clean out project

How to get rid of stuff?

During this stay-at-home directive many of us are taking this time to clean out and organize our homes. That is a great way to create a happy home and an orderly home work environment. However, what do we do with all the stuff we want to clear out and get rid of? During normal circumstances I’d recommend donation-drop-sites, such as Savers, Goodwill (some Goodwill locations are still accepting donations), Salvation Army, and Saint Vincent De Paul. I’d also recommend at-home donation collection options, such as Big Brother/Big Sister Foundation, the Epilepsy Foundation (still collecting) and the Vietnam Veterans of America, but many of these places have closed their doors to keep their employees and volunteers safe. So what are our options?donate don't dump sign

Here are a few suggestions: (Please note that some of these options may not be currently available in your community.)

  • Contact the organizations in your area that give directly to those in need. They may be searching for what you’re wanting to give away. A few organizations are Cradles to Crayons, My Brother’s Keeper, and Clothes to Go.
  • Use the available donation drop boxes in your community for clothing, shoes, and books. Please respect the drop box boundaries and don’t leave items outside of them to become someone else’s clean up problem. Bay State Textiles works with schools in MA on recycling textiles. They set up collection bins in school parking lots. Check their website for locations.
  • Use recycle drop boxes for small electronics, adapters, cords, batteries, and light bulbs at stores like Best Buy, Lowe’s and Target if available.
  • Use on-line free-give-away communities like Give Back Box, Free Cycle (not operating at this time), and Buy Nothing.
  • Post on Facebook Yard Sales, Craigslist and other on-line options.
  • Reach out to local Senior Centers, Boy Scout Troops, and Mom’s Clubs to see if they’re planning an annual rummage sale. You may have to hold onto the items for a few months, but it’s motivating to know you’ll be helping your local community.
  • Put items out on the curb with a free sign on them.
  • Ask friends and family if they want anything you’re ready to let go.
  • Box things up to donate later, but be sure to clearly label what’s in the box.
  • To donate specific items contact food pantries, homeless shelters, domestic violence centers, and organizations the distribute hygiene products (Dignity Matters and Hope and Comfort) to see whats in high demand.

If you have other suggestions that will be of help to others please share. Thank you. Be safe and take care of you!home happy

©April 2020  Janine Cavanaugh, Certified Professional Organizer®  All Rights Reserved

Spring fling = spring cleaning

Spring Fling: 5 Boxes in 5 Days

Spring has sprung and that always motivates me to clean, organize, and get rid of stuff. Please join me in my annual Spring Fling: 5 Boxes in 5 Days. The challenge, if you wish to accept it, is to get rid of 5 boxes of stuff in 5 days. You can use any size box, bag, or bin. It’s acceptable to get rid of the easy stuff that hasn’t been used in eons, or you may want to push yourself a bit. It’s up to you. It will be helpful to establish some keep criteria and if an item falls within that criteria allow yourself to hold onto it, use it, and cherish it. It will also be helpful to ask questions about the items as you consider their usefulness and value. I’ve listed some questions for each day to inspire you. Good luck with your spring fling!

Day one = clothes and shoes

  • Do you feel great when you wear it? If not, how do you feel when you wear it?
  • Do you love it on the hanger but hate it on your body?
  • Does it fit your current lifestyle and wardrobe needs?
  • How many times has it been worn in the past 3 years?
  • Is it more than one size too big or too small?
  • How old, outdated and unflattering is it?
  • Is it always your last choice?

Day two = kitchen items

  • When was the last time you used it?
  • How much dust does it have on it?
  • Is it still in it’s original box?
  • Is it taking up too much valuable kitchen space?
  • Does it only serve one specific purpose?
  • Is it broken, damaged, or missing parts, and you’re not going to fix it within 3 months?
  • Do you have a newer model or version that is currently being used?

Day three = books and magazines

  • Have you read it? If not will you read it within the next 3 months?
  • Is it still of interest to you? Do you want to read it?
  • If you have read it, do you plan on re-reading it? When?
  • How much time do you allow yourself to read each day?
  • How many other books or magazines do you have on the same subject?

Day four = electronics

  • How many times has it been used in the past year?
  • Do you have a newer model or version that is currently being used?
  • Is it broken, damaged, or missing parts, and you’re not going to fix it within 3 months?
  • Is the adapter or cord missing?
  • Are you only holding onto it because you want to remove photos or personal information?
  • Are you unsure of how to dispose of it? (ASK ME!)

Day five = knickknacks

  • Do you love and cherish it?
  • Is it worth dusting and maintaining?
  • Is it broken, damaged, or missing parts, and you’re not going to fix it within 3 months?
  • Are you only keeping it because it was a gift?

Please share your results and comments. I’d like to hear how you did?

©March 2020   Janine Cavanaugh, Certified Professional Organizer   All Rights Reserved

pile of papers on table

Paper: What to Keep and for How Long

A question I get asked all the time is, “What papers do I need to keep, and how long do I need to keep them?” So, in response to that I’ve come up with a list of paper retention guidelines. It will help you figure out what to keep and for how long. I must point out that I am not an accountant, CPA, lawyer, or tax specialist. This list is my recommendation, but you must always do what you feel most comfortable doing. If you have questions seek another opinion from one of the previously mentioned professionals.

Auto & other vehicles
Accident records – as long as you own vehicle
General maintenance receipts – 1 year
Insurance documents – keep most recent and discard previous versions
Insurance monthly payments – 1 year
Loan agreement – as long as you own vehicle
Loan payments – 1 year
Purchase agreement – as long as you own vehicle
Sales agreement – 3 years after sale of vehicle
Title -as long as you own vehicle
Warranted services – as long as you own vehicle

Bank
Account documents – for as long as you have account
ATM slips – verify against statement then shred
Check register – verify then shred
Loan documents – 3 year after loan has been paid
Monthly statements – 1 to 3 years

Credit cards
Account documents – for as long as you have account
Monthly statements – 1 to 3 years
Purchase receipts – verify against statement then shred, unless for warranty or taxes

Employment
Awards – individual preference
Certificates – keep until verified with employee records
Handbook – keep most recent and discard previous versions
Licenses & Contract – keep most recent 2 years and discard previous versions
Pay stubs – until end of year and verified by W2
Pension information – keep most recent 3 years and discard previous versions
Performance reviews – 5 years or job termination
Resume and references – individual preference
W2 and tips – 3 to 7 years or forever

Financial
Investment documents & IRAs – 3 to 7 years
Monthly or quarterly statements – 1 year, verify with year end statement
Purchase agreements – for duration of ownership
Sale agreements – 3 years after sale
Year-end statements – 3 to 7 years

Home Improvement
Instruction manuals – if used as long as you own product
Receipts for improvements & energy incentives – as long as you own home
Service contracts – as long as you have service
Warranties – as long as they are viable

Insurance (home owners, life, renters, supplemental, vehicles)
Policies – keep most recent and discard previous versions
Statements – 3 to 7 years

Mail
Advertisements – recycle
Announcements – recycle
Catalogues – 1 month then recycle
Circulars – 1 week then recycle
Correspondence – individual preference
Coupons/offers/promotions – use or recycle
Greeting cards – individual preference
Invitations – until event, then individual preference
Magazines – 1 month then recycle
Newsletters – 1 month then recycle
Newspapers – 1 week then recycle
Pledges – donate and keep for taxes or recycle
Solicitations – take action or recycle

Medical & Dental
Bills – 3 years after payment verification
Explanation of benefits – 6 months
Instructions – keep until no longer valid
Medication information and prescription slips – read then shred or keep until expired
Reference information – 5 years or until outdated
Routine visits receipts – 1 to 2 years
Surgery and special visits receipts – indefinitely or individual preference
*If you itemize your medical and dental expenses keep all supporting records for 3 to 7 years, including travel, parking and toll records.

Military
Admission papers – indefinitely
awards and honors – individual preference
Discharge – forever
Military ID – forever

Property/Real Estate
Deed – as long as you own
Lease agreement – as long as you lease
home improvement documents – until you sell
maintenance – 3 years
mortgage statements – 3 to 7 years
purchase and sale agreement – as long as you own

Purchases
Instructions – if used keep as long as own
Manual – if used keep as long as own
Sales receipt – recycle after decision to keep is made, unless for warranty
Warranty – keep for duration warranty

Taxes
Documents: 1099, 1095 and all forms, alimony, business income & expenses, charitable donations, child care & education expenses, excise tax, gambling, interest statements, investment papers, tax payments, real estate tax, refund receipts, tax return (federal and state), W2s
3 Years – IRS has 3 years from your filing date to audit your return if it suspects good faith errors, and you have 3 years to amend a return if you discover a mistake; therefore keep all tax returns, payment receipts, and supporting documents for at least 3 years.
7 Year – IRS has 6 years from your filing date to challenge your return if it thinks you underreported your gross income by 25% or more
Forever – there is no limit if you failed to file a return or filed a fraudulent return

Utilities – electric, gas, internet, phone, other
Bills – verify then shred
Maintenance – 1 to 2 years
Warranties – until no longer valid

Vital documents
Birth and adoption certificate – forever
Death certificate – forever
Deeds – until sold
Divorce decree – forever
Estate-planning documents (health care proxy, life insurance, living will and will, Power of attorney, trusts) – update every 5 years
Passport – keep most recent
Marriage license – forever
Naturalization papers – forever
Social security card – forever
Titles – until sold

©February 2020   Janine Cavanaugh, Certified Professional Organizer   All Rights Reserved

3 Clutter Buster Tips

First of all, what is clutter? What does it look like to you? My definition of clutter is a jumbled mess of miscellaneous stuff that has accumulated as a result of indecision and inaction. It’s piles of mail, heaps of clothes, and a tangled mess of adapters and earbuds. So how do we get rid of it?

Clutter buster tip #1

Reclaim order often and ask yourself two questions:

  1. What decisions do I need to make in order to get rid of this clutter?
  2. What actions do I need to take to reclaim order?

Reclaiming order is the process it takes for us to create order after we’ve made a mess of things. For example if all the laundry was clean and put away, how long would it take for more dirty laundry to appear?  Less than one day, right? That is natural disorder. We wear our clothes and get them dirty, and then they need to be laundered. Those three steps create the organizing flow (see diagram). The more often we complete the organizing flow circle, the less clutter and mess we have to address. I’m not recommending we do laundry every day, but I am recommending we do it often enough so it doesn’t become an overwhelming task. This organizing flow circle works for all areas of clutter, mail, clothes, cosmetics, tech paraphernalia, email, and the like. The key is to reclaim order in a timely manner so clutter doesn’t have a chance to grow and take root.

 

Clutter buster tip #2

Stop - Do not enter sign

Say No! and use gatekeeper questions.

A very effective way of reducing clutter is preventing it from coming into our homes in the first place. This is often easier said than done, but there are things we can do to stop clutter at the door. One option is to get removed from mailing lists, both electronic and snail mail. Use the national do not mail list. Another option is to see what makes up the piles of clutter and figure out who brings it into the house. Is it clothes, books, paper, or toys? Have the person responsible use a list of gatekeeper questions before bringing anything new into the house. These questions help determine the usefulness and practicality of items. Some examples are: Why are we buying you? What value will you add to our household? Where do we have a place for you? What will happen if we don’t buy you today? The point of these questions is to make you stop and think about what you’re bringing in before it gets to your door.

Clutter buster tip #3

tiny house key Adopt a return-home-routine.

Give yourself 5 to 10 minutes when you return home to take care of anything you brought home with you. I mean anything. Put your keys and handbag in a specific spot. Hang up your coat and put away your shoes. Take care of receipts, mail, and other items you carried in with you. Find a destination for any new purchases you bought. Do this every time you enter your home so it becomes a habit. This helps prevent piles of clutter from growing. We need to be diligent and have a do-it-now attitude, because clutter is a social creature and will attract other clutter if we let it.

 

©January 2020  Janine Cavanaugh, Certified Professional Organizer®  All Rights Reserved

But I Might Need That Someday

We’ve all said it. Even me, but not anymore, and after reading this blog you won’t say it either. I’m referring to the phrase, “but I might need that someday“.  It’s a phrase that gets spoken when we think something needs to be kept, despite the fact that it hasn’t been used in a very long time. For some unknown reason we’re fearful that as soon as we get rid of this item we’ll desperately need it. We refuse to get rid of kitchen gadgets that live in the darkest recesses of a corner cabinet. We insist on saving the rarely used tools that are buried in the shed. We fantasize about using fancy linens that are still in their original packaging that has yellowed with age. We all own things that lay dormant in our homes, never being used or useful. So why do we hold onto them?

We hold onto them because we think they’re useful. BUT are they? What if someday comes and you can’t find it. It’s not where you thought it was. Will you waste valuable time looking for it? Will you go out and buy a new one? If so, you’ve not only wasted time, but money as well. What if someday comes and it’s not in the condition you thought it was in? Is it easier to make do without it or find an alternative solution? What if someday comes and you can’t get at it because it’s buried under a pile of clutter? How much time will you spend retrieving it? What if someday never comes?

Items are useful only if we can find them when we need them and they’re in good operating condition. It takes time and effort to organize and maintain our belongings. Why waste time and effort on items that haven’t been used in a very long time or at all? A guideline that I find helpful relates to how easy it is to replace an item and how costly it is to replace an item. If an item can be replaced in 20 minutes for under $20.00 then get rid of it. Instead of saying “I might need that someday!” please consider letting the item go.

The next time that phrase is on the tip of your tongue ask yourself these questions.

  1. When is someday? Are you willing to put a note on the item that says if not used within 3 years from today (date) then get rid of it?
  2. Will you be able to find it and will it be in good working order when someday comes? If no, let it go.
  3. Is there someone who can use and appreciate it now instead of waiting for someday? If yes, than give it to them.
  4. How much space is it taking up? Can that space be better used for something else? If yes, than free up that space.
  5. Can it be replaced in 20 minutes for under $20.00? If yes, than let it go.

 

©October 2019   Janine Cavanaugh, Certified Professional Organzier®   All Rights Reserved