Wednesday, January 02 2013
Happy New Year Everyone! OMG - Where did the year go? I don't know about you but I had a crazy busy year and it just flew by. I was so busy in December that I did not post more than one blog (Sorry about that!), but I am back in 2013 to again blog on a regular basis to keep you on track for getting and staying organized.
I am working diligently on my health and well being. I am drinking lots of water, eating three meals a day and eating more fruits and vegetables, leaving less room for junk food and taking a walk every afternoon.
I think at the end of the year I fell off the cliff a bit and now getting myself back on track.
One goal that many set for the New Year is to be more aware of their finances. With the "fiscal cliff" not being resolved in time for the New Year, I think it is more important than ever for all of us to track our expenses.
Although we will be putting out more for taxes (and milk!) and perhaps losing some benefits, I truly believe we can make a budget that works for us.
Looking carefully at your expenses and seeing where you can make better choices is key. Taking a look at your priorities and the long term benefits of your financial decisions is vital. Investing in hiring a professional organizer is a good example.
Since becoming a professional organizer over 8 years ago, I have worked with clients time and time again to help them create a household budget based on their income and help them create a plan to get out of debt if need be. Talk about long term effects!
My personal circumstances have changed over the years, but one thing stayed the same - I use a budget to keep track of my income and expenses. For the past 15 years, I am proud to say that I have been completely debt free. I do have a mortgage and a car payment each month but if I put anything on a credit card, it is paid by the end of the month. No interest fees for me!
Although this Country has fallen off the "Fiscal Cliff", we can make strides to not do the same thing personally. Creating a budget and knowing what is coming in and what is going out will avoid our own "cliff".
Setting manageable goals and sticking with them, whether it is financial or otherwise is important.
If you need assistance in creating a budget, I recommend that you check out my "U Can Do It Budgeting System" at my ABS Store. This system can be downloaded immediately and you can begin to create your very own budget for the New Year!
Need assistance with budgeting or any other type of organization to get your New Year off to a great start? Contact me. I am here to help.
Thursday, September 20 2012
Can you believe I just said that! Well, it's true!
It's true that decluttering can lighten your load. If you wish to sell items you no longer want, you CAN make some money. That's true. However...
Have you ever thought about this? Although repairing broken items instead of purchasing a replacement can save you money, you sometimes end up with more clutter than when you started. It is likely that you will add new items before the old items leave your home and, if you don't get rid of them quickly, they can linger in your home and take up space.
Here are some ways to AVOID the "clutter build-up" that can occur:
1. Stocking up on coupons and sales flyers. They can start to fill up precious space in your home if you do not have a specific space to keep your coupons (as well as the large quantities of things you get that you might not need - just to satisfy the requirements of that coupon).
2. Buying in bulk. It's true that shopping at BJ's, Costco or any other warehouse type store can offer big savings and the convenience of purchasing paper towels, toilet paper, laundry detergent, etc. is helpful. However, be careful when it comes to perishables (meat, poultry, dairy) and other items that expire. It's possible they can expire before you get the chance to use them and then you are just wasting your money. Also, purchasing in bulk is great if you have the room to store such items. If not, don't buy more than you can store.
3. Saving useless things to make something new. We all have good intentions but saving scraps of wrapping paper, buttons that come with that new sweater or those single socks with no mates can create clutter. If we do not have a clear plan for how we are going to use them and a deadline in which to do so, it just all becomes clutter. Get rid of them!
4. Saving things that need repair. It's true that you can save money by doing your own repairs (like hemming pants or sewing on buttons) but if you don't continually keep up with the repairs, the items can become a pile of clutter. I have seen this time and time again when working with my clients. Sometimes the cost of having someone repair the item for you may be higher than replacing it. (A zipper on a jacket, for example.) Skip the repairs that cost more than 50 percent of what it would cost to buy a new one and immediately get rid of the old one.
5. Collecting items for consignment. Clothing is a very popular consignment item. Consignment can be great if you have the time to take the items to the consignment shop and it's exactly what the shop is looking for. Otherwise, it's a waste of time. Also, you tend to not get a great deal of money for your item. Why not have a clothing swap party instead?
Feel free to go ahead and turn your clutter into cash. Just remember, your attempts at saving money just might be creating clutter. Pay attention to your lifestyle and whether doing these things make sense. Don't let your clutter consume your space or your time.
Let me know your thoughts. In the meantime, have a great week!
Monday, August 27 2012
This time of year many people are eliminating their clutter and getting organized for the new Fall and Winter seasons.
On many occasions, while working with my clients, I get asked how to recycle an item. Today, I thought I would take some time to help you find out how to recycle some of your own items.
Here are some ideas you might not have thought of:
Backpacks - The American Birding Association accepts donated backpacks, which its scientists use while tracking neotropical birds (www.americanbirding.org).
Batteries - Recycling batteries keeps hazardous metals out of landfills. Many stores such as RadioShack and Office Depot accept reuseable ones. Car batteries contain lead and can't go into landfills because the toixic metals can leach into groundwater. Almost any retailer seling them will also collect and recyle them. Hazardous waste events will take them as well.
Carpeting - The Carpet America Recovery Effot (www.carpetrecovery.org) will help you find a carpet reclamation facility near you when you ask "What can I do with my old carpet?". Some carpet manufacturers, like Milliken (www.millikencarpet.com Shaw (www.shawfloors.com) and Flor (www.flor.com) have recycling programs.
Crayons - Send them to the National Crayon Recycle Program (www.crazycrayons.com) which melts them down and reforms them into new ones. Be sure to leave the wrappers on them so they are more easily identified by color.
Wire Hangers - Some dry cleaners and laundromats will reuse them. Check with your local dry cleaner. My dry cleaner happily accepts them as it helps them reduce costs. If not, recycle them with other household metals but be sure to remove any attached paper or cardboard first and recycle that separately.
Hearing Aids - The Starkey Hearing Foundation (www.sotheworldmayhear.org) recycles used hearing aids, any make or model, no matter how old. The Lions Club also accepts hearing aids (and eye glasses)
If you are not sure how to recycle items in your home, visit www.earth911.org to find out where and if those items can be recycled.
Do you have any other recycling tips for unusual items? Please share your thoughts. I would love to hear from you.
In the meantime, enjoy the rest of August and your Labor Day weekend.
Thursday, August 11 2011
Since I am such an advocate of organization and know first hand what a positive effect it can have on you, your home and your life, I hate to admit there might be a downside to being organized.
In an effort to free up my time, which is so precious to me, I made arrangements recently for my new health insurance carrier to automatically withdraw my monthly premium from my checking account. I thought this would be the most efficient way to make sure that my payments were received on time with minimal effort on my part. Great idea, right? Wrong.
Unbeknownst to me, my efficiency backfired. As a result of what I thought was the best option, I was basically giving full rein to my insurance company to tap into my checking account and take what they wanted. And, they did.
Not only did they deduct one month's premium from my account, they removed two! This was done without my knowledge and without my consent.
Of course, when it came time for them to reimburse me for the extra month (as soon as I discovered what they had done and confronted them about it), that was another story. Suddenly, they were unable to deposit a refund back into my checking account electronically. (I did not know it was a one way street.) They advised that they will be sending a check in the mail to me in the next few days. That is not the resolution I was looking for and, needless to say, I was extremely upset that this occurred to begin with. What gives them the right to do what they did?
The end result is that I have now elected cancel the "automatic withdraw" option which would have saved me time and effort and I will now have to send the payments to the insurance company manually on a monthly basis. (All because of their incompetency.) I will now be setting up electronic payments with my bank instead since they are the entity I can trust to do the job right.
Lesson learned - as much as we attempt to be organized and efficient, it does not always turn out that way. Sometimes, without the cooperation of other entities, the best laid plans do not pan out.
This will not stop me, however, in my quest to get and stay organized in not only my life, but those of my family, friends and clients. Why? Because it's the right thing to do!
Have you had any experiences where your attempts to be organized have backfired? I would love to hear from you.
In the meantime, I am taking off for five days to enjoy the Jersey shore and wishing you an organized week.
Saturday, April 09 2011
I don't know about you, but the dishwasher is one of the most used appliances in my kitchen. The door must open dozens of times a day and it is filled with plates, bowls, glassware and silverware, among other items.
In order to maximize the potential of your dishwasher, consider the following tips:
- Check the manual that came with your dishwasher for the manufacturer’s recommendations on water temperature. Many dishwashers have internal heating elements that allow you to set the water heater to a lower temperature. This will save on your energy bill.
- Scrape off, don’t rinse off, large food pieces and bones. Put the bones in the trash, not down the garbage disposer. Soaking or prewashing is generally only recommended in cases of burned-on or dried-on food. This will save on your water bill.
- Be sure that when you run your dishwasher, it is full, but not overloaded. You want to only run it when you have enough for a full load, but you don't want to over stuff it with items. This will cause the dishwasher to wash less effectively and you might end up with some dirty dishes at the end. That is a waste of time, water and energy!
- Don’t use the "rinse hold" function on your machine for just a few soiled dishes. It uses 3 to 7 gallons of hot water each time you use it. If possible, utilize the "normal" setting and save the "pots and pans" setting for when you really need it. This will save water and energy as well.
- Let your dishes air dry. If you don’t have an automatic air-dry switch, turn off the control knob after the final rinse and prop the door open a little so the dishes will dry faster.
Utilizing these tips will enable you to make the best use of your dishwasher and save you money at the same time.
Do you have any other money saving tips when it comes to your dishwasher? Share your thoughts.
In the meantime, have a great week!
Friday, March 18 2011
Lately I have been presenting a lot of seminars on various topics concerning organization. Last week I did a seminar with a certified public accountant and we talked about the tax benefits if you have a home-based business. I spoke on how to best organize your home office space so that you can locate your paperwork and keep accurate records for your business.
The major theme of that seminar was "Document, Document, Document". It cannot be stressed enough as to how important it is to do; whether you have a business or not.
A perfect example came to light for me personally this week when I received documentation in the mail from Wachovia Bank which is soon to be changing over to Well-Fargo Bank officially in my area in mid-April.
The packet of information that was sent included the changes to the various types of accounts. In reviewing the information, I came to the conclusion that, after decades of being with Wachovia, formerly CoreStates, formerly First Union, formerly PSFS, I did not like what they had to offer and decided I would be closing out my accounts and moving them to another bank.
In the old days, this was no big deal. You went to the bank, spoke with the bank officer, closed out your account(s) and took your money with you.
Today, because of on-line banking - which I love because it saves me so much time - the transition will be a bit more complicated. I have not spoken with any representative of the bank as yet but plan to do so within the next week or so prior to the switch over.
I am not sure what their policy is as far as record keeping for accounts that are closed out. I have been doing online bill paying with Wachovia for the past 3 years and want to preserve that information.
This will be much easier for me to transition because I have kept good documentation of all of my bill paying activities.
I always urge my clients to print out the confirmation after they have directed the bank to make the payments for a certain amount on a certain day because they provide a Confirmation Number.
I am comforted by the fact that I have always kept good records of my transactions with the bank, not only on line, but by printing out a paper confirmation to attach to the back of each bill that I pay. I have taken the steps to create a list of the entities involved, their address where the payment is electronically sent and their account numbers so that my transition will be so much easier. I do not feel I am leaving anything behind but just moving forward towards a better fit for my financial needs.
The moral of the story is to document, document, document. You never know when you will need to put your hands on important information that might not be accessible at some point in the future.
Just some food for thought...
If you should find that you need assistance with this or any other type of organization, contact me. I will be glad to help.
In the meantime, have a great and organized week.
Sunday, October 24 2010
We all know the holidays are right around the corner and it is a time when we tend to focus on helping those in need (or at least I hope so!).
One of the ways in which we can reach out to families with life-threatening illnesses during this holiday season is to order a PIE IN THE SKY thru the Manna organization.
Manna provides Thanksgiving dinners (for 4) to those with life-threatening illnesses. Their website can be found at https://www.manapies.org
Their mission is focused on people with acute nutritional risk due to life-threatening illnesses. Manna prepares and delivers delicious nourishing meals and counsel, empowering individuals to battle illness and improve their quality of life.
So, share the holiday spirit and provide Thanksgiving dinner for a family of four. For a donation of only $25 you can order a delicious pie and help a family in need at the same time!
Simply order your Pie In The Sky pie by noon on Friday, November 19, 2010 and pick it up before Thanksgiving. They have locations where you can pick up your pie throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Let's make this a Happy Thanksgiving not only for us but for others as well.
You can place your order by calling 1-866-SKY-PIES (1-866-754-7437)
All other questions, call 215-49-MANNA (215-496-2662)
These pies are not only delicious, but tax deductible!
For those of you who prefer cake, purchase a Classic Cake instead and still help those in need.
Let's make our world A BETTER SPACE this holiday season and support a great cause.
Thank you for helping out!
AND, if I can help you this holiday season by getting organized, contact me. I am glad to help!
Have a great week!
Friday, October 08 2010
Ever since I can remember, I have always advised my clients that an important aspect of paper management and budgeting involves keeping an eye on your provider billing statements, your credit card statements and bank statements.
So many people do not take the time to look at the itemized bill or statement and that is a problem. The tendency is to look at the total and just pay the bill or not even look at a bank statement at all and just file it away. It’s important to understand that mistakes are made and if you do not keep track of your statements, the mistakes go un-noticed. As a result, you could be getting charged for items you should not be getting charged for or you could possibly not get credit for payments made.
A perfect example of this was mentioned in the news this week. It involves Verizon Wireless and how they charged millions of customers for services they were not receiving. Verizon Wireless is now required to reimburse those customers a total of more than $1,000,000.
Verizon Wireless was banking on the fact that so many of their customers do not check their statements and just pay their bills based on the total. It is your responsibility as a consumer to make sure you check your bills, credit card statements and bank statements each and every time you receive them to make sure they are accurate. If you don’t, no one else will.
So, do you check your statements? If not, start now. The next time a bill or statement comes in the mail or is sent to you on line, take the few minutes necessary to make sure your statements are accurate.
Until next time, have a great week.
Monday, August 16 2010
Have you been looking for a way to provide a place to sleep for last minute or out of town guests that doesn't take up a lot of space. Well, the latest DWR catalog arrived in the mail yesterday, and the Soto sleeper chair instantly caught my attention:
After looking at the picture, I spotted the chair’s $3,300 price tag and quickly closed the catalog. No offense to the designers or the wonderful folks at DWR (it really is an attractive piece of furniture), but $3,300 is way out of my price range.
Sleeper chairs are fantastic additions in small spaces because they work double duty as seating and guest accommodations. One of these multitaskers in a living room or office is perfect when you don’t have a guest room or space for a larger sofa sleeper. I have been considering getting one so that when family or friends spend the night, I won't have to make them sleep on the floor, and it can provide a comfortable space to sit and read the rest of the time.
A little more in line with my price range are:
For $130, Target has a single sleeper:
For $20 more ($150), Target has a sleeper lounge chair:
JCPenny has the Sleepy sleeper chair for $500 that is available in nine different upholstery options:
And, for $1,000, is the sleek Vincent twin sleeper from CB2:
You don’t have to spend $3,300 or add a spare room onto your home to increase the number of sleeping accommodations you have to offer guests — a sleeper chair might be all you need for your small space.
Let me know your ideas on saving space on sleeping arrangements. I would love to hear from you. In the meantime, have a great week.
Friday, March 12 2010
Unless you are living under a rock or in a cave, you know and are well aware that we are still in the midst of an economic "crisis". This scares many people. The fear of losing your job, your home and/or your investments can be overwhelming.
However, the one thing I have observed recently is that this "crisis" is forcing people to stop and think about their particular financial situation and have a desire to become more aware of where their money comes from and where it is going.
The number of people per month who are still applying for unemployment compensation in the United States is staggering. Of the nearly 52 million U.S. homeowners with a mortgage, about 13.8 million, or nearly 27 percent owe more on their mortgage than their house is now worth, according to Moody’s Economy.com. Most people have seen their investments and retirement funds decrease by approximately forty percent. The average American has approximately $10,000 of credit card debt. No wonder everyone is scared.
Many have attempted to cut back on spending in order to make ends meet and attempt to get out of debt. However, without a plan in place, you cannot be successful. If you do some research, you will find that many financial advisors and other "experts" have put together systems for creating a solution to your budgeting woes. I have found them to be very complex and time consuming, discouraging most people from utilizing them.
In order to successfully create a plan for financial success, you need to create a budget. A budget will provide you with a way to not only analyze your income (by way of a pay check, investment rental properties, alimony, child support, governmental benefits, etc.) but will provide a visual aide to see where the income is going. You cannot budget your money if you don’t know where it is going.
So, how do you begin to even create a budget, you ask? You will need to determine your income, determine your expenses and then create your budget based upon that information. This can sometimes be a complicated and time consuming process.
You will need to determine whether your monthly expenses exceed your monthly income. Does your current problems involve the inability to save month each month? Do you wonder where all your money is going each month? Do you feel that your life is getting out of control because of your finances?
If so, you need to develop a personalized budget so you can better manage your finances. Ask yourself - "How can I possibly manage my money if I don’t have any idea where it all goes each month?" The answer - you need to become more disciplined with your money.
Many people make the mistake of cutting back so drastically that there is nothing left to enjoy. Many get caught up in the "this minor expense won’t matter" syndrome. Before you know it, "these minor expenses" are added over and over throughout a month and before you know it, they really add up. This is sometimes where overspending occurs. And, don’t forget that budgeting needs to include saving money. Planning for those things you enjoy makes it much easier to stick to your budget in the long run.
You may ask why it’s so important to record all of your expenses. It’s important because, if you don’t track your expenses, eventually they get out of control. You need to have a system and it needs to be documented.
Now, more than ever, everyone is looking for that simple way to manage and budget their money. No one wants to take time to work with a complicated system.
No one has the time!
Take the first step now. Acknowledge that you need to get on a budget and commit to finding the support and tools necessary to get it done!
If you need some assistance, I have developed the "U Can Do It Budgeting System" based upon the budgeting system I have used for myself for over 25 years as well as my years of experience setting up personalized budgeting systems for my clients. Visit the ABS Store right on this site learn more.
In the meantime, have a great week!
Saturday, October 24 2009
I love to find stories about getting organized!
Now, even CoverGirl make-up has jumped on the organizing bandwagon and has developed a numerical system for matching up their various types of make-up.
They claim to have taken the guesswork out of finding your TRU shade with their TRUblend makeup organized system. This includes liquid foundation, concealer, pressed powder and blush. The system is numbered from 1 through 6 (1 being the lightest shade, 6 being the darkest shade).
For example, if your TRUblend liquid makeup is a 2, then your TRUblend pressed power, concealer and blush are also a 2.
Organizing can be so beneficial, even when it comes to purchasing your make-up. Gotta love that!
Now that that problem is solved, if you have any other organizing issues you would like me to address, please feel free to contact me at A BETTER SPACE. I will be more than happy to help.
Have a great week!
Thursday, October 01 2009
I received the following information from my accountant today and thought I would pass it on.
The IRS frequently reminds taxpayers to beware of identity theft scams. Two of the latest phishing scams include one offering inherited funds, lottery winnings, or cash consignment and another offering a bogus tax refund. Scammers use the IRS name, logo, or website in an attempt to convince taxpayers that the scam is a genuine communication from the IRS. Scammers may also use other federal agency names, such as the U.S. Department of the Treasury. After obtaining personal information, identity thieves use the victim's personal data to steal his or her financial accounts, run up charges on the victim's existing credit cards, apply for new loans, credit cards, services, or benefits in the victim's name, and even file fraudulent tax returns.
Please note the IRS does not discuss tax account matters by email. So, contact your accountant if you receive an email, purported to be from the IRS, requesting personal information.
Hope you find this information helpful.
Wednesday, September 30 2009
I found this information and thought it might be helpful so I am passing it on...
Since an estimated 250 million computers became obsolete in the past five years, recycling e-waste has never been more crucial. But figuring out how to do it isn't always easy.
To help the eco-conscious with this dilemma, STAPLES has gotten involved and has launched an in-store e-waste recycling program.
Drop off home-office equipment (computers, monitors, printers, fax machines) to any store nationwide, no matter where you originally purchased it, and for just $10 per item, the chain will recycle it according to the EPA's standards.
Bring in your extra keyboards and mice, too - they'll take care of those for free.
Hope you find this helpful in getting rid of your old home office equipment and feeling good about doing so.
If you are feeling overwhelmed with the prospect of getting that home office organized, contact me at A BETTER SPACE. I will be more than happy to help.
Have a great week!
Tuesday, January 27 2009
Not sure if you've heard about the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act that is going into effect on February 10th, 2009. It basically says that children's toys and clothes must now have some sort of proof that they do not contain lead or pthalates. (Pthalaes are chemical plasticizers used in many products to improve performance or appearance. For example, they turn rigid plastic into supple vinyl).
As a result of this Act, there can no longer be any selling or children's toys and clothes manufactured before February 10, 2009 without such proof on ebay, Craigslist, yard sales and church/organization consignment sales to name a few. This would certainly have a major effect on families struggling in this economy, not to mention professional organizers like myself who advise people how to dispose of their unnecessary household items.
It's a BIG problem.
If you do a google search for the site Fashion Incubator, you will find common-language information there about this issue.
To give you some background, back in early Fall, Congress passed a knee-jerk, feel-good law that is completely unable to be maintained. If it is implemented without revision, it has the power to bankrupt the entire economy! That would be the consequence of a very, very poorly-written piece of legislation. It would make it illegal to sell non-certified items after February 10. That means every piece of current inventory in every store, boutique, thrift-shop and home business becomes "illegal" on February 10th without destructive and expensive testing. Some retailers purchase their stock about two seasons ahead of time. They will have to discard and reorder entirely which can ultimately bankrupt them.
The law as it currently stands demands excessive and expensive testing at "each" level of production, even if that element of a product has already been tested during creation and subsequent production steps. It affects "everyone" at some level, some of us more drastically than others. The small "good guys" will be put out of business by this law, and quickly, if it remains without revision.
There are suggested revisions to the law which bring it back in line with current stringent Consumer Protection Agency guidelines, by allowing the transfer of certification through the production process. In other words, the small maker of, say, wooden salad bowls or hand-rubbed bookcases, buys his wood from one of the many certified organic vendors, he can use their certification as part of his. Their certificatons would pass down through his product...all the way to the consumer without putting anyone out of business.
The end result of the revisions to the law as it currently stands would enable you, the consumer, to confidently list items for "sale" as you are decluttering, without fear of jail or reprisal. These revisions, which hopefully will be implemented, would then enable consignment stores and places like Goodwill to continue to accept "donations". As it currently stands, they would not be able to sell used clothing or items that could be used for/by children under 12 unless every single piece carries a certificate of testing for the regulated substances.
There is no way to legally sell an item without the certification acquired from testing, which in fact, destroys the items being tested and is estimated to cost $300 to $500 "per component" tested, "per item.".
This 85 page Act was passed and signed into law by the President without sufficient discusssion. The vast majority of Congress members interviewed had "not" read any substantial portion of the bill beyond the title which sounded good to them!
We must take action immediately to contact our congressmen to get the revisions to this Act implemented prior to the February 10th deadline! It is crucial to our economy and to the effects on the ecology. (Keep in mind that if we can't donate or sell our excess when decluttering, we will have to throw the items away in the landfill and that is what we are all trying to avoid these days, are we not!)
This is a very serious issue that needs serious attention. Get involved! Don't let February 10th come and go without doing something about it. This Act, as is currently stands, will have devastating effects on us all.
Tuesday, December 02 2008
Everyone is out and about shopping for those holiday bargains. In the meantime, as a result of the nation's poor economy, you might be noticing how many long standing businesses are going out of business. Such companies, such as Linens & Things, Circuit City, Atlantic Books Store, Oskar Huber are having "liquidation sales".
In the past, whenver I heard this term, I thought that the company is looking to liquidate their inventory until they actually close their doors. However, I just learned that many of these "Going Out Of Business Sales" are, in fact, being run by actual "liquidators" hired by the company to mark down the items and sell as much inventory as possible.
It has recently been brought to my attention, however, on a local newscast that the reductions are marked down from the "original price", not necessarily the price it was selling for the week before! In some cases, the liquidation price is actually higher than the sale price was and not a true "bargain". This tactic can be very deceiving. The consumer believes they are getting a good price, when, in fact, they are paying more than they should.
I highly recommend that you do your research on those products before making that purchase. Know your prices! You do want to get the best deal, not what they want you to believe is the best deal.
So, go and find those "true" bargains. In the meantime, if you have any questions or problems you would like me to address, please feel free to contact me. I would love to make your place A BETTER SPACE.
Wishing you happy holidays.