Be Organized Now
Helping you straighten up...and fly light!
It's not my intent to reinvent the wheel on organizing and clutter control "how-to's". But there are a few things I think may be of value to the general reader of this website, and maybe through the years I'll be able to crystallize some other organizing concepts as happily as I did with the following little composition. You can also skip down a bit to see a list of the most valuable paper in your possession and how to compile it into the most useful little file in your home ("The ER File Box"). Finally, some basic organizing principles are at the bottom of the page. If you start to practice them, even if it's only in one drawer of your home, things will begin to take some better shape. :)
On Paper and Pet Snakes
While musing one day about paper clutter, the following occurred to me after working with a particular home organizing client. Some of my clients have
kept a pet snake among their excess of cluttered possessions. However, unlike the other stuff, the snake isn't usually considered "excess,"
though I wonder about that...
Pet just doesn't mesh well in my mind with snake. Pet evokes images of cuddly, furry, warm creatures, alternately comforting and/or amusing us
as we interact with them through daily life. We speak of loving our pets, as if they were people. Not so with the snakes. I haven't heard that kind of
sentimental blather about them yet. Announcing that you keep one elicits a broad range of responses, generally negative; in fact, "aversion" seems
a bit mild for the most common reaction. As for usefulness or entertainment value, I must just accept that it's "different strokes for different folks."
But you're probably wondering what possible connection this discussion has with home organizing or paper clutter...
It is just this--I find several interesting parallels between the good management of both household paper (clutter) and pet snakes.
So far, my observation of pet snake handling reveals some consistency on the following points:
* The "pets" are always closely confined to a very specific area;
* They are not permitted to slither about anywhere they please, wriggling across any old horizontal surface at whim;
* Regular cleaning of their containers is a must, or the result is fairly unpleasant;
* If they do perchance escape their confines, rapid and serious effort is made to collect and restore them to their designated space;
* If and when their usefulness ends (i.e., they die...or the kids outgrow their fascination with the game), out they go.
So, my recommendation for controlling paper and possessions in general (to avoid clutter) is.........................................
handle it like a pet snake.
Copyright 2011 Stephanie Bucci
THE "ER FILE BOX"
THE biggest home organizing issue for most of my clients, by far, is paper clutter. I think nearly every single client I've worked with struggles with it to some degree, the majority of them in a big way. Dealing with a large volume of paper clutter is draining and time consuming, to say the least. But if I could give anyone what I think is the most valuable organizing tip of all, it would be the following:
Please, please collect the following list of items, what I refer to as the "ER File Box," and it will clarify very, very quickly the most valuable paper in your home, allowing you freedom to delete a whole lot of whatever else remains. It's called the "ER File Box" because it's the first and most important household item for you or your designated representative to grab in the event of an emergency such as a need to evacuate your home due to fire, flood, natural disaster, a major incapacitating illness or injury, or some other huge trauma or loss. When my husband and I were getting ready to create our ER File Box, I had an idea it would be an all-day event, even though all of our household paper was well under control and I knew where to find all of these items. Surprisingly, we completed it in about 2 hours. My husband remarked upon finishing the task, "Well...that sure identifies what's really valuable!"
So, here's the list, free, with my blessings to anyone and everyone who will do it and/or share it with friends, family, co-workers, you name it. I fully believe this is the best paper organizing help I can offer anyone. Collect the documents and then store them in an appropriately sized Safe Deposit Box (SDB) or Fire Proof Safe (FPS). It would also be wise to scan as much of it as possible to PDF files, store it in a password protected folder, keep it on an external hard drive or other backup tool, tell your estate administrator where to find it and how to get into it, update it annually, and make absolutely sure you know where it is and that it's easy to lay hands on if needed. You may choose to add other items, but these are certainly critical.
• Attorney (name, address, phone number)
• Social Security Numbers and update info
• Copy of Birth Certificates (2 originals in SDB or FPS)
• Copy of Will / Trust Agreements (originals retained by attorney)
• Copy of Health Care Directive (original retained by attorney)
• Copy of Power of Attorney (original retained by attorney)
• Copy of Death Certificates of immed. family members (2 originals in SDB/FPS)
• Copy of Marriage License (originals in SDB/FPS)
• Copy of Divorce / Custody Certificates (copy in SDB/FPS)
• Copy of Partnership Agreements (originals in SDB/FPS)
• Copy of Promissory Notes, payable/receivable (originals in SDB/FPS)
• Copy of House Deed and Title Insurance (Originals in SDB/FPS)
1. Last year’s tax return
2. Current budget
3. List the institution’s name, phone & account # of the following:
• Credit cards (copy of cards, statement, outstanding balance)
• Copy of IRAs, stock certificates, bonds (originals in FPS/SDB)
• Checking account(s)/Savings account(s) / CDs
• Investments-accounts (i.e., Smith-Barney, Piper Jaffrey, etc)
• Loans (holder, balance, payment, due date)
• SDB (location, key, and summary of contents)
2. Homeowner’s / Renter's
4. Credit life
6. Medical (primary, secondary, policy holder, policy #, preferred provider info, etc)
8. Purple Shield and other burial coverage
• Copy of vehicle(s) title(s) (original in SDB/FPS)
• Copy of mobile home title, if title has not been eliminated (original in SDB/FPS)
EMPLOYMENT & EDUCATION
• Current employment information (employers, pay stubs, etc)
• Current employee benefits list (life ins. Policies, pension, etc)
• Employment history (dates, salaries, job details, qualifications, etc.)
• Professional licenses
• Education summary
• Individual family member medical information (history)
• Doctors (list of all medical professionals, addresses, phone numbers)
• Current list of medications/allergies
• Immunization records
• Emergency phone list (family, friends, employers, schools, etc.)
• Family address history (length of time at residence and country)
• Funeral choices, arrangements; consent for cremation; location/details of plots, if purchase
• Special requests/organ donation
• Consider writing your own obituary and update periodically
MAINTAINING YOUR EMERGENCY FILE BOX
• Keep this portable box in a consistent and convenient location; have someone become familiar with it and have complete access to it
in an emergency.
• Unless specified “original”, store copies of documents in these files with a note in the file as to the location of the original.
• Update these files at least annually or when any of the above information changes.
Good questions to ask yourself when trying to decide whether or not to keep something:
Specifically paper-related questions:
- If it were destroyed in a flood or fire, would I replace it? (If the answer is "no", let it go...)
- What's the worst thing that could happen to me if I didn't have this thing/paper? (If the answer is "probably nothing," and its absence won't affect your taxes or important personal business/records, again--let it go...)
- What is its purpose? (If you don't know, that ought to really tell you how important it is!!) ;)
- Do I still participate in the activity that this is used for?
- Will I truly repair, use again, re-purpose it as I had thought before? (Honest, tough self evaluation here...)
- Can I get it elsewhere if I need it, e.g., from the originating source?
- Is it tax-related?
- Would a scanned copy serve just as well as a hard copy, i.e., how often, if at all, would you need to have the hard copy in hand?
- Do I need to take a simple action on it, e.g., make an appointment, hand it off to someone else, pay a bill, make a decision, RSVP, etc? NOTE: If a required action such as placing a call or setting up an appointment takes less than 2 minutes and you can do it now...DO IT!
- Questions 1 & 2 above under "Good questions...".
BASIC ORGANIZING PRINCIPLES
Okay, so I'm not going to tell you that organization takes rocket science. Stating the principles is easy--practicing them is another matter, but here they are:
- Give every thing in your environment a designated place ("home"), and put it back there when you're done with it! (Hey, if you went back to a different place every time you left your home, nobody would be able to find you, either!)
- Live within your space "budget". You only have so much space to call home; if you want to enjoy it clutter free, you must make some hard decisions and put some limits on how you "spend" your space allowance(s).
- Keep in your home/space only what you love, use, and what meets your life purposes (there's some obvious clarification on this point to be made regarding many of our possessions...).
- Be proactive versus procrastinating; i.e., when it's empty, fill it; when it's dirty, clean it; when you're done with it, put it away, etc. Another way to say it is practice maintaining your possessions in their places.
- Develop and practice a genuine attitude of gratitude and contentment with what you have--we acquire many really useless and "weighty" possessions because of discontent. Practice "admiring without acquiring."
HOW WE GET FROM POINT A TO POINT B -- My acronym for it is "EECDID" (easy to say, hard to do if you're overwhelmed however, and it may require outside help.
Call (971) 232-2336 (cell) to get started with some help soon!
EVACUATE - Take everything out of the space to be organized.
ELIMINATE - Sort things into the four basic categories of "Keep" (it stays in that area), "Trash" (obvious, I trust), "Move" (it stays, but it belongs in some other location), "Sell/Give Away and/or 2nd Hand" (be very honest with yourself about the idea of yard sales, garage sales, E-bay, Craigslist, etc--if you know from history that you either hate such activities or simply won't follow through, don't set up a box for that purpose--just get it out of your space by handing it off to an appropriate organization and be done with it!)
NOTE: These 4 categories are the basics. You may also need a box/bin for each member of the household, another for things that need to be returned to someone else or a store, etc., but the 4 basic categories will certainly get you going in the right direction.
CONSOLIDATE - Of what remains to be kept and stored in the particular space in question, sort it into "like with like" piles, things that go together logically and in practice (for you), e.g., office tools, baking supplies, gift-wrap supplies, art/craft items, etc.
DESIGNATE - Determine where/how the remaining stuff from your "keep" pile will be stored in the space intended, otherwise known as "give it a home." Now measure the like-with-like piles and the designated space. Decide on the storage option (drawers, pull-out bins, hanging cubbies, lidded boxes, etc.). Measuring helps you avoid purchasing storage items that won't fit in the designated "home".
IN A CRATE - Don't leave the stuff lying in piles--put it in its new home. It's best to label it, if nothing else for the surprised family members who will at some time be trying to put hands on said items--labels can always be removed once everyone is "trained". This also makes it much more likely that items will "get home" when people are finished using them and be available the next time someone needs them.
DEFEND THE STATE - Start practicing regular maintenance of your space(s). Plan to clean up all the day's clutter 1/2 hour before going to bed; or get the whole family involved with some kind of a timed event, seeing if you can improve the "clean-up" time by 5 mninutes each week as people learn to control their possessions and put things back when finished with them. Maintenance is the key to organization. It's easier to keep it under control than to clean it up when it's gotten out of control.