Thank you to Expertise.com for selecting me as one of the 19 Best Austin Home Organizers for the fourth year in a row. I am proud to be able to help people overcome the overwhelm from being disorganized. http://bit.ly/ExpertiseServices
Thank you to Expertise.com for selecting me as one of the 19 Best Austin Home Organizers for the fourth year in a row. I am proud to be able to help people overcome the overwhelm from being disorganized. http://bit.ly/ExpertiseServices
January is a great time to start clearing out your clutter. Paper clutter is a big issue for many people now is the time to go through your files and clear them out.
Suze Orman has a list of “Financial Clutter, What to Keep and What to Get Rid Of” to help you decide what to do. Then look at the dates below to plan when and where you are going to take your cleared papers to be shredded for free.
Keep till warranty expires or can no longer return or exchange:
Sales Receipts (Unless needed for tax purposes and then keep for 3 years)
What to keep for 1 month:
ATM Printouts (When you balance your checkbook each month throw out the ATM receipts)
What to keep for 1 year:
Paycheck Stubs (You can get rid of once you have compared your W2 & annual social security statement)
Utility Bills (You can throw out after one year, unless you’re using these as a deduction like a home office—then you need to keep them for 3 years after you’ve filed that tax return)
Cancelled Checks (Unless needed for tax purposes and then you need to keep for 3 years)
Credit Card Receipts (Unless needed for tax purposes and then you need to keep for 3 years)
Bank Statements (Unless needed for tax purposes and then you need to keep for 3 years)
Quarterly Investment Statements (Hold on to until you get your annual statement)
What to keep for 3 years:
Income Tax Returns (Please keep in mind that you can be audited by the IRS for no reason up to three years after you filed a tax return. If you omit 25% of your gross income that goes up to 6 years and if you don’t file a tax return at all, there is no statute of limitations.)
Medical Bills and Cancelled Insurance Policies
Records of Selling a House (Documentation for Capital Gains Tax)
Records of Selling Stock (Documentation for Capital Gains Tax)
Receipts, Cancelled Checks and other Documents that Support Income or a Deduction on your Tax Return (Keep 3 years from the date the return was filed or 2 years from the date the tax was paid—whichever is later)
Annual Investment Statement (Hold onto 3 years after you sell your investment)
What to keep for 7 years :
Records of Satisfied Loans
What to hold while active :
Records of Pensions and Retirement Plans
Property Tax Records Disputed Bills (Keep the bill until the dispute is resolved)
Home Improvement Records (Hold for at least 3 years after the due date for the tax return that includes the income or loss on the asset when it’s sold)
Keep Forever * These documents should be kept in a very safe place, like a safety deposit box. :
Records of Paid Mortgages
Here is a list of upcoming events in the Austin area to help you let go of unwanted and unneeded documents.
MARCH 02, 2019 10:00 AM10 AM – 12 PM or until the truck is full.
UFCU Shred Day
Criminals need very little information to steal identities and garbage cans offer an abundance of information from paperwork. Bring up to two file boxes of paper per household for free, confidential shredding. Commercial high-volume shredders, courtesy of Iron Mountain, will be on-site to shred your records. UFCU Asset Protection team members will also be available to answer your questions about identity theft or other fraud issues. Mark your calendars now!*
N Guadalupe Financial Center
4611 Guadalupe St
Austin, TX 78751-2908
APRIL 27, 2019 8 am- 1:30 pm
Austin ARMA’s 14th Annual Spring Shred Day
Location: Shred-It facility
4129 Commercial Center Drive
The Entrance for the event will be off of St. Elmo Road.
With the awareness of identity theft, it is important to carefully dispose of personal records including financial and medical. Austin ARMA, along with Shred-It, are sponsoring the 14th Annual Free Spring Shred Day.
Only dry paper packed in cardboard boxes no larger than 24X24X36” with fitting lids or securely closed box flaps will be accepted. Do not bring plastics of any kind, electronic media, batteries, or three ring binders. All shredded material is recycled.
Please do not arrive before 8am or you will be turned away until the event begins.
Monetary donations will be accepted with proceeds going evenly to the chapter and the Central Texas Food Bank.
For more information, please call and leave a message with the chapter at (512) 37-3347 for a return call.
Myself and some other organizers shared tips with Liz Wolf of Sparefoot Blog
It’s cold and you’re stuck inside anyway — why not declutter your kitchen? It’s also a good time for a quick cleaning and some reorganizing.
“Decluttering is more than just getting rid of stuff; it’s also keeping things in a way that helps keep you from having a cluttered mess again,” said Jennifer Lava, a professional organizer and productivity consultant in Austin, Texas.
“Start small, think big,” added Andrea Brundage, owner of Mesa, Phoenix-based Simple Organized Solutions. “Choose time-appropriate projects. Don’t try to organize your entire kitchen if you only have two hours available. Instead, choose smaller projects that you can start and finish in the time you have available.”
Looking for a jump start? Here are 10 items you can remove from your kitchen now.
Need a little more guidance? Keep reading for additional advice.
“Look through your pantry and refrigerator/freezer for old and expired food,” Lava said. “If you can’t remember when you bought it, let it go. Leftovers are only good for a week. Many of us have condiments and spices that are old and have lost their flavor.”
“Go through all of your canned foods and the extraction dates will be shocking,” said Danielle Wurth, owner of Wurth Organizing in Scottsdale, AZ. Most folks’ pantries, she said, have items that expired five to seven years ago.
While you are at it, throw out stained plastic containers or ones you can’t find matching lids. Clear old notes, magnets and pictures off of the refrigerator that no longer hold meaning or are tattered, Lava added.
Make a list of what you need to replace, if anything, added Julie Naylon, owner of No Wire Hangers in Los Angeles.
First things first, get rid of anything that doesn’t belong in the kitchen.
“If things just were set down on the counter on their way somewhere else, take it to the place it really belongs,” Lava said. That goes for your purse, kids’ backpacks, magazines, etc.
“Throw out old takeout menus,” Lava said. “Then organize the ones you’re keeping into folders or binders. Have a folder in a desktop organizer for each family member as central place for school notes and other important information. “
Next go after any appliances you don’t use on a regular basis.
“If you haven’t used a utensil or kitchen appliance in the past year, chances are you won’t,” Brundage said.
Donate those unused items or give them away to people you know could use them. Go through your pot and pan sets, too.
“Once you’ve gotten rid of the expired, gross, unused, duplicate things, it’s time to consider what you’re keeping and how you will store it,” Lava said.
Put items back in order of importance, Naylon added.
“Start with silverware and everyday glasses and plates,” she said. “Try to put them close to the dishwasher for easy unloading.”
Also, group food on your pantry shelf that go together.
“If you like making spaghetti, keep the pasta and sauce together on the shelf,” Lava said.
Make sure you have the right kind of storage. Lava suggested items like baskets, risers, turn-tables and drawer organizers.
“To help even more, label the containers and baskets, so everyone in the house knows where to put things, and you don’t have to think too hard about where they go either,” Lava added.Advertisement
Other organizers and I shared tips with Paige Smith of Sparefoot Blog.
When you’re a college student, moving home for the summer can be a major relief from the pressures of school. But a temporary move can also present logistical challenges when it comes to organizing and storing your belongings, especially if you attend school across the country.
The good news is that a little preparation goes a long way. Jennifer Lava, professional organizer and productivity consultant, says sorting and organizing your stuff at the start of summer makes the transition to fall semester that much easier.
Certified professional organizer Ellen Delap agrees: “It will save you time and money in the end,” she says. Here are six steps to decluttering, organizing, and storing your stuff over summer.
Before you go on a decluttering spree and potentially discard something you might need, it’s a good idea to square away the details of your accommodations for fall semester. Are you living in the same location, moving from a dorm to an apartment, or changing roommates?
These different factors will affect what you decide to get rid of and keep, as well as where you’ll store your things. Once you nail down the details and discuss plans with your roommates, make two lists: “Save” and “Donate.” The first list should include any household necessities you need for next year, like your desk or dishes. The other should list items you won’t need for next year, either because you no longer want them, you don’t have space for them, or your roommates already agreed to bring them.
After you set aside the main things you need for next year, start decluttering your closet, bathroom, and kitchen.
“There is no sense in moving or storing items you don’t need, use, or love,” Lava says.
Paring down your belongings will help streamline the packing, organizing, and unpacking processes.
“The simplest place to start is get rid of the trash first,” Lava says. “If it is broken, damaged, torn, or too old, let it go.”
From there, Lava recommends grouping similar items together and sorting through them one by one. Get rid of anything you don’t love or haven’t used in a year, including clothes, shoes, toiletries, textbooks, school supplies, and decor.
Gather up everything that didn’t make it into your “keep” pile, then set aside whatever is still in decent condition. If you want to sell some of your pricier possessions like furniture, appliances, sports gear, or textbooks, considering posting on your university Facebook group. For everything else, Delap recommends donating to local organizations or shelters.
Delap says it’s crucial to organize your stuff before you start loading up your luggage. Start by grouping things into categories, she says, like clothes, bedding, kitchen tools, and bathroom supplies.
Once you do this, you’ll be able to see exactly what you need — and don’t need — for the summer. Set aside only what you plan to use on a regular basis when you’re home — think: warm-weather clothes, tech devices, and toiletries — then pack those necessities into one or two suitcases. Everything you don’t need access to for the summer months, like textbooks and winter coats, can go into a series of labeled boxes.
To stay organized over the summer and set yourself up for success come fall, take an inventory of everything you have before you pack it.
“Don’t trust your memory,” Lava says. “Number your boxes and make a general list of what is in each one,” she adds.
Make sure you keep a copy of the list on your phone or computer so you have access to it over the summer. When you’re figuring out what items you need to purchase for the new school year, it’ll serve as a handy guide and reminder of what you already own.
Instead of carting home all your belongings just for the summer (and trying to clear space for them in a corner of the garage), Delap recommends using a local storage service. It’s a great option to safely house everything you don’t immediately need for the summer, like furniture, appliances, dishes, winter clothes, and sports gear.
Here’s the catch, though: you still have to declutter and organize your stuff before you store it. Otherwise, your storage unit will turn into purgatory for all the items you don’t know what to do with, but can’t bear to get rid of.
To keep yourself in check, Delap says, “Put in storage only what you will use next year.”
Check out tips from myself and other organizers written by Paige Smith for Sparefoot Blog.
Chances are good you’ve amassed a large collection of electronics and tech devices over the years. Everything from early 2000-era CDs to iPad chargers. Save for shoving these items in a drawer or cabinet, it can be tricky to know what to do with them.
Luckily, all it takes is some realistic planning and a couple hours of your time to save your desk drawers from total disarray. Here are seven strategies for decluttering, organizing, and storing your electronics and tech devices.
As with all successful organizing projects, it’s best to start by decluttering. Go through your desk drawers, media console, and storage cabinets to gather all your electronics and tech devices, including cords and accessories.
Jennifer Lava, a professional organizer and productivity consultant, suggests eliminating anything damaged or broken first, then getting rid of the old versions of your current devices, like your Bluetooth keyboard or iPhone 4. Do the same with other outdated electronics, like your chunky first iPod or sprawling collection of VHS tapes.
Next, get rid of anything you don’t enjoy or use regularly, Lava says, whether it’s an untouched e-reader or pile of empty flash drives. She adds that it’s also helpful to purge single-use devices — like a digital camera or mp3 player — if your phone or tablet has those same functions.
Tossing electronics in the garbage can be dangerous, and stashing them at the back of your closet only creates more clutter. That’s why Stephanie Shalofsky, an NYC-based professional organizer and organizing consultant, stresses the importance of creating a plan to safely and swiftly dispose of your unused stuff.
“For example, identify a charity or organization that provides phones to members of the military or abused women, and donate your old phone within a week of setting up the new one,” she says.
Another good option is to search for electronics recycling locations near you. Best Buy, according to its website, will happily take all your used tech, no matter where you bought it, how old it is, or who made it.
Shalofsky recommends designating a primary storage spot for your devices and their corresponding cords, like a closet shelf, cabinet, or desk drawer. When choosing the location, prioritize convenience and accessibility as much as possible. If you backup your computer twice a week, for example, it makes sense to store your backup device at your desk instead of the utility closet.
“In any case, there should be a finite amount of space devoted to this type of storage so that you limit the amount of unused or old equipment that can collect,” she explains.
Sort your electronics by category, like everyday necessities, computer equipment, household technology, travel devices, back-up materials, or miscellaneous items.
Next, match each device with its corresponding charger, cord, or accessory, suggests Shalofsky — this will help prevent clutter and ensure you always have the necessary equipment for your devices on hand.
From there, sort each category of stuff into its own container, and make sure to label each one, says Shalofsky. To keep things hyper-organized, put smaller items — like earphones, flash drives, or outlet adapters — into cloth drawstring bags with labels.
As for cords, there are plenty of clever tools to help keep them neat, but household items do the trick just as well.
“Even using something simple, like a twist-tie, can help keep them from getting tangled or damaged,” says Lava.
Storing your electronics the right way will help preserve their condition. Your devices “need to be stored in a dry environment, out of direct sunlight, and away from excessive heat,” Lava says.
It’s also a good idea to remove potentially hazardous items like batteries and ink cartridges from their devices, she adds. These parts can be a fire hazard or cause spillage and permanent damage if they’re stored at the wrong temperature.
There are certain tools you’ll reach for once a month and others you might need access to throughout the day, like your tablet or phone. For everyday necessities like these, Lava recommends setting up a couple designated charging stations around your house so you don’t have to drag your cords and chargers with you from room to room.
You can use a stylish charging dock or wall-mounted phone holder, or opt for a simple tray on your countertop or desktop to corral your devices. This storage strategy will help keep your devices protected and make it easier to find what you’re looking for, Lava says.
After you’ve finished organizing your electronics, Shalofsky recommends creating an inventory list of all your equipment and various gadgets. Use the same categories you used when organizing, and make sure to include important details if you can, like the model number, serial number, or date of purchase.
“This list should be updated on an annual basis and can prove valuable from an insurance perspective should the need arise,” she explains.
Here are some tips for creating your home work-space from myself and some of my organizing colleagues. Written by Paige Smith for Sparefoot Blog.
One of the keys to successfully working at home — aside from self-discipline and a strong Wi-Fi connection — is having a comfortable, convenient workspace. And no, the couch doesn’t count.
Follow these six tips to create a home workspace that’ll make you happier and more productive.
Before you choose a workspace, consider the type of work you’ll be doing, says Certified Professional Organizer Ellen Delap. Are you sketching, building spreadsheets, handling clerical tasks, or taking business calls?
Once you answer that question, think about the materials and storage space necessary to do your work efficiently, Delap says. If you’re a graphic designer, you might want a desktop monitor so you can build templates with more ease and speed. Or, if you’re running a business, a dual copier-printer might prove necessary.
“It’s easy to jump from spot to spot at home and get distracted by counter clutter, home responsibilities, and not feeling in the mood to work,” says Delap. That’s why establishing a dedicated work area is crucial to your success.
When creating your workspace, consider what type of environment you operate best in. Do you need total privacy, a little background noise, or easy access to the kitchen for coffee refills?
Delap says it’s also a good idea to “define what derails you,” so you can eliminate distractions. Is it the growing pile of dishes in the sink, for example, the street noise below your bedroom, or the appeal of the TV? Understanding what facilitates and hinders your work will help you identify the best place to set up shop.
Above all, professional organizer and productivity consultant Jennifer Lava says it’s important to settle on a place you enjoy spending time in.
“If it is pleasant and comfortable, you will be more likely to sit and work in that location,” she says.
If you don’t have a spare room to transform into a home office — or even space for a full desk — get creative. Delap recommends using an old armoire as a makeshift office. “When it’s open you are at work, [and] when it’s closed you enjoy an organized, attractive space for other uses,” she explains.
You could also use a rolling file cart to store your laptop, papers, and other work materials, Lava says. Simply wheel it to your dining table or kitchen counter and you have a mobile office.
“When you are done working it can be rolled into a closet or corner out of the way,” she explains.
Even if most of your work is online, Delap says it’s still a good idea to have a limited amount of storage space for papers that inevitably pile up and crowd your work area. Think: tax documents, pay stubs, bank statements, and bills.
If you have ample shelving or drawer space, opt for file boxes or stylish baskets. For papers you need to have on hand throughout the day, use a desktop file sorter. Make sure you label your files and file boxes neatly and clearly, Lava says; this will make it easier to locate what you need and help you stay organized when new papers pile up.
Turn your work area into a place you love.
“If it is a room, consider painting it a color you like and make sure there is good lighting,” says Lava.
You should also invest in a supportive, ergonomically correct chair and position your computer to eye-level, Lava suggests.
Other options: brighten your space with greenery, hang a favorite piece of art, set up speakers, or bring in a fan or small space heater. As Delap says, your work area sets the mood for getting things done, so you want to make it a comfortable, inspiring space.
For a clean, uncluttered workspace, Delap suggests limiting framed photos and knick-knacks.
She also recommends corralling loose wires, cords, and tech devices into a “technology box” for easy access, and setting up a drop zone for papers you need to file. A discreet wall pocket or hanging file holder will keep your desk clear.
It is a great time to clear out things you don’t want or shouldn’t keep any longer. There are two important events on Saturday, April 28th.
Nation-wide you can participate in the National Prescription Take-Back Day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Follow this link to find locations near you: http://bit.ly/2ev8CLN This is an opportunity for people to dispose of prescription drugs that they no longer use safely.
Protect your identity by carefully disposing of personal records, including financial and medical records.
In the Austin, Texas area you can participate in Austin ARMA’s Free Shred Day from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. (or until the trucks are full) at ACC Highland Campus, 523 E. Highland Mall Blvd.
Dry paper of any color is the only accepted material. All paper should be in cardboard boxes with lids or flaps that close. This will ensure no documents will get dropped or carried off by the wind, keeping your information protected. DO NOT TAPE THE BOX CLOSED. We cannot accept paper in plastic bags or leaf bags. You can use any cardboard box with a fitting lid that is not larger than 24” x 24” x 36”. We have to ensure the volunteers can pick the boxes up. We also cannot accept flimsy boxes that may fall apart if picked up.
Please do not bring plastics, wet paper, clothes, electronics, metal, three-ring binders, wood, binder clips, rubber bands or anything else that is not dry paper.
Here is a Guide to Person Records Retention from ARMA to help you decide what you may let go of. http://bit.ly/2qn89Sy
For more details go to http://www.austinarma.com/shred-day
There’s no better time of year to get your house in order than the spring, but decluttering and getting organized can seem like a daunting task. As president of the Austin chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers, Jennifer Lava has been helping people get their spaces into shape for nine years. “Organizers are a lot like personal trainers,” she says. “We’re personal trainers for your stuff.” We asked Lava for her top tips for effective reorganization.
Determining what stays or goes is the first step in Lava’s organization process—and it’s often the slowest step because of people’s emotional attachment to their belongings. Ask yourself this: Do you need it, use it or love it? “If it’s one of those,” she says, “you can keep it.” And don’t let the high amount of money you spent on something be a reason to keep it. “You have to ask yourself, is it enhancing my life?” she says.
There’s a liberating feeling that comes with getting rid of things, but not everything you purge should go to the trash can or recycling bin. You have two choices:
The most common problem area that Lava sees with clients is excessive mail. She recommends downloading the app PaperKarma, which helps users remove themselves from unwanted mailing lists. Lava also suggests signing up to pay bills online. “Anything you can do to opt out of receiving the mail in the first place is good,” she says. Not to mention eco-friendly.
Now that you’ve pared down your stuff, the key to smart organization is utilizing storage as well as walls, doors and vertical space. Here are six items that can help:
Just like someone who has lost a bunch of weight must work hard to keep it off, people who have purged their junk must be vigilant about keeping unwanted items and clutter out of their home. Says Lava: “You have to think really hard about, What am I going to allow in my house? And if I do bring something new in, where is it going to go? And does something else need to leave?” Consider tossing out one old thing every time you buy something new. Upkeep is essential.
Make the most of your space at home with helpful advice and organization tips from an expert. (ME!)
The spring season is the perfect time of year to clean out the old and bring in the new. Traditionally, this spring cleaning heralds in a fresh start, when people purge their homes of the dust and clutter of the winter. However, many find it a difficult task and have trouble knowing where to begin.
As a professional organizer, one of the classic problems I come across when assisting my clients is the feeling of being overwhelmed. They don’t know where to begin — instead of dividing things up into small tasks, the client only sees the big, messy picture, which can be discouraging. This leads to delayed decision-making due to frustration.
The very first thing I tell my clients when tackling a project of any size is to let stuff go. Before you can decide where to put items, you have to decide if you need it, can use it or love it. Ifyou can’t say yes to any of these parameters, then it needs to leave. Leaving doesn’t necessarily mean being thrown out — this can mean being donated, returned to the person it belongs to or recycled. Most importantly, you just need to examine what you really need to keep. That’s the essential first step.
After losing what is unnecessary, you must designate homes for the things you wish to keep. Knowing they have a place to go once they are no longer in use puts the mind at ease. Also, it’s essential to stay disciplined in returning things to where they belong. The same thing applies to new items or purchases that you bring in to your home or workspace — it’s imperative to have a system in place for when something new comes in. Having a fluid routine when clearing things out is just as important as bringing in your new additions.
Continuing to remain organized is a two-part process: First, practice returning items to their respectful homes. For example, keep a bowl or basket on the coffee table or side table for remote controls. Once you finish watching TV, train yourself to place the remotes back in their home so that, in the future, everyone will know where they are. Secondly, practice elimination. When you don’t need it, let it go. These simple yet effective steps can ensure continued organization once the initial purge is over.
One of the things people don’t think about often is vertical space. Picture a coat closet: You have the empty space on the floor, a rack for coats and usually a shelf above for storage. The trick is utilizing all the available space, yet keeping it tidy. Place bins and boxes on the floor, stacked neatly out of the way, yet where you can still see everything. Adding another shelf to the closet can also help create an extra level of organization — otherwise that three feet of space above your coats is wasted.
Desks and offices are also oftentimes cluttered. To some extent you have another opportunity to use vertical space to your advantage. Get stacking trays, vertical file holders and bins to hold papers and other documents. This keeps them out of the way, but readily available when the need for them arises. The footprint on your desk isn’t very large, but vertical file holders allow you to see everything without them being spread out on your workspace.
If my client has children, I always tell them to do anything they can to make it easy for the children to clean up. Something as simple as a basket without a lid works wonders — a lot of the time a lid acts as a barrier that prevents them from putting their toys away. I also recommend medium-sized toy boxes; large toy boxes tend to eat little knickknacks, making it impossible to find the toys on the bottom without emptying the large box.
Being organized can really make things a lot easier and more pleasant, not just emotionally and physically, but financially as well. If you can’t use all the rooms in your house to the fullest, you are essentially losing money on your home. If you can’t park in the garage due to clutter, then you risk damage to your car from the elements. A study done by the University of California-Los Angeles concluded that three out of four American families can’t park their cars in the garage due to clutter. That’s losing money, and can also create a dangerous fire hazard, as a potential escape route is taken up by mess.
Above all, organization can help you enjoy your space safely. From staying organized in the kitchen with turntables under cabinets to installing racks in your garage, a clean, organized home turns dead space into a useful place. You want to enjoy everything you have, and everything you’ve bought.
The Austin American Statesman published an article on December 20, 2014 discussing decorating for the holidays. It includes a part from my about what to do with your decorations after the holidays. Article – Ready, set, decorate!