Tips & Tricks

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 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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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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Get Help for the Holidays: Outsource, Delegate, Simplify!

Holidays

The taste of Halloween candy is still fresh on your lips, but you’ve already begun feeling the stress of the upcoming holidays. The next two months will be a whirlwind of shopping, planning, hosting, traveling, and celebrating, all on top of your already frenetic life. This should be a joyful time of year, but with all that is on your to-do list, it feels overwhelming. Instead of hiding under your covers until January, tackle the holidays with this three-prong strategy: Outsource, Delegate and Simplify.

You deserve help – who says you need to tackle the entire holiday season by yourself?

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7 Things You Need to Know to Freeze Your Credit Today

credit freeze

A while back, my friend refinanced her house and then she froze her credit. We had been discussing identity theft when she told me about this. I’d never heard of this concept before. Times have changed I guess, because now phrases like “data breach” and “identity theft” seem to be a part of daily vernacular. Recently, one of the top three credit bureaus, Equifax, was hacked and now we are left to wonder whether our personal data is out there being sold on the “dark web.” (That’s another fun new term – look it up!)

The silver lining is that it is easy to freeze your credit and protect yourself from strangers opening credit cards and securing loans in your name. It took me all of 30 minutes to freeze my credit across all three agencies (you must do all three), Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

Get a free credit report

You can get a free credit report once per 12 months. It’s a good idea

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A Homework Station for Every Student

homework station

School is in session and that means homework assignments will be assigned soon. Your child will be more productive and motivated if they have a dedicated space – a homework station – where they can complete their work. The important part of a homework station isn’t where it is located or how fancy it looks, just that your children get in the habit of studying at the same time and in the same place. This habit creates a great foundation for productivity in years to come.

Elementary School

In early elementary school children may need supervision while doing homework. Their homework station should be where you can watch from afar

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