Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Organizing: When Slow and Deliberate is Better Than Fast and Simple

As organizers we love to go into an unorganized area and within hours have it looking pretty good. We love those before/after shots and love the look of adoration on our clients' faces.

But hang on. If we always strive to work in this style, the look we may see is utter panic and loathing instead of adoration. Some of our clients simply cannot handle a quick clearing of spaces. The client might have OCD, Hoarding tendencies, PTSD, TBI, Depression, or just not ready for this. The removal of items, the opening of spaces, and even the clearing of a table top or a chair can cause physical and mental reactions. A panic attack might occur.

When working with clients, keep the conversation open. Listen, Listen carefully. Look at body language. Remind the client that they can take a break at any time. It's OK to stop for a cup of tea or a glass of water and just talk.

If you suspect there is a fear of open areas, go slowly. It a table is piled high with papers, trinkets, and other objects, start to remove some of them so that you can make a sort. Talk about this as you work.
"Let's put all the coins in this jar. OK?
Let's stack all the notepaper together. OK?
Let's put all the pens in this jar. OK?'

Some items can probably move somewhere else. Discuss the purpose of the table. Then return all items that belong back to that table. The table will probably be covered but like items are together and not stacked up as much as before. Then check to see if this is OK.

The same goes for cleaning the floor. When a space is cleared, you might decide to leave a small stack of empty boxes there for a while until the client gets used to the open space.

I had a client tell me,  "I think of it as like climbing Mount Everest. We first go to the base camp and get used to the atmosphere there before we move on up". The same client said earlier, "I must think of this as a marathon, not a sprint".

Expect backsliding. Think of it as a dance. Two steps forward and then one back or to the side.

Keep discussing with the client her vision for the space. They may think at some point that the area is now complete while you think a lot more could be done to improve it. Stop. The area is now complete. Move on or just stop and keep in touch.

We may feel that we are using too much time and resources of our client by working slowly, but if steady progress is being made and the client is feeling good about the project, we are doing our job well. Slow and steady wins the race.

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Tax Preparation

It's approaching tax time. The tax forms are already coming in the mail. If you have not already done so, set up a tax folder to hold all the tax related papers. I keep a tax folder in my file drawer all year round so that when documentation of contributions are sent, I drop them right into this folder.

I also have filed nearby last year's tax folder. When I think everything has come in, I use last year's folder to see what was recorded last year. Many CPAs also send out a worksheet.

Watch the mail for your tax forms. W-2s, 1099s, 1098s, and the fairly new 1095-As will start rolling in.

Collect any receipts that you will use to document deductions. I keep these in monthly envelopes all year, so it is relatively easy to pull these.

Also look for:
  • any other forms that disclose possible income (jury duty, unemployment, IRA distributions, etc.)
  • business K-1 forms
  • social security records
  • mortgage interest statements
  • tuition paid statements
  • property tax statements
  • mileage log 
  • medical, dental, and vision expenses
  • business expenses
  • records of any asset purchases and sales
  • health insurance records (including Medicare, Medicaid, and long term health)
  • charitable receipts and documentation
  • bank and investment statements
  • credit card statements
  • records of any out of state purchases that may require use tax
  • records of any estimated tax payments
  • home sales records
  • educational expenses (including student loan interest expense)
  • casualty and theft loss documentation
  • moving expenses
  • contribution records
Income from out of the country will not have a form so you just need to document this if it applies to you.

If you are not sure if something is important for tax purposes, retain the documentation. It is better to save unnecessary documentation than to later wish you had it.

Coordinate your deductions. If you and someone else share a dependent, confirm you are both on the same page as to who will claim the dependent. This would include single taxpayers, divorced taxpayers, taxpayers with elderly parents/grandparents, and parents with older children.

At this point in time, just put everything you find into your tax folder. as you start to prepare your paperwork for your CPA or yourself, pull out last year's tax form to match the items with what you had last year.

Now, set a date on your calendar to actually do the work of adding up your contributions, adding up your mileage, and putting all paperwork in the proper order. Allow more time than you think you'll need. The sooner you can get this done, the sooner you can breathe that big sigh of relief that this huge task is done for another year.

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Office Zone

Every year I make a plan for touching everything in my home. This helps me remember what I have and helps  me to purge items I no longer need or love.

I always start the year in my office.

After a year, my office begins to feel overfull and not well organized. Files are stuffed and new things have come into the office by way of gifts or books.

My vision for my office is to have an area where I work that is attractive and welcoming. I want to feel in control and happy when in my office. I want space to work on a project without the distractions of unfinished work yelling at me.

Now is the logical time to organize and clear out files, drawers, bookshelves and project bins to allow for new projects and growth. I will take the entire month of January to get this space back in line with my vision.

I look around and decide what is bugging me. I see things like too much clutter on my desktop and items rather randomly stacked in my credenza. My couch has become an easy place to drop items.

I start with my desktop and the drawers in my desk. Then I move to the file cabinet that abuts my desk. Files are pulled and taken to the closet in the guest bedroom. Tax papers are pulled together.

Next I will work on the bookcase that is right behind me and the credenza where action files and project bins are stored. I know that some projects are completed but paperwork still lingers. I need to empty these bins for new projects I am working on or plan to work. I will then clean the meeting area of my office and find a better routine for items that get dumped there.

Finally I will work on some files and notebooks that are stored in my laundry room but are part of my office management.

By the end of the month, I will call whatever has been accomplished "good enough" and move on to the next zone. I will schedule regular daily maintenance chores (clear the desk and couch) and weekly maintenance (check action folders and clean room). The office will not need a real zone maintenance until next January. I always celebrate by buying fresh flowers for my office.

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer