Top 10 Paper Items To Keep Indefinately

Whenever I’m working in offices, whether home or business, the question always arises as to what to keep and for how long. Most people know that for income tax audit purposes you need to keep your tax returns and related papers for seven years.  But what about some of those other papers?  Here’s my top 10 paper items to keep indefinitely.

  1. Birth certificates
  2. Deeds for burial lots
  3. Inventory of household goods, updated periodically
  4. Divorce agreements and Decrees
  5. Citizenship papers
  6. Adoption and custody records
  7. Wills and Powers of Attorney (ensure someone knows where these are)
  8. Death certificate
  9. Record of Employment
  10. Insurance records for claims and payments made

Items that you do want to keep indefinitely should be stored in a safe environment, such as a safety deposit box. Safety deposit box rentals are often difficult to get from financial institutions because of the sheer demand.  Something new is on the horizon for the storage of your valuables.  Essentially a very tiny condo (square inches instead of feet) and fairly expensive, very soon you will be able to purchase one of these units to call your own. Complete with security and even your very own parking space, these mini condo safety deposit units will be on the market to purchase soon. The first one I am aware of is currently being developed in Markham, Ontario.  I’m sure many more will be developed as the demand arises. Will you be one of the first to buy your very own safety deposit unit for your valuables?

 

Storage Locker Chaos

What I love about working in this field is not only the variety of people I get to meet and help on a daily basis, but also the challenges of working and organizing in many different spaces.  I’ve recently began a project for a friend of mine organizing his condominium storage locker.  Two lockers, actually.  One was a very small unit, and the other was a much larger unit.  For those of you who don’t know, the majority of walls in a storage locker are made of a network of wire grids.  In some instances you’ll find these similar to that of a chain link fence, and in other instances, the wire is thick, heavy duty, with no flexibility, similar to that of a dog cage. In this case, it is the latter.

My friend generally uses the smaller storage unit for long-term storage items, such as antique furniture pieces and memorabilia, but other items were thrown into the mix. When sorting through this unit , we found snowboards, old hockey bags, old jackets and a bunch of other “stuff”.  When we pulled everything out of the unit were we amazed at how much was actually packed into it.  Problem was, you couldn’t see most of it so there were some surprises for my friend.   Two of the items in this unit are wood storage trunks.  Inside the trunks we found very old record albums in green garbage backs dating back to early 1900’s.  Unfortunately, there was an extensive amount of mold damage, much of which was apparently pre-existing before even being placed in the trunk many years ago. Storing these trunks in the underground storage locker may or may not have contributed to the problem.  Although the locker did not feel as if moisture existed, it’s generally always an issue because of the concrete floors which tend to pull moisture up from the ground.  We ultimately had to dipose of many of the albums but were also able to save several. Once the moldy albums and bags were removed from the trunks, we had some new-found storage space within the trunks themselves which we utilized to the max.  Keeping in mind the ultimate purpose for this particular unit, we removed any items for which access would be frequent and designated them to the larger locker.   We even freed up space so that infrequently used items currently in the larger unit were assigned to this long term space.

Moving on to the larger storage locker, we sorted all the items into categories, such as sports gear, household items, automotive items, etc., and were then able to see exactly what needed to be contained in the space. Everything was put back in the unit on a temporary basis and in a temporary fashion pending the purchase of the organizing products and accessories needed to properly set up the space.  With a fairly low budget I headed out to shop. This was more of a challenge than sorting through the two units combined. The unique challenge in this case was finding the appropriate hooks in the right size to hang sports items up on the grid wall system without alot of trouble.  “S” type hooks are the quick fix option but they tend to flip right off the grid wires and get lost.  Carabiners can be helpful but only if the opening is large enough to easily hook onto the item that needs to hang.  I needed at least a 5″ carabiner to do the job.  If my client has to struggle to get a heavy item on or off of a hook or fastener, then that’s not a very good option as it will not only be frustrating but potentially dangerous as well. During my shopping extravaganza I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t getting frustrated at the lack of appropriate fasteners for the job. Perhaps this is a sign that I need to invent something!

Being inventive and creative in this industry is a necessity as we are frequently called upon to “create space” where none appears to exist. One of my colleagues had a great idea for creating storage in a locker such as this. He once used the frame of an old Ikea bookcase (shelves removed), raised it off the concrete floor to protect it from moisture, and inserted hooks on the top and sides of the bookcase framing to hang up items in a storage unit.  He then drilled holes through the framing and securely fastened the framing to the wire grid wall with wires. It’s not “pretty” but it’s functional because it made it possible to securely hold fasteners on which sports gear could be hung, which is ultimately what his client wanted.

The idea of using the frame of an old bookcase is a good option for some people, although not one that would work for my friend.  So after over 2 hours of scouring the major, and some smaller, hardware and big box stores, I came back to my office with a large assortment of hooks and fasteners, satisfied that I had gathered every possible option.  Ultimately I know that I”ll be returning some products, but at least I will be prepared. I go back to perform the final organization and set up of the locker on Saturday so I’ll let you  know how it turns out and post some pictures as well. Wish me luck!

 

#1 Way To Pack For Travel – Rise And Hang Luggage

I am so thrilled to have discovered this amazing and very creative luggage system for travel that I must share it with you.  In fact I am so jazzed by this new product that I demonstrated it this morning live during my organizing segment on Rogers Daytime TV.  It’s the Action Pak Duffel Bag by Rise and Hang, created by a very talented young man here in Ontario, Lee Renshaw.  As a frequent traveller he was often frustrated with the packing and unpacking of his suitcase into hotel dresser drawers (as well as the fear of potential bed bugs, mold or dirt) and so he designed this hanging system for luggage which essentially involves never having to unpack your suitcase on a trip.  You simply hang up the Rise and Hang bag on your closet rod, pack it up with your clothes, toiletries, etc., and when you arrive at your hotel room, you simply  unzip the bag, pull up the interior handles and hang your luggage on the closet rod in your hotel room.

Rise and Hang Duffel

 

There is no unpacking involved as everything is already neatly sorted, organized and placed on individual shelves within the luggage unit.  There’s even a spot for dirty laundry at the bottom interior of the bag.  This bag was designed for shorter trips, but if you pack light it can easily store enough clothing for a week.  The price point is extremely reasonable at $69.99.  Rise and Hang also has other products called Insert Paks that fit inside your existing suitcase. One insert can fit inside a smaller suitcase and two inserts can fit inside a large suitcase giving you two organized spaces for clothing . They are also expanding their line of products and currently working on a design for a gym locker. It’s great to see young, local talent contributing with innovative ideas to help people stay organized while travelling. Gotta love it!

Principles of Storage

Often times we end up storing items in the most inefficient and non-functional places.  For instance, I have a client who stores her baking items in the pantry on the very top shelf where it is not only difficult for her 5 foot frame to reach, but also problematic as she is elderly and arthritic.  Another client cannot bear to get rid of paperwork “just in case”.  These two scenarios create obstacles to organized living.

So here’s a few basic principles for storage of a variety of items in your home.

Items that are used most often should be stored within easy reach. Items used infrequently should be stored below the waist.  Items seldom used and that are lightweight only, should be stored above the head. Do not store anything heavy above your head as this can lead to serious injury!

For paper, here are a few questions you can ask yourself if you are struggling with whether to keep it or toss it:

  • Are there any tax or legal reasons for keeping this?
  • Can I easily get a copy elsewhere if I need one?
  • Does someone else have the information? Is this available on the Internet?
  • Can I identify a situation in which I would ever refer to this information?
  • Is it still relevant to my life?
  • What are the implications if I don’t have this?

For clothing, ask yourself these questions

  • Is it out of style, wrong size, wrong colour
  • Does it feel good when I wear it?
  • When was the last time it was worn?
  • Do I use it enough to make it worth the cost of storing?
  • Do I have more than 1, and do I need more than 1?

You can also consider adjusting your buying habits.  Before making a purchase, decide what the new item will replace and where it will be stored to avoid duplicating items.  Don’t forget the “one in one out”  rule. Avoid bulk purchases if you are challenged for space. Mega sized items take up mega space. You may be saving money but you are spending vital space as mega purchases take up prime real estate.

I know I’ve also mentioned this before but it’s worth repeating.  Ask for gift receipts to avoid storing gift items that don’t suit or fit you, are not your style or you don’t care for.  Most important is to resist storing items for fear of offending the gift giver.  Re-gift new items or hold a swap party. It’s fun, a great reason for friends to get together and you may end up with something else you can really use and enjoy.

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Clutterbgone Television Debut on Rogers

Yesterday was an interesting day for me. I appeared on Rogers daytime TV with hosts Elaine Yim-Spencer and Jeff Moore to talk about professional organizing and to demonstrate a few pretty cool products to get your life and home organized.  Here’s the video:   http://www.rogerstv.com/page.aspx?lid=237&rid=17&gid=89952

Neat Freak was great enough to supply me with components of the Neat Kids Closet Max organizing system. Neat Kids Closet Max organizing system

I just love this product for children’s closets because it grows with your child, makes the clothing accessible to them and teaches children the skills of organizing at a young age.  The components are made of durable fabric and strong nylon strapping and comes in two patterns:  Pop Rock and Candy Stripe.  Even better is that no tools are required to assemble the system, it’s quick and easy and uses your existing rod in the closet.  It’s specifically designed to hold kid-size clothing and items and you can mix and match the different components to create your own unique and custom closet system.  The price point is amazing and you can create a very functional system in a small closet for less than $200.00 easy!

I also demonstrated the Day ja View Recurring Events Calendar which was designed by Sharon Neiss, a professional young mother of three. Day ja View Recurring Events Calendar This calendar won the Parent Tested Parent Approved award for 2011 and is currently patent pending.  It’s great for families and organizing your events and activities in minutes with its ingenious 3 step design.  It’s definitely a winner for families and retails at only $19.99.

Lastly I was able to demonstrate the Grid It! organizer generously provided by Cocoon Innovations.Grid It! organizer  It comes in a bunch of different sizes,  and is an extremely versatile and functional solution to organizing your digital devices and personal items.  It’s made of rubberized woven elastic that firmly holds your stuff in place and there are endless configurations so you can customize the product to suite your specific needs.  It’s a great idea for laptops, Ipads, travel cases, knapsacks and essentially any carrying bag.  The price point varies depending on the size, but you can get a very functional one for about $19.00.

All in all a pretty great day.  I’ll be back on Rogers Daytime TV  in February and will keep you posted.

 

 

 

 

Pantry Organizing

We recently finished re-organizing our client’s kitchen and pantry. Many of my clients find it difficult to know where to start when re-organizing and decluttering this area of their home. For the pantry we removed every single item and placed them in categories, such as pastas, canned goods, cereals, snacks, spices, etc. We discarded those items that had expired or were no longer used. Once we saw what was left to house in the pantry, we recommended a few minor purchases that would maximize the storage space and make return and retrieval of items efficient: a graduated shelf riser as well as a couple of under shelf storage baskets were all that were needed in this instance.
Here’s a photo of the pantry before we started:
Pantry Before Organizing
And here’s how it looked when we were done:
Pantry After Organizing
Our client and their children loved the under-shelf popcorn basket!
Working on my client’s pantry has inspired me to do my own! What inspires you to get organized?