How to Set Realistic Organizing Goals

Setting Realistic Organizing Goals

Setting Realistic Organizing Goals

In this new year and new decade, I want to share with you some simple ideas on how to set goals to be more organized in 2020. Being organized is a journey. To expect to become completely organized this month if you have not been organized in the past year or decade is unrealistic.  Setting small weekly goals to get your home organized will be more manageable, leave you time to continue with your daily activities, and allow you to celebrate many small victories.

5 W’s of Goal Setting

Take some time to think about the benefits of being organized, and what that will look and feel like for you.  Start a journal or notebook to track your progress, motivations, slowdowns and feelings.  A good guideline for setting goals is to look at the five W’s.

  • Why is it important for you to become and stay organized? How will this help you to be the best you?
  • Where do you think you need the most organization? Is it an area of your home? Is it an area of your office? Would having more structure to your schedule be beneficial?
  • When will you accomplish your goals? When will you make time to work on your goals? Set a realistic time frame to meet your goals. Getting organized is a journey, not a one-stop trip. Plan time in your days and your weeks to accomplish small goals.
  • Who will be affected by being organized? Obviously you will directly benefit. Think about the other people who will positively benefit from organization and structure. Your boss will feel the benefits of your workspace being organized and your schedule more structured.  Family members will see the benefits of an organized home and feel the benefits of you being less stressed.  Relationships will flourish when this area of your life is under control.
  • What do you want to organize? Look at the big picture and break it down into small steps and then into even smaller steps. If you want your entire home, office, storage unit, garage, attic and vacation home organized, you will need to set goals in each area. Furthermore, goals will need to be set for each room, and then even smaller goals will need to be set for each file, drawer, closet, box and bin. For example, if your goal is an organized bedroom, you will want to break your bedroom down into smaller categories. These smaller categories could include closet, dresser, under bed storage, bathroom and linen closet. Each of these areas can be broken down into very small projects that take just minutes. Your dresser can be separated into smaller categories such as undergarments, socks, pajamas, swimwear, t-shirts and accessories. A similar method can be applied to other areas.

Goal Setting Basics

  • Specific
    Be specific about your goals.  Goals should be specific to what you really want and need to be organized. Go further than general statements like “I am going to get organized” and “I am going to organized my whole house.” Specific goals will go deep and detail areas of your home, and further into rooms, and then into drawers, closets, categories, boxes and bins.A calendar is a great way to break down your project into small specific goals. Each month you will have a large goal. The large goal can be broken down into smaller weekly goals, and then even further into very manageable daily goals. The smaller goals should be focused on achieving a larger goal to ensure a part of the project gets completed. If you are working on basement organizing, the smaller goals should lead you to accomplishing that larger goal.
  • Measurable
    You will want to have a way to measure your progress. Progress with getting organized can be a photo to visually remind you of what you have accomplished. It will help to know where you started and how far you have come. A simple check list or spreadsheet can also help you mark off your progress.
  • Attainable
    Set goals that you can achieve. Success meeting your goals will motivate you to keep going. Setting goals that will only take minutes a day will be more attainable than goals that take many hours out of your week. An attainable goal for you may be cleaning and organizing a refrigerator shelf, not the entire refrigerator. It will always feel better to move on to the next small goal when you have time than to set goals so large you cannot complete even one.
  • Realistic
    Be realistic about your time, lifestyle and goals. If your weekends are packed with running to activities and enjoying time with family and friends, you may only have a few minutes to work on your goals. Don’t plan to organize your entire office on Saturday if you have a full schedule. That will only lead to failure and frustration.
  • Timely
    Set timely organizing goals. Making progress will keep you motivated. If you plan for an organizing project to go on too long, you may lose focus. Planning your goals to be accomplished in a timely manner will help you and others see and learn that progress has happened and keep you going.

There are many monthly and daily organizing calendars available online.  These can provide a great guide for you to plan your organizing journey.  Top Shelf Home Organizing would love to help you on your journey.  Jayme would be happy to help you set your organizing goals, and help you achieve your organizing goals.

How to Organize Holiday Stuff for Good

Organizing Holiday DecorationsYear after year, you want to get all your holiday stuff organized completely. At the end of the holidays you are tired, life gets back to usual busyness and holiday items quickly get stashed away. Here are Top Shelf Home Organizing’s tips to get your holiday items organized and packed away properly. Organizing holiday items really is not different than organizing any other category of items in your life. Gather, sort, purge and store.

1. Gather

Retrieve all items from storage including the attic, basement and storage unit.  Gather all items that were put on display this year. Unwrap, touch and hold each item.


2. Sort

Sort each piece into categories:

  • Tree Décor
  • Interior décor by room
  • Exterior décor
  • Holiday cards received
  • Food storage
  • Other

Within each of these categories, you will sub-sort items as:

  • Used this year and will use again
  • Used this year, but will not use again
  • Did not use this year, but will use next year
  • Did not use this year and I never want to use these (this includes defective lights and broken items)
  • Do not use these and will not use next year, but they are family heirlooms, I must keep these items forever

3. Purge

Remove the items you have classified as “Did not use this year and I never want to use these,” and “Used this year, but will not use again.”  These items can be donated, offered to friends and family or potentially recycled and disposed of.

4. Store

After the sort is done, plan for storage. Create ample space in one location to store holiday items.  This is when you purchase storage containers and shelving if needed.  Clear, small- to medium-sized containers that stack and nest well, work great for these delicate items.  A shelf dedicated to holiday décor keeps these items organized and together. These items are readily available at most home goods stores immediately after the holidays.

Keep track of your categories created.  Items should be stored and labeled in the same manner to keep next year’s decorating as simple and organized as possible.  Holiday lights can be neatly wrapped individually for ease of install next year.  Ornaments are carefully wrapped and stored. Carefully pack up the family heirlooms that you want to keep, but will not necessarily display often.

Top Shelf home Organizing loves to organize holiday décor.  Contact Jayme to see how Top Shelf can help.

4 Organizing Tips for Pre-Holiday Sanity

Getting organized before the holidays can save your sanity and protect your pocket book. Having a holiday plan will keep you in check, and prevent impulse purchases that are so easy to make during this magical time of year.

Organizing Ornament DecorationsHere are some ideas on keeping the holidays organized:

  • Budget
    Set a realistic budget for the holidays. Think beyond the gift budget, and include extra events and shows you may attend, additional dining out, entertaining, wardrobe purchases for events, and activities while you and the family are on holiday break.
  • Decorations
    This year, you get a free pass for decorating early because you are getting your holiday decorations organized.  Getting your holiday décor out and organized will prevent you from purchasing new, unnecessary decorations.Follow these steps to effectively organize your holiday décor:
    • Step 1: Remove all holiday décor from storage
    • Step 2: Sort and categorize into: lights, tree ornaments, exterior decorations and interior decorations by room.
    • Step 3: Access what you have, what you love, what you don’t like, and what you need to keep, but don’t want to display
    • Step 4: Donate or sell what you don’t want
    • Step 5: Organize and store what you need to keep, but don’t want to display. This includes items such as family heirlooms, kids’ homemade décor, etc.
    • Step 6: Check that lights work properly. Recycle those that do not work or will not be used.
    • Step 7: Take time to decorate carefully selecting the items you love that will serve your family well. Remove the rest.
  • Gifts
    Create a list of people you want to buy gifts for (friends, family, teachers, service providers, etc.). Consider gifting experiences, memberships, services, outings/dates or consumables. Limit the physical gifts as they can be costly and under appreciated.
  • Sell
    Do a quick inventory of items in your home that you can remove before the holidays. Sets of toys sell well online before the holidays. So you may consider selling those expensive sets of toys that your kids no longer have an interest in.This also a good time to resale your clothes online.  Poshmark, ThredUp or local consignment shops are great places to get a little return on your wardrobe.

If pre-holiday organizing has you overwhelmed, 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.

Simple Steps to Pantry Organization

Autumn is a great time to clear out the pantry and make room for fall foods, baking supplies and entertainment planning items. A fresh pantry will reignite your love for cooking and give your kitchen a little refresh. Clearing out and inventorying the food in your pantry can help with your meal planning and grocery shopping. We have put together four simple, practical tips for getting your pantry organized this fall.

 

  1. Remove all food and other items from your pantry
    You will also want to gather food you have stored in other areas of your home.  While the pantry is empty, it’s a great time to thoroughly clean all surfaces for a fresh start. Ahead of this project, consider purchasing the food you typically keep on hand. This is an important part of allocating adequate space in your pantry.

 

  1. Sort and categorize your food
    During this process, you can categorize the food on your kitchen countertops and dining room table. Remove and dispose of expired food. Relocate nonfood items, especially if your pantry space is limited to another storage area of your kitchen or home. Categorize your food into snacks, canned goods, grains, pastas, nuts & seeds, etc.Strategize where food will go in your pantry based on the categories, quantity of food and convenience. You will want frequently used items within reach. Occasionally used items can go on higher, less convenient shelves. You may or may not want kids snack items within their reach.

 

  1. Purchase storage products
    If you need them, explore and purchase storage containers that will work well for your pantry.  Clear bins work great for corralling snack bars, chips and items that come in soft packaging.  If you tend to purchase bulk grains, nuts, etc., you may want to consider tight sealing, clear containers for storage of these items that do not come with their own packaging.  Measure your space carefully prior to buying storage items, as you want them to fit well in the space they will be used.Also be careful not to overcomplicate containers.  Many times, placing pre-packaged food into containers may be more work than needed. Consider food rotation when deciding on containers. You will want to make sure the older food gets used first.  Coordinating containers can make the pantry aesthetically pleasing.I also suggest labels for all containers. This will help ensure everyone knows where to return food to the pantry.  Adding pull out drawers and baskets are nice for deep shelves to make all items visible and accessible.  You can utilize the pantry doors for storage of lightweight, narrow items.

 

  1. Return food to pantry
    Returning food to the pantry is fun. This is where you get to utilize any new storage products, decide on the best location for the food, and label the bins and containers.  Remember that food goes with food in the pantry. Non-food items go with non-food items, and may need to be stored in other areas.  The slow cooker you use two times per year, the holiday candles, or kids craft supplies may not have a home in your pantry, especially if you are low on space.  Limit food storage in other areas such as the hall closet, bathroom, garage, and basement unless necessary.

 

Bonus Step: Create a meal plan that utilizes the food you have in your pantry. This will save you cash on your next shopping trip.

Pantry organizing can be a fun and easy organizing project that is good to do with the season changes.  For a kick start on organizing your pantry, see if Top Shelf Home Organizing can help you.  Contact Jayme for advice. We love what a fresh pantry will do for you.

Organize Your Office to Increase Productivity

We have researched tips and tricks on how to create and maintain an organized office to increase your productivity.  An organized office includes a system to manage information and an environment that encourages productivity.  You can create a comfortable and organized workspace to make your work time more productive and enjoyable.  Here are some of our favorite tips.

Workspace
Your work environment is so important to your productivity. How the space feels to you and where items are located affect the quality of your workspace.

Lighting
Consider a well-lit workspace. If natural light is not an option, look for lighting that mimics that of natural light. Be generous on the quantity and location of light fixtures.  Also consider the type of light bulbs you install.  While fluorescent and LED light bulbs are more economical, those sensitive to this lighting may consider traditional incandescent lighting or warm colored LED bulbs.

Desk Location
Place your desk or work surface in an area that embraces productivity instead of distractions. You may not want to sit where passersby are tempted to stop to chat, or where noises are a distraction.  If you have a home office, your most productive place is likely not in the kids’ playroom.  Instead consider a room that is relatively far away from the family action.

Office Equipment
Have your work equipment in a location that is convenient, but not necessarily on your desktop. Equipment that is used frequently throughout the day should be placed near your workspace. Computer and phone are located on your desk. If you do a lot of video conferencing, your camera should be on your desk ready to go.  If you do a lot of scanning, keep your scanner near your desk. Needing to run to another room or another floor to retrieve a print out will have an impact on your productivity.  Other frequently used equipment should be placed on a separate piece of furniture nearby, or where it can be easily accessed.

Storage
If you are a visual person and tend to create piles on your desktop so that you know right where things are, consider open shelving for your files.  If you feel most productive when things are tucked away out of site, then a file cabinet system will work well for you.  Either system should be well-labeled so that everything has a place and retrieval of information is easy. Other office basics are important to your workspace, as well. These basics include a good sized trash can and recycle container, a supportive chair, right-sized desk or work surface, and containers to corral office supplies such as pens, pencils, tape, stapler, paperclips and notepads.

Information Management

Information management, traditionally referred to as paper management, is best completed by a structured system in place to receive, store and reference all the information that comes to you.  A structured information management system works if your information is primarily in paper form, digital form or a combination.  Similar management systems are set up to manage paper and digital information.  Keep in mind that you want to have current projects and information accessible, while past projects and information can be filed away. This will free up space for what you are working on now, but you will still have past projects organized and accessible for future reference.

When you receive information, have an initial place for this information to go.  There are five categories for this initial storage system. This system works for emails, physical papers and digital information.  This initial storage system is designed to hold information for a few days to up to a month depending on the pace of your work.

  1. Follow Up
    This file is where you place information that needs to be addressed in the near term.  This file is addressed during a scheduled time you allocated to follow up on these items. You may need to allow for this time daily, weekly or even monthly. Sub files can be created based on the timeframe required for each action.
  2. To Do
    This file is very similar to your to-do list. This is where you place items that have a deadline and cannot be overlooked. This may include membership renewals, client follow ups, etc.  This file may also include emails and publications that you wish to unsubscribe from. This file may also be called “Waiting on Response,” if your workflow is dependent on others to respond or complete tasks.
  3. To Read
    This file is where you place items that you intend to read and absorb at a later time.  These items do not necessarily have a deadline, but instead are items of interest to you. This file is designed to prevent you from getting distracted by an interesting article when you are in the process of completing other tasks.
  4. To Pay
    This is the file where you place items that have to be paid by a certain date. This can include vendor invoices, utility bills, credit card statements, etc. This file is kept separate from the to-do file since it involves money, and timely payment is important due to budgets and due dates.
  5. To File
    A file designated to items that need to be filed is also important. This is where you place items that have been addressed, but eventually need to be filed for long-term storage.  This includes physical files, digital files and emails.
  6. Long-term
    A long-term file is where information that needs to be saved can be archived. When you receive an email or piece of mail that can go directly into longer term filing, set up a system that does this for you automatically. Emails can be automatically labeled and filed without any additional work on your part.

Be Consistent
Setting up a consistent filing system for the long-term files is very important. For example, if you have file folder on your hard drive or in the cloud for storing client invoices, you will likely have an email file for the same client. Naming these similar files in a consistent way will make retrieving information much more efficient. If you have an invoice from Top Shelf Home Organizing, you might consider creating a file titled “Top Shelf Home Organizing” on both your drive and your email. If you identify your clients with a contract number, consider utilizing the contract number in your file naming convention. The important point here is to keep the naming convention consistent across physical files, digital files and email files.

IF setting up and/or maintaining a productive office environment and structured filing system is overwhelming, consider having an office assistant or a professional organizer help you. See if Top Shelf Home Organizing can help you get your next organizing project started and completed.  Contact Jayme to schedule a consult or chat about organizing.

A Student’s Guide to Organizing Coursework

Organizing CourseworkWhether you are in high school or in college, having a system to organize your course work will set the foundation for success in your courses. Keeping an organized course portfolio for each class can help with homework, studying for exams, and reference for the next course in a sequence. In the long term, having organized work can assist with future courses, standardized test preparation and professional licensing.  These portfolios can also serve as sample work for college applications, graduate school admissions, job applications and scholarship applications. A portfolio could be created with a simple three ring binder or electronically using PDF documents.

Cover
The cover to a course portfolio should include:

  • Course name
  • Course number
  • Course term and date
  • Instructor name
  • Your name

To save time, consider creating a template in a word processing document so that information for each course can be easily entered and saved.

Table of Contents
The basics of a Table of Contents is to assist you in finding the information that is included within the portfolio. At a minimum, this page will include the titles of each section of the portfolio. These sections are listed below in bold. If you want to add detail to the table of contents, a suggestion is to add subtitles to each section.  The Lecture Notes section, for example, would include the topics of each lecture, and the Lab section would include the titles to each lab.

Lecture Notes
The lecture note section of the portfolio is where you gather and store the lesson information that is presented in the classroom. The material is placed chronologically in the portfolio. Lessons may be provided in a visual presentation software such as PowerPoint or Google Slides, PDF or another file. Some instructors may not provide lesson outlines or notes, as they may feel a student is more engaged and likely to retain material if they create their own notes.

The content of the Lecture Note section will include:

  • Lesson outlines provided by instructor
  • Your notes (these may be handwritten, markups on a PDF, notes added to a visual presentation file file, or notes added to other files the instructor provides)

Handouts
Supplemental handouts
The instructor may provide handout or additional files to supplement their lecture materials.

Reference material
The instructor may include reference material that they used to prepare their lecture, or material that the student can refer to for additional reinforcement.

Articles

  • Current articles can be helpful to reinforce the lecture materials and add interest to the material being presented.
  • Other materials provided by instructor
  • Reference material


Assignments
Chronologically placed in portfolios
Cover page
Assignment name
Assignment number
Date submitted
Instructor name
Your name
Original assignment sheet
Graded assignment
Revised assignment

Exams
Chronologically placed in portfolio
Exam cover sheet with material, lectures and chapters covered

Labs
Chronologically placed in portfolio
Lab name
Lab number
Date performed
Date submitted
Instructor name
Your name
Lab team member names
Formal lab write-up
Lab instructions
Lab lecture notes
Handwritten notes and data collection
Photos of procedure and results
Resources referenced

Having organized files on your hard drive and on a network is equally important.  Providing structure to the way the work is saved and titled helps students access their work when assignments are due, study for exams and reference work in the future.

  1. Make one main file devoted to your schoolwork. Title this folder with your school name. Add subfolders with the school year or term. For example, “Spring 2020.”
  2. Within the term file, create a subfolder for each class you take. (Tip: Use the full name of the class, i.e., “AE 1001 Freshman Seminar.” If that’s too long, use the department abbreviation and course number, i.e., “AE 1001.”)
  3. Each class will have similar subfolders to keep specific material. These folders will likely include Lecture Notes, Handouts, Assignments, Exams and Labs. The files within these files will have a clear and unique name starting with the category followed by the details of the file. For example, lecture notes from the sixth lecture may be titled “Lecture 6.” Your instructor may require a particular file-name structure that includes your name if the work is being submitted via e-mail or a cloud-based workspace such as Dropbox or Box. To ensure that your work will be accepted for full credit, pay attention to the guidelines provided in your syllabus, in class, or within the course.
  4. Save your final file to the appropriate course folder. You may consider saving to your own drive and backing up to the cloud, or an external drive to protect your work.

Keeping course work organized is a critical aspect of a student’s success.  Guiding them through this process a few times will help them build structure for future success and independence. An organized course portfolio can serve as application and scholarship material, be used for reference for future courses and careers, as well as a reference for standard testing and professional licensing.

See if Top Shelf Home Organizing can help you get your next organizing project started and completed.  Contact Jayme to schedule a consult or chat about organizing.

Questions An Organizer Will Ask

Questions an Organizer Will AskWhen consulting with a professional organizer, they will ask a set of important questions. To prepare you for your own organizing project, or for your first meeting with an organizer, a list of these standard questions is below. Why these questions are so important is included as well.

  • Name
    Who will the work be done for? Are you getting yourself organized or is this for a family member or a friend?
  • Address
    Location where the organizer will be working so travel time can be planned, as well as access to stores where supplies may need to be purchased to complete a project.
  • Phone and Email Address
    Phone number and email address are needed for contacting you with questions before, during and after the project, as well as invoicing and follow-up coaching.
  • Area(s) to be organized
    Create a list of areas you desire to have organized in order of their priority.  Have this question prepared before you have an on-site consultation with an organizer so they can help you set goals and prioritize your needs. Setting a reasonable timeframe for when you would like the projects complete is helpful for planning and budgeting the project.
  • Who uses the space?
    It is helpful to know who uses the space to be organized.  This could be employees, children, adult family members, your self or nanny/babysitter.
  • What is the space used for?
    What a space is used for helps prioritize what items should be left in the space. If a kitchen, for example, doubles as an office or kids craft area, space may be allocated for storing those other supplies.
  • What is your time frame for meeting your goals?
    Do you want your spaces organized in the near term, or do you want your top priority completed sooner and the rest of your goals spread out through the next months or year
  • What are your biggest obstacles to getting this space organized?
    Understanding what your personal obstacles for organizing and maintaining organization in the space helps the organizer plan the project. Obstacles often include time, family members and budget.
  • What are your goals?
    What does an organized space look like to you? Everyone has a different perspective on being organized. One person may prefer everything sorted by category in neatly labeled and matching containers. Another person may feel organized by having items in their correct location, but not necessarily neatly labeled with matching bins.
  • Will you be working with the organizer the entire time, some of the time or not at all?
    Do you plan to work one-on-one with the organizer? Or do you plan to have the organizer complete the project independently? Working with the organizer for part of the time is also an option. Think about what works best for you and your schedule.
  • What is your budget for organizing?
    Communicating your budget with the organizer helps them plan for your custom project and what materials may need to be purchased. A lower budget project can reuse boxes and bins that you currently own. A higher budget project may allow for new storage solutions.
  • Have you worked with an organizer before?
    Understanding if you have worked with an organizer before and what you enjoyed most about the experience is helpful for customizing your session.
  • How many people live in the home?
    Knowing how many people live in the home or work in an office is also important. Clear labels and communication on storage solutions is more important to the success of an organizing project with more people involved.  A single person is able to maintain an organized space with less labels and communication.
  • How long have you lived in your home?
    Learning how long a person or family has been in a home gives insight to the duration and quantity of items that may be in a home.
  • Do you have a storage unit?
    It is helpful to know if and what items are stored offsite.
  • Do you have storage in your attic?
    It is helpful to know if you do and what items are in storage in your home.
  • Do you have storage in your basement?
    It is helpful to know if you do and what items are in storage in your home.
  • Do you have any questions for the organizer?
    Preparing a list of questions upfront for your organizer will help you determine if hiring an organizer is a good fit for you, and if he or she is someone you think matches your lifestyle, personality and needs.

These are great questions to think about before contacting a professional organizer.  The questions will help you prepare for and make the most of the initial phone conversation or on-site consultation.  At Top Shelf Home Organizing, we love to help busy people get organized.  See if Top Shelf Home Organizing can help you get your next organizing project started and completed. Contact Jayme to schedule a consult or chat about organizing.

Professional Organizer’s Toolbox

Taking on an organizing project is a big task. I often get questions from friends and family on what products they need to purchase before beginning a project. You will want to be prepared with the correct supplies without buying the wrong supplies or too many supplies. Before you run out to the store to stock up, take a look at the supplies a Professional Organizer has on hand. The items are in order of importance so you can gauge what you should invest in.

  • Permanent markers for labeling bags, boxes and bins.
  • Large trash bags for removing trash and donations, and for storing large, soft, bulky items.
  • Scissors for trimming, cutting, and opening packages and boxes.
  • Packing tape for sealing boxes and bins.
  • Zip close plastic bags of various sizes to contain small items.
  • Label maker for printing neat, uniform labels that can be adhered to nearly every surface.
  • Sticky notes work great for temporary labels on files, piles, bins and boxes.
  • Work gloves for moving items around and protecting your hands.
  • Bandages for nicks and scrapes on your hands and fingers.
  • Rubber bands and Velcro for wrapping, separating and containing.
  • File boxes with lids for sorting and storing files and other items. File boxes work great while organizing as they let you plan for purchasing bins.
  • Tape measure helps you measure what will fit where, so you aren’t moving items multiple times to see what fits where.
  • Multi tool kit for hanging, leveling and disassembling items.
  • Scanner for retaining files and photos digitally to reduce papers and photos in your home and office. Preferably, a high capacity scanner than can handle many sheets per minute while scanning both sides of the document.
  • Paper shredder for destroying personal files. Preferably, a high quality shredder that can handle many sheets at one time, and won’t get clogged up with an overlooked metal staple.

At Top Shelf Home Organizing, we love to help people get stuff done. See if Top Shelf Home Organizing can help you get your next organizing project started.  Contact Jayme to schedule a consult or chat about organizing.

10 Tips for Summer Preparation

Preparing for a season transition can be stressful, especially if you have school aged children wrapping up their school year and end of year performances.  While May is a busy month, I have created a list of things to do before summer is in full swing.  The key to summer is to have a plan. Summer Preparation Tips

  1. Budget 

    Summer days feel carefree and wide open. Your budget, however, may not be. Take some time to think about your summer budget. Summer time brings extra childcare and camp expenses. You may also be working a reduced schedule. Sticking to a budget can make your summer less stressful and more accomplished. No one wants to end the summer in debt and stressed out.

  2. Schedule
    A change in schedule for the family will bring new challenges. Plan ahead for summer activities and childcare. For you, schedule time for self care and exercise. If you are good about getting to the gym during the school year, you will want to schedule similar exercise time in the summer.  It’s easy to put other family member’s schedules before yours in the summer.  Your local library and school are great resources for scheduling activities for your children.
  3. Travel 

    Its time to plan your travel routes and lodging for summer travel.  Choose your destination, and schedule and research the best flights, routes and lodging.  If you have your travel plans nailed down, its time to get into the details.  Research the best local cuisine, fun day excursions, the best parks in the area, and free things to do with kids.  It is also a good idea to gather all important travel documents, and know where the local medical clinics are and drug stores for necessities while traveling.  For the weekends you are local, research your city’s summer bucket list for fun local explorations.

  4. Lazy Days 

    Plan plenty of lazy days for you and your family.  Allow yourself some time to read a book, nap in the hammock or putts in the garden. Kids love exploring in the backyard, creating fairy gardens, collecting bugs and camping in the backyard.  These creative activities are tough to accomplish with an overscheduled summer.

  5. Self Care 

    Do a few things for yourself in advance of summer time.  Schedule a hair appointment for a fresh cut and color. Pay attention to your feet by starting the sandal season with a fresh pedicure.  Stock up on sunscreen for both your body and your face. Declutter your makeup, toss the old items and add a fresh lip color to your collection.  This is also a great time to clean out your medicine cabinet. Dispose of expired or unneeded medications, and ensure your first aid kit is stocked.

  6. Your Wardrobe 

    If you have not yet transitioned your wardrobe, do it now. Purge the fall, winter and spring items that don’t suit you, instead of packing them away. If you didn’t like them this year, you won’t like them next year (even if you lose the ten pounds you are working on). For your summer wardrobe, get all items from storage. Carefully select the items you want to wear, purge the rest.  Make a list of items you need to complete your wardrobe and carefully purchase only those items.

  7. Kids Wardrobe 

    This purge is very similar to what you would do for your own wardrobe.  The good news is that it is easier to work through someone else’s clothes than your own.  Remove the fall, winter and spring items that are worn, stained and will not fit your children next year. If you are saving clothing for a younger child, only save the items that you truly love and are in good condition. There is no reason to handle stained or worn clothes more than one time. Neatly pack away the clothes you are saving.  Make sure they are clean and neatly folded, and placed in clear plastic bins that are labeled so you know right where to find them.  Make a list of the items your children need for the summer season, so you can once again shop with meaning.  Keep in mind summer camp and extended trips when inventorying kids clothes.

  8. Purge Toys 

    With the kids spending more time outdoors, it is a great time to get into the playroom and basement, and purge the toys they don’t receive joy from.  Consider the plastic toy sets they received for their birthday that are now missing parts and have broken pieces, the toys they scatter around unproductively, the nostalgic toy your mother-in-law picked up at a rummage sale last summer, and the toys they have simply outgrown. Keep the basic toys that allow for creative play such as Legos, Magna tiles, dolls and a few Nerf guns.

  9. House 

    Prepare your house for a fresh start to the summer. Taking care of a few things inside and out gives you a neat and clean feel for the summer.  Inside the house a good deep clean and purge will free up some space.  Clean the windows for a clear view, and clean the oven now that roasting season is over.  Have your air conditioning system inspected and serviced.  Moving to the outside, give your grill a good scrub down.  You’ll be amazed how great a clean grill can feel.  Wash down patio furniture and the cushions for meals on the porch.  Tackle the weeds in the garden now while the soil is moist and soft, and weeds are small.  Apply a pre-emergent to your gardens as well to prevent new weeds from appearing.  Seed the areas of your lawn that are thin.  Add some fresh annual flowers to the front flower beds for some curb appeal.  Clean the walkway, driveway and garage floor.  Prepare your lawn mower by servicing the engine and sharpening the blades.  Inflate the bicycle tires and grease the chains for summer bike rides.

At Top Shelf Home Organizing, we love to help people get stuff done.  See if Top Shelf Home Organizing can help you get ready for summer.  Contact Jayme to schedule a consult or chat about organizing.

Step by Step Guide to Transition from Paper to Electronic Files

Whether you own a business, run an office, are an entrepreneur or manage a household, going paperless can reduce clutter and improve efficiency.  Although it is nearly impossible to go completely ‘paperless’, you can benefit greatly by digitizing much of your paperwork. This will reduce the amount of physical paper you keep.

Benefits to reducing physical papers include increasing productivity, reducing time spent on paper management, and having a system that is easily accessible to you and your team.  This article focuses on creating a system of digital document workflow.

Document Workflow

Having a basic document workflow is the first step in properly establishing a reduction in papers. This simple workflow is described below.

Reception-Inbox-Capture-File


Reception

Reception includes receiving of both physical and electronic documents. Reduce the number of documents that enter your office by unsubscribing to emails and physical subscriptions. Eliminating the unnecessary saves time from having to manage useless papers. Recycle unnecessary physical documents and unneeded emails immediately. The remaining documents move to or stay in the Inbox.

Inbox

Have an inbox where documents are placed when they come in. This is where the documents reside until they are addressed. You should have a physical inbox and an email inbox for each person involved.

Once the document is addressed (read, paid, acted on, forwarded), it will be captured and moved the place it will be stored. How and when you move documents to file is up to you. You can save them for a limited period of time (day, week, month) and then have the documents filed.

Capture

Capture the information from the documents. Physical papers are scanned to electronic files, typically to a PDF (portable document file).  Emails and electronic documents are also converted to PDFs.  I find it helpful to go through and scan/create PDFs in small batches before filing. Letting the pile get too large can get overwhelming. This can also cause confusion if there are documents that need to be retrieved, but have not yet been filed properly.

How to Capture Documents
You can capture documents in many different ways.  A mobile device or a document scanner work well for this.

Document scanners work great for processing larger quantities of documents, and converting them to PDF files and searchable PDF files. Consider a scanner that can handle many documents at one time, and has the capability to capture both sides of a two-sided document. Neat and ScanSnap are couple tools that work great for this.  You can also outsource your scanning if you have a large number of documents and are short on time. Using a multi-function printer-copier-scanner can prove to be frustratingly slow, as it may allow only one side of a document to be scanned at a time.

From your phone or tablet, you can capture business cards, receipts, track mileage, and have documents signed on-site. There are also apps that can scan a business card and add the information right to your contacts and connect you on LinkedIn. I discuss a few of these resources below.

CamCard is great for capturing, saving and exchanging business cards

Evernote is great for managing all types of digital papers

MileBug mileage tracker app uses phone GPS and can export mileage to Excel

Expensify captures receipts and forms expense reports

Shoeboxed captures and manages receipts and mileage

Quickbooks is a full service accounting software that can invoice, track receipts, manage payroll and prepare financial reports

DocuSign and HelloSign allow you to receive full legal signatures from your mobile device and send them to email or your cloud-based storage

File

To effectively create useable file system, the file structure and naming convention of each file needs to be consistent and easy to follow.  Create a file structure and naming convention that makes sense to you.

File Structure

You will create an electronic file folder structure similar to a physical file cabinet. Think about how you will search for the file when you need to reference the document. Keep the file structure simple. Don’t have too many layers of folders that could over complicate things, or be too challenging to use. You will want to keep the file folders simple and shallow. For example, Insurance folder can store home owner’s insurance and automobile insurance.  The way you name the file will expose more details to the content of the documents.

File Naming Convention

Create a consistent file naming convention (how you label your files) that is easy to follow, and coordinates with how you would look for the file.  If you work with a team, have the team decide together on the best naming convention. That way it makes sense to everyone and everyone is willing to use the consistent naming convention.

It is good to include the date, subject or file folder title, client name, client code or number, and other words to help you recognize the contents of the document.  I like to start with the date so the files are nicely organized by date first. The subject or file folder name would come second. Remember, they will be placed in a folder that contains the main subject.

For example, in a “Contractor” folder you might have a file titled like:

04012019 Contractor Top Shelf Invoice.pdf “.  This could be your April invoice from Top Shelf Home organizing that you received on April 12, 2019.

In your “Insurance” folder you might have a file titled similarly to:

01012019 Insurance Automobile Jan thru April.pdf” This could be your automobile insurance for the first half of 2019 that was effective January 1, 2019.

Where to Store Files

There are a few places you can store your documents; the cloud, your computer, external hard drive and automatic backup service.  Select at least two locations such as your computer and the cloud, so when the inevitable happens your files are backed up.  Remember fires, floods and theft, and consider an off-site back up method.

Cloud storage examples include Dropbox, Evernote, and Google Drive.

Computer storage includes Windows folders, Finder on Mac OS.  There are also additional software products available for purchase that can streamline your files.

External hard drives are available for backing up your files. These drives are capable of storing very large files and lots of them for a reasonable price. You can also back your files up on simpler external ‘jump’ drives, which are more portable for storing backed up data offsite.

When implementing your file system, start with current documents. Get your system in place and bugs worked out. Once your system is up and running, begin to work through our backlog. It will go much quicker than you think.

Start your paperless journey with a plan. Jumping in without a good structure in place will lead to frustration and likely failure. The team at Top Shelf is happy to help you create your plan and guide you through the process.  Get in touch with Jayme when you are ready to take the next step.