This “thing” is not working – now what?
Can you put your hands on the manual and receipt for your non-working refrigerator in less than 5 minutes? Found the manual? Great. Is it still under warranty and when and where did I purchase this anyway? Product manuals and invoices/receipts for all our many items can be overwhelming. I recommend using an alpha file for organizing most purchase information. When you buy a new item (appliance, furniture, pricey clothing item), place the manual with the attached receipt in the alpha file. As an added step, write on the front of the manual the purchase place and date for easy reference. Most manuals and product information can be downloaded as a PDF online if you prefer. But I do recommend holding onto the original receipt. Yes, lots of folks like to keep these receipts in email format but a hard copy is always easier to retrieve in a hurry. So, should all product manuals and invoices go in an alpha file?
Creating an “Electronics Manual Box”
If you counted all of the major product purchases you’ve made over the past year, would technology items be a majority? For most of us, our homes are filled with smart phones, tablets, laptops and desktops, Kindles and readers – each with its own manual and receipt. Unlike an appliance or piece of furniture for which we rarely need the manual or purchase information, repair and upgrade to electronics is constant. To manage this process, keep those receipts and manuals separate. Use a clear box with a lid and put this in an out of the way but easy to find space – think under the bed. No one wants to be frantically searching for purchase docs and receipts when their phone is dead or computer crashes.
When you purchase a replacement item – like a new washing machine – be sure to discard the old manual. In your electronics box, mark product boxes and receipts with simple notes – “Lisa’s iPhone6 purchased Sept 2017”. When you need to have an item repaired, you don’t need to be searching through a pile of manuals and receipts for the right one.
What, exactly, is this charger for??
Have you ever picked up a cord or charger and thought “what the heck is this cord for?” The speed of technology has increased dramatically in just a few years. As a result, we’ve upgraded our tablets, computers and phones so many times that we are left with a jumble of cords and wires we can’t identify and are terrified to throw out “just in case”. So what’s a first good step to organizing your technology jumble? Start by labeling your current technology. Using a label maker or masking tape, create a label. Use simple names like “Lisa’s iPhone”, “Conor’s Kindle”, “Brett’s MAC” – you get the idea…Don’t be afraid to over tag – it’s better to have more tags than not. As an added step to managing and organizing your technology tangle, create a “technology box”. Store spare cables and plugs, extra headphones, a travel technology kit – whatever you need most frequently. And keep the box in one spot in the house or office. This will eliminate the hunt for an extra charging cord or new headphones when needed. Now, what about the mystery cords lurking in desks, drawers and baskets all over the house?
Step one – gather all the cords, chargers, techno-stuff together. Be sure to check kids’ rooms too – technology will migrate there as your kids get older. Don’t forget all the learning and educational toys your child once used. The Leap Frogs, learning tablets and the like might not be in current use but are likely still hanging around and the cords might be separated from the device. Then one by one, try to figure out which device the cord goes with. Hint – check the battery plug. The plug will often have the manufacturer’s name on it. Do your best to figure out what goes with what but don’t obsess. If you haven’t missed it recently, it’s unlikely you’ll miss it in the future.
DON’T throw those unneeded and mystery cords and chargers in the trash – techno trash is a real problem. Take them to Best Buy or Staples and drop them off for proper recycling.
Why, exactly, am I keeping this??
Do you have a box, bin or closet full of memorabilia that you just don’t know what to do with? Congratulations. You are like most people with “stuff” they just don’t know what to do with. So what is memorabilia exactly? Webster’s Dictionary defines memorabilia as “things that are remarkable and worthy of remembrance”. Pull out that box and open that closet – is everything in there “remarkable and worthy of remembrance?” Ask the question today “why, exactly, am I keeping this?” Does the item still pass the litmus test? Good, keep it. If not, let it go. It helps to define a certain amount of space, i.e. a bin, box or even a closet, for that memorabilia. If the space is full, you need to review the items and purge what no longer passes muster. So if you’ve decided that this item is important enough to keep and use valuable storage space to keep it, why is it hiding?
The right way to display memorabilia
Memorabilia can take many forms – photos, documents, books, clothes, personal items – the list is endless. Photos and documents are actually the easiest to store – see my blog post on that important topic. Once you are ready to display and share your photos, check out some of the many options available. But other memorabilia is definitely harder to manage because of its size and shape. For clothes, think about repurposing that wedding dress into a christening dress or pillows. The reality is that your daughter is unlikely to wear your wedding dress but if you feel that you just can’t get rid of it, at the very least have it professionally cleaned and preserved and then find an out of the way place to store it. Did you save dozens of your child’s Little League T-shirts? Guilty on that one! A t-shirt blanket is a wonderful reuse of those items and is a perfect complement to any dorm room.
Memorabilia is an item “worthy of remembrance”. Does it still has the same significance today? If so, determine the best way to display it.
What is good storage?
Good storage is easy to use, easy to access and meets your price point. I recommend a variety of storage options based on the items you need to contain. Do you want to view your item and access it easily? One of the best options are clear, plastic bins with covers. These bins – think shoe box sized – are great containers for school supplies, arts & crafts, medicines and health and beauty items. Use these clear bins to corral small and loose items in any room including kitchen and bathroom. Do you struggle to keep your items organized in your cabinets and pantry? Use clear bins to contain like items and so finding your items is easier and this also make clean up quicker. Are you organizing and storing larger items like clothing, linens and holiday items? Extra large clear totes with locking covers are a good storage option. These totes are waterproof and are great in attics and basements and as a bonus, they are stackable thereby doubling your storage space. Is your office filing a mess? Invest in good quality pendaflex and folders to create an effective filing system. Nothing makes finding your documents more of a challenge than broken, ripped folders.
What is ineffective storage?
When you are choosing a storage options, decide if you want the item to be viewable or hidden. Do you want to see the crayons and markers? Use a clear bin. Do you want to put books and toys in the family room? Use an opaque or fabric bin or basket to “hide” the items. Cardboard moving and banker’s boxes are NOT long term storage solutions. If you are moving and plan to store your items in these boxes for a short time, set a timeframe to find a more permanent solution. Humidity and water will break down these boxes quickly and make them structurally unsound and put your items at risk.
Don’t let the elements make your decisions for you. Choose quality storage options to keep your items safe and organized. If you want to view your items quickly, opaque is not your friend.
So, what’s new with you?
Do you have a new healthcare insurance provider? Did you make a switch on your auto or homeowner insurance recently? For most of us, making changes is common but updating our records and filing is not. Creating an effective filing system for your Working Documents is critical – see more on this topic here – but you also need to maintain and update that system. When working with clients, I urge them to cull old files and create new ones that meet present needs. Don’t rely on your memory to remember that your current auto policy is housed in a file with the name of the previous provide. Create a new, updated file. On average, you spend 40 minutes a day looking for something you cannot locate. What could you do with those 5+ hours a week? Take the two minutes NOW to create and update your file so that you don’t take 20 minutes the next time looking for a misfiled item. Now that you have updated your files, what other items need attention?
What should I be updating?
I recommend to clients that when new paperwork or updated items are received, immediately replace the old, outdated items. Insurance is a great example of this. Replace membership cards, policies, physical forms and other important documents as soon as you receive them. If you process your important paperwork immediately, there’s no searching for missing/current items. Do you keep a binder of your child’s current school information? Is your child heading to high school and you still have the 4th grade information in the book? Purge, purge, purge. Replace the old, outdated information with the new current content. Is your child a practiced driver and you still have the driver’s ed material on your counter? Throw it out.
Review and update your files and information and only keep what is new and current. Also, I recommend a Kitchen Folio or binder with current content for every household. Put current physical forms and medication instructions, work and school information, new and updated phone numbers in a binder for easy access for the entire family.