Thursday, July 30, 2009

Feng Shui?

Someone asked me today if I practice Feng Shui. While I don't, I do believe that all things have energy and that all things, like people, just want to be loved, used and respected. When you respect your things by using and storing them properly, being gentle with them, and taking care of them, they show that respect back by staying in good condition and functioning when you need them to.

You know how great it feels when you do a major clearing out and cleaning of your home, that's because when your home is filled with things that you do not love, use or respect, those things emit a negative energy that can change the energy of your entire space, effecting you in ways you may not even realize.

And the things you do use but don't respect can be just as bad. A client was telling me about the refrigerator she's had for years and hated since day one. She told me how all the shelves inside cracked, the ice maker didn't work and the outside was rusted. I told her my energy theory and at first she gave me a funny look and then I asked her if she treated her husband like she treated the fridge, how we he respond? Now she gets it and has a new found respect for her poor fridge that while battered and bruised, still works pretty darn well.

Reader's Questions: "How do you create homes for things?"

labeck asks "I no longer live in a big city (was living in Chicago and San Francisco), so am blessed with extra space in my 1BR that has vaulted ceilings and a long walk-in closet. Because I had so much space, I was lazy at creating homes for belongings and just tossed things on various shelves in various places. So my apartment appears relatively clutter free but I know that the piles and items without homes are everywhere. How did you create homes for things?"

Sort your things into categories; sports equipment, personal memorabilia, travel items, misc household (like extra decorative pieces), etc. This key. Grouping things of the same category makes it easier to remember when you need to retrieve and put things back.

Once sorted, you can see how much space each category takes up helping you figure which closet or room it can easily fit and be taken in and out when needed. Make sure you put heavier things on lower shelves or the floor and lighter things on upper shelves to avoid hurting yourself or damaging anything when moving. Label boxes so you don't have to remember what's in there.

When applicable, keep things nearest to where it will be used, like off season clothes on the upper shelves on your clothes closet, and infrequently used kitchen items/appliances on the upper most shelves in the kitchen.

Monday, July 27, 2009

If You're In The NYC Area...

This Wednesday I'll be giving giving a talk with Trudy Miller on "Living Luxuriously with Less". We share the idea of making the most of what you have without having to sacrifice.

Trudy Miller, architect, furniture and clothing designer is a self proclaimed solutionista. You'll see her utilitarian chic clothing line that's made of limited pieces that can be worn in seemingly limitless ways.

Wednesday July 29th
6:30 - 9:00pm
Trudy Miller Layers
394 Atlantic Avenue
between Hoyt and Bond
Boerum Hill Brooklyn
A/C/G train to Hoyt Schermerhorn

Hope to see you there!!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Bathroom Cabinet Inspiration

(click for larger image)

Going through my photos this morning, I found this great shot of a medicine cabinet. The use of acrylic risers give the equivalent of another shelf, while stackable acrylic trays in the 3" x 3" (middle shelf holding lip balms) and 6" x 3" (top shelf with little tubes and medicines), help keep little products all together.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Reader's Questions: "Where to store occasionally worn clothing?"

labeck asks "I don't have that many clothes but there are core items I wear often. Then there are extra items that just hang there or are in a pile on top of an organizer in my closet. Where to store the occasionally-worn items?"

This is is a great question! Here are some ideas that I hope help you:
  • If possible, keep all current season clothes, no matter how often they're worn, in your clothes closet to avoid the all to common mistake of out of sight, out of mind. You can't wear something if you forget you have it.
  • Think about why you're not wearing these pieces. If they're pieces you don't know how to mix in with your current wardrobe, take a couple of hours trying on different combinations to find new ways to wear them. Invite a friend whose opinion you trust to help out. Take pictures of outfits you like to remember what you've come up with.
  • Categorize pieces that have a specific purpose; workout, pajamas/lounge wear, resort, beach/swim wear, skiing, camping (general sports), etc. Store them in dresser drawers; try to limit it to two categories per drawer unless you have very large drawers or not that much in one category. Just make sure they are segregated within the drawer for easy identification. And/or in a bin or box labeled which category, and put on the top shelf or floor.
  • For delicate special occasion pieces I would put in a garment bag like this one, or this one, or one you already have, making sure if you cannot see through it to label it with tape to easily remember what's in there. Keep in the back of the closet, or if you have room in your coat closet.

How to Get Your Paperwork In Order


Listen, as adults there are certain things we have to do whether we want to or not, like cleaning and keeping track of our paperwork (unless we hire someone else to do it). Here are a few tips to make it as easy as possible:
  • Take time to create a system that works best for you. If it isn't working go back and try to figure out why. Like cooking, if something doesn't come out right the first time you don't just abandon the recipe, you try again to see where you went wrong until you get it right.
  • Make sure the box, bin or whatever you use to hold things to be filed, isn't too big allowing you to wait so long to actually clean it out, making it take so long and therefore a hassle.
  • Do it more often so it takes less time. For instance I vacuum my apt about every other day which takes about 3 minutes. When I wait a week, it takes closer to 20 minutes which is kind of annoying... The moral of the story is do these little things that you have to do more often and it won't be so bad. Or get an assistant to do it!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

How to Get Your Paperwork In Order

Step #4. Create Filing System (continued)

For misc papers such as invitations, flyers, coupons, etc, that you don't want in a file folder, here are some options of where to keep them for easy access:
  • ENTRY: You should have a proper entry no matter the size of your space. I've created one in my current 325 sqft studio with a simple bowl on a table to keep my wallet, keys, store credits, coupons, and invitations; basically anything you need to grab as you run out the door. You could do something similar in your bedroom with a bowl or tray on a dresser or a shelf in the closet.
  • ELECTRONIC/PAPER ORGANIZER: As for invites and appt reminders, use your planner, whether electronic (blackberry, iphone) or a paper planner (like me), and toss/recycle any paper backup. Take a moment at the beginning of the week to review what's coming up, and then in the morning each day. If it seems you are missing appts and need constant reminding, you should rethink what kind of planner you are using and/or how your're using it.
  • BULLETIN/MAGNETIC BOARD: If you don't like the idea of having a bulletin or magnetic board out, put one on the inside door of your clothes or coat closet, or the inside of a kitchen cabinet. A great place to keep these misc papers, extra keys, and inspirational quotes. Just make sure you clear things off regularly so it doesn't get too cluttered.

Monday, July 13, 2009

How to Get Your Paperwork In Order

Step #4. Create Filing System

As with your other belongings, giving your paperwork a proper, accessible, and convenient home is key to keeping it organized. Whatever you choose, label your files in a clear, logical way, grouping like things together (all household utilities, investment statements, etc) so you can easily find and retrieve things.

Storage Options:
  • SCANNERS/ELECTRONIC STORAGE: use a receipt scanner, or an all-in-one copy/printer/scanner to scan receipts and misc bills. Go paperless where you can, but organize your computer files as you would actual paper, using clearly labeled folders in the same area for easy retrieval.
  • FILING CABINET: if you absolutely need one, keep it accessible, even if it's in a closet. Use for current and reference papers, not archival papers.
  • PORTABLE FILING BOX: less expensive and more adaptable storage than a filing cabinet. They fit anywhere and can go where you go when paying your bills. This cascading one is great and this style is my personal favorite.
  • BANKERS BOX: For your archival papers, bankers boxes and manilla envelopes are all you need. Pull file contents only and put into (properly labeled) envelope, so you don't have to make all new folders each year. Store all boxes together on a top shelf or back of a closet.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

How to Get Your Paperwork In Order

Step #3. Sort Into Current, Reference, Archive

Here are some examples of what falls into each category and a few more reasons to keep/toss...

1. CURRENT - papers accessed often
  • MONTHLY HOUSEHOLD BILLS: unless you're writing things off, only keep the past month or get online/paperless bills (go to their website to register for this) so you can check your previous payment has been applied properly and there are no other mistakes.
  • RECEIPTS: keep debit and credit card receipts to check against statements; recent purchases in case you want to return; for warranty purposes; anything for tax and/or insurance purposes.
  • MONTHLY BANK AND CREDIT CARD STATEMENTS: check against your receipts for mistakes and/or fraudulent charges, then shred any receipts you don't need to keep and either file away the statements (if needed for tax purposes) or shred accordingly. Get online/paperless statements especially if you don't need to keep for tax purposes.

2. REFERENCE - papers accessed somewhat often
  • INSPIRATION: home, travel, fashion...
  • MANUALS: make sure you only keeping manuals for things you actually have.
  • LEGAL: passports, social security card, titles, ect

3. ARCHIVE - papers that need to be kept but not accessed often, or at all
  • PAST YEARS TAXES: some use the previous year's taxes but the rest can be boxed and put away.
  • LEGAL: anything that's settled and most likely not needed to be accessed.

Monday, July 6, 2009

How to Get Your Paperwork In Order

One of the main reasons I started this blog is because I'm tired of all the 'one-size fits all' solutions out there for organizing, decorating, dressing... Solutions should be based on a person's needs, budget, space, habits, and/or the amount of things in questions. By taking the following steps, I'm hoping you'll find your perfect solution to handle your paperwork:


Step #1. Stop The Unwanted From Coming In The Door
I already talked about this step, so onto step 2...

Step #2. Edit
Simply stated, you need to keep anything related to taxes, insurance, and legal matters. The IRS has 6 years to question you about returns if they suspect underreported income but in cases of fraud, there is no time limitation. Therefore, it's recommended you keep tax records at least 7 years.

Keep all uncomplicated Tax Returns for 7 years including all supporting documents; w-2's, 1099's, cancelled checks, bank deposit slips, bank statements, charitable contribution documentation, credit card statements, receipts, dairies and logs.

Keep retirement plan annual reports, IRA annual reports, IRA non-deductable contributions (form 8606), marriage and/or divorce documents, estate planning documents, adoption, birth and death certificates, and wills permanently.

The following paperwork should be kept for the ownership period + 7 years; investment purchases and sales slips, dividend reinvestment records, year-end brokerage statements, mutual fund annual statements, investment property purchase documents, home purchase documents, home improvement receipts and cancelled checks, home repair receipts and cancelled checks.

Loan paperwork should be kept for the term of the loan plus 7 years. Ask your insurance agent for how long you should keep any insurance policies after the life of the policy.

DISCLAIMER: I am a residential organizer, not commercial so the following info is for individuals only, also I am not a qualified financial advisor, attorney or CPA. If you have any further questions about what you should keep consult your qualified financial advisor, attorney and/or CPA.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Stay Tuned...

I've been out of town visiting family and friends but will be back soon with a few posts about getting paperwork organized. Let me know if there are any specifics you'd like touched on or if there are any other topics you'd like discussed...