Posts by Vlasta Hillger

Get Control of Your Personal Information – Know What to Shred

Personal information

Personal information security is a hot topic these days. Between news of identity theft, mass data breaches and social media personal data security, the subject is front and center in our minds. We all want out personal information to be safe, whether it is our financial information, medical records, or social media data. Each year, we handle hundreds of documents that entail sensitive information, physical paper, our personal and financial paperwork.

It can be confusing to figure out what documents we need to keep, how long, and what documents we can dispose of, and how. Some individuals are so anxious about identity theft that they do not dispose of any paperwork at all! That results in massive paper piles, making it nearly impossible to find important documents when you need them. These piles can become an overwhelming burden. Paperwork clutter is a common problem, and very tedious and time consuming to tackle.

So, how can we protect our personal information (without getting buried in paper), at least the kind of personal information which commonly arrives in the mail? What to keep? How long? Why? We have some answers for you.

What Personal Information to Keep and How Long

  1. Tax Returns: Keep copies of all your tax returns. Keep the back-up information and
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Alicia’s Favorite Things: Organize, Measure, Maximize, Go Clear and Label

storage bins

Organize, Measure, Maximize, Go Clear and Label

Alicia’s Favorite Things

One of my favorite aspects of being a Professional Organizer is product. That is the fun part right!? I love finding simple, uncomplicated solutions to help keep my own house and family organized. I have been part of the Simplify Experts team for over 4 years now and my professional organizing experience has allowed me to see what products and systems work well in client’s homes. One of my greatest joys is walking into The Container Store (are you cringing?) and browsing through the perfectly organized rows of containers just waiting to make all my organizing dreams come true. Did I mention I love product? Clients often say they become overwhelmed with the abundance of choices that organizing product retailers have to offer and they end up leaving or buying something that doesn’t fit or work for their specific needs.

I would love to share my favorite finds and product solutions with you in hopes of taking the guess work and dread out of the equation and inspiring easy and affordable changes to keep life running smoothly.

Before I dive into bins, let’s go over

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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – Without Losing All Your Storage and Creating Clutter

Earth Day

A popular mantra of Earth Day is the catch phrase Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. To reduce the human footprint upon our planet we are called upon to Reduce (use and buy less), Reuse (what we already have) and Recycle (the little that we use over and over). On trash day in my neighborhood, most recycle bins are filled to the brim. That part of the three R’s is the easiest and we do a pretty good job (based on my observation at least) with recycling. It’s the other two R’s – Reduce and Reuse – that folks find to be trickier.

Reduce

To foster the first of the three R’s – Reduce, imagine each new item you bring into the home as an addition to a collection. Whether it is a brand-new product, or one you hope to re-purpose, before you bring it into your home ask yourself these questions:

• Do I have space for this item?
• Am I willing to donate or discard another item in my collection to make space for this one?
• Does this new item authentically fill a purpose in my collection?
• Does this item have a utilitarian use?

Reuse

Many of us have good intentions to reuse various household items. Sometimes, these items take up all our storage space

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Three Ways to Use Laundry Room Storage Effectively

laundry room cabinet

Laundry rooms are more than just a place to wash and dry your clothes. Any extra storage can be used to store cleaning supplies, back stock of household products and infrequently used household items. Create designated storage areas, zones, for each group, such as in these three examples.

Zone 1: Laundry Care Products

Store laundry detergent, fabric softener, and stain removers in one location. Keep all laundry detergents and supplies together and within reach of the washer and dryer. Label the shelf so that everyone in the family can return items to their correct place. If the shelf is hard to reach store a small number of detergent pods in a container on top of the washing machine. Make sure the pods are well out of sight of little children, but that teenagers doing their own laundry

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Three Reasons Why Being Disorganized is Not Your Fault

organized kitchen

It’s not your fault you are disorganized if:

You are spending all day tending to more crucial tasks. Your job is demanding. Caring for your family is a full-time job. Then there are groceries to buy, homework to supervise, sports games to attend, you try to do it all. Something must give, and if that something is staying organized – it’s not your fault. In the past homes were smaller, people owned fewer things, and as a result keeping homes organized wasn’t an issue. One study stated that today the average American family has over 300,000 items – that is a lot of stuff to keep track of and keep organized. Today people work longer hours, spend more time commuting or shuttling children to activities – it’s no wonder so many are disorganized. If you’ve run out of time in the day to maintain an organized home, then it’s time to call for back up.

It’s not your fault if:

Organization isn’t one of your talents. We are all born with different strengths and skill sets. I am a terrible singer, I can’t draw or paint, but I can walk into a room and tell you the most efficient way to organize the space.

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Lagom – Why Goldilocks Had the Secret to Happiness

lagom

Move over minimalism, Hygge, Swedish death cleaning, you are not sparking joy for us any longer! The latest trend in organizing is called Lagom and it’s awesome. It’s not new, it is a word which translates from Swedish to “just the right amount.” No dramatic militant upheaval to your lifestyle is needed. You don’t have to trade your comfy 3,000 square foot home for a tiny house with a dry toilet. You don’t need to dispose of everything that doesn’t “spark joy.” Awesome, right?

So, what is the meaning of lagom?

Remember the story of Goldilocks? From memory, I think it went roughly like this. A happy, little, free spirited girl goes traipsing through the woods and just as she gets tired from her forest stroll, she comes across a cottage, which might be a high end AirBnB or an evil witch’s hut, she doesn’t care.

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5 Ways to Make a Rainy February Productive

Plan and be productive

February – the month of the Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day, football jerseys and candy hearts. Around here, it’s also the month when we start wishing for the puddles to dry and spring to arrive. While it is still cold and gray outside, you CAN be productive and get lots done inside. Grab your favorite coffee drink, and let’s get cracking!

Put Away Holiday Decor

If you haven’t done so yet, pack up the rest of the holiday décor and put it away until next year. Return your inflatable Santa to it’s box in the garage, and recycle the sad, dry Christmas wreath. If the gloomy February weather is sapping your energy, you might need an energetic, cheerful organizer to boost your productivity and get the last of that holiday décor put away. We are a phone call away.

Reduce your Partner’s Burden this Valentine’s Day

For Valentine’s Day, think about doing something simple yet thoughtful.

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7 Simple Ways to Protect Your Home When on Vacation

protect your home

In early spring each year, Seattleites trade their winter boots for flip-flops, and take off in search of warmth and sun. Before you order your Uber to SeaTac, use these 7 simple strategies to protect your home while you are away.

  • No one wants to come home to find out that a pipe burst and flooded the interior of their house. Turn off your water before you leave to go on vacation. Find your main water shut off and turn off the water on your way out the door.
  • Some kitchen stoves have a safety lock feature on the control panel. You can temporarily disable the gas flow to the stove, should something unexpected, like an earthquake, happen while you are away.
  • Set a timer, so that a lamp or two turns on every night,
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10 Reasons We Keep So Much Paper

Paperwork on a cluttered desk

It seems that everyone struggles with paper clutter. At the beginning of each year, we encourage clients to go through filing cabinets, recycling or shredding unneeded documents. For some folks though, the paper clutter is deeper than a few old insurance explanation of benefits or old quarterly financial statements.

The following are ten reasons we hang on to so much paper!

  1. Information is powerful. We keep a lot of paper as reference material, so we can find it later when we need it.
  2. For many people, printed copy is easier to read than online. Some folks print reams of documents with the intention to read through every page.
  3. Catalogues are promises of a better future self or home. We often hang on to them for inspiration or potential future purchases.
  4. Magazines can be full of knowledge we’d like to retain. We keep them to read them again, or to hang on to the “knowledge” we’ve gained.
  5. Beautiful photography in magazines may inspire our travel. We may get ideas for home remodeling projects from magazines. Although much of this information is also available online, we may keep the magazine as a physical reminder.
  6. Sometimes, the paper is your work product. You may have copies of projects
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New Year’s Resolutions for 2018

New Year's Resolution

 

On New Year’s Eve, a friend asked me whether I set New Year’s resolutions. In the past I have, but like many people, I didn’t really stick to my resolutions. I think this is because January 1st is an arbitrary day to begin doing something new or something I should have been doing all along. Just because it’s January doesn’t mean that my schedule is any different. There is no magic fairy that comes and gently clears my calendar with one soft breath, leaving time for me to work on my resolutions. On the contrary, January is time to catch up on work I delayed when taking time off during the holidays.

My friend said that instead of setting resolutions she’s unlikely to keep, she chooses a specific word – one that evokes what she’s striving for during that year. In 2017, her word was – nonjudgmental. Good choice, I thought!

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