Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Paper Management - Part 2: Filing

Try as hard as we can, we still have a lot of paper that comes into our homes. If we are not vigilant, it will stack up on our counters, tables, and desks. It will add clutter to our lives and it will be hard to locate that paper that is really important (I know my license renewal paperwork is in here somewhere).

Having a filing system that works for you is key to keeping those surfaces uncluttered.

Let's start with setting up a desktop file or action file. This is where most of the current incoming paperwork will probably land. The concept is that each piece of paper requires an action even if that action is to throw it away. Your files will separate the papers by the action required. Likely file headings are "Pay", " Do", "Contact", "Pending", "Read", "File". If you take all the paper that has come in this week, it should fit into one of the files. If you have something that does not fit there, ask yourself, "What action is necessary?" and make another file. The goal is to have no loose papers on any surfaces.

I usually have some projects that I am working on. These generate paper. I may have some research, a draft, or ideas for the projects. I use project bins for this type of paper. When I am working on the project, I pull out the papers and when my work time is up, I shove the papers back into the bin.

Then there are the other bits of paper we might keep that don't fit into those categories. I have envelopes in my desk drawer for receipts that I need to keep. I have a plastic envelope in the kitchen for coupons I might use. I have files near my cookbooks for recipes. I have some files in my bookcase for special interests (exercise, landscaping, decorating).

I also have a file where I store all house related information, warranties and directions for household items.

Then we also have our permanent basic files where we keep our financial papers, insurance, vital records, medical records, tax papers and so forth. We also have files for archival papers such as past taxes, old property sales, bank records, military paperwork, or any paperwork that we rarely need but want to find if necessary. Archival files do not have to be handy so they can be stored in the top of a closet or in the attic.

The purpose of files is to keep paper from stacking up and to make paperwork easy to locate. The files should be easy to use and access or you will find yourself laying down that paper "just for now."

Start with your most recent stacks of paper and see what action you need to take. Soon you will enjoy your open spaces on your surfaces that were once covered in paper.




Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Paper Management - Part 1: Reduce the Influx

The influx of paper into our homes on a daily basis can be overwhelming. We get more mail in a single day than our grandparents got in an entire year! If you hold on to even half of it, you have the makings of a serious paper crisis on your hands.

And paper comes to us in even more ways than through the mail. There are the papers you bring home from the doctor's office, from your church, from meetings, or school. There are ads you pick up and receipts you bring home. There are magazines and promotion material and business cards. If you live anywhere long enough, these items can really pile up.

How can we control this avalanche of paper?
  1. Mail - reduce your junk mail     
  • http://www.directmail.com/mail_preference/
  • https://thedma.org/resources/consumer-resources/ - started in 1917, the Direct Marketing Association has made it possible to opt-out of mailing lists through its Mail Preference Service
  • www.Catalogchoice.org - a free service that sends merchants your catalog opt-out request on your behalf
  • www.optoutprescreen.com - to keep your name off prescreened lists which will cut down on credit card offers
  • https://www.charitynavigator.org/ - will help you evaluate charities and when combined with Direct Marketing Association can help you opt out of getting some of the donation solicitations 
We enjoy some of the mail that comes in like letters and cards and perhaps some of those catalogs. But enjoy them and then let them move on. Of course, some cards and letters you may wish to keep, so place them in your memorabilia box but don't keep them all. I have seen clients with trunks and dressers filled with old cards, many of them with no special notes but just a signature.

Some bills will come in and those you must deal with but consider paying on line and after paying a bill, decide if you really need to keep the bill.

   2. Items you pick up and bring home - do you really need it and what do you plan to do with it?
  • Recipes - I strongly suggest that if you bring a recipe home, you try it out within a week to see if it is worth filing away
  • Coupons - know yourself - are these coupons you will really use and how do you plan to keep up with them? - each time you look through your coupons, discard any that have expired
  • Special interest material - if you are collecting information on interests like health, home decorating, landscaping, or vacations - plan a special place to store them and at least once a year look through what you have saved and purge the ones you no longer need
  • Receipts - know why you have kept them - if it is something you plan to return, keep it with the item - is it for something you will get reimbursed for? A charge you want to keep until you reconcile your charge statement? A business expense? A large purchase for your home? Have a plan for storing those you feel you need to keep and let the rest go.
  • Business cards - let go immediately the ones you no longer want - pull information from others by scanning or entering the information into your phone
  • Magazines - read them within the month and let them go - if you can't find time to read them, stop getting them
  • Computer print outs - read them and then decide what action needs to happen - then either do the action or let the print out go
Bottom line - a lot of the paper clutter we have lying around is there because we have not taken the time to decide on what to do with it. It is a deferred decision. Don't let any of this junk paper linger. It will make it so much easier to find the papers that are really important if the unimportant is gone.



Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Priorities - Friends and Family

Our lives are busy, and it is so easy to get caught up in the day to day business and forget to carve out time for the things that are important to us.

For me, family and friends rank right up on the top. I schedule times to visit my children and my siblings. I schedule time to visit with friends. Probably not enough but I do make a regular effort.

This past weekend we really got it together and had an 80th birthday party for my husband, Rob. His family pulled out the stops and came from as far away as Texas. Both of his sons and his step-daughter plus many grandchildren attended. A lot of Rob's friends also attended including one couple who came all the way from Ohio for his party! This get-together took a lot of effort for a lot of people but was so worth it. It was a good reminder that taking time to keep strong relationships with our family and friends really pays off.


Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Organizing Tips for Your Laundry Zone


Laundry zones can be large (a big space in the basement or a room off the kitchen) or small (fold-out doors covering a washer/dryer combo in a closet size area) or somewhere in-between. Depending on the size of the laundry zone, this area may have other functions besides doing the wash. If there is room, it makes sense to store ironing supplies in this location. My area is large enough to store those ironing supplies plus pet supplies, recycling bins, cleaning supplies, and some oversized party supplies along with the laundry necessities.

The first step to organizing this zone is to develop your vision. How do you plan on using this area? What is working and not working now? How do you want it to look? How to you want to feel when you are in this zone?

Keeping up with the laundry becomes less of a chore with a well-organized space and a plan for keeping on top of the never-ending influx of dirty clothes. The idea is to keep the laundry moving and never piling up.

Next, brainstorm a list of tasks you need to accomplish for your laundry zone to match up with your vision. Because my zone is roomy and near the back entry, it is easy to drop something in that room "just for now" because I don't want to take the time to put the item where it really belongs. Now is the time to remove all items that don't belong - that don't fit the vision. Also, on my list I plan to cull out cleaning and laundry products that are stored there. Products that sounded so promising (will get rid of any stain) or "green" (got rid of no stains) or products that have a nasty chemical smell or items that are duplicates should now all leave. These all add up to clutter. I have a space here for ironing and mending. I should not have my Christmas table cloth in the ironing bin in August and it is definitely time to schedule time to mend the waist band of that pair of black pants that has lingered in the mending area for almost a year.

Once your list is complete, get out your calendar and schedule a time for each task. Mark in your calendar what day you plan to pull out the washer and dryer and clean behind them. When are you clearing everything off the floor and cleaning it? Keeping up with the laundry is less of a chore with a well-organized space. An added bonus is that having an organized space makes it easier for family members to participate in doing laundry.

Work on a maintenance schedule. This room gets used a lot so have a scheduled time to bring out form hampers the dirty clothes and do your laundry. Get clothes from the washer to the dryer or hanging racks as quickly as possible. As soon as clothes are dry, get them back to their "home". Having different colored baskets for each member of the family is helpful. As you pull clothes out of the dryer, put them into the correct basket and take them to the proper room.

Having this zone organized may not make you love to do laundry, but it will certainly make it less of a chore.


Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Closing the Loop - Completing the Task

A lot of clutter in your environment may well come from not completing tasks.

When you work on any project, you want to see the job completed and then put away.

Marilyn Paul in her book, It's Hard to Make a Difference When You Can't Find Your Keys, talks about the rhythm of organizing. This rhythm is cyclic. With any task you first get ready for action, you then take the action, this causes a natural disorder, and then you need to restore order. Many people do not do that final step and so have a series of natural disorders building up in their environment.

I come into homes and see piles of laundry both clean and dirty. Those piles are there because tasks were not completed. Dirty clothes are washed, dried, and maybe even folded but the final step of putting the clothes away is not done in a timely manner and so a bit of clutter begins to accumulate. Or a person has a closet with clean clothes and they dress for the day. The clothes get dirty. They may make it into a hamper at the end of the day but then the dirty clothes pile up and cause clutter.

I love to cook and prepare meals from scratch. I am good about getting out the materials and prepping the food and cooking it. What I am not so good at is immediately cleaning up from my cooking mess. I will do it (if my husband doesn't do it first), but not immediately. So for a while there is clutter in my kitchen.

The same holds true for paper tasks. You pull out your bills or a bank statement or a project you are developing. You complete the task or at least complete a part of it but then you push the paper aside and leave it out on your work area. Now your desk is cluttered and it is harder to do the next task.

I put the challenge out to you. Look around your home and see some hot spots where clutter is building up. Could this clutter be there just because you did not complete a task? The trick to controlling this clutter is to complete each task before beginning another one.


Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer