working towards reward

How to get motivated to organize?

What is motivation? The dictionary definition is “the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way” and “the general desire or willingness of someone to do something”.

What are your reasons for organizing? We all have different reasons. Why do you want to get organized now?  Why work on this particular organizing project now? Take a few minutes to think of your why. It will help you now and in the future. Here are some reasons that I hear often.Room in need of organizing help.

  1. To find things when they need them
  2. To have a home for things so it’s easier to put them away
  3. To spend less time hunting for things
  4. To have less piles and mess
  5. To have less stress

How much desire or willingness do you have to organize? If you have no desire to organize, it could be a result of many things, but I’ve found that it has a lot to do with a person’s perception. Here are some examples that I’ve come across.

  • Perception that organizing is boring, tedious, not fun
  • Perception that the project requires too much effort, time, stamina
  • Perception that we don’t have the right know-how, skill or resources

So how can we get motivated to organize, especially if we’re lacking desire and willingness? Here are my recommendations.

  1. Know your why. Ask what is worth doing or doing with help? Good motivation comes from feeling that what you’re doing matters.Room after 2 hours of organizing help.
  2. Adjust your perception. A positive mindset allows us to bring our best effort. Picture yourself successfully finishing your organizing project.
  3. Create immediate rewards for your efforts. What happens after our efforts influences the likelihood that we’ll keep it up.
  4.  Ask yourself what is the most laughably do-able first step. If you’re still having trouble, the first step is too big.
  5. Do something, anything. It’s better than taking no action at all. Stress comes from thinking about our project, not the project itself. If it’s important for you to get it done, you’ll find a way. If not, you’ll find an excuse.
  6. Start by sorting and categorizing.

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

child organizing

20 Organizing Projects Kids Can Do

The skill of organizing can be learned by anyone, even kids. A good way to ease them into it is to have them contribute in small ways. Start by giving them organizing projects that match their skill level, so they don’t get discouraged or frustrated. Beginners can sort, categorize, and dispose, as well as assist with specific tasks. Once those skills are mastered they can advance to decision making and item placement. Ongoing practice and participation will improve their skills. Offering rewards and showing appreciation will help facilitate positive reinforcement and encourage future participation. By helping kids learn the skill of organizing at an early age, not only are they contributing to organizing the household, they’re acquiring skills that will help them in every aspect of their lives now and in the future. Here is a list of 20 organizing projects kids can do.

  1. While organizing kitchen cupboards have kids match food storage containers with their lids and recycle all the unmatched ones.
  2. Test pens and markers and discard the dried up ones.
  3. Check games for missing pieces. Make new pieces if possible.toys
  4. Disinfect door knobs and light switches. (Cleaning is part of organizing.)
  5. Sort craft supplies into categories and put away.
  6. Help clean out the car by tossing trash, wiping down doors, and washing mirrors.
  7. Shred papers that are deemed shreddable. Have them work from one box or bag of shreddable papers at a time.
  8. Collect mail and put into one designated mail in-box.
  9. Check dates on magazines and catalogues and recycle anything over 3 months old.
  10. While cleaning out the pantry have kids check expiration dates on canned goods, boxed food, and condiments. Toss what’s expired and donate to a food bank what won’t get eaten.
  11. Include them in the kitchen clean up by having them empty the dish washer.
  12. Create a donate box with images of what can go in it. Put 3 things in it from their room that they’re ready to get rid of.
  13. Label their devices, adapters, cords and headphones. backpack
  14. Try on clothes for the next season to see what fits. Put what doesn’t fit into the donation box.
  15. Put all dirty clothes in hamper. Wash their own clothes if they are capable.
  16. Include them in the laundry process by having them put away their clean laundry.
  17. Pick 10 school and art projects to save for the year. Store in one bin with label that they create.
  18. Make a spare parts bin to collect all the wandering game pieces, puzzle pieces, and legos. Collect them daily and empty the bin weekly.
  19. Clean out school bag/backpack and get rid of what’s not needed.
  20. Mark important dates (birthdays, school events, sport events, parties) on the calendar for the next 3 months.

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

clean out project

How to get rid of stuff?

During this stay-at-home directive many of us are taking 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