19 Nov 2018

Being Well Organized Benefits Your Estate

Does your will or trust include instructions for how you wish your personal property dealt with after your passing?

I know – not the typical topic you think of around Thanksgiving – but what better time to share with your family and close friends your wishes with what happens with your personal property after you have passed.

Often times we take care of the basics – we set up a will or trust, name the executor(s) and make sure they know the ins and outs of the insurance polices etc. But, have you ever thought about the importance of taking it further so that in a time of grief your loved ones aren’t burdened with your possessions?

Your instructions don’t need to be complex – it can be as simple as a spreadsheet included with your will that outlines which of your possessions is the most meaningful and valuable, why they were or are of significance to you and who you wish to inherit.

You may be telling yourself that your family knows you well enough to know what is meaningful or valuable and there really isn’t a need – but I can tell you differently.

Many times I am hired by the estate or family to deal with the belongings in the house. In these instances there can be time constraints because property may be listed for sale as soon as possible.

It’s easy to look at this type of situation as simply transactional.  But I can tell you that it is anything but.

Imagine a total stranger sorting through your prized possessions with no history or sense of value and dividing them up among your family?

As the professional left to liquidate the assets of someone’s lifetime, it’s sad for me to step in to deal with belongings I have no history and no understanding around. I find myself asking why a family member doesn’t want this? I’ve had many a client that has been burdened with what to do with a relative’s personal possessions.

My call to action for you today is to go beyond having the will and sharing with your family your wishes and desires in terms of your personal possessions. Communicate your wishes and have a plan.

Have a plan so that if a third party like myself must step in we understand what was most important to you and why. Give your family a road map so they can separate the important from the unimportant.

Suddenly inheriting a bunch of someone’s stuff – or the leftover stuff can be the domino that tips over and puts you in an overwhelming situation.

Do you have items at home you hang onto, despite them being ugly or useless, because it is an “heirloom”? Do you suffer guilt about getting rid of heirlooms you can’t use? Do you live in fear of throwing something out because it’s value and significance is unknown?

Take the time now to take control of the history you pass down – share with your family why an item is of value or is significant.

Simply sharing the significance and history may free you to get rid of the item – or will give your family a better context around why you have the item and what they wish to do with it.

Let your family know what is important so in the aftermath of your passing they know and understand why it was important.

Provide a plan so at a time of need, your family doesn’t have to question or wonder what were your wishes.

14 Nov 2017

Good Organization is a Habit!

I’ll let you in on a little secret…getting organized is more than just sorting things, putting them in fancy bins with labels and making everything neat and tidy…at the heart of getting organized is creating processes, systems and most importantly HABITS that improve the way you do things.

When I meet with a new client, the first things we go over are what they want to achieve – it usually is more than just cleaning out a closet or organizing a desk – they want to do something that impacts their lives and makes a noticeable difference. The reason I spend the first 30 to 60 minutes just talking with a client is I want to understand what motivates them and what will be most meaningful. Just as important as having a plan is knowing what that plan will accomplish and how it can influence how one gets to the achieved goal.

When I put together a system for a client I want to create something practical that makes sense to them. I also want it to be something they can easily do. In most cases getting organized and staying organized means replacing ineffective or inefficient methods with ones that are effective and efficient. It means teaching new ways of doing things. Think for a moment about what it is like when you are learning a new routine or process – it’s not until you’ve done it several times that it starts to become a learned behavior. If you have been doing something a certain way for a lengthy period of time, altering or replacing that behavior can be a challenge. It may take a couple of tries before it becomes easy to do or to remember to do. Eventually you form a new habit and the task almost happens without thinking.

Keep this in mind as you get yourself organized. Remember that it may take a few tries to get the hang of a new routine. Be kind to yourself and also don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to adopt too many new processes or behaviors all at once. Work incrementally – get one thing mastered before you jump into something new. The more you plan so that you don’t overwhelm yourself the greater your chances for success!

I was recently doing a revisit with a client that I had helped organize their home office. It had been about a year and she wanted me to come help her again – she was feeling as if things had deteriorated to chaos and they wanted a reboot. Things weren’t nearly as bad as they thought they were. In this instance my client hates to file paperwork. Most of what we dealt with were piles that had cropped up on the desk that had grown to the point of being out of control. I explained to my client that rather than avoiding something because it was their least favorite thing to do they needed to get in the HABIT of dealing with the filing in smaller pieces – don’t let the pile grow so big, when they have 20 or 30 minutes tackle a segment of the problem. If you get in the habit or routine of doing something it makes it that much easier to make sure it happens!

06 Nov 2017

Quick Tips to Keeping Your Desk Organized

I’ve heard it all – “I know exactly where it is!” or “I’m a creative type, mess is part of the process.”

I’m not suggesting that a little disorder once in a while is out of the question, but if your desk is in a constant state of chaos it is costing you time – your most valuable asset – and it likely is weighing on you emotionally (I know I repeat this often, but the emotional cost of disorganization is a proven fact!)

You’ve finally committed to getting your desk organized and making a better effort at keeping it organized – so what tips and tricks can help? What are quick and easy fixes that will yield noticeable results? Here are a few of my favorites:

1.) Purge the paper!

The first thing I do with any client is have them purge the excess paper. Grab one of those out of control piles and go through it. Discard junk mail. Open all bills and letters. DISCARD envelopes and extraneous pieces of paper that are in the envelope. The bill or letter goes into a file to be dealt with after the sorting and purging are completed. Chances are you will eliminate at least 1/3 to half of the paper that was in the pile and you haven’t taken any action.

2.) Keep a notebook.

Have you ever seen the computer monitor on someone’s desk framed in sticky notes? Not only is this messy it’s inefficient. What do you do when you run out of space for new notes? Sticky notes don’t stay sticky forever – have you ever lost one and panicked? A similar occurrence is the stack of little pieces of paper piled up – tell me how you really enjoy going through those when you are in a hurry looking for a specific piece of information.

The solution is a spiral bound notebook – take this to meetings, have it handy for taking notes while on the phone. If you are a list person create your daily “To Do” list in this notebook. I typically put the date at the top and what the notes are from or regarding. As you complete things on your list you can cross them out or check them off. Because they are in your notebook you can refer back to them as you create new lists. If you are like me at the end of the week I often review lists, compile new ones and discard the old ones – the whole concept here is that all of those things you were righting on sticky notes and pieces of scratch paper are now contained in one neat little notebook! Of course the challenge now is to get in the habit of using the notebook and not losing it. You may find as you get used to using a notebook that you may graduate to a spiral bound notebook with subject dividers so you can categorize notes – making it even easier to find things. One recommendation is that before you start a new notebook – look at what needs to be transferred to it so that you can discard the used notebook. After all, you don’t want years worth of them piling up somewhere!

3.) File things regularly.

I have a tray on my desk that things I’m done with, but need to keep are placed. Usually once a week (every other week if I get crazy busy.) I file the items in that tray. Depending on your volume of paper, you may have to adjust your filing intervals – but the trick is collect it all neatly in one place and deal with it – if your inbox is overflowing you aren’t paying enough attention to the task.

4.) Purge your files annually.

This one goes hand-in-hand with the recommendation to “file things regularly.” Every January I open up my file drawer in my home office desk and go through each file. Most things like credit cards, utilities, etc. send you monthly statements (unless you’ve gone paperless.) There is no reason to keep years worth of these types of statements. I go through the file and keep the most current year of statements and discard everything else. This is how I keep my files organized and contained in one file drawer of my desk. If you have concerns how long to keep certain types of documents there are lots of resources online. If you purge your files annually they won’t grow into an overwhelming wave of paper that paralyzes you!

5.) Have a drawer that is simply for pens, paper clips, and all those miscellaneous office items.

I have a mug on my desk with my favorite pens, a letter opener, a highlighter and a pair of scissors. Everything else is in the top drawer neatly organized. I have a separate drawer that I keep notepads, envelopes and similar items. I also have a drawer with paper for the printer, ink cartridges, etc. I’m not saying these drawers need to be pristine, but know what is in them and put like items together. You’ll get in the habit of always keeping certain things in certain places so you will always know where to find.

6.) A shredder or a shred box is a must!

Either have a secure box for collecting documents to be shredded or have a small shredder in your office – in today’s crazy mixed up world you can never be too cautious!

Hopefully this short list of the basics will help you keep some organization and stem the tide of chaos in your world!

21 Aug 2017

Common Myths About Getting Organized

Getting organized can improve your life, but it requires motivation and perseverance. When getting organized you first need to recognize the things that cause disorganization in the first place, understand your personal style, and choose the correct systems to implement moving forward. What works for one, does not necessarily work for all.

Here are three of the most common myths surrounding the process of getting organized.

Myth #1: I need a fancy organizing system to get properly organized.

I personally see this phenomenon every January – people flock to the stores to stock up on bins and totes. Now some people may actually need what they are buying – but my hunch is that many are buying all this stuff in hopes that it will solve all of their problems and get them organized. Most people stuff things in bins, stack the bins in a corner, a storage unit or a garage and call it good. A messy desk typically is more organized than a room full of bins if there was no plan or purpose that went int putting all of those items in bins. Oftentimes products go unused because the buyer didn’t ask these simple questions first.

  1. What is causing my disorganization?
  2. What type of products will help me create a system or enhance my current system?
  3. Does this product match my style?
  4. Should I sort and purge before using my new product?

The most common mistake people make in getting organized (and staying that way) is waiting too long to buy the product or replacement products. If you wait until the piles of paper have become unmanageable, you have endured a lot of unnecessary stress. The second most common mistake in getting organized is buying something that does not match your personal style. For example, if you like to create file labels on the run, consider label systems or tabs you can easily write on. If you prefer a more finished look, select an electronic or computer-based labeling system.

Myth #2: Only handle it once or (O.H.I.O.)

While this often-heard rule applies to items such as junk mail, it definitely doesn’t apply to on-going projects. Let’s face it. Some papers have to be handled more than once but “filing by piling” isn’t an efficient alternative either.

In order to avoid misplacing papers and spending time rifling through a stack, sort your papers into 6-8 categories. Then place each category into its own file folder, hanging file or project jacket. Take time to label each. Doing so will allow you to locate an item faster and avoid losing an important document.

Myth #3: You only have to get organized once.

If this were true, I’d quickly be putting myself out of a job. Getting organized and leading an organized life are two different things. For some people, the actual cleaning and organizing of an area is one thing; maintaining it is another. After getting organized, your spaces will become functional and will be enjoyed and used more often. This is a good thing. Learning to maintain an area doesn’t have to be sheer drudgery. Devote a few minutes at the end of your day to “visit” your recently organized area to assure that items are getting returned to their proper places.

As with any new habit, allow yourself the time to adjust to a new way of doing things. Getting organized (and staying organized) is on-going but it certainly allows for more peace and less stress in your day-to-day life.

14 Aug 2017

Is Your Garage a No-man’s land?

Have you taken a good look at your garage lately? When was the last time you parked your car or cars in it? When you walk into it what do you see?

I don’t know about you, but as I’m driving down the street and I see open garage doors I find a variety of views. There is the neat and tidy garage with the car parked in it. There is the garage (usually a two or three car variety) that has a spot for one car and the rest is crammed full of stuff. And then there is the garage that other than the large overhead door you wouldn’t know it was a garage – it’s so full of stuff all the cars are in the driveway or on the street.

Too often we consider our garage the repository for all those things we don’t know what to do with, intend to repair or refurbish or just treat it as a giant storage room. You should view your garage as an important element in a well-organized home. Just as you have a system for managing your paper and files in your office and have a neat and orderly system in your kitchen and for managing your children’s stuff – you should have a system for having an effectively organized garage. A well-organized garage can help your home function more efficiently and effectively.

Now I’m sure we all would love to have one of those garages like you see on tv with the great cabinets, lighting and pleasing environment. But getting your garage organized doesn’t require all that money and all that glitz.

So how do you keep a garage organized? It’s simple really – you just need a system! I find the most efficient and easiest systems have three main elements – Point of Entry, Point of Action, Point of Storage.

Point of entry – how and when are these items entering the garage – if your garage looks something like a dumping ground it’s because you don’t have a system in place to deal with the items and you or others in your household aren’t identifying where they need to go or what action needs to be taken.

The first thing to do is look at everything in your garage and categorize the items into key areas (for example – seasonal items, gardening, home repair, auto, etc.) The next step is to identify the best space for each of those key areas to reside. From there you can identify what means you have for storing and using those items (this is where you evaluate if you need cabinets, shelves, bins, etc.) It’s a good idea to go through everything in the garage and categorize – usually this is the first pass at everything and you will naturally start discarding things as you do this – you can further refine things as you put them away.

The secret to maintaining order is that just as you manage the inflow and outflow of paper in your home or office – you need to maintain that inflow in your garage. Identifying the source(s) of items often will reveal if there are offenders in the household that simply need to be retrained on what and where things go. You must proclaim that your garage is no longer a dumping ground for items nobody knows what to do with or where to store.

Once you have categorized everything create zones in the garage for those items to be placed – think about what the purpose of the items is, how often they are used, etc. Locate zones for the most frequently used items in the most visible and easily accessible locations. Put things used less frequently in the locations not as easy to access and out of the way. As items enter the garage evaluate what it will be used for, do you already have one or have a better one and do you really need it.


Garages often are the location for the things that you intend to do something with, think you should keep because you might need in the future or those would have, could have, should have items. It’s time you really honest with your intentions for the item and the reality of whether or not you’ll actually complete that project you think you may need it.

Once you have identified zones put things away. I find that if I then go through each of these zones once a year I am more successful in keeping things in the garage in order.

It’s here I’d like to offer some practical advice for all those things we end up keeping in our garage because we might be able to sell them, etc. you will never eliminate the clutter if you don’t learn to let go of things. I have a basic rule – if something goes to the garage to be set aside for the annual neighborhood sale it shouldn’t be there longer than a year. Some years I don’t even want to bother with participating in the sale so I just haul it off to be donated. If I do have a sale anything left after the sale is immediately donated – it keeps stuff from collecting and building up.

What is your best tip or trick to keeping your garage organized? Share it with us at info@thetaskathand.biz – we’ll share it in an upcoming Facebook post or newsletter!

07 Aug 2017

Proper Paper Management – A Key to Effective Organizing

The influx of paper into our homes and our businesses is one of the most annoying things we face on a daily basis. There is what comes through the snail mail, forms and responses that people walk into our offices and our homes, all the things you print off on a daily basis and let’s not forget the files and drawers full of the stuff.

It’s easy to see how just letting the paper flow go for a few days can be enough to crash the best organized among us. The trick is to continuously manage the flow – and that’s not as difficult as it seems with a simple system in place that you use to the point of it just becoming a habit you don’t even think about and it happens spontaneously.

There are three basic pillars to my system – point of entry, point of action and point of storage or disposal.

Point of Entry – this one is the source of it all – how and where is the paper entering your household of office? The best management starts at this point. Whether it’s snail mail, email or hand delivered pay attention to how it enters. When it enters you should do one of three things – identify if it is something that will require action now or later? Is it something that just needs to be kept for documentation? Is it something that needs to be discarded or recycled. If it falls into the discard or recycle category it can be dealt with right here and its journey has ended and it won’t end up in a pile. (I always note that you should take the proper precautions when it comes to discarding or recycling items that may contain personal or confidential information – a shredder or a shred box are a very good thing!)

Point of Action – once you know what you are dealing with it’s a matter of dealing with it. Is it something that you can act on immediately? Is it something you need to set aside for action at a specific time or on a specific date? If it is something that I can deal with immediately I set it aside to handle as soon as I’ve completed the process for all items – in other words finish your sorting and then deal with these items immediately and move them to the storage phase. If it is something that requires action –at a later time or date it goes into my “Action” file or bin.

Depending on the volume of items in your action bin or file you can get very original and creative here – it almost depends on how organized you want to be. You can have a master file that you separate into days of the week – placing each item in the corresponding file for the day of the current week you wish to deal with the item. You can have an additional folder that says next week – and at the end of each week pull items and place in the day to be completed as next week becomes your current week. You can also have an additional file for the current month that then feeds into the next week and current week files. You just need to get into the habit of moving things through the files each day and each week and month – it seems a bit complex on paper – but you’ll quickly find you spend a small amount of time each day managing the system. It’s important to note here that you need to keep the action file or files separate from your files you place things for storage – the third pillar of the basic system.

Point of Storage is likely the point where most systems break down – the distinction here is remembering storage and action are two very different elements. Your Action file/folder should not be confused with storage or you’ll quickly become overwhelmed and not be able to find anything. I break my storage into two principle categories. Short term (one year or less) and Long term (more than a year and things that need to be kept for varying reasons.)

My Short Term system is one file drawer that contains files and folders for all of the things that I access on a monthly basis. For example I have files for utilities, credit card accounts, medical files, mortgage, autos, gym memberships etc. As I pay bills, reconcile accounts etc. paperwork is filed in the appropriate folder – once a year I go through and purge these files (So for example in my utility files I have the statement for each month with notation of when it was paid. I always have the complete prior year in each file. – So in January I remove anything from the folder that is more than a year old – so when 2017 started I purged anything older than January 1, 2016.) Some people no longer even keep the previous year of statements with so many things available electronically – but I’m old school and want a little bit of security.

The Long Term files are documents that you need for reference – some of these are actually kept in a fire proof safe – information on life insurance, home owners and auto insurance polices – retirement account information – files to collect information for the upcoming tax year, etc. This is also where you can keep any information you need from previous employers, etc. I move files from my short term system to this system when they need – for instance if you close a credit card account but want to keep information on the account just incase you need it in the future. I then review and purge these files on an annual basis.

It’s important to remember there are no hard and fast rules to how you set up your system what’s most important is that it works for you and that it is something that you can easily master so that implementing it isn’t difficult and becomes second nature!

Do you have a system or tip you would like to share? Drop us a note at info@thetaskathand.biz and you may find we share it in an upcoming blog or one of our regular posts on our Facebook page!