree that you need to save the documentation and receipts for 7 years, each year when you archive the past tax papers, shred the receipts that are in the envelope for 8 years ago.

If you keep car mileage for your business, place a  car mileage book in the car. At the end of the year, tear out the sheets for the past year and total the amount that was logged. Drop the mileage log into the same Manila envelope as the receipts.

Preparing the tax papers for your CPA will still not be fun, but at least the process will not be stressful and panicky.

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Old Cards: Keep? Recycle? Trash?

Another card exchange holiday has just passed. You have enjoyed the cards and now what?

Do you keep them all? If so, where do you put them? If you keep all of your cards, how many would that be by the time you are 70?

If you recycle them, do you just drop them into the recycle bin or do you put them aside for art projects? Do you take some to schools or assisted living homes for projects? Or do you set them aside and plan someday to take them somewhere for someone to use them?

Dare you just trash them? Is that disrespectful to the person who gave you the card?

Perhaps you do a combination of the above. I like to keep a very few cards that have very special meaning and a special handwritten note inside. These I look at probably once a year. Then after a few years, even some of these cards are released. The keeper cards are kept in a memorabilia box.

I have in the past recycled some cards when it was easy to pass them on to a group who would use them. Now, I  have to be honest with myself. I would probably have those cards lying around for a very long time before getting them somewhere for someone else to use. I will put all of the cards I don't plan on keeping that are recyclable into the recycle bin and the rest into the trash. Getting rid of them does not mean that I did not enjoy them or receive pleasure from receiving them from someone special to me.

I look at most cards like flowers. They brighten my life for a week or two and then I move them on.

Letting go of items that take up space in my home and live, opens my life for more happy memories (and cards) down the road.

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Organizing Through Transisitions

Transitions change our lives. Birth/death, marriage/divorce, lost job/new job, children move out/aging parent moves in, moving, and downsizing are all transitions that pivot our lives. Our priorities may shift. Our schedules and routines may no longer work well. Adjustments need to be made.

When transitions happen, you have to make some decisions. What are your current goals? What is your vision for this point in time? What schedules and routines still do work and what ones are no longer viable?

Now it is especially important to organize time and space for self care. You may not be able to do as much as before but daily find some time to care for yourself - even if it is no more than walking the dog or taking time for a cup of tea and a magazine. Find small ways to care for yourself and time to work on your vision.

Figure out what is core. What do you love and what do you need in your environment? What do you have that is no longer supporting you and your vision? Let go in order to make room for new ideas and needs.

If you are now living with someone new, decide together what is important to organize and what is good enough for now. Recognize that each of you have come with different standards and routines. Try to develop a system that will work for both of you.

If you have systems in place that are working - at least somewhat - keep those intact. Keep things as simple as possible. Keep on top of the most critical items and let less important tasks slide for a while. No one cares about clearing out that closet now. Ask for help when you need it.

Accept and perhaps embrace change. Organizing your time and space gives you a feeling of having some control during the changing time.

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Organizing the Spare Bedroom Zone

During the month of February I tackle my Spare Bedroom Zone. Spare bedrooms often have several functions. My spare bedroom is for storage and a place for guests to stay. I store off season and less frequently used clothes, wrapping paper, gifts, memorabilia, less used office files and extra office supplies.

I want this zone to look open and inviting to my guests. I also want all of my storage items easy to locate. Much of this room is an extension of my office. This means that all storage must be in closets or in drawers and labeled.

When I moved into this 1950s house, I had extra closets built in this room. For the past few years I have upgraded each closet with Elfa shelving to maximise the use of this space.

Every January I organize my office and pull out all files that are not current. These end up temporarily on the bed in the spare bedroom. Now, I have to find homes for all of these files. Since I have been doing this for 7 years, the shelves I installed are full. This means I have to purge some items and delegate one box of archival files to the attic.

I also accumulated some more clothes this year and my zone allotted for clothes is too crowded. I have an appointment with Carmen@NakedFashionHelp.com to help me decide which articles of clothing really flatter me and make me feel special. The rest of the clothing will be donated. That will leave some breathing room in this zone.

By the end of the month, I will have this Spare Bedroom Zone the way I want it to look and feel for another year. For help setting up your zones, purchase my workbook - From Vision to Victory: A Workbook For Finding a Simple Path to an Organized Home. http://www.timespaceorg.com/order_book.php

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer