Portable safe

What papers need to be kept?

Going paperless sounds like a great idea, but unfortunately, there will always be some papers we need to keep. These papers are often referred to as vital documents. I recommend keeping only one of them, the most recent copy and keeping it in a safe spot. I use a portable fireproof lock box for my important documents.

  • birth certificate
  • marriage license
  • social security card
  • military discharge recordspassport
  • driver’s license copy
  • car registration
  • car ownership documents
  • medical insurance identification card and policy
  • homeowners insurance policy
  • auto insurance policy
  • life insurance policy
  • bank checking account number & routing number
  • bank saving account numbers
  • investment records
  • deeds, titles and licenses
  • family historical information
  • critical addresses and mailing lists
  • tax returns
  • business records required to survive or rebuild
  • will and estate planning documents
  • passport

If you have questions about papers that are not listed above please refer to my blog article titled Paper: what to keep and for how long. If you’d like more guidance, below are some questions you can ask to help you determine what’s worth holding on to.

What is the specific need and use of this paper?
Is this current and up-to-date information?
Did I request this information?
Will this paper help me complete a project I’m working on now?
Are there tax, legal, or insurance reasons to keep this paper?
Is this information important and referred to often?
When have I needed to reference this type of information? How often?
How easily can this information be obtained elsewhere or again if needed?
Will this information be outdated by the time I need it?
What is the worst that will happen if I throw this paper away?
Is doubt and indecision the only reason for keeping this paper?

Paper management can be challenging, but the more often you make decisions the better off  you’ll be.

©May 2021  Janine Cavanaugh, CPO®   All rights reserved

3 Reasons Why Containers are Important

Containers are very helpful organizing tools. They come in lots of different shapes and sizes.  A container can be a bin, basket, box, binder, shelf, drawer, tub, tray, rack, jar or bag. When organizing containers serve three basic purposes.

Containers help us hold like things.

File cabinet drawerHow many junk drawers do you have, and what’s inside them? Junk drawers are usually stuffed with a jumbled mess of random things, hence the name. Therefore, my recommendation is two small junk drawers per household, but that’s it. The rest of our drawers, and all the other containers in our home, need to be filled with items that belong together. For example, store all your tools in a tool box. Hold all your mending things in a sewing basket. Corral all your books on a bookcase. Put all your files in a file cabinet.  It’s easier to find things that way and easier to remember where they are. Items that belong together need to be stored together. Other examples of ready-made containers are tie rack, jewelry box, magazine rack, hamper, fishing tackle box, golf bag, shoe rack, toy box, knitting bag, and pot rack. I can list a bunch more, but I think you get the idea.

Containers help us create storage boundaries.

cosmetics organizedContainers create boundaries where there are none. They help us corral small items such as makeup, jewelry, crafts, snacks, and toiletries. Containers help divide drawers into sections. Which is great for organizing our junk drawers, by the way. Some examples are expandable cutlery trays, utensil trays,  jewelry organizers, craft bead bins, and sock organizers. Another way to create storage boundaries where we don’t have any is to use tape, paint or permanent marker. Create pie sections on our lazy Susan’s and label them as granola bars, cereal, oatmeal, etc. Create parking spaces for bikes in the garage by taping off sections and putting names on them. Tape off labeled sections on the floor of a coat closet for shoes and boots. Use the container to help create and maintain storage boundaries.

Containers provide storage guidelines.

photo albums on shelfThe container helps us see when we have enough. They give us a visual indication of when we have reached the container’s maximum capacity. Therefore reducing our chances of over-stuffing. However it’s important to stay within the limits of the container. If we allow items to spill out and create piles of stuff outside the container, we’re not following the storage guidelines. Once this happens we’re tempted to purchase another container and not use our existing container as a guide, but it’s much easier to maintain order when we don’t over-stuff. Practice the one-in-one-out rule when faced with the need to stay within the container limits.

©April 2021  Janine Cavanaugh, CPO  All Rights Reserved

Maximize storage

How to Get More Storage

Adequate, functional storage is something we all want in our homes. However, it can be difficult to obtain. We often have to work with the less than adequate spaces we currently have. So, what is the best way to maximize storage space in our closets, cupboards, basements, and attics?

storage binsReduce what we’re attempting to store. We often fall pry to the idea that we already own it, so we need to hold onto it. I encourage you to question that idea. Think about the current usefulness of the things you’re storing and holding onto, and take the Keep Quiz. Eliminating what is no longer useful will free up valuable storage space. We can reduce in other ways also. For example, limit excess, surplus, and impractical quantities of things. Reduce collections by keeping only your favorites. Reduce seasonal decorations and opt for live plants, wreaths or floral decorations.  Go electronic and keep less paper.

Make full use of the space we have. Small adjustments can greatly improve our existing storage spaces. For example, in a closet, add hooks, shelves, and stack-able shoe bins. Take advantage of vertical space by using tall furniture pieces or by stacking short pieces. Use over the door organizers on cabinet, closet, and bathroom doors. Fill air space and kick space. Maximize storing potential by customizing closets, shelving units, and furniture.

 

Favor versatility. Have items that can do more than one thing instead of several single-use items. Avoid items with one very specific purpose like a bread machine. Instead get a mixer that has a bread kneader attachment. The same applies to furniture. Use furniture that has multiple functions and built-in-storage, like an ottoman with storage and a nightstand with a few drawers.

 

Shopping in bulk storesQuestion what we bring in? When bringing things in ask gatekeeper questions. Take a moment to consider what’s coming in and where it will go. How much storage space will be needed? Is it possible to rent or borrow equipment or tools instead of buying them? Buying in bulk can be a big money saver, but do you have the space to store large quantities? If not ask a friend or neighbor to go in on the purchase with you and split the goods.

Remember the less we have the less we have to organize, maintain and store.

©March 2021  Janine Cavanaugh, CPO®  All rights reserved.

 

 

organized file drawer

No One Loves Filing

Believe it or not there are some Professional Organizers I know who love filing and organizing paperwork. I’m not one of them. In fact, I think the majority of homeowners and business owners would agree with me that the less paperwork we have to file, the better. So how can we file less? The answer is two-fold, reduce the amount of paper that comes in and manage the amount of paper that gets filed.

In order to reduce the amount of paper that comes in, we have to stop it before it gets to our doorstep. What papers can be refused and stopped from coming in? Here are a few simple solutions. Go paperless with credit card statements, bank statements, financial statements, and monthly bills. Get electronic receipts. Remove yourself from direct mail lists and weekly circulars. Have a paper recycle bin in the garage, and toss as much as you can before entering the house.

Once we reduce the amount of paper that comes in, we want to manage the amount of paper that gets filed. There are two actions required to accomplish this. The first one is to educate yourself on what paper is worth keeping and for how long. For your convenience, I have
office and paper messa detailed list in a previous blog with that title. Just remember everyone has their own comfort level on what’s important and what’s not. Please use your best judgement and if you have questions consult another document professional, such as an accountant, financial advisor or tax lawyer.

The second action required to manage the amount of paper that gets filed is to create your own filing guidelines. Here are a few simple guidelines that I use. File, don’t pile. Label files with titles that make sense to you. Some titles I use are Auto, Bank, Medical, Taxes. Store files virtually and alphabetically by titles. Only file information that you know you’ll reference again. Store vital documents, such as passports, deeds, and licenses, in a special place away from your daily files. Continually remove papers that are outdated, unimportant, incomplete, or not relevant to your current life. Shred paper every week.

Let’s all file less. If you have a helpful paper guideline or need help with reducing, please contact me.

©February 2021  Janine Cavanaugh, Certified Professional Organizer®  All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

 

What lists can do for you

I like lists and use them for a variety of reasons.

Lists help me remember things. We all need a memory jogger now and then, and the older I get the more helpful lists are to me. It’s much easier to refer to a list than it is to stress about remembering all the things that need to be addressed. I create shopping lists for the super market, checklists for household chores, and honey do lists for home improvement projects. Creating a list helps me recall the information exactly when I need it.

Lists help me de-stress and clear my mind. I write things down in a list format to get the information out of my head and onto paper so I spend less time churning those thoughts and ideas around in my mind. Some people call this a mind dump. I create lists of books to read, websites to check out, future projects to accomplish, and goals to pursue. My stress reduces when I write my thoughts down and have something concrete to refer back to when I want it.

Lists help me organize, prioritize, and plan action steps. After all, a list is just words on paper, or a device, unless we use them to prompt us to take action. What really helps me take action is attaching the item on the list to a specific date and time on my calendar. I’m a bit old school and like a paper planner. The one I use has a space to document daily to-be-done items. The system I’ve created for myself looks like this. At the end of each week I organize the action steps to take place during the following week. I assign a day for each action, and then prioritize every action at the beginning of each day. It’s important to be realistic and limit myself to 1-3 top priority items per day. I admit it took me a few months to perfect my system. Now it’s habitual.

There are a wide array of lists, from grocery store lists, to vacation wish lists, to lists of business goals. I encourage you to make lists and use them to help you remember, de-stress, organize, prioritize, and plan action steps.

©January 2021  Janine Cavanaugh, CPO®  All Rights Reserved