Pack Like a Pro

Pack Like a Pro

With vaccinations being administered and COVID restrictions being lifted, more people are traveling. Especially with graduations, weddings, and summer vacations. Are you ready to pack like a pro and enjoy your travels?

If you are flying, pack lightly so you can get through the airport ASAP and if you qualify, through TSA. This will save you time by avoiding baggage check-in and waiting for luggage pickup at baggage carousel.

When deciding what to pack try to include clothing that serve multiple purposes, such as black slacks and neutral tops you can wear daytime and dress up for evening with accessories such as jewelry, or a scarf. Or pack all neutral colors so everything can be paired with other items

Take what you know you need for personal effects (medications and grooming) but not what you “might need” to cover every possible contingency. Unless you’re hiking in the Amazon or trekking across Antarctica, chances are good you can get anything you need at your destination.

The best way to pack is to not fold your clothes: take a tip from sailors and roll them. This will take up less space and won’t wrinkle your items of clothing. Or use suitcase organizers to vacuum-seal clothes so they take up less room. Stow socks and accessories inside shoes.

Use the outer pocket of luggage for items you will need easy access to (but not valuables in case of pickpockets). For example: that novel or magazine you will be reading at airport, snacks, water bottle, hand sanitizer, or sanitizing wipes.

Traveling again is wonderful. Just make sure you can save as much time, so you are enjoying the venture rather than dealing with lost luggage or missed flights.

Photo: Pixabay

Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

Drowning in papers? What to Keep, What to Shred, What to Toss?

Drowning in papers? What to Keep, What to Shred, What to Toss?

Are you drowning in papers? Have you tried to thin out your filing cabinet but are unsure of what you must keep? This is a question that I get asked a lot when working with my clients. What to keep? What papers to shred or just recycle?

Disclaimer: I am not a CPA or an attorney. Please check with both of yours before shredding or destroying any documents.

Let’s start with the most obvious papers that you should keep forever. The list includes, but may include other legal documents not listed here, birth certificates, marriage licenses, adoption papers, death certificates, wills (and all other estate planning documents), Social Security cards, military discharge papers, records of any paid mortgages, and divorce papers. All these documents should be kept in a secure location. Titles to home and car should be kept until you sell them. You may want to copy these and keep the originals in a safe or safe deposit box.

I have heard mixed messages related to tax returns. Personally, I think one should keep either electronic or hard copies of each year’s tax returns. Ask your accountant for advice on keeping your tax returns. Some experts say forever; others suggest ten years, seven years, or even just three. I defer to accountants as they are the professionals who will help you if ever audited. If you keep your tax returns and W-2s, they may be just what you need to prove your Social Security yearly earnings once retirement planning or Social Security filing rear their heads.

The IRS, if audited, may ask for supporting documentation for three to seven years after filing a tax return. These documents would include your W-2, 1099s, or any receipts that support tax deductions you have claimed.

If you own property, keep all records/receipts of any capital improvements to verify at tax time and to deduct from the property sale. These receipts should be kept with the closing papers in the tax year the property was sold. If possible, make a copy of all the receipts because over time, receipts fade. I experienced this firsthand when recently working on capital improvement costs when we sold my parent’s home.

When buying furniture or appliances keep those receipts as proof of purchase for warranty claims or for any damage or loss for insurance purposes. Again, make a copy of these receipts.

Documents you should keep for one year are pay stubs to check on the accuracy of your W-2s at year’s end and investment statements until you get the year end statement. Credit card and bank statements need only be retained for a year unless you need these to help with tax filing. If so, these supporting documents should be kept with your taxes for that year.

Keep the following items for one month unless they are needed for tax purposes; utility bills (until the next bill comes or you verify your payment was processed) and deposit and withdrawal records (or until they are reconciled on bank statements).

Safely dispose of any document that has any personal information or account numbers. Shredding with a cross-cut shredder is the best way to avoid identity theft. Investing in a shredder for your home is a good purchase. The tv shopping networks often offer excellent ones for about $100. My sister keeps a colored-coordinated shredder on every floor of her home so that she ‘lives’ my mantra of “OHIO”: Only Handle It Once. As soon as she has read a given document and determined that it is unneeded, she immediately shreds it, never looking back, i.e., she only handles it once.

Photo: Pixabay

Tagged with: , , , , , ,

How to Create the Perfect Gift Basket

How to Create the Perfect Gift Basket

A gift basket is the perfect all-occasion gift. They can be created out of a wide array of containers, not just straw baskets, and can run the gamut of useful, fun, and personal items for the giftee. A gift basket is also an excellent way to save money while looking like you spent a lot. Here’s how to create the perfect gift basket for every recipient and occasion.

  • Check Your Calendar – Make a list of upcoming occasions for which you will need a gift and the actual date or approximate time you will need it. For instance, if you are making a “Get Well” gift basket for a friend having surgery, the surgery date would be the actual date. What’s more, if you know you have a bridal shower coming up, the approximate time would be 6 weeks before the wedding date.
  • Set a Budget – Decide how much you want to spend on the occasion. Write this number down next to the occasion and the date on your list. Setting a budget in advance ensures you won’t spend too much.
  • Choose a Theme – Decide on a theme for your gift basket. Are you going to fill your basket with humorous items such as humor books, items with fun sayings? Are you going to fill it with things representing a TV show, movie character, or hobby the recipient loves? Do you want your gift basket to be useful? Choosing a theme will help you select the best items to fill the basket with as you find them.
  • Select a Container – Do you want to use an actual basket for your gift basket, or something different, such as a diaper bag for a baby gift basket, a decorative planter for a new home gift basket, or a laundry basket for a bridal shower basket? Purchase the container before you start purchasing items to make sure you buy the correct number of and appropriate size of items for your gift basket.
  • Line It – Decide if you will need a lining for your basket and if so, what will you use? A diaper bag probably doesn’t need a liner. A straw basket may need one. If you decide to line your basket, choose something that can be part of the gift itself, for instance, a receiving blanket for a baby shower basket, a tarp for a new homeowner gift basket, or some such suitable lining for your themed basket.
  • Shop Outside the Box – Once you have your theme, basket, and budget, you are ready to start choosing items with which to fill the basket. Now let the real fun begin for the shoppers among you. The best gift baskets include things that the giftee doesn’t realize she needs or wouldn’t ordinarily buy for herself. To bring this to light, a baby shower basket could include things like extra t-shirts, white socks, baby wash clothes, and receiving blankets. These are all things new parents never have enough of. Perhaps you could even keep a running list all year round. My sister does so by listening to what her friends say they would love to have or to do and then jots the down. She shops throughout the year for such things or representation of such. Then when a particular gift giving moment arise, she is able to delight those friends with items she curated that they may have even forgotten about among all the details daily life entails. Why not accept for yourself her accolades of ‘How thoughtful” or “How could you have possibly remembered that?” Parenthetically, don’t feel that you need to shop at the most expensive department stores: nowadays, your local dollar stores ~ as you may have already learned for yourselves ~ have lovely items to augment your baskets.
  • Arrange It All – Arrange the items you purchased for the basket so that the ones you think the recipient will like most are seen first. Move things around to create a visually inspiring display. Put all of the receipts in an envelope in the bottom of the gift basket, below the liner if possible. Do not remove tags from things. Cross out the price on the item with a black marker. Multiple items from multiple stores? Write the first letter of the store’s name on the tag and on the front of the receipt envelope. Forgot to get a gift receipt? Cross out the prices on a regular receipt. To add a designer touch to your gift basket, dollar stores may, again come to the rescue with clear or themed gift basket wrappers to make it look like it was professionally finished with quite literally a colored bow on top made of ribbon from ~ you guessed it ~ that magnificent dollar store.
  • Add Personal Touch – Include a handwritten note, journal, or photo to make your gift basket personal to the recipient.

What are some thoughtful gift baskets you could create and give? What are some you would like to receive … or perhaps that is the way you should first view this fun project!

Photo: Cristina M. Miller

Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Organize the helping brigade: Crowdsource support for loved ones after birth or surgery, or during difficult times

Organize the helping brigade: Crowdsource support for loved ones after birth or surgery, or during difficult times

When a friend or family member needs help after a birth or surgery, or even during difficult times such as illness, or any other crisis for that matter, many friends and loved one offer to help in any way they can, but don’t specifically say how. As a result, something termed a crowdsourcing tool is needed. It can also be awkward for the person needing help to say what is needed. Welcome to the world of online group scheduling and calendars with various bells and whistles.

These websites organize tasks and time slots to avoid duplication (who wants 8 mac & cheese casseroles delivered at once?) and to prevent gaps in coverage. They can help with meals, rides, visits, shopping, errands, chores, childcare, and dog walking & other pet care.

Several sites enable people to sign up for free. These sites let volunteers sign up for time slots, indicate what they will do/bring/cook, get reminders, see special instructions (dietary restrictions, where to drop off food), see what kind of help is needed and when. Some also allow donations. If you are nervous about the site being public, you control who is invited. If a person now asks, “How can I help?”, you can direct them to your website to see what is needed. No more numerous emails and phone calls back and forth will be necessary. What time savers these can be! Here are few to check out. 

CareFlash – Has an added feature of storytelling and the ability to share photos.

CaringBridge – Is a platform to communicate health news to family and friends.

Signupgenius – Coordinates people and events in personal and business life.

Carecalendar – Coordinates a calendar for volunteers and what is needed.

Lotsahelpinghands – Communicates and schedules as help is needed for meals, appointments, and rides.

Mealtrain – Sets up a calendar for friends and family to sign up to bring meals.

For such tools to be able to bring together well-meaning and able loved ones who sincerely want to offer a helping hand as well as to make that helping easier and more convenient for all is now only a time saver but, I think, a true lifesaver.

Photo: Unsplash

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

Got Excess Stuff? Where to Donate Your Items

Got Excess Stuff? Where to Donate Your Items

After determining what stuff you no longer need, the next logical step is for you to sort all of it into items to trash, to sell, or to donate. Sometimes, knowing where to donate your items and what organizations accept the type of items you want to donate can be tougher than your decision to let them go! Here are a few suggestions.

National: Goodwill Industries,  Salvation Army,  Big Brother Big SisterEpilepsy Foundation (not all states),  AMVETS,  and also check out Vietnam Veterans of America (not all states). If you are looking for places to recycle your items, look at Officiency as they have a comprehensive list.

Local to Massachusetts/New England: Habitat ReStore,  Cradle to CrayonsHousehold Goods,  Savers,  Mission of Deeds,   Planet Aid,  or a “swap shop” at a local transfer station. I have been to Winchester and Wellesley’s transfer stations and wish my town had this as an option.

Other: Freecycle,  NextDoor,  Facebook Marketplace,  and other local sites. Contact local churches for rummage sales and local libraries for book donations.

Before donating, check the website of each organization to see what items they are accepting as this might change from time to time and according to the season. Additional constraints may apply due to special donation requests/requirements/process during COVID and the condition of the items.

Photo: Unsplash

Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Stop Using Your Pets As An Excuse for a Messy Home

Stop Using Your Pets As An Excuse for a Messy Home

How we do love to share our lives with our pets! However, cleaning your house when you live with them is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos. Don’t expect spark and 100% tidiness, but there are lots you can do to mitigate any perceived messes. Therefore, stop using your pets as an excuse for a messy home.

  1. If your fur baby happens to be of the feline persuasion, then store the litterbox out of sight but easily accessible to your cats. I have seen a lot of litter boxes in my clients’ bathrooms. I, too, have seen some creative ways people have tried to hide the litter box such as converting a cabinet into a private, yet accessible place for both you and your cat.
  2. Store pet toys in whatever you improvise as a toy box (Rubbermaid storage containers, baskets, etc.). Cat toys rarely make it back into their storage container so make it easy on yourself to put the toys away. Open storage is a necessity for your pet to grab its toy. It also makes it easy for you to throw them in the container at the end of the day. How many of you have either tripped or hurt your foot by stepping on a loose toy? Ouch!
  3. Now for those dog lovers among you, keep a station of what you need for a dog walk near your door for grab-and-go purposes including collars, leashes, poop bags, treats, and hand sanitizer. Hang leashes and collars on hooks by the door. If this paraphernalia is all together, it will be a breeze to head out when your very excited dog wants to go out for a walk.
  4. Keep together food & treats, grooming materials, health & first aid items, and training props & materials so that you can readily find them when needed. Try to designate a section of a closet or cabinet for all of your pet items. That way, all family members will know where to grab and put back any of Fifi or Fido’s items.
  5. Be aware of whether pets can get at or get into whatever you’re storing, for their safety as well as for the preservation of the items. If you have a puppy or any animal that will sniff out their food, you had better store it in a very secure sealed container. Medicine should also be stored safely as you don’t want any human to take the pet’s medicine by mistake.
  6. Avian lovers should keep drop cloths or trays under bird cages. Vacuum frequently–a portable stick vac is invaluable. Having a rug or anything that you want to keep under their cages is not going to cut it and may likely be ruined. At least drop cloths are absorbent and less expensive to replace.
  7. All pet owners will find HEPA air purifier invaluable as they both keep houses smelling fresh and help with allergies. Nothing is worse than walking into a home and KNOWING they have pets from the very odors present. Between urine smells and dirty animals, please, keep your pets and home clean. Even using an essential oil diffuser to keep your house smelling good along with the HEPA filter will make it a pleasure for visitors to enter your home.

    If you really don’t have time to clean before guests arrive, when all else fails, blame Fido and Fluffy, but do be sure to reward them with treats afterwards for being your unwitting scapegoats!

    Photo: Pixabay

Tagged with: , , , , ,

How to Organize the Perfect Craft Closet

How to Organize the Perfect Craft Closet

I know a number of friends who enjoy working on crafts. The lucky ones have an entire craft room. Others feel extremely fortunate to carve out even a single space for their hobbies. Here we share tips on how to organize the perfect craft closet so that you, too, can claim that one precious space for yourself and your hobby.

Tension Rod – Use these to place and corral all your ribbons. Organize them by color. Now, not only is it easy to see what you already have, but all you need to do is select the color, roll out the length you need, and make the cut.

You can also use two tension rods to help keep your wrapping/crafting paper upright and clean. Place the tension rods at a low and high height (just enough to keep shorter and taller rolls from falling forward) towards the back or side of your closet allowing just enough space to be able to take out and put back an individual roll. This trick will also work on a narrow wall in a room if you need all the closet space for your other craft items.

Clear drawers – Obviously the clear drawer is ideal so that you can see what is inside. I also like the look of arranging your crafting items to create an appealing color scheme. There are so many different sizes of clear storage drawers. Some crafters like individual drawers, such as a shoe box size, for storing paint, larger crafting tools, or a large quantity of markers/pens/pencils. The smaller sizes work well for storing buttons, gems, thread, or beads.

Dressers – I have seen people use old dressers in closets to keep their crafting items organized. If you don’t have a dresser in your house to use, look on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace for a used dresser. Make sure you have the measurements of the closet you will be using, especially the width of the door opening to ensure the dresser won’t be too wide to fit inside.

Rolling Cart or Bookshelf – Either of these are good storage items to use in your closet. A bookshelf will be able to store and organize your crafting materials. The rolling cart can be equipped with all the crafting materials for a particular project you are working on. When you are done with the project for the day, simply put the excess materials away, roll the cart in the closet, and close the door. In this way, you’ll be completely ready to start anew when the desire next strikes you.

Over the Door Shoe Organizer – If you have a door that allows you to hang a shoe organizer on the back, you will be amazed at what you are able to store in each pocket. I recommend the clear pockets to allow you to see inside. You will be able to store markers, small tools, stamps, stickers, and scissors.

The crafts that you like to work on will dictate the best size storage containers to use. It is not only inconvenient to have a storage container that is too small but having one too large that just wastes space is not the answer either. What do you use in your craft closet to keep it organized?

Photo: Pixabay

Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Five Ways to Create Your Own Relaxing Space Within Your Busy Home

Relaxing Space within your Busy home

Each room in our homes has a purpose or function. The kitchen is used for preparing food. Our bedrooms are where we sleep, and family rooms are where we gather. In your home, do you maintain a cozy spot to relax, to escape from the worries of the day? Here are five ways to create your own relaxing space within your busy home.

  1. Color Palette – No matter what room you want to have as your own relaxing space, use soft, muted colors to promote calm and serenity. If you envision the colors on the sample paint strips, look to the lower ends of each color. For example, if you like purple tones, you favor lilac; for green, chartreuse might just appeal. Stay away from harsh colors. Think about nature and what is calming to you. The blue ocean or warm grays or browns from a winter forest as just some ideas or areas that may be relaxing to you.
  2. Textures – Here too, utilizing soft elements such as a cozy blanket on a chair and a rug on the floor can promote calm. An overstuffed chair or couch with pillows will also soften a room. My sister is in love with pillows, but her spaces are warm and inviting! Even the shape of the furniture should be a consideration: try to avoid sharp angles.
  3. Lighting – Your cozy spot may be in a room that has other functions. If you can install a dimmer switch to control the overhead lighting, that is the easiest way to promote a calm environment. If you do not have that option, make sure there is a lamp that has a low wattage bulb in it so that it is the only light in the room when you want to relax.
  4. Ambience – Light soy (fewer chemicals and less soot released into the air) candles. If you are not bothered by scents, try those from nature such as lavender, vanilla, or peony. I have begun using a diffuser to add calming scent into the air. I love lavender, so that is my go to scent. I use a diffuser in my bedroom for relaxing sleep as well as one in my main living space.
  5. No Clutter – It goes without saying that a room that is cluttered does not foster a sense of calm. Have only items in this space that you love. Hide excess items that do belong in this room in baskets or cute storage bins that match the décor of the room. Limit the amount of furniture and display items.

Admittedly, I am not an interior decorator or designer. I do know, however, how to help create a room that you will instantly feel calm upon entering. By making use of the tips above, why not design just such a comfy corner in your busy home?

Photo: Pixabay

Tagged with: , , , , ,

Do You Know Where Your Spare Toothpaste Is? Tips for Editing What You Don’t Need From Your Bathroom

Bathroom Organizing

Bathrooms and linen closets where towels are stored seem to be a collection point for items you don’t actually need. The same goes for kitchen counters, incidentally, but let’s stay focused. Linen closets are subject to the “I’m in a hurry, so it’s OK to just shove the towels or sheets in there”. They don’t have to be neat. We’re going to use them “soon enough” syndrome. Bathroom medicine cabinets are frequently used to hoard all those extra bottles of aspirin, vitamins, and over the counter medicines like allergy pills and antacids that we all buy when they’re on sale. Bathroom vanities get the same “Shove in the cleansers and anything else that doesn’t fit in the medicine cabinet or linen closet we need for the bathroom” treatment. As a result, there is simply too much in our bathrooms, so here are some useful tips to edit, thereby removing everything that you don’t need from your bathroom.

Gather: Before you begin, locate a few containers, even bags, to help you sort your bathroom contents. Bring paper, tape, and marker to make a label for each bag to help you remember the categories. Label each container as you sort into categories.

Remove: Take the contents out of your bathroom drawers, medicine cabinet, and closet, looking carefully at expiration dates. Is the item you have still relevant to you and your family’s current circumstances? Is a given item even used in the bathroom? It might have gotten shoved in a drawer during a mad clean up session.

Divide: Is the item still good to use and will it be used? if so, use the containers you brought in for this project and start separating by categories. Some categories could be hair, teeth, skin care, makeup, over the counter medicine, or nails. As you sort, you may find other categories to create.

Containerize: With your items sorted, you have a visual of the amount each category contains. Now choose either a specific shelf or actual container on/in which to place them.

Label: All containers need to be clearly labeled so that you and others are able to readily find what is needed and, most importantly, to return the item after use to its original home/container.

Now that you have conquered the bathroom, why not try that afore-mentioned over-stuffed linen closet?

Photo: Pixaby

Tagged with: , , , ,

Purge! Old Linens from Your Closet

Let’s face it, the linen closet is usually a place we hide old towels and sheets. I can use these towels to wash my car. These sheets are perfect for camping. Most of the time, while these are well-intentioned destinations for these older linens, they never leave the shelf, thus taking up space.

Since the beginning of the year I have helped a number of clients get ready to move, and the one closet that is always overflowing is their linen closet. Once we start examining bed linens and towels, they are so embarrassed about the condition of some of the items they have been storing.

Let’s face it; we (unless we just moved or cleaned out our linen closet) have a few linens and towels that really need to go. It always helps my clients know that any old, stained, ripped sheets and towels can be donated to animal shelters. I have a friend who volunteers weekly at a local animal shelter and she is so happy when I give her my client’s old linens. The shelters are always in need of those items to help make a comfy bed for the cats and dogs that live there.

The other issue I see is that people do tend to have an abundance of sheets for their beds. In reality, you only need two sets of sheets for each bed. That number can be expanded to two sets for summer and two sets for winter if you like to sleep in heavier sheets in the colder months.

Set aside some time to really examine your linen closet and see if there aren’t a few items that need to pass along. If you are short on quantity of an item, jot it down and put it on your holiday gift list!

Photo: Realsimple.com

Tagged with: , , ,
Top