Productivity

What to Save and What to Shred: Paper Retention Guidelines

Even with many day-to-day tasks moving online, there will still–and always be–paper. The average American receives almost 50,000 pieces of mail in their lifetime, and 30% of it is junk. No wonder so many of us have piles of paper items that can quickly accumulate if not taken care of. You want to tackle the stacks of paper on your desk, but you’re not quite sure how to start? Our guidelines will help you know what to save, what to recycle, and what to shred.

The Simplify Experts Paper Retention Schedule:

  1. All tax returns are to be kept; receipts need to be kept for the last 7 years of returns only.
  2. Bank statements only have to be kept for 3 years unless a key component in your 7 years of tax receipts.
  3. Financial Brokerage accounts – keep the current year statements. At the end of year, save only year-end and tax related forms. Trade confirmations need to be kept to prove the original price of the stock when purchased until sold. Keep trade confirmations in a labeled manila folder with your tax receipts.
  4. Keep all medical billing statements and prescription receipts for the year should you incur large medical expenses for that year and have enough to claim a tax deduction. If you did not meet the medical claim amount for your income, than shred all medical billing at year-end.
  5. You only need a couple months worth of utilities unless you run a business out of your home and are writing off a portion of those expenses to your business.
  6. If you believe you will be doing a wealth of improvements to your home for the life of your home, keep all home improvement receipts for capital gains tax when you sell the home.
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Lighten Your Load by Cleaning Out Your Purse

Me, handing my purse to my husband: “Honey, could you hold my purse for a sec?”

Husband, taking it: “Whoa! What’s in here, bricks?!”

Sound familiar?

Whether your purse of choice is a cool designer number or a small canvas tote, we all tend to use it as a place to stash everything we “need” on the go. The problem is it’s too easy to forget all the items we’ve been putting in there. Then when it comes time to find your keys, a pen, or “that coupon I’m going to use one of these days,” it’s like digging elbow-deep into a mystery grab bag.

Here is our guide to cleaning out your purse—and then keeping it organized.

First, Clean It Out

  1. Take out everything and lay the items out on a table. Make sure to check every single compartment and pocket, inside and outside—even ones you rarely use.
  2. Get rid of all garbage—wrappers, lists, receipts you don’t need, pens that don’t work, dried-up lip balm, a broken and non-repairable bracelet, old kids’ items, etc.
  3. Group together multiples. Do you really need more than one pen, or more than one pair of sunglasses? Likely not. Keep one of each essential item, then put the rest away (but don’t throw it in your junk drawer, natch).
  4. Do you have containers in your purse, such as a cosmetic bag or first-aid kit? Clean those out as well. Throw out that old cracked compact, or the Disney Princess band-aids your now-teenager does not need.
  5. Get rid of seasonal items. Do you really need an umbrella or a wool hat in there when it’s July? Or your seasonal allergy medications when it’s the off-season? How about the heavy set of keys to your in-laws’ cabin that you only visit in November?
  6. Now start returning items to your purse, while evaluating how often you truly use each item. Things like your wallet, keys, phone—of course. But items like a flashlight, hand cream, a granola bar—maybe not? In other words, get rid of the “just in case” items.

 

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Questions to Ask Yourself for 2019

We’ve all done the New Year’s Resolutions thing umpteen times. We’ve made lists with ambitious goals, hopeful ideas, and grand declarations. Everything from getting fit to managing finances better to organizing your home to hiking more with your kids. Raise your hand if you’ve gotten to March, with that list long forgotten, or with very few items checked off. (Raises hand.) I have found that lists of lofty goals can sometimes make me feel worse if I have not come close to achieving everything in due time.

For the past few years, instead of making a list of resolutions, I’ve made a list of questions. Seriously, questions! Questions that may help me prioritize factors in my life, that make me think twice about some things, and yes, that lead me to question what I have taken for granted. But of course, you don’t want a brain explosion! It doesn’t have to be all so deep, life-changing, and philosophical—it just needs to help you give more thought to what’s already in your world, and what you’d like to add or improve.

To help you get started, I’ve categorized the questions. These are just ideas to kickstart your own question-making process.

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Professional Organizer’s Guide to Writing Thank You Notes

Everyone loves a thank you note

A Professional Organizer’s Guide to Writing More Thank You Notes

I am a big fan of appreciation and thanking someone warmly for a gift or a kind act. I love receiving handwritten thank you notes (I don’t knock email notes either) because it means someone took the time to let me know they both received the gift and are favorably acknowledging the efforts made on their behalf. A personal piece of correspondence is the best kind of mail to get. It’s a treasure in the sea of junk mail, catalogs, and bills. I especially adore a thank you note that points out something spot-on about the item and/or something special about your relationship with that person – bonus points!

Apparently, I am not alone. An article in the New York Times, “You Should Send That Thank You Note You’ve Been Meaning to Write” from July 20, 2018, agreed that people like getting thank you notes. Seriously, who would not like getting a thank you?

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How to Bring Your Goals Closer With a Vision Board

What is a Vision Board and how can it help you reach a goal?

A vision board is simply a visual expression of a goal or outcome you wish to reach. Many interior designers use vision boards to give concrete layout and color scheme ideas to clients who want to transform a space. In the context we are using vision boards, we are giving form to a state of mind or goal. It can also bring understanding to shifts in our lives where we perceive that something is off but are not quite sure

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Declutter Your Desk in Just 5 Minutes

In our recently published book:  Declutter and Thrive: Overcoming 6 Common Disorganization Types to Reveal Your Best You, one of the types we described is The Overburdened Employee –  for whom clutter and disorganization at work is a daily struggle, negatively impacting their career.

Work with a professional organizer to reset your office or desk space. Then use the tasks listed in the infographic below

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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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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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Organize to Protect Your Identity

Paperwork on a cluttered desk

Data breach. Customer information stolen. Identity theft. Those words regularly appear in the news, making you, the consumer, angry. You wonder why companies can’t seem to figure it out–either stop collecting personal information or protect it!

Despite companies’ security efforts, the risk of identity theft isn’t going away. Criminals world-wide seem to be one step ahead. In 2016, over $16 billion was stolen from consumers, around $1,300 per victim.

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Self-Activation: What’s Getting in the Way of Getting Yourself Going?

When you can't get going

If you’ve ever seen the meme, “I can’t adult today,” you know the feeling. It’s known as “self-activation,” or “getting that heavy ball rolling” a phrase coined by author Ari Tuckman. Self-activation is harder some days than others. It’s harder depending on the task at hand. There are certain tasks which really make us cringe, and we ignore, delay, and avoid these tasks as much as possible. Sometimes, these tasks get done late or never get crossed off the to-do list at all.

Some tasks feel so overwhelming that we can’t seem to begin

Whether it’s cleaning out the garage, paying your taxes, or planning a Thanksgiving dinner for a large group, if the task before us feels overwhelming, we may never start.
Sometimes these are tasks are emotionally charged. We might worry we are going to disappoint or fail. To overcome this type of overwhelm, the key is to do any small part of the difficult task, and build off that.

The first action of an overwhelming task can be to ask for help. Why not?

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