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Organize Your Paper Mountain

organize paper

Whether you go to work in an office or work from home, chances are you have a small mountain of paper that needs to be addressed. Did you know that a sheet of paper is roughly 0.004 inches thick? Hardly noticeable but when you start piling paper up it can be quite messy and ominous to tackle. ClutterBGone gets a lot of calls to help with paper. Here’s our tips to keep your paper from becoming a mountain.

Act on it right away

When paper arrives don’t let it rest on your desk or table. Create a system to get that paper off the surface. Use a labelled file folder, an in-box or any other system to move the paper along. Keep trying a system until you find one that works for you.

Delegate

Whether at work or at home there will be somebody who needs to know that, that piece of paper has arrived. organize paperWho pays the bills? Who responds to invitations? Whoever is responsible for the paper or the accounts or whatever action needs to be taken needs to know what has come in and needs an action. Pass it along, with a note if needed, so it doesn’t rest on your desk needlessly.

Make a decision right away

A lot of the paper that crosses our desk is not needed at all. I go to my mail box and most of what is in there is junk mail – flyers and ads. Out they go right after a quick peek. Don’t hang on to them for others to see unless you really believe they will be worthwhile or used.

Out with the dated

If you still have magazine and paper subscriptions consider an electronic version. organize paperIf you still need the feel of paper (and I do with a good book) ensure the previous issue is recycled when the new one comes in. If you really need to refer back to an article or story then take a picture of it with your phone. It doesn’t take up any space.

Set aside a bit of time

This would apply more for the office but set aside a bit of time to ensure that your desk or workspace is cleared of paper each day. You will feel more organized and productive when working at a clean and organized work area.

Go digital

A lot of us are still receiving statements and paying bills via paper. I myself switched as much as I could to digital copies. I can receive and pay bills online and electronically “file” a copy of the bill on my computer. It’s always there in case I need it. With the vast majority of paper that we file never getting looked at, doesn’t it make sense to go digital at home?

Even in this electronic age, paper is everywhere and accumulates quickly. If you don’t stay on top of it you will have a mountain of paper before you know it. You don’t have to scale that mountain alone. ClutterBGone has assisted many homes and offices in reducing the mountains of paper that come and go and devising systems to keep it that way. Just reach out to us here to see how we can help you.

Get Organized For The End Of The School Year

end of school organizing

Whether its public or high school, the end of the school year is swiftly approaching. There will be lots of stuff coming home with the kids as the school year ends. Like everything else in your home, these items need to be sorted, organized and purged.

Backpacks

The backpacks will be retired for the summer but before they are check them out for wear and tear. end of school year organizingThey get a lot of use through the year so it may be time to replace them at the beginning of the next school year. Maybe your babies have “grown up” and want a more mature looking backpack next year. In that case maybe the current one can be handed down or donated for continued use. Check the backpacks for any lunch leftovers too. You don’t want to be tracking down a terrible smell later in the summer!

All that paper

The end of the school year may bring a lot of paper into the home. Notebooks, art projects, test papers and a lot of paper and documents that were accumulated and kept in the desk through the year will be coming home. We’re all proud of our children but we can’t keep everything they create. Go through it all, preferably with your child, and sort into what you will keep and what you will discard. I like to keep a memory box for each child and place the keepers in there. Others will create a sort of scrapbook and place them in that. Either way you and your child will have easy access to everything you found important enough to keep.

Keepsakes

Kids will collect many keepsakes through the school year. end of school organizingRibbons for participating, trophies for doing well, special drawings, school yearbooks, heck maybe even a few notes from a secret admirer? What will these mean to you and your child in a year or five or ten? Decide what goes in the memory box and what goes.

Old school supplies

A lot of the notebooks, pens, pencil crayons and other supplies can be kept for next year. Go through them for wear and discard what is not needed or usable any longer.

Go through all of the school items as soon as they come in at the end of the school year. This will reduce the clutter in the home and teach your kids responsibility and organization. Now let’s get ready for summer!!!

Time To Get Your Taxes Organized

Well, February has passed and you should have all the documents you need to get your taxes prepared. Whether you do your taxes yourself or you have someone else do them, just getting your documents ready can be a stressful time. Taxes are something that you should be thinking of throughout the year but unless you are running your own small business I’ll bet tax time is the only time you think of them.

How long do I keep my tax records?

Keep your tax records & supporting documents for six full years.

Even if you do not have to attach certain supporting documents to your return, or if you are filing your return electronically, keep them in case your return is selected for review or audit. Revenue Canada may request documents other than official receipts as proof of any deduction or credit you claim, such as cancelled cheques or bank statements.

This six-year period starts at the end of the tax year for which you are filing. So, if you are filing your 2017 taxes shortly you will need to keep files from 2017 back to 2012.

What do I do with older records?

After the six-year mark (2011 files can be safely disposed of after your 2017 taxes have been filed) you can safely destroy older files. organize your taxes

Ensure that they are properly disposed of by shredding them! Do not leave anything to chance. If you don’t own a shredder most office supply stores will provide a shredding service for a nominal fee. I recently stopped into my local office supply store and had a box of documents shredded for just a few dollars.

Notice of assessment

You will receive a notice of assessment from Revenue Canada once your taxes have been filed and reviewed. It will confirm that your return was assessed and whether you owe taxes, whether a refund is owed to you or if there is a zero balance. If there are no discrepancies between your filing and this notice, then file it away with the taxation year that it applies to. You will need it for your next tax year when you file.

Filing throughout the year

Throughout the year you are going to accumulate receipts for many different items that you may or may not require for tax purposes depending on your individual circumstances. Open a file and label it according to the current tax year.organize your taxes Papers and receipts you need for taxes should be placed in this file. This current year folder will make it a lot easier to keep track of important documents you get throughout the year, like donation receipts, etc. All the papers you need to prepare your taxes will all be in one place.

You can even go one step further, especially if running a small business, and separate your tax receipts into categories like health expenses, business expenses, car expenses, office supplies, etc. to be even better organized for the upcoming tax year. You may want to separate your paperwork this way anyway if you want to track the cost of running your household on an annual basis.

Tax time can be pretty stressful but if you plan ahead and have an accessible file with everything you need, things will go a lot smoother. ClutterBGone loves organizing paperwork. It’s not too late. Tax time is here, are you ready?

5 Steps to Control Your Paper Monster

organized office

Now is a great time of the year to gain control of your paper monster at home or in your office. Do it now before the end of the year arrives with all that it brings. New technologies were supposed to reduce the amount of paper we create but I’ll bet if you are anything like me you haven’t seen a decrease in the amount of paper that comes in your home or that you generate.

Follow these steps to control your paper monster in your home or office.

Gather it all up

Get all the papers together. organized officeCheck all of your drawers, coat pockets, desks, bags or piles you have lying around in your home or office and put it all in one place. If you have already filed a lot of paper away that’s great. We are just talking about all the papers that you have lying around.

Can you define what you really need to keep?

Now separate this big pile into two piles. One pile for what you need and one for what you don’t need. It may seem like common sense and easy to do but many of you hang on to paper for many reasons. “I may need to refer to it”, “maybe I need to return it” are reasons I hear a lot.

Take a good hard look at each piece of paper and put it into the appropriate pile. Anything in your discard pile should be shredded just to be on the safe side.

Receipts are a major source of paper clutter in many homes. If you have purchased a piece of clothing and it fits or you have consumed a food item then you don’t need to hang on to the receipt unless you need it for tax purposes.

Speaking of which, anything you need for tax purposes should be filed in your tax file right away. When you get home take the receipts out of your coat, pocket or wallet and slide it into your current year tax file for your accountant to deal with next year.

Which filing system is best for you?

Now you can divide your keep pile into categories. There are many different ways to file paper but I personally like to file them according to the type of paper that they are. organized officeFor instance, I have a Utilities section where I have created files for cable TV, hydro, etc. I have an Employment section where I have opened a file for every member of the household to put their pay slips, reviews or anything else employment related. I prefer this method as you can zero in on the category and have fewer files to go through to find what you need.

Label your files clearly and ensure you have enough room so you are not jamming the paper into your file folders. Your files should move freely in your drawer.

Assign a space for new paper

In order to keep your home free of paper clutter, assign a place for all paper and mail to be placed upon arrival into the home. This can be a small tray, bowl, basket or anything you like.

Stay on top of it

As you file your monthly statements or bills away you may want to discard the oldest one so that only the last 6 months are always on hand. Don’t forget to put discarded papers through the shredder for privacy.

Paper clutter is a common sight in many homes and a major contributor to clutter everywhere. Don’t let the paper monster get a hold of you. Contact ClutterBGone to see why we love attacking the paper monster.

Develop These 5 Habits For A Clutter Free Office

clutter free office

Offices can be one of the most cluttered areas. Whether you work from home or go to an office each day, it’s so easy to accumulate clutter, which affects your productivity. Here are a few simple habits to adopt to keep your office clutter free.

The one touch rule

This is an easy rule. When you touch something, act on it. You can delegate it, toss it, file it or recycle it but if you can follow one rule, this is the one. This simple rule alone can eliminate future accumulation of clutter. ClutterBGone has implemented this rule many times.

Set times for daily tasks

Your email, the snail mail that comes in, filing. All of these daily tasks need to be done but don’t necessarily need to be done as soon as they come in. home office organizingSchedule to look at your email at 2 or 3 set times per day. Schedule to open your snail mail at the same time each day (and remember the one touch rule). You have several tasks that you take for granted and perform each day. By scheduling these you’ll be more productive and accumulate less clutter.

Limit computer distractions

Just having a cluttered looking desktop can cause distractions. Keep your screen wallpaper simple and keep any icons to a minimum. Email notifications are the worst. Turn them off unless you are waiting for a life or death email to arrive. It’s too much of a temptation to look at your email too frequently. Things get left undone, you start working on something pertaining to the email and before you know it you have a cluttered desk full of unfinished work.

Keep a clear, unobstructed work area

You know what you use several times throughout the day. organized officeKeep these handy and put everything else away. Files you aren’t working on should be filed away. Unless you’re an artist you don’t need 10 pens on your desk. Staplers, coffee mugs, personal photos, newspapers, etc. all add to the cluttered look. With a cluttered work area it becomes too easy to add to the clutter and greatly reduces your productivity.

Set aside time at the end of each day

Set aside just five minutes to clear your desk or work area and prepare it for a clean start the next day. Your office will stay more organized, there will be less clutter and you will feel more productive the next morning. We implement this at all offices we work with.

Adapt as many of these 5 habits that you can for a clutter free office. Contact us to see how we can reduce the clutter in your office.

How To Know It’s Time To Organize Your Tax Files

The date for receiving all your T4 slips and contributing to your RRSP’s has past. Perhaps you owe the government money or are waiting for a refund. It may seem a bit early to focus on this year’s receipts and paperwork but the earlier the better. Avoid a mountain of paper next tax year and the stress of tax season.

Do you need to create files for your receipts?

Receipts and statements are accumulated throughout the year. Without a proper filing system, you, or your accountant, are going to spend hours sifting through mountains of paper and sorting into categories. Time costs you time and money. Let ClutterBGone show you how to set up a filing system that will save you time and expenses later in the year.

What’s your year in review look like?

Do you have all your statements and receipts in one organized file? Is everything you need for one year in one place so you’re not scrambling looking for your papers?

organize taxes

We hope so as any questions or an audit (!!!) can be solved quickly and easily. We have performed this task for many clients and it has saved them so much time and expense. Just ask us how.

Are you in the digital age?

For those that are in the digital age there are a lot of apps that allow you to scan and store your receipts in the cloud. If you do your own taxes, some accounting software comes with apps that will do this. Keep in mind that clearly legible electronic receipts are OK with Revenue Canada but they can ask for the original during an audit and some receipts fade over time.

organize tax

We at ClutterBGone know that some people are comfortable with new technology and some are not. We work with the system that works best for you.

Do you maintain your filing system and paperwork for tax season?

Your filing system only works if you use it and maintain it. Leave your newly created tax file in a place that is easy to access and place your receipts and statements in the appropriate file folders when you get them.

At ClutterBGone we can help you be prepared for the next tax season before it’s arrival. Tax time is stressful enough without the stress of having to find information and dig through mounds of paper. Be organized and be ready. Contact us to learn how we can assist you and ease your stress levels.

Clean Out Your Computer Day

Since 2000, the Monday of this week has been designated as National Clean Out Your Computer Day. What a great time to take a few minutes out of your busy schedule to perform some maintenance on something that we use, and depend on, every single day.

There are a lot of reasons why your computer isn’t running the way it used to and I will leave the technical assistance to the professionals but the reason we love this day is it gives you the chance to “organize” your computer and your electronic files and “downsize” the number of programs that you no longer, or never did, use.

It’s also a good opportunity to physically clean your computer. I’m sure most of you don’t give it much thought throughout your busy day. Make sure you computer is turned off and give the screen and the keyboard a good cleaning. A can of pressurized air will get all that hair, skin and other foreign objects out of the spaces between the keys. Yuck!

Your desktop

The first thing you see when you turn on your computer is your desktop. Many people create short cuts to programs they use often and keep it on the desktop. It’s easy for your desktop to get out of control.

Before you know it you have a visually distracting view that takes time to find the program or file you need.

If you really need all of the shortcuts you created then try to create files like News, Entertainment, Finance or whatever else you require. Then drop the short cuts and addresses into these folders. It will drastically cut down on the time you spend looking.

The interior

The interior of your PC also needs a good cleaning. It attracts a lot of dust and debris. After your PC is shut down take the back off and clean it with compressed air and a soft brush. If you are not comfortable doing this, have a professional do it for you.

Programs you don’t need

The more programs you have, the slower your PC may run. Some of them can also take up quite a bit of space. Keep in mind that deleting them will not, in most cases, get rid of them. They need to be uninstalled or removed using the disk you installed them with.

Email

This is the biggest problem area. With the number of emails we receive, both valid and trash, our inbox quickly becomes a catch all for everything.

Delete the emails that you don’t need to keep right away and create folders for the rest. Only keep the emails that require your immediate attention in your inbox. Ensure that they are looked after by days end.

Virtual Organizer

Virtual organizing is becoming more and more popular for those that may not require a lot of work or want to minimize their cost. Assisting with cleaning up your PC is perfect for this option. A virtual organizer will sign into your PC and clean up your desk, organize your files and help with your emails all under your direction. This is a service we are offering soon!

Tips going forward

Restart your PC at least once a week to clear out the memory and to ensure that any background processes are shut down. Keep the number of browser tabs open to a minimum as this can slow down the speed of your PC. Make sure your anti virus software is always up to date. Of course, periodically clear your browsing history to prevent a build up and maintain speed.

Take this time to perform the same maintenance on your tablets and phones as well to keep them operating in top shape.

You really are dependant on your computer both for work and for home so take this time to ensure your investment is running in top shape. If you are looking for a solution to be more efficient with your time and ease the stress of disorganization, contact me here and we can chat.

Do You Have Too Much Paper Clutter?

too-much-paper

In this digital age it‘s still surprising to see just how much paper is generated. Bills, newspapers, documents and of course those endless flyers and marketing cards.

With the holidays just around the corner you can bet there will be an increased amount of paper being deposited on your doorstep, mailbox and brought into your home by others.

So how do you deal with all this paper clutter?

Junk mail

Our mail is delivered to one of those super boxes. Every time I pick up the mail there is more junk mail, by far, than there is actual mail. I think real estate agent postcards are on the rise in most areas.

As soon as you get home separate your mail into a pile you need to look at and a pile that goes straight to the recycle bin.

Coupons and flyers

There is nothing wrong with saving some of those coupons and flyers that you receive as long as they are used as a reminder for you and you actually intend and have a plan to make contact with those that own the flyers. Many have expiry dates so check them often and toss the expired ones into the recycle bin.

Receipts

I know many people keep their receipts, and for good reason. But I see a lot of clients who keep almost all of their receipts of every possible type for whatever reason.

coupon-electronic

If you do keep your receipts make sure they are kept for tax reasons only. Otherwise discard them after you have compared them to your bank statement or credit card statement. Shredding them is best. And don’t forget, you can scan your receipts so you have an electronic record of the really important ones (for warranty purposes or otherwise). Less receipt clutter = less mind clutter.

Family systems

With many adult children still living at home it is a good idea to have one central filing system and assign a drawer to each household member. I know from experience that adult children seem to keep their paperwork in one place – all over their room!

Filing systems

Decide on a filing system that works for you. Most of you will file strictly alphabetically according to name. Sometimes we like to use subsections like “Banking”, “Utilities” , “Leisure”, “Investments” and then file alphabetically within these groups.

filing

That way all similar types of expenses are together. Still others will develop a colour-coded system. Find what works best for you.

Paper was supposed to have been reduced a great deal since the advent of computers but it seems to be on the rise. Don’t get caught drowning in paper clutter. We have assisted a lot of clients with their paper jungles and we can do the same for you.

Paper Organizing In The Office – 6 Tips to Gain Control

Man buried in paperwork and bills. All you see of him are his hands waving a surrender flag. White background with clipping path.

Way back when as computers were first introduced we were told that these marvellous machines were going to save a lot of trees with the paper that was about to be saved. That hasn’t happened yet, has it?

We are creatures that like to be able to look and feel what we have created so we continue to print and file a lot of paper, probably more now than ever. If you find yourself under a mountain of paper here are a few organizing tips to help you manage the paper tiger.

Does it really need to be printed?

Whether you purchase the original ink cartridges or the knock offs or even take your cartridges in for refilling, the cost of ink for printers is crazy! For this reason, alone think before you print. If the document is not something you need to access on a regular basis just file it electronically where it will always be accessible. If it is something really important or you feel anxious about a computer crash then back it up to an external drive and/or to a cloud service. Don’t know anything about a cloud service? Just ask me.

Scan it

Bills and correspondence that you receive can be scanned and saved electronically thereby reducing the amount of paper that needs to fill your filing cabinets. Utility bills and letters can be scanned this way and will always be there when required.

scanner

Bank statements too can be saved on your banks’ website or downloaded to your computer. In many cases, you don’t even need to scan these documents anymore as more and more banks and utility companies are keeping your statements available online for many years.

Shred it

Invest in a good cross-cut shredder to destroy any personal information that may get in the wrong hands. When discarding paper, have a recycle box and a shredding box together. Shred your discarded documents at least weekly to avoid a mound of papers later. You can even get your kids involved!

Get FAT!

Be diligent when papers arrive on your desk. File it, Act on it or Toss it right away. A lot of people set paper aside and have all the good intentions of getting back to it to review it or file it away and end up with a mountain of paper on their desk or in their in-tray.

papers-on-desk

You end up duplicating the time you handle the paper so take care of it once and save this time for things that are really important.

Have supplies ready

In order to organize your paper and reduce the clutter, you need the supplies. Make sure you have file folders, a recycling and shredding bin, stapler and highlighters available. Without the proper tools, you will end up putting paper aside creating a mountain you may never get out from under.

Set aside the time for maintenance

Set aside a half hour each week to go through your inbox and to review all the newspapers, magazines or articles that have “appeared” on your desk. Recycle past issues of magazines and yesterday’s newspapers and file or scan the clippings that you want to save for future reference.

I don’t believe we will ever be truly paper-free and I see so many people wasting productive hours handling paper over and over again. With a little planning, you can get ‘paper organized’. If you feel that you are drowning in paper, contact me here for a chat on how we can help you.

Office Organizing – Working From Home

Office-Princeton

With many of you working from home these days you need a home office to work from and that is free of clutter. It takes discipline to work from home and distractions need to be kept to a minimum in order to get the most productivity out of your busy day. Your home office should be comfortable and efficient allowing you to concentrate on your work.

Keep only the important things on your desk

The key to maintaining a clean desk is to keep only what you are going to need for that day or what you use every day on your desk. The rest should be put away or filed away. Pen and pencil holders can look very attractive but they take up space. After all, how many of each do you actually use in a day? The same with photos. You’re working from home. Trust me, you won’t forget what your kids look like!

Day planner

In my opinion, the day planner is the best investment you can make. How else can you keep track of your meetings and things to do?

Day planner

I still use a manual planner that I write in so I can see each week at a glance. I get a sense of accomplishment when I am able to cross an item off knowing it’s done. Regardless of whether you use your phone, tablet or a manual planner be vigilant in recording what needs to be done in a day and cross it off when it is complete.

No interruptions please

You need some quiet time to get things done and often it’s a struggle to find that time when you work at home. Don’t be afraid to close the door for an hour or so a day and let everyone at home know that this is a time when you are not to be interrupted. Some projects or tasks require concentration.

Focus on the task at hand

We all think we can work on two things at the same time but it’s now a proven fact that our attention declines when we try to do just that. Pick one issue to work on at a time and give that your all. If something else comes along that takes priority then set that first item aside and concentrate on the new priority until it is completed.

Choose a filing system that works for you

Don’t restrict yourself to the standard alphabetized filing system if that doesn’t work for you. I file according to “categories” like Utilities, Insurance, etc.

Filing

Then my utility bills and insurance documents get filed within those categories, such as Insurance- Auto, Insurance-Home, Insurance-Life etc. I find it easier to retrieve and file this way. Research the different systems that are out there and use what works best for you.

In and out trays

Put everything that comes in during the day into the in tray and assign a time of day to go through it. Doing this once a day rather than each time something comes in will save you a lot of time through your day. Likewise, with the out tray. Put all of your filing and outbound mail in there and attend to it once a day.

Shred it!

Invest in a good shredder. You generate a lot of paper in a home office and some of that paper contains information that, in the wrong hands, can be devastating to you. Shred anything with sensitive information. The shredders that make confetti out of your documents (crosscut) are the best.

Working from home shouldn’t be any different than working from the workplace. Be organized and you will be more productive. CutterBGone has helped organize many offices, both at home and in the workplace. Contact us here to see how we can assist you.