What documents do I really need?
Ever tried to find your healthcare forms or insurance policy in a crisis? Can you put your hands on your bank statements or mortgage documents in an instant? If you can, congratulations – you have an effective set of working documents. But for many, this is an unlikely scenario. Working documents are those items you need to be able to “touch” on a consistent basis – think weekly or monthly. Examples of workings documents include current insurance policies for auto, home, healthcare, etc. Bank and mortgage statements should be well organized for easy referral. Healthcare and insurance documents need to be easy to locate. Keep only current policies so that you are not confused about what is in effect. When you receive the new, effective policy, shred the old one. Do not hold onto expired policies – there is no value other than clogging up your filing system. So, how should you organize your files?
How do I organize my working documents?
Ideally, keep your working documents in a traditional filing system. Pendaflex filing folders with clear, accurate tabs make finding your information quick and easy. In an office setting, use a traditional filing cabinet with multiple drawers. This is a good solution but not the only option. If you lack “office space” and filing cabinets, use clear, plastic filing boxes. I do NOT recommend cardboard bankers boxes. These do not stand up over time and make filing difficult. Use these kind of boxes only when storing files for long term storage. Invest in good quality folders and storage. Being able to find your working documents quickly and easily is critical and makes your life much less stressful. Every couple of months, update your filing system to be sure that all your files are up to date and current.
The average American spends 40 minutes a day trying to find something and paperwork is at the top of the list. Put your Working Documents in a well organized filing system that you use on a regular basis.
Okay, I put the photos together – now what?
What is your goal for your photo memorabilia? Will you make traditional albums? Are you adding important photos to frames around your space? Do you want to create digital photo books? For photo memorabilia management, set a goal for your project. Read the blog post on gathering your print photos into one spot and sorting them into workable categories. The next best step is to digitize your photos before you paste them into traditional albums or add them to frames. Once a photo is digitized, it can be used, reused and shared easily. Do you need to digitize a substantial number of photos? Then use an online digitizing company. There are many, many options for online photo scanning companies including Scandigital, Fotobridge, and DigitalPickle. Reluctant to ship your photos? Then search for a local company. Once you have your original print photos back along with a digital file copy, you’re ready to move on.
How can I use my print and digitized photos?
Is creating traditional print photo albums your goal? Again, there are lots of quality options available – just be sure to use lignin free and acid free paper and supplies. Creative Memories is a leader in this market and sells excellent products. Use those original prints in photo frames and collages. Display your memories! Put photos of special people and occasions out to be enjoyed today. Instead, are you looking for a less labor intensive project than a traditional photo album with print photos? Quickly create digital books with your digital photo files. Again, there are many companies that create this product. I’ve had success with Snapfish and Shutterfly and if you are a MAC user, Apple has software to create a digital photo book as well. All of these options allow you to enjoy your photos today. So take the time to share these photos with others through social media and photo sharing sights and double their impact.
Take the time to digitize your photo prints. While great, print photo uses are limited. Once an image is digitized, use it repeatedly. Share and enjoy your memories today.
Prints, prints everywhere….
Most people have a collection of photos – now both printed and digital – that they don’t know what to do with. With prints, it’s critical to store them in a dry, cool place away from excessive heat and moisture. Gather your prints into one place and purge, purge, purge! Throw out the blurry, cut off and simply bad photos. Also, did you find duplicates or ones you want to share? Send them with a card or take a photo and share it today. With the remaining photos, do a simple sort of “heritage” photos including your family of origin and put in large manila envelopes. Then use smaller envelopes to hold photos of childhood, school, family etc. in whatever categories that make sense to you. For this simple sort, use broad categories and don’t get bogged down in specifics – this can be very time consuming! For present day and more recent photos, use another large manila envelope and organize by event, person or year. Most of all, this project is a “quick sort” that will give you basic categories to work with.
What about my old albums?
If you have photos in the old style albums with sticky pages and plastic covers, remove them immediately. Because the glue on these pages is highly acidic, it is eating away at your photos which is why they appear yellowed. Do another sort with these photos and put them into the categories you used before. Then save only the best photos and let go of the rest. The reality is that you will never use ALL of the photos you have. Keep the best and get rid of the rest. Use this same process for photos in frames no longer on display. Junk the broken and mismatched frames and save the good and meaningful photos.
Once you have all of your photos together, store them in a plastic tub or box to protect them. Ultimately, you have many options on what to do with print photos. Prints can be scanned to digital, put into photo albums and added to frames but that’s a project for another day….
More space in my space
As a professional organizer, I help my clients find more space, more time and more joy in their lives. And no matter if the home is 1400 or 3400 square foot, many clients believe they need more space for our stuff. We need more space for the stuff we’ve purchased like the bedroom set we purchased when we got married. You inherited from your family the china set and the furniture from your childhood bedroom – where does it live? Where do I store the crystal wedding gift that still sits in the original box? So how do I find more space in my space? To find more space, you have to first let go of what you don’t need or love. If you need and love your bedroom set, keep it. If you no longer need the bunkbeds from your childhood, donate them if they are safe to use. Never used that crystal and you don’t live a “champagne life”? Sell it and find more space.
More space in my life
Keep in your space the things that you need and the things that you love. Anything we own comes with a cost. I purchase, maintain, repair and store my things. Even items that have been passed onto us or have been received as a gift have a cost in maintenance and storage. If I own an abundance of items, they are a burden if the items are unneeded and unused. The famous quote from the movie Fight Club (one of my sons’ favorite movies) is “The stuff you own ends up owning you.” Eliminating the items and their upkeep and repairs gains you time and money – limited and valuable commodities. If I did not have to spend time repairing my stuff, could I spend more time with family and friends and doing the things I love? Instead of buying stuff, I can use my money for travel and adventure.
Eliminate items that are unused and unneeded. You open up both the physical and the psychic space – thereby gaining more space in your space and in your life.
Why you need to write it down
Have you ever tried to get through a busy day and remember all the tasks and projects you need to complete? For most of us, the answer is a resounding “yes”. So how successful were you in getting everything done in a timely and efficient manner? Sadly, most of us will answer “no” to that question. The reality is that it is extremely difficult to remember all the tasks and responsibilities we need to manage. To be more efficient, you need to write it down. The task of writing in itself creates muscle memory and reinforces the reminder. Typing or using an electronic device works too if you are without paper and pen but studies show this is less effective. So, why do you need to write it down? Firstly, when you write down your tasks and projects, you jog your memory to complete the task. Secondly, and as important, you create a visual reminder that can be incorporated into your schedule.
Sticky notes everywhere
As an organizer, I work with clients to create systems and solutions to find more space, more time and more joy in their lives. For some clients, a PDA or smartphone is a must for everything from grocery lists to work tasks. Written lists, sometimes scratched on the back of junk mail, do the trick for others. I have a “special” notepad in my kitchen and legal pads in my office to write down reminders. Whatever works for you works for you. For visual learners especially, a written note has significant impact. I like the kitchen and office as my command points. Where are your strategic areas for notes? Another great visual reminder is the sticky note, again in a strategic place. Because we are creatures of habit, putting a sticky note where we cannot fail to see it is a visual reminder that might represent a change in routine or reinforces a new habit.
When you write down a reminder or task, you create a visual system that is a trigger for action. Notes, lists and sticky notes organize us and make us more efficient.
What’s the difference between important vs.urgent?
As an organizer I help my clients find more space, more time and more joy in their lives. Learning better time management skills and determining what is an important vs. urgent task is a great first step. Most people use the terms important and urgent interchangeably but there are subtle and important differences. So, what is the difference between important vs. urgent tasks in time management? If a task is urgent to you, complete it immediately. Urgent tasks are safety and health related so don’t delay on doing these right away. If task has a time and date deadline – i.e. you have to sign up for a class by 5:00 pm on the 1st or you will incur late fees, do the task immediately. If a task has a near deadline or involves health and safety, do it now. But aren’t important tasks urgent too?
Getting important tasks done
Do you have a to-do list? If so – and I hope you do! – you likely have lots of tasks that you need to complete. Your friend’s birthday is next month and you want to send a card. Great, get it done but don’t interrupt the project your working on to complete that task. Do you need to follow up on upcoming summer vacation plans? Add it to the “to do” list for later but keep working on the report that has to be completed by end of day. You have lots of important tasks to complete so build time into your schedule so they don’t become urgent crises. I work on certain tasks early in the morning when I have uninterrupted time before the “workday” starts and the phone starts ringing. Can you use that uninterrupted time to complete important tasks – expense reports, updating billing, balancing your checkbook – when the day is quiet?
Good time management skills keep most important tasks from becoming urgent tasks. Time is a limited commodity and we have to use it wisely in order to accomplish more and have more time for the people and things we love.