Menu plan Monday ~ November 10

So, I realize it’s Tuesday and I’m a day late, but I was playing mad catch-up yesterday at Panera Bread using their free Wifi because our internet was down for six days, and I didn’t get around to posting this!  Anyway, here’s the MPM post of the week, hosted by Laura at I’m an Organizing Junkie.

Monday (last night): leftover macaroni and cheese with sausage (defrosted from a meal a couple of months ago), garlic salad

Tuesday: shrimp tacos with citrus cilantro cabbage, cilantro-lime rice (new recipe I’m trying from a past Real Simple magazine ~ I’ve had it in my recipe file forever and am super excited to try it!)

Wednesday: slow cooker barbecue beef sandwiches from Dream Dinners, baked beans

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: takeout

Saturday: steaks, baked potatoes, garlic salad

Sunday: leftovers

Don’t forget to head on over to Laura’s MPM post from yesterday and post your own meal plan!

Keep it simple ~

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Menu plan Monday ~ November 2

What’s on your menu this week?  MPM is hosted by Laura over at I’m an Organizing Junkie ~ get yourself over to her MPM post and link your menu planning post to hers using her Mr. Linky feature.  Good luck with your planning this week!

Here’s mine.  Disclaimer: this is one of the least exciting weeks in recent memory.  The hubs is going out-of-town from Wednesday through Sunday, so the menu is pretty simple this week.

Monday (tonight): Arroz con pollo from Dream Dinners, rice, some sort of vegetable from the freezer (I’m not as good as planning out side dishes).

Tuesday: I’m going out for pizza with friends; the hubs will have leftovers.

Wednesday: hubs out-of-town; I’m going out again for Mexican with the boo (my sweet 20-month old daughter) and my moms’ group friends.

Thursday: hubs out-of-town; Chipotle Chicken Ravioli from the freezer (a Dream Dinners meal) and a garlic salad.

Friday: hubs out-of-town; most likely takeout ~ Friday is always takeout night.  Maybe just leftovers though since I’m going out twice this week.

Saturday: the boo and I leave to meet the hubs at my in-laws’, so dinner will be there.

Sunday: probably leftovers again; maybe I’ll make some turkey burgers with meat from the freezer.

A totally and utterly inspiration-less week!  Oh well, next week will be better.

To whet your appetite, I’m going to give you a sneak “peek” at my next blog post by telling you this ~ if the holiday season always has you stressed out before it even begins, you need to pay attention to my holiday organizing series coming up soon!  I know Halloween has just ended and Christmas is almost two months away, but NOW is the time to get started.  Check back soon for more details…

Keep it simple ~

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Throwing out something I shouldn’t have

Sigh.  I am kicking myself for actually throwing something OUT!  I follow the tossing-out philosophy pretty easily.  If I see something that we haven’t used in a while and there’s no true immediate need for it in the future, out it goes.  I probably over-toss, but I HATE clutter and keeping things that we don’t need or that I don’t like.  Or that make my life harder.

But yesterday, in reading Laura’s blog over at I’m an Organizing Junkie (can you tell I love her blog?), I saw this post about car organization and how she organizes her baby’s toys and other paraphernalia that are scattered around her car.  I have that problem in my car with a 20-month old flinging toys, sippy cups, and snacks all over the place, and I’ve been debating about what type of container to buy (we’re on a tight budget, so I really have to think about purchases like these).  Anyway, Laura had a picture of the PERFECT container that is open-top that she puts in front of her child’s carseat that is a catchall for the kid’s things, and I realized I had the EXACT SAME container in my garage!!

Or, not.  Nope.  In my haste to get rid of things we don’t use often or at all, I had purged my storage closet of that very container mere months ago.  We originally bought it to use for barbecues as a drink holder/ice chest.  Well, we only used it a couple of times and then it sat in our storage closet for a couple of years.  I moved it out to the garage but finally realized we weren’t going to use it again for its intended purpose, so off it went to Goodwill.

I didn’t even think to consider it for use somewhere else!  Usually, if I free up a storage container, it goes straight into my storage closet to be repurposed for another use, but since this one was bought for a very specific original purpose, I didn’t even think of its alternative uses.  And now I’m kicking myself because it would have been perfect for baby toy organization in my car.

Sigh, again.  Lesson learned!  And for you readers, the lesson to you is to think long and hard about what purpose something that you’re considering getting rid of could have.  This doesn’t give you license to keep any and everything just because you might use it one day, but think about whether an item can be repurposed in your house in a useful manner!

Keep it simple ~

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Menu planning!

Let’s discuss Menu Plan Monday, hosted by Laura over at I’m an Organizing Junkie (one of my favorite websites to peruse for organizing ideas and other fun stuff!).  I am a HUGE believer in menu planning ~ it saves you time, money, and the headache of coming home from work or being exhausted after a long day of taking care of the kids and house and having to decide what to make for dinner every single night.  What a pain!  Each week, I plan on participating in MPM, and I hope you will, too!

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I’ve been menu planning for as long as we’ve been married, and it has helped cut down our stress level related to food and meal preparation.  I have a collection of great cookbooks that I refer to over and over again, but I keep my cookbook shelf in my pantry VERY small because I tend to get overwhelmed by too many choices!  My cookbooks consist generally of recipes and collections that are simple and don’t require a ton of weird or hard-to-find ingredients ~ let’s face it, I’m a mom and a small business owner and I simply don’t have a lot of time or money to deal with ingredients that I’m only going to use once!

This is my menu-planning process:

1.  Every Sunday, I go to the pantry and pick out a couple of cookbooks to sift through (or, I look at some message boards I participate in online and see what other people are cooking ~ I’ve gotten great recipes by doing this!).  I also grab a menu planning worksheet that I created, and my grocery list template (also created by yours truly), all my store ads and flyers, my day planner, and a pen, and I’m ready to plan!  If anyone is interested, I will post links to my two documents that I’ve created for menu planning and grocery listing.  They are not cute or anything fancy, just very simple Word templates, although I’d love to have cuter documents. Anyone good at that sort of thing?  Anyway, I digress.

2.  Sit down with all of your materials and think about what you have in your refrigerator or freezer that you can use in your meals for the next week, or meals that you may have made a bunch of and frozen previously.  I try to do this every week so that I’m not buying all new ingredients for each meal.  I usually try to make bigger portions of dinners and then freeze some for later.  Also, when meat goes on sale (chicken, pork, beef, turkey, etc.) I will buy extra and freeze it so that I can use it later in meals and not have to buy the meat each week at full price.

3.  Once you’ve taken stock of what you have in your fridge and freezer that you can use, check out the store flyer for sales on meat at the store at which you shop.  If possible, try to plan your meals around those sales.  Eating one vegetarian meal a week is also a cost-efficient way to meal plan.

4.  Next, look through your cookbooks/recipe collections/websites and pick as many meals as you need to plan for that week.  This is where your day planner comes in handy!  Be sure to look through it and see what events are happening during the week that may make a difference as to whether you make a full meal, have a crockpot meal simmering all day, have leftovers, or go out.  Usually, I cook 2-3 nights out of the week, I’m often gone one night out of the week (so hubby has leftovers or fixes something himself), we do takeout Friday nights, steaks Saturday nights, and we have leftovers the other two nights out of the week.

5.  Think about any criteria you have for cooking.  For me, a recipe needs to be quick, fairly healthy (although I can substitute healthy ingredients in almost any recipe if I choose), simple, not require a lot of weird ingredients as I mentioned above, and just not require a lot of ingredients period.  Pick what’s important to you and base your choosing of recipes off of that.

6.  Finally, write the ingredients that you need to buy at the store from the recipes you’ve chosen on your grocery list.  That way, when you get to the store, you’ll know exactly what you need and how much you need to buy.

Easy peasy!

It’s a good idea to have one designated place for all of your menu planning materials.  Pick a shelf where you keep your cookbooks, or a bag that will just be for your menu planning stuff, and include a grocery list, a menu planning template, a pen or pencil, and any of your store ads/flyers/coupons you need.  I keep all of my couponing things in one tote bag so that I can take it with me to the store whenever I go, so if you already have something like this, add in your menu planning sheet and grocery list and voila!  You’re organized for your menu planning.

Something else you might want to check out if you’re a busy wife/mom like me is Dream Dinners.  The concept is basically meals that you make in the store, but everything is set out for you so that all you have to do is follow the directions and dump ingredients into a bag or baking tin.  You pre-order your meals before your in-store session, go in and make up your meals, take them home, and put them in your freezer.  When you decide on Sundays that you want to use one of the DD meals during the week, you go pull it out of the freezer and let it defrost, and then follow the cooking instructions the day of.  Their meals are simple, delicious, easy, pretty healthy, and inexpensive per serving.  We did it all the time for about a year after Charlotte was born, and now use the meals about once a week.  They’re great!  I recommend trying them if you want a cooking break but still want a yummy meal (plus leftovers) once a week.

For your viewing pleasure, here is my menu plan for this week:

Monday (last night): we had Greek turkey pita pockets (from a slow cooker cookbook I own) and garlic salad

Tuesday: spaghetti with my mama’s homemade spaghetti sauce, salad, and garlic toast

Wednesday: Dream Dinners Santa Fe shredded pork burritos with cilantro lime rice

Thursday: leftovers (I’m having a moms’ group event at my house so need something quick and easy)

Friday: takeout

Saturday: Halloween and trick or treating!  We’re going to a neighborhood party and will eat hot dogs and chili there.

Sunday: leftovers

Aren’t we exciting?  Good luck with your meal planning!

Keep it simple ~

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Holiday specials and things to come!

If you read my Facebook page, you will have already seen that I’ve decided to postpone our launch party, originally planned for the weekend of December 4th, until January for various reasons.  Although I am super excited about the party and was looking forward to doing it before the holidays, after talking to my business partner (aka, my mom) and my husband, we all agreed that waiting until January is better because:

~people (including myself) tend to be a little bit blue and down after the holidays are over, and we want to give them something to look forward to in January after all the holiday chaos is gone.

~I don’t want to compete with other holiday gatherings going on, and I know people are already pressed for time as it is, especially during the holidays!

~I want to try to catch people who are making New Year’s resolutions to get organized (considering January is National Get Organized month!) and help them to make a clean, fresh start to 2010.

So, the party will still occur, God willing, and I will post more details as they are set.  I’m still in the midst of planning it, but now I have a bit more time and can focus on it during the holidays and after.  Stay tuned!

Speaking of the holidays, let’s talk about lc organizing’s holiday specials to get you in the mood for some organizing!  The holidays are chaotic, stressful, and all-around crazy, albeit fun (for me, at least).  I love this time of year, but it does come with a certain amount of stress in preparation for the season.

Although it may seem early to some, note that the holidays are right around the corner!  There are only 66 shopping days left until Christmas, and when you add in parties, events and gatherings, family in town, work, taking care of your family and kids, social activities, volunteer work…well, those 66 days don’t seem so long, do they?  I am going to sit down one upcoming Friday night very soon and spend time organizing a holiday planner for myself, taking notes from Organized Christmas on how to best maximize my time.  This is a great website that I have loosely used in years past, but hope to craft a full plan this year, adding my own personal touches.  I encourage you to do the same.  Or, better yet, let us do the work for you!

What about getting your home organized?  Where does that fall in your schedule?  Most people put that on the back burner, but the truth is that it takes so much mental and physical energy to have a cluttered home that it’s worth investing some time and money in getting your home fresh and simple for the holiday season ~ it’s one less thing to worry about.  Starting now, we’re offering 20% off of all organizing services (whether holiday related or not) until December 14.  From December 20-January 4, we will be on hiatus for the holidays, so get those requests for consultations/appointments in now!

Holiday services include:

~organizing your gift closet/gift wrapping supplies and creating a gift wrapping “station”
~helping you to get organized for holiday parties/events you’re hosting
~creating to-do lists and other checklists (gift lists, holiday card lists, etc.)
~decluttering and cleaning out any other part of your home to help you ENJOY the holidays
~just about anything else you can think of to help you eliminate holiday chaos ~ contact us with what you need!

Our email address is lcorganizing@gmail.com.  You can also book through the interactive calendar on our website at lcorganizing.com.

Hurry; this offer won’t last past the holidays, so book now in order to fully enjoy your holidays stress-free ~ and most importantly, clutter-free!

Keep it simple ~

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Organizing none other than my own blog

I’ve been thinking about how to best utilize this blog so that I make it fun, useful, and one that people want to keep up with and add to their blogroll.  Although I think it’s necessary to have posts on different organizing products, techniques, and tips, as well as series on larger organizing topics (such as the one I just wrapped up on home offices), I also want to have more “fun” stuff like joining in on Menu Plan Monday.  You’re also going to see weekly organizing challenges, hopefully giving you the motivation to follow along with my blog and get small organizing projects done in your home (or, you can just hire me to come do them!).  As I get further into my business and also taking from personal experience around my own house, I want to add product reviews of things I like (and maybe don’t like) to keep you organized and streamlined.  I eventually would love to even have giveaways, but I know that will come later on down the road!

So, the point of this very brief post ~ if you can’t tell yet, I’m quite long-winded ~ is that you are going to see some vamping-up of my blog to include more than just long posts on how to organize.  I hope that these changes will be welcome additions!  You may even see a change in the blog scenery around here if I can ever figure out how to upload that type of stuff.  I may be organized, but I am most definitely not technologically savvy!

Changes to come soon…

Keep it simple ~

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Home office organization, part 4, or the hard part: maintenance!

Maintenance can be a scary word, especially when it comes to keeping your home and life organized ~ trust me, I know firsthand! Once you get your office decluttered, put back together, and set up with whatever organizing tools you want to use, you can take a step back and relax…sort of.  Until those first few pieces of paper start to make its way mysteriously back onto your desk, and before you know it, you’ve got the dreaded “pile” staring you in the face.  Don’t let that happen!  Here are a few simple tips to keep your home office looking fresh and organized.

~Keep a shredder near your desk so that any papers you need to get rid of, but can’t just throw away, can go directly into the shredder.  To make things even more streamlined, I recommend purchasing a small shredder to keep somewhere near where you bring in your mail (kitchen, mudroom, etc.), and immediately shredding any junk mail or papers that come into your home.  That way, they won’t even make it to your desktop surface!

~This seems simple: put things back where they belong once you’re done using them.  If you have tiered letter trays with designated purposes (“inbox”, “outbox”, and “to file” are good categories), sort papers into each tray as you get them into your office.  My only warning is to NOT let them stay there for too long!  Try to go through these papers on a weekly basis and get them out of the letter trays so that you don’t end up with even more piles.  You want to avoid “pushing paper” and simply moving things from one location to the next.  Am I guilty of this sometimes?  Absolutely.  But, make your best attempt to take care of paperwork as soon as it comes in.

~Eliminate as much paper as possible.  Didn’t we already do this in the first part of the series?  Well, yes, but I’m talking about a different type of elimination.  Those bank statements that come in the mail?  See if your bank will deliver them online only to avoid the paper waste.  Do you get a thousand different catalogs in your mailbox each day (I know I do…or used to)?  Go to www.catalogchoice.org and you can enter information for catalogs you don’t want to receive, cutting down significantly on the mail with which you have to deal.  Anytime you can get electronic versions of something, opt for that instead of paper versions. Think very hard about papers that you bring into your office ~ do you really need to keep the agenda for the neighborhood HOA meeting from last week?  Probably not, so toss it (or better yet, recycle it).  If you really don’t know if you’ll need something, keep it for 3-6 months, and if you haven’t needed the information in that time period, get rid of it, no excuses!

~For things that aren’t paper-related, make sure you don’t just put them in your office as a “holding” spot ~ most likely, that holding spot will become more of a permanent spot.  Gifts, wrapping supplies, things to be moved to another room, memorabilia…all of these items need their own spaces in closets or drawers (but that’s for another post!).  Whatever functions your home office may serve is up to you, but pick what those functions will be and don’t house anything that doesn’t belong there. My home office serves as my place to get work done, but it also serves as my husband’s place to work on those days that he offices from home, and it will serve as a playroom for my daughter.  Therefore, anything that doesn’t belong theoretically shouldn’t be in that room.

As long as you keep on top of the influx of paper and other items that come into your office, you should be able to maintain the sanctity of your space.

Until next time, keep it simple ~

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Home office organization series, part 3, or organizing products

We all love organizing products, even the most disorganized among us.  Maybe it’s because buying them gives us a sense of satisfaction (well, it does for me) and the feeling of “doing” something about disorganization in our lives.  I am usually not one to buy a random product unless I have an actual need for it, because buying a bunch of totes/plastic shoeboxes/what have you only contributes to the very thing I’m trying to combat by buying them in the first place.  As much as I love The Container Store, Target, and Bed Bath and Beyond for their wondrous selection of organizing products, I rarely buy something just because I like it.  I have to have a REASON and a specific purpose for a product in order for said product to make it into my cart.  I encourage you to think along the same lines!

As far as organizing products for the home office, there are thousands (if not more) products out there, and truthfully, every single person is going to need different ones and different combinations of them.  So, the point of this post is not to suggest products that I think you should run out and go get for your office space, but merely to let you know the TYPES of products that are available for you to use while staying organized and having the things that you need on a daily basis at hand.

The first, and probably most obvious, product in which I recommend investing is a good, sturdy filing cabinet.  How many drawers you need, what it looks like, and what size folders it holds are all up to you, but this is definitely something I think everyone should have.  The one I currently own is a not-too-pretty black metal filing cabinet with two drawers…although I covet a nice, pretty, wooden one.  I use the first drawer for our personal files (we don’t have a lot because I hate keeping papers and only keep those that are absolutely necessary), and the second drawer does/will hold client files for my business.  I hopefully will never need more than two drawers for any of the above-listed purposes, but you may need more.

Filing_Cabinet

The second item I believe every office needs is a good set of desk organizing tools, such as a pencil cup, a letter tray (or two or three, stacked on top of each other), and a business card holder.  You should keep pens and pencils on your desk in a compact pencil cup so that you always have them at a moment’s notice.  It also doesn’t hurt to keep either Post-It notes or a notepad in a cute holder so that you can jot down notes whenever you need.  At my old work office, I had my pencil cup, a three-tiered letter tray, my business card holder, and a desk-sized calendar on top of my desk (I think I got rid of that at some point because I didn’t ever use it).  Everything else went into my drawers (which also held organizing tools; we’ll get there in a second).  You shouldn’t have much on your desk or you risk easily becoming overwhelmed by the amount of “stuff” that accumulates.

So, drawer organizers.  There’s not much to say about them except having small organizers inside of your desk drawers will help to reduce the “junk drawer” effect that unwieldy, small office supplies can have on your desk.  Anything that you don’t use on a daily basis should go inside of your drawers, and should be corralled with contraptions such as these:

desk drawer organizer

Try not to keep many loose things in your drawers as that will just contribute to clutter. Scissors, tape, stapler and staples, extra notepads, extra pens and pencils, highlighters, rulers, hole punches, binder clips, paper clips (there is a small paper clip holder that you can buy instead of letting these float around ~ mine is a small clear box with a magnetic hole in the top so that you can just slide the paper clips inside), and pushpins should all stay in their homes separately with a nice organizer such as the one above.

Although these aren’t necessarily related to organizing, I also highly recommend a good desk lamp (I have a banker’s lamp on my desk that provides ample light for my office space) and a shredder to dispose of old papers that you don’t need/want to keep but that should be shredded for security reasons.  One tool I have in my organizing arsenal right now is a three-drawer plastic Sterilite cart.  My desk only has one very small drawer, and I need more storage than that.  This is what it looks like:

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In the first drawer, I keep office supplies (except for the pens/pencils/highlighters I’m currently using, which stay in a pencil cup on my desktop) ~ tape, stapler, extra pens, etc.  The second drawer houses filing supplies, such as extra hanging and interior file folders, and notepads.  I keep all of my business stuff that I have (including extra business cards, stationery, etc.) in the third drawer.  All of the drawers are labeled for ease of access by me.  I plan on actually repurposing the three-drawer cart as soon as I get a new desk with more storage and drawers, but for now, it works just fine.

Lastly, my most favorite office organizing find is not something you typically find at an office supply store, but at Michael’s instead!  My mom and I came up with the idea to use this awesome, super cute scrapbooking tote as a non-stationary stationery tote (ha! Get it?  A MOVING stationery tote?).  It has handles and tons of pockets and is perfect to house pens, stamps, return address stamps or labels, and oodles of notecards/thank-you notes/birthday and other occasion cards.  I keep mine tucked into a cubby hole in my desk and when I need to write a card or a note, I can just pick up this tote by the handles, take it wherever I need it to go ~ for example, if I want to take it downstairs with me to watch tv while I write ~ and know that everything I need is there.  This has been a popular item with clients and people who see me at markets, and I’ve even had one client ask me to “make” one for her.  I have used two as silent auction/door prize items as well.  Check it out!  The pictures below are my own personal stationery tote:

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Cute, huh?  Let me know if you want me to put one together for you!

Okay, that’s all for now.  More blog posts to come this week as I’m very behind on my blogging and have a lot of information I want to share.

Keep it simple ~

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Home office organization series, part 2, or it’s cliche, but taming the paper tiger

I’m not sure I just love the use of the phrase “taming the paper tiger”, but that is entirely appropriate for the contents of this blog post.

First off, I apologize for the length of time between this post and my last one.  I haven’t had nearly as many working days lately as I needed to catch up on things with family in town, various outings, and other happenings in my life.  I’m hoping that now that Mother’s Day Out has started again for Charlotte and the fall semester is in full swing, my three working days a week will stay solid. With the holidays coming up very quickly, I am looking forward to really kicking off the business with a bang and focusing on getting more clients.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand.  I think that paper clutter is a sticking point for many people (even I have some unfiled papers lying in my three-tiered organizer on my desk ~ yikes).  Although everyone is not going to need or want the exact same system, I will provide some general tips to going through and purging your piles of paper and files so that what you will be left with is an organized, clutter-free system that works for you and simplifies your life.

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Take inventory of all of the paper “stuff” in your office ~ instruction manuals, school and extra-curricular activity schedules for your kids, schedules and calendars for your own activities, papers to be filed, vet records, medical records, papers that remind you of something you need to do, receipts…you name it.  If they are already sorted into “like” piles, keep them that way, but pull them off of your desk and into the center of your room.  If they are simply in piles, but not sorted, still pull them off of whatever surface area they are currently inhabiting and place them in a central place.

Do this same thing with any files you have in filing cabinets or drawers.  Keep the papers in their respective files for now, but pull them all out.  Your goal is to make a bigger mess than you originally had (yes, I know, it’s counterintuitive ~ but stick with me here).  Only then can you see how much you actually have.

Your next step is to organize the papers into categories, if they aren’t already.  While you’re doing this step, look at each piece of paper and decide whether you need to keep it or not.  Easier said than done?  Absolutely.  Many people get stuck at this step, become overwhelmed with decisions, and decide not to continue because they don’t know what to keep and what to toss or shred.

Here are some websites for guidelines about what types of records to keep:

http://www.bankrate.com/brm/news/mtg/20000518h.asp

http://www.irs.gov/publications/p552/ar02.html

http://www.bankrate.com/brm/itax/edit/news/stories/news_071900a.asp

Generally, keep anything tax-related for 7 years.  That’s how long the IRS has to go back and audit you, and although no one wants to or thinks they will be audited, it’s ALWAYS better to be safe than sorry where the IRS is concerned.  I suggest keeping a file folder for each tax year in a plastic file box, and labeling each hanging folder with the tax year included in that folder.  Keep the most recent folder in the front so that you can drop receipts and donation tickets in there for this tax year, and have each folder from past years behind the most recent one in descending order.  Once you are done filing this year’s taxes in April of 2010, move out the seventh year in your file box and shred it.  The important thing is just to make sure you have the past 7 years on file.

Receipts ~ for everyday purchases, you do not need to keep these (groceries, clothes, etc.).  If you enter them into an accounting program or keep your own budget spreadsheet, once you’ve done that, it’s perfectly fine to shred them and get them off your desk. With everything, though, there are a couple of exceptions: 1) if you keep receipts for rebate purposes or things of that nature, house them in a plastic file folder with 12 tabs, one for each month of the year, and file them away immediately.  Once a full year has passed, clean out and shred those receipts as the chances are highly unlikely you’ll need them again; and 2) receipts from large purchases (furniture, appliances, televisions, computers…).  These are useful not only for warranty information on when you bought the item and what exactly it is, but also for insurance purposes, i.e. if your house gets broken into or floods due to a natural disaster.  Receipts for big purchases should be kept in their own file folder so that in the event of the above or anything else, you can simply grab what you need out of the folder and have the information readily available.

As far as bank records, bills (credit card, phone, utility, etc), and other financial but non-tax documents, in my family, we don’t keep these past one year.  This is mainly due to the fact that almost all of our bill statements now come online, eliminating the need for the companies to even send us paper statements.  If we do get a paper statement, we keep it until the next bill comes in the mail, and then shred the last month’s statement.  As long as you are paying your bills on time and have at least some record of your account information with the company, it’s not really necessary to keep these documents.

For all other types of personal papers that don’t have anything to do with finances or taxes (medical records, vet records, activity schedules, etc), I also suggest keeping them for either one year or until you get a newer record to replace the older one ~ for example, when your pet goes to the vet for his or her yearly visit, it’s perfectly fine to discard last year’s vet record.  Truly, the only reason I keep these is to remind myself what happened last time our pets went to the vet and when they went.  The papers that you do want to keep should be filed in your filing system.

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What about a filing system, you may ask?  How do I file the (few, hopefully!) papers that I do want to keep?

As I mentioned above, each person is going to have individual and unique needs as to what works for him/her and with what he/she will actually keep up.  My filing system is fairly simple ~ as of right now, I have three categories of files, separated by color of the file folders: Personal folders, Financial folders, and House folders.  Truth be told, I am actually about to re-do my system and simply have all of my files done alphabetically.  One of my clients has only two categories for all of her files ~ expenses and income, and has one file folder for each month of the year.  That works for her!  If you have specific questions about how to categorize or organize your files, feel free to leave me a comment below, or email lcorganizing@gmail.com to schedule an appointment.

The last thing I will leave you with for this part of the series is to be sure to separate your personal files from your business files, especially if you run your own business or work from home.  You do not want to commingle these two areas of your life, so whatever system you set up for your home files, set up a similar but entirely separate one for your work files.

The point of this post is to encourage you to have a heavy hand with papers in your office, but within reason.  If you have ANY doubts at all about whether you should keep a document, my best advice is not to rely on a professional organizer like myself, but to ask your accountant and/or your attorney.  You can also consult the IRS’s website (above) for more detailed answers.  As organizers, we are simply purveyors of information, but I do not hold out to know the rules for every single document out there. Your goal is to have a clean, streamlined home office, where everything (including each and every piece of paper) has a place and is easy to find.

My next post in this series will be the types of organizing products that you may be interested in for your office.  Keep in mind that there are THOUSANDS of options out there, but I will present you with a few that are basic needs for almost every home office.

Until next time!

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Picturama

That reminds me, I also have a small set of pictures from a house I did with my mom about…three or four years ago?  Hey, the work is still good even if it was a few years back, right?  I need to put those up soon.

Here are before and after pictures of Client C.N.’s work office.  This is the same client who hired us to do her home office in my previous post. Her work office (actually in an office building, so away from home) was obviously smaller and not as cluttered as her home office, so it didn’t take us more than one day to do this.  It looked fantastic by the time we were done, if I do say so myself!

Before:

Desk

Desk

Desk chairs

Desk chairs

Piano and surrounding floor

Piano and surrounding floor

Piano (next to desk)

Piano (next to desk)

*sigh* Once again, I have to insert the unfortunate (for me!) necessary disclaimer that these before pictures were after I had pulled everything out onto the surfaces and floor.  Her most cluttered area was the file cabinet (two-drawer) top behind her desk, which you can’t see in the pictures of the desk because my mom and I had already moved it.  I know I have GOT to get much better about taking the before pictures, well, BEFORE I start doing anything!  I will say that I have a job coming up sometime in September or October for Client S.S., and when I went over to her condo to do the consultation, I took real before pictures that I will be able to post once I do the job!  Or, I could just heighten the anticipation and post them now, and then make you wait for the afters…hmmm.

Okay, here are the after shots:

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Filing cabinet ~ moved to the opposite wall, behind the desk chairs

Inside of the filing cabinet, with new, organized subject files!

Inside of the filing cabinet, with new, organized subject files!

Piano with basket on top for her current music

Piano with basket on top for her current music

New bookcases from The Container Store (there are two, and are behind her desk)

New bookcases from The Container Store (there are two, and are behind her desk)

Another of the bookcases

Another one of the bookcases

The two bags not on the bookcase shelves (to the left) were bags that she had brought in that morning, so they weren’t part of the process.

Desk drawer containing office supplies

Desk drawer containing office supplies

In the back of this drawer, it looks like just a stack of papers.  It is, but it’s my client’s “inbox”, and that’s where she wanted it (not out on her desk).  She had a trio of paper sorters ~ the kind that you put out on your desk as an inbox/outbox/intermediate station for papers ~ so I used one of those sorters to house all of her inbox papers, and it fit perfectly in the back of her drawer.  Bonus.  If you look closely, you can see the black mesh and wire of the container.

Second desk drawer

Second desk drawer

Clean desktop!

Clean desktop!

Ah, how I love the look of a clutter-free, clean, organized surface.  It just makes me deliriously happy.

More explanation of what exactly we did with this room later…

And, I have a list of great topics for my blog that I’m really excited about!  When I think of something, I type it up in my Word document that contains my list of blog posts, and I have a pretty decent list going now.  Here are some of the things I have in store:

A series about home office organization (started with my previous post entitled “I know my desk is here somewhere…”)

Creating a launching pad for ease of getting out the door in the morning

Menu planning and meals

Couponing!  This will probably be a series and I would love to have my BFF guest blog for me since she’s the one who taught me everything I know.

Organizing a disaster preparedness kit

Organizing for the holidays

And my newest idea ~ the one I’m most excited about ~ will be a series called The Clutter Detox!  This will probably be a pretty long series where I will lead you through not just a decluttering process for your home, but for your life (following my business mantra of “your life.  simplified.”).  I will help you to analyze potential clutter spots in your life and examine whether the things in your life bring you joy, make your life easier, and help you save time and be as efficient as possible with the time you do have.

Let me know if there are any topics you’d like to see covered and I’ll put them on the list!

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