Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ring in a More Organized New Year

We hope you're all enjoying the holiday season. Things have been busy around here and we've taken a bit of a break from blogging until next year (which means next week!). But we wanted to leave you with some helpful year-end advice, once again from Kate Altieri, one of our expert organizers. Here's Kate's annual New Year's Day ritual that starts her off on the right foot for the New Year...and the upcoming tax season.

New Year's Day is a good time to get paperwork in order for taxes and the upcoming year.  My annual clean-out and organization takes place every New Year's afternoon - here's what I do: 

  • Pull out all of my receipts for the year, set aside the ones for taxes and keep those that were for large purchases or electronics. The rest get shredded.  
  • Start new files for all of my regular and monthly bills; take out the previous year and include the necessary ones in the tax file. 
  • Sort through my ideas file and the one marked "items of interest" to see which still apply and determine what to keep or give up.  
  • Discard/shred any files that no longer need to exist and replace and label-well worn folders to keep everything looking neat.
  • Investment statements go into a binder and stored in archival files in storage areas.  
By purging this way, my current files only take up one half of a drawer and there is plenty of room for the upcoming year's paperwork. Performing this annual ritual on New Year's Day makes me feel remarkably organized and prepared for the new year ahead. I actually look forward to this project and the fresh start!!

Bottom Line: A little year-end organization can go a long way toward a fresh start for the New Year. So grab yourself a cup of hot cocoa and give Kate's simple steps a try for yourself!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Organized Holiday Decorating

It's that time of year - holidays lights, lawn decorations, and festive trees have popped up all around us. But all those holiday decorations can be a bit of a nightmare to keep organized if you don't have good systems and storage in place. 

I'm not an expert decorator myself and in fact don't have a very large stash, so I turned to our Organizing Boston resident expert, Kate Altieri, for some organized holiday decorating tips. Kate loves to decorate for the holidays and has a self-proclaimed rather large festive supply. Here's what she suggests to keep holiday decorating fun and spirited rather than cluttered and chaotic: 

  • As you unpack, take note of what needs better or new containers; purchase these as you do your holiday shopping.
  • Donate or throw away unused or broken items. Gather unused holiday cards from previous years; make a complete set for donation.
  • Take inventory of gift wrap, tags, ribbon, etc. before you purchase more. Be sure to have paper and gift boxes the size to fit odd shaped or large items.
  • If you have space, save some boxes from catalog/on-line shopping for shipping gifts or storing your decorations.
  • Before shopping for decorations, make a list of areas indoors and outdoors that you want to include. Choose a theme to keep you on track.
  • Remember to have proper hooks, ties and mounting tape on hand for attaching decorations inside and outside. This will reduce damage to walls and woodwork after they are taken down. 
  • Consider how you will store certain items off-season (i.e. large and delicate items) so that they will last from year to year. 
  • Take pictures of the current decorations while they are up so that you can repeat or change things for next year; especially outdoor window boxes, containers, and lights. 
  • As you put things away, be sure they are clearly labeled to eliminate blind searching next year.
I don't know about you, but I'm feeling inspired already. Thanks, Kate! 

Bottom Line: Being organized for the holidays doesn't mean shunning all decorations and festive traditions; it just means having systems in place and some annual maintenance so you can keep things festive, not frustrating!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Stay Organized During Holiday Shopping Season

Are you headed out to do some holiday shopping this weekend? If you are, or even if you're still making your list, we've got a few tips to help keep you organized as you hit the stores. So here's to happy shopping...

1) Start with a clean bag, wallet, and car. Do yourself a favor and empty out the contents of your bag or purse, toss the trash, return rogue items to their rightful homes, and put what you do need back in an organized manner. This might mean adding a pouch or toiletry case to contain loose items. Do the same with your wallet...and your car too. This process not only clears the clutter for an improved shopping experience, but also allows you to see what important items you don't have with you yet. To avoid crowding my wallet, I use a small coin purse to house store credit cards and rewards cards that I don't need on a daily basis. I keep it in my bag so it's there when I need it, but the items aren't cluttering my frequently used wallet.

2) Keep your gift cards and coupons at the ready! There is nothing worse than ending up at a store, ready to buy and realizing you have a coupon or gift card you could've home. I prevent this problem by keeping coupons and gift cards for stores I frequent in a simple mesh envelope in my bag. It is comforting to know they're there when I need them and this slim, but durable way of storing them means they take up almost no room.

3) Get receipt ready. With shopping comes receipts, gift receipts, and returns. The only thing worse than not having a coupon or gift card with you, is not having a receipt when you need to return something. With holiday shopping, your wallet could get quickly overwhelmed with receipts, so I would recommend keeping a separate envelope (which could be similar to the one above) to house all holiday shopping receipts while you're out an about. Whether you use your wallet or a separate container, take a few minutes after each shopping outing to organize what you have. If you have a particularly long list, you may want to separate receipts by person, family, or store so it's easy to find something if you need it. You can even write the recipient's name(s) at the top. My mother-in-law uses a simple strategy for gift receipts - she tapes an envelope labeled 'gift receipt' to the box or item - you could do this right away so there are no mix-ups and no lost receipts.

4) Designate a gift zone. Before you head out, figure out where you're going to store your newly acquired gifts while they're waiting to be wrapped and delivered. This is ideally some place that's safe from pets, peeping eyes, and day to day activity. This will prevent gifts from being misplaced or damaged and they'll be ready to go when you're ready to wrap!

Bottom Line: Having a few simple systems in place and starting out with a clutter-free bag, wallet and car will help make holiday shopping a simple and stress-free endeavor this year. So turn on that holiday music and let the fun begin!

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