This is the time of year to get your finances organized! That
way you can have a plan for the year, and can get ready to prepare your tax
returns. This is not an article on how
to save money, or where the best place is to invest your fortunes. Before we
can think about heading in those directions, we need to know where and what our
current finances are. Here are some tips
on getting your finances organized.
Where is my Current Money? Jot down where all of your accounts are and their current balances. These accounts include savings, retirement, trusts, loans, credit cards, mortgages and medical debt. Share this information with your spouse or another responsible family member. Then if something happens to you, someone else knows where your finances stand.
What is my Monthly Income? When tallying your income, remember to account for dependent care reimbursements, child support, social security, rental income and your income from your job. I like to think about my income after benefits and tax income (the income that is available to live on). This helps to put in prospective what I have to spend.
Make a Plan Reflect on the last year or the last month. What where your expenses? Be honest. Then you can look forward to what expenses you will have in the coming year. Be honest. If medical expenses were $5,000 last year, will they be similar this year?
Divide Your Money
into these Four Categories:
Fixed –These are the monthly expenses that are probably not going to change. They may include housing, utilities, medical, food, tuition, etc.
Philanthropy – This is the money you plan to give each month. This can include religious contributions, charitable giving, capital campaign commitments and pop up fundraisers (think neighbor kid raising money for the class trip to Washington DC, or the Scout selling wreaths).
Future – This is where you plan for your and your family’s future. This may include retirement, savings, college savings, etc.
Fun – This is the category that we all live for. This could include traveling, movies, sporting events, dinner out, golfing, gym memberships, a photography class, and so on.
Simplify Your Spending Consider using a cash only system or using one standard credit card for your purchases. This makes tracking your spending (and debt) simplified by having one platform to review your spending. Knowing where all your money is and where your money will go, will help you to get a grasp on getting your money organized. There are great apps available to assist you with budgeting and tracking where your money goes. Mint, Wally and NYAB are popular apps that are user friendly.
Organizing your money will help you to make better decisions when unexpended expenses or fun opportunities are presented to you.
An organizer can help you determine where your money is and detail where your money will go. See if Top Shelf Home Organizing can help you on your journey. Contact Jayme to schedule a consult or chat about organizing.
Giving experiences does not have to cost a lot of money or put you into debt. An experience can be as simple as an afternoon in the park, inviting someone into your house for a homemade dinner or going for a hike together. No one wants you to go broke purchasing material gifts for them.
2. Make Memories
The memories created when you spend time one-on-one with friends or family are kept forever. The anticipation alone of an experience can bring much more joy than a material gift. They are not tangible like a bottle of wine or a set of decorative towels that will soon be used up or packed away into storage.
3. Quality Time
Time with a loved one brings you closer and allows you to focus on the relationship you hold dear. Friendship is spending time together listening, learning and helping. Memberships, lessons and outings together are great quality time.
4. Less Stuff
Material gifts soon find their way into storage or are left to feel more like clutter. Toys are left on the floor to be tripped over and pieces lost. Eventually, a material gift can add stress and burden to the recipient.
Still not sold on the idea of giving an experience instead of a material gift?
Start slow. Consider a fun photo frame to give with the experience so a photo of them enjoying the experience can be placed in the frame. Create a memory book of the past year’s activities, outings and experiences. Give a puzzle or game that you can play with your friends and family. These options still give you the opportunity to spend time and create memories together.
Have fun and enjoy making memories. If organizing and planning are overwhelming, a professional organizer can help. See if Top Shelf Home Organizing can help you on your journey. Contact Jayme to schedule a consult or chat about organizing.
Take some time to organize your holiday décor this year. You likely have décor and ornaments that you have in storage, but typically don’t display them. Here are some tips on getting them organized.
Get all the ornaments and décor out from storage including the attic, basement and storage unit. Then, unwrap, touch and hold each piece.
Sort each piece into groups:
1. Use this year – I love these decorations.
2. Not going to use this year – I am keeping it simple this year, but love these decorations.
3. Not going to use this year – Actually, I never want to use these.
4. Not going to use this year – Family heirlooms, I must keep these forever, but will never use.
After the sort is done, plan for storage. Allow storage space for the décor and decorations you will use this year. Then, carefully pack up the family heirlooms that you want to keep, but will not necessarily display often. Lastly, take careful considerations to remove the items that do not bring you joy.
Have fun and enjoy this process. If organizing your holiday decor is overwhelming, a professional organizer can help. See if Top Shelf Home Organizing can help you on your journey. Contact Jayme to schedule a consult or chat about organizing.
The cool weather is here and it is time to organize your fall and winter wardrobe. Here are some basic steps for refreshing your wardrobe for the cool seasons ahead.
1. Pack Away Summer Items
Take all spring and summer items out of your closet and dresser. Have all your items cleaned before placing them in storage. Moths love food remains and sweet smelling scents. Use storage containers that will allow air to flow. You don’t want to trap any moisture into the fabrics by sealing up your clothing in plastic bags and containers. Store the clothing and shoes away from your fall and winter shoes and clothing. Storage areas could be an extra closet, basement, attic, or simply in the back of your closet.
2. Organize Fall and Winter Items
All fall, winter and year-round items should be pulled out of your dressers and closets. You will want to sort items into categories; piles of pants, tops, sweaters, shoes, scarves, etc. Take some time to assess what pieces serve you well, what pieces can be removed and what pieces should be replaced. Before returning the items to your closet and dresser, neatly fold and hang them. If any items need cleaning, take care of this so your wardrobe is clean and ready for the season.
3. Remove Items
This is a great time to assess your wardrobe. Donate and consign items that no longer serve you. Women’s centers are always delighted to take in clothing. Consignment sales, such as Divine Consign, are a great way to recoup some of your investment, and purchase items to complete your current wardrobe.
4. Replace Basics
Replace items that are stained, stretched, faded or no longer fit. Adding some fresh new basics to your wardrobe can make seasonal favorites feel fresh and new. This is also a great time to update undergarments and socks.
If wardrobe changeover and organizing is overwhelming, a professional organizer can help. See if Top Shelf Home Organizing can help you on your journey. Contact Jayme to schedule a consult or chat about organizing.
Fall brings the feeling of nesting for us all. The season change and a cold winter ahead has us planning and preparing. Getting a start on fall organizing will make your fall more relaxed. Here are some things you can do right now to prepare.
With any organization process, the key to cleaning is clearing away the clutter.
Spread everything into your driveway, to go through everything you’ve piled into the garage.
Group by use such as toys, tools, garbage and equipment.
Get rid of anything you haven’t used in two years.
Get rid of anything broken, or otherwise considered junk.
Buy hooks and shelves to get as much as you can off the floor. Storage is important. Peg boards, wall shelves, rolling carts and wall hooks should be used whenever possible.
Buy clear bins with labels to help keep smaller items organized and easy to find when needed. Consider open bins for toys and equipment that are frequently accessed.
Mark areas where items get stored such as labels on the walls and shelves, and painter’s tape on the floor.
With your outdoor areas packed up, you can enjoy the cooler month’s guilt-free and tucked indoors.
Take care of and pack up your outdoor living items.
Clean any pieces you plan to store: cushions, hammocks, umbrellas.
Stack patio furniture and cushions, and store in your garage or on a covered porch. If you don’t have the room, you can leave furniture outside with heavy-duty waterproof furniture covers. These will stand up to winter weather and keep everything protected. Most granite pieces can withstand the elements so you can leave those alone, but softer stones like cast stone, marble or manufactured stone should be either covered or moved.
Clean and cover your grill, but you don’t need to pack it away. Keep your grill available for grilling all winter.
The beginning of fall is the perfect time to prep your lawn for a lush spring. You won’t be planting any new plants, but you’ll want to prep your green areas for the impending cold. And cooler temperatures mean you won’t be boiling in the summer sun while you work outdoors in the yard.
Reseed any bare spots in your lawn and use a winter fertilizer that builds resistance to the cold.
Prepare for the fall and winter by fertilizing, mulching and pruning shrubs and trees.
Always rake fallen leaves.
Plant bulbs for spring flowers.
Pull out summer entertaining items and outdoor dishes to free up space in your cabinets and countertops.
Clear the pantry of summer convenience foods.
Before your next trip to the grocery store (or delivery), empty the refrigerator. Toss items that are expired.
Wipe down all shelves and walls of the refrigerator.
Inventory what food items you have and plan some meals around those items.
Jot down some favorite fall meals to make your meal planning a bit easier.
Enjoy the cooler weather. Remember to take your organizing journey one step at a time. Focus on what matters and what will have the biggest impact for you.
If finding the time and creating a strategy to organize is overwhelming, a professional organizer can help. See if Top Shelf Home Organizing can help you on your journey. Contact Jayme to schedule a consult or chat about organizing.
In March, I shared with you, general tips on how to save time. These ideas included staying organized (of course!), identifying time wasters, making the most of running errands, finishing what you start, readjusting priorities, keeping healthy snacks on hand and outsourcing where it makes sense.
This month, I would like to share with you how I personally try to be more efficient and save time. Like you, I too juggle family, jobs, bosses, meals, schedules and fun. Here are my go-to concepts for saving time and reducing stress.
Kitchen Time Savers
Kitchen time is not enjoyable for me, but I know the importance of good nutrition. I use a couple resources to help with this.
Each week I have a simple plan for meals. I don’t make large, multi-course meals, but I will always have a refrigerator stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables, and a pantry full of nuts and seeds. Meals are always prepared for plenty of leftovers. I also leave a day or two for take out or going out to eat.
Health Heather with Better Health by Heather has been wonderful with helping to keep our meals on track, limit processed food and eat meals to sustain energy throughout the day.
Prepared Meals Jess with Cream City Casseroles has been a huge time saver for the weekday chaos. Her casseroles are made from scratch weekly, and are delivered frozen on Wednesdays. My kids love them. Her menu changes monthly. We haven’t had the same casserole yet this year!
I have an ongoing shopping list with Woodman’s online grocery delivery service. Every week, I import my standard list into the shopping cart and then make changes and additions based on the meal plan for the week. I no longer spend three hours grocery shopping each week.
Laundry Time Savers
I have a laundry day. Instead of running a load or two of laundry each day, I do it all in one day. On laundry day, I do not schedule any other appointments or meetings. To complete one week of laundry for six people, it takes six hours of non-stop focus. This includes sorting and stain treating to folding and putting away. Doing laundry in one day saves time overall because I fold, sort and put away one time. Doing laundry multiple days would force me to repeat the same process multiple times.
Cleaning Time Savers
We do not allocate funds for a full service house cleaner. Instead, our cleaning assistant, Jackie, comes every other week for three hours. She focuses on the main areas of the house, alternating certain details each visit. I handle the other areas (office, bedrooms and bathrooms). Having Jackie help works two-fold: the house has to be tidy so she can see the areas that need to be cleaned, and it forces me to do my share of the cleaning. My house stays clean without breaking the bank.
Keeping a Master Calendar
Everything goes in the Google calendar. All entries include first names of who is involved, addresses and any other pertinent information. All calendar items are differentiated to show which items are family, business related, and so on. I can then print the family calendar so the kids know what to expect each day, and my husband is always in the loop of appointments and activities. I can rest easy each evening since all the next day’s activities are scheduled to the minute.
Lists keep me accountable, focused, structured, and also help to reduce stress. A small notepad is in my bag at all times to make my lists. This is used to jot down things that come up throughout the day, reminders, shopping lists, and notes during client meetings all go in my little notebook. There are great apps for this same thing, but I find my notebook to work best. My husband likes to use Trello to track all of the household projects that he is involved in. There are many list making apps available including Wunderlist, todoist and Evernote.
Sticking to a Limited Wardrobe
My wardrobe consists of a limited number of items that mix and match, and can go from running kids around, to consultations with clients, to teaching college lectures, to volunteer work, to dinner prep., and running kids around again. It is a capsule wardrobe of sorts. My good friend LeAnn Conway with Conway Image Consulting helps me with the selection of each item (she’s great). I have some personal restrictions: no dry clean only, no wardrobe changes throughout my day (with the exception of tossing on a blazer or sweater), and no heals. What I put on in the morning has to take me through the entire day.
Packing Swim and Sports Bags in Advance
Gym bag, swim bag and sports bags, stay packed and stocked. This way we are not running around last minute to grab swim suits, soccer cleats and baseball socks. As soon as it’s washed, it’s back into the bag.
Despite my ability to be organized, I still struggle to get projects done. Having Jeanne, my organizing assistant, come help me with projects, allows me to schedule time to stay focused on the project in front of me. She keeps me accountable, offers another perspective and keeps me on track.
“Three hours working with an organizer is like 12 hours of working on my own.”
My Advice to you: Outsource
Where it makes sense, outsource. Look at the value of your time. It may make sense to outsource a couple tasks, in order to help you focus your time on more important items. Consider getting help with cleaning, laundering, yard maintenance and meal preparation. Your family may be the first option for help in these areas.
Getting organized will save you time and money. Here are six ideas on how this can really happen.
Meal Planning When you plan meals, you spend less money at the store (or eliminate a trip to the grocery store altogether), eat healthier and waste less food. Having a plan prevents impulse purchases of overpriced convenience food and last minute carryout meals. When you know what food you have in your pantry, you can build meal plans around the ingredients you already have.
Sell your clutter Sell the items you no longer use or love, and the items you have multiples of. In addition to making a little cash, you will love the extra space to breathe.
Limit repeat purchases Getting organized helps you keep track of what you own so you don’t run out to purchase something that you can’t find. Like items get placed with like items… you’ll soon discover how many bottles of sunscreen and kitchen spatulas you actually own.
Late fees vs. discounts You’ll avoid late fees, and you’ll be able to see new ways you could save on your expenses. Instead of spending time trying to settle delinquent bills, you can ask your providers for discounts for being a good customer. Being on top of bills and due dates will keep your budget on track.
Save time Once you’re more organized, you will spend less time trying to find things and making multiple runs to the store. You can use that extra time for to be more productive, make more money to pay off your debts or add to your savings. Also, once you realize what you own, you will less likely go out shopping. This will save time, money and gas… double bonus!
You’ll discover more ways to save Once you get rid of the clutter in your house, you’ll free your mind up to figure out more ways to cut back or earn more. You will also see how little you really need, realizing you do not need to shop.
If planning and orgainzing are overwhelming, a professional organizer can help. See if Top Shelf Home Organizing can help you on your journey. Contact Jayme to schedule a consult or chat about organizing.
Productivity is all about being efficient and accomplishing more in less time. Schedule your day to be the most efficient you can be by having a plan for every day.
Here are a few tips to make the most of your day whether you work in your home, run a business, or work for a large company.
Difficult Tasks Schedule your most difficult, undesirable tasks for the time of day when you are most focused. For many, this time is first thing in the morning. And doesn’t if feel good to get it out of the way?
Meetings Prepare, review and stick to a meeting agenda to ensure everyone stays on topic. Issues that may come up during a meeting can wait to be discussed at a later time with only the people involved. Set up video conferencing equipment ahead of the meeting so you can tackle the agenda on time and save everyone valuable minutes with each meeting.
Communication Schedule a couple times in your day where you devote time to checking and responding to emails, voicemails and messages. Having a set time to do this will help you avoid being interrupted throughout the day, and keep you focused on the project you intend to accomplish. Also, use the phone to communicate more often versus the never ending back and forth of email and other messaging communications.
Breaks Schedule blocks of breaks throughout your day to keep your mind fresh.
Me Time Schedule me time every day. Taking time first thing in the morning to focus on your health and faith will get your day off to a good start.
Checklists Use a checklist for daily repetitive tasks. This will keep you focused and help minimize errors in the tasks you do everyday. Also, create a weekly checklist to help keep your week on task, so you can accomplish your goals. Create your weekly checklist at the end of the previous work week so your week is off to a strong, focused start.
Work Space Keep your work space neat and organized to ensure focus. Keep only the current project on your desk. If it makes sense, plan certain tasks to be completed offsite or at home. Offsite work allows for focus without the office interruptions and can save commute time.
If scheduling and organizing are challenging, a professional organizer can help. See if Top Shelf Home Organizing can help you on your journey. Contact Jayme to schedule a consult or chat about organizing.
Spring cleaning for some is a chore for others a joy. However, the result of a thoroughly cleaned home brings lightness and freedom to everyone.
Spring cleaning items:
Strip the beds down to the mattress and wash all linens.
Clean the frames and headboards of beds.
Moved and empty furniture and wash baseboards.
Clean ceiling fans.
Empty china cabinets and give them a good cleaning.
Empty every inch of each closet and inventory, value assess, wash and clean surfaces, and organize clothes in a useful and efficient way.
Effectively spring cleaning means no corner is left untouched by brooms, dusters, scrub brushes, rags and other cleaning weapons.
The task of spring cleaning is big. But, if you break it down into daily tasks, your home can be fresh, clean and organized before the kids get out of school. Although I’m personally not a cleaning expert, I do love a clean house. For some great cleaning resources check out cleanmama.net, and their free printable’s like their spring cleaning checklist.
You will feel a change of energy in your home and in your self after a day of thorough de-cluttering and cleaning. Your home will feel lighter, brighter and more cheerful.
The best part of de-cluttering and organizing for me is hearing my clients describe similar feelings of lightness and freedom after a session together. Whether organizing a home or office, de-cluttering can be a cathartic passing of the old and the start of a whole new season in life.
What are your plans this spring?
Is a cluttered room or desk stopping you from enjoying your home or office the way you’d like to enjoy it? Have your dust bunnies proliferated beyond a reasonable limit? Do you find spring-cleaning to be a daunting task of Olympian magnitude? Has it never even occurred to you that a good spring-cleaning would be appropriate at the office?
If organizing and cleaning is overwhelming, a professional organizer can help. See if Top Shelf Home Organizing can help you on your journey. Contact Jayme to schedule a consult or chat about organizing.
Most of you are busy professionals juggling the demands of your career and your family. Getting it all done while taking time for yourself is taxing. Consider these seven tips to help you streamline your schedule and save time.
Stay organized. Use a calendar to write down all your work and family engagements, addresses and phone numbers. Keeping all the information in one place can keep you from wasting time looking for it later.
Identify time wasters. Keep track of the ways you waste time for one week. Do you spend 10 minutes finding your keys? If so, make a key hook by your door-and use it. Schedule time to check social media and check email each day. Start to plan meals to avoid daily stops at the store.
Make the most of your trips. Knock a few items off your list on the way to work or at lunch, freeing up some night and weekend time.
Finish what you start. When you work on a project from start to finish, it’s one less item on the to-do list. Having many unfinished projects at home and work is stressful and overwhelming.
Readjust priorities. Since you can’t really do it all, re-evaluate which activities really need your time and focus. Think about what has the most value to you, your career and your family, and eliminate the rest.
Keep healthy snacks on hand. Fresh fruits and vegetables, Kind bars and plenty of water will keep you fueled throughout your busy day. Identify hunger and thirst right away and have snacks available. This will prevent quick stops at drive through coffee shops and fast food restaurants.
Outsource where it makes sense. Look at the value of your time. It may make sense to outsource a couple tasks to help you focus your time on more important items. Consider getting help with cleaning, laundry, yard maintenance and meal preparation. Your family may be the first option for help in these areas.