Discard Responsibly

It’s spring and a prime time to get rid of the clutter and excess in  your home.

We all want it to just “go away” as quickly as possible but let’s think about how we go about it.

Books are sometimes very hard to let go but if you have made up your mind that it is time to let others enjoy some of your books while you enjoy some decluttered space, here are some places they can go.

  • Salvation Army
  • Used book stores
  • Local library
  • Local thrift shops
  • Books for Soldiers, Books through Bars, Books for Africa
  • Goodwill
One important thing about donating your books is to make certain that your old books do not contain mold or harbor unpleasant odors. If you put your tainted book into a pile with others, it will contaminate the whole pile.
Old electronics take up a bunch of space and we are often afraid of getting rid of it or we think it will take a lot of effort to do it responsibly. If it is a computer, you will want to back up your data and completely wipe the system. An easy way is to pull the hard drive and just physically destroy it. If it is a working computer (with a new hard drive) you can donate it. Otherwise recycle it during recycling events or check locally for places to drop off toxic materials. Recycling events will take almost all electronics. Some stores like Best Buy will take old electronics. Cords can be donated. Phones can be donated (after you wipe your personal data).
The important thing is that electronics should not just be dumped in the trash or dumpster.
If you are clearing out your medicine cabinet, read the packaging on the medicine for how best to dispose of it. You can throw some medicines in the trash if they are first placed in kitty litter or coffee grounds and then sealed in a bag. I prefer to put all medicines in a sealed bag and look for a community disposal program.
The important thing is to not flush drugs down the toilet because they will end up in our water system.
As you clear out your pantry of old food, you may find some that you want to donate to a food bank. Do not donate food that is beyond the expiration date or that is in dented or rusted cans. If you decide to dump the old food but recycle the cans and jars, be very careful those cans and jars are clean. Throwing in a can with food still stuck in it can ruin an entire batch of recycling. 
Enjoy your clear space but think before you toss.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

In with the New – Out with the Old

Christmas is past and if your house is like ours, gifts were received. Some of the items I received were kitchen items I had been wanting. A couple of lovely glass pie plates, a grater, and some measuring spoons are now put away in my kitchen. I also received some CDs and books. My husband received some clothing items as well as books.

Now, here is the idea. The glass pie plates will take the place of some old metal pie tins, the grater replaces the one so old that I should probably donate it to the Smithsonian. In other words as the new items are put away in my kitchen, the old ones disappear. I do not save them “just in case” I will need them someday. I only allow so many CDs and books on my shelves so for each new one in, an old one will leave my home. New clothes  in – some old clothes gone.

My challenge to you is that as you put away your new, wonderful gifts you see what items you can now donate or in my case some were just trashed (who would want a grater that had to be cleaned and oiled before each use?). By New Year you will open up space in your home for the abundance of the upcoming year.

Happy New Year!

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Tax Preparation

It’s approaching tax time. The tax forms are already coming in the mail. If you have not already done so, set up a tax folder to hold all the tax related papers. I keep a tax folder in my file drawer all year round so that when documentation of contributions are sent, I drop them right into this folder.

I also have filed nearby last year’s tax folder. When I think everything has come in, I use last year’s folder to see what was recorded last year. Many CPAs also send out a worksheet.

Watch the mail for your tax forms. W-2s, 1099s, 1098s, and the fairly new 1095-As will start rolling in.

Collect any receipts that you will use to document deductions. I keep these in monthly envelopes all year, so it is relatively easy to pull these.

Also look for:

  • any other forms that disclose possible income (jury duty, unemployment, IRA distributions, etc.)
  • business K-1 forms
  • social security records
  • mortgage interest statements
  • tuition paid statements
  • property tax statements
  • mileage log 
  • medical, dental, and vision expenses
  • business expenses
  • records of any asset purchases and sales
  • health insurance records (including Medicare, Medicaid, and long term health)
  • charitable receipts and documentation
  • bank and investment statements
  • credit card statements
  • records of any out of state purchases that may require use tax
  • records of any estimated tax payments
  • home sales records
  • educational expenses (including student loan interest expense)
  • casualty and theft loss documentation
  • moving expenses
  • contribution records

Income from out of the country will not have a form so you just need to document this if it applies to you.

If you are not sure if something is important for tax purposes, retain the documentation. It is better to save unnecessary documentation than to later wish you had it.

Coordinate your deductions. If you and someone else share a dependent, confirm you are both on the same page as to who will claim the dependent. This would include single taxpayers, divorced taxpayers, taxpayers with elderly parents/grandparents, and parents with older children.

At this point in time, just put everything you find into your tax folder. as you start to prepare your paperwork for your CPA or yourself, pull out last year’s tax form to match the items with what you had last year.

Now, set a date on your calendar to actually do the work of adding up your contributions, adding up your mileage, and putting all paperwork in the proper order. Allow more time than you think you’ll need. The sooner you can get this done, the sooner you can breathe that big sigh of relief that this huge task is done for another year.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Organizing Christmas

Christmas is just around the corner. What organizing tips can we incorporate now to make this Christmas and the next a little less stressful?

As the Christmas cards come in, take the time now to check addresses and update your contact list. Plan on how you want to handle the cards you receive. Do you want to keep all of your cards, just the very special ones, or none at all? If you like to use some pretty cards for gift tags, after the holidays put them in a small box, label them, and store them with your holiday wrap. If you want to keep some of the notes and pictures, consider scanning them. Another option is to place very special cards in your memorabilia box. If you plan on answering notes that you received in your cards, schedule the time to do this now or very likely they will sit in a bag or basket for the whole year (This I know very personally).

Wrapping Paper:
Let go of those little bits and pieces of the roll that are left after wrapping your gifts this year. You might want to keep some smaller pieces to use as gift tags. If this is your plan, put them in a small box, label them, and store them with your holiday wrap. Paper that came off gifts you received might be kept for next year if it is pristine. The same can be said for keeping and reusing gift bags. If you find that you have a lot of paper left from previous years, Now is the time to decide what you really love and let the excess go. Extra tissue paper can be used to wrap fragile ornaments when packing up after the holidays. Do have one place to store your entire holiday wrap collection.

Start your gift list for next year now. What have you discovered that your friends and family really love? Make a list. Keep a list of all clothing sizes. Shop all year round and keep all gifts that you buy in one place. This shows you how much you already have when the holiday shopping season hits next year. Tag the items with the names of who you though of when you bought the gift. If you do re-gifting, mark who gave you the original gift.

After Christmas, wrap up carefully all of your decorations that you plan to keep and use next year. As you box them, divide them up so that it will facilitate putting them out next year. I have all early advent items in the top of one marked box. Others, who do more extensive decorating, mark boxes by the rooms where the decorations are used. Discard broken or unloved items now.

As you receive gifts, now is the time to donate what you no longer need or love. If you receive a new coffee pot, donate the old one. If you got a new robe, let the old one go to charity. Have children participate in clearing out toys they no longer love to make room for their new gifts.

Have a happy holiday season!

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

On the Floor and Out the Door

I work with a client decluttering an area. We end up with a nice pile of items for donation. Perhaps the client is going to continue to work some more after I leave. Great!

I come back two weeks later and the pile is still pretty much there and the client is not real happy looking at it. What happened?

I tend to see several patterns:

  • I’m not positive about letting go of some of these items – I need to think on it a bit more
  • I know I should take pictures of all this and then type up an itemized list and then log it in with the charity – I don’t have time for all of this
  • I know I should donate these items so others can use them but I really don’t have any spare time and now I feel guilty and resentful when I see this pile

This is how I respond to these situations:

  • Pull out the items you are unsure about and box them up with a label – then stash that box in the back of a closet for 6 months, a year, or whenever you tackle that closet again. Then see how you feel. Meanwhile, donate the rest.
  • The idea is that you want a charity to have these items. What do you have time to do? I can help you with a quick itemized list and then put them into your car (or mine). The list does not have to be exact, or typed – just a remembrance. You don’t even need the list if you do not care about a tax write off.
  • Your main concern is that these items go away. Your sanity and time is more important than getting these items to charity. Just let them go.

Once you have made up your mind that you no longer need or love items, they should leave in a timely manner. You can get on the list of some organizations that will call you when they are in your neighborhood and pick up your items. So, have a donation box in a closet and drop items in as soon as you decide you no longer want them.

Then wait for the call and just put the items on the curb. If this is done frequently enough, it is not too difficult to take a picture and write up a list if you do want the tax write off. And bottom line, these are your things. You do have the right to just pitch them.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer