Don’t Be a Jane or John Doe

Don’t Be a Jane or John Doe

Imagine this scenario: You are unconscious or unable to communicate because of an accident or medical event. Would first-responders or ER staff know whom to call?

What if you have kids to pick up from school or day care? Or pets home alone? Do you have a backup plan?

In this scenario, you don’t want to be a Jane or John Doe.

A few things you can do to guarantee that you are you is to carry a piece of paper with your name on it and emergency contact info in your pocket, even when you aren’t carrying a wallet (say out for a walk or run). I recently received a wrist wallet that allows me to carry my cell phone, key, credit card, and a note card with my name and emergency contact. I feel safe knowing I have the bare necessities with me without having to carry a purse. Most women’s clothing does not have pockets, yet we still need to carry important items.

You should also designate a family member or friend to be your kids’ and/or pets’ emergency person. Make sure they know what they need to know (what school your kids go to, where you hide the spare key, and where you stash the dog food).

Think through what someone would need to do for you until you are able to return home. Please let them know they are your go-to person, prepare written instructions for them, and keep those instructions where they can easily be found, such as on your refrigerator.

Photo: Unsplash

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Murder Miss Eleni S

If you are like most people, admit it now: you have a file folder/drawer/bin called, “Miscellaneous”. Heck, you may also have a folder on your computer with the same name.

Murder “Miss Eleni S”. Get rid of it. Now. It is dangerous… so much so that you need to kill it.

Why? Because it’s too easy to dump everything into MISCELLANEOUS because, well, MISCELLANEOUS covers anything and everything. It Is akin to not putting things away. Find some common way to categorize the information or objects and sort them into those said categories.

When I start working with a client on paper management and we are sorting paper to go into a file, inevitably, the first name that comes to them is “Miscellaneous” when trying to decide on the name of a folder to which they can assign no earthly name. I say, “No, let’s talk about what the paper is and where you would likely look to find it.”

Your reward is that when you go to find the item or paper, you will have a specific place to zero in on, not a landfill to wade through.

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Exert Control Over Your Chaotic Work Schedule

Exert Control Over Your Chaotic Work Schedule

Do you find yourself feeling disorganized at work? Would you like exert control over your chaotic work schedule?

To begin, you may want to organize your work projects. Depending on how many projects or clients you manage, different tools are available, at different price points, ranging from free to hundreds of dollars a month.

Some types of apps to consider:

CRM software: project and sales tracking (track anything with a pipeline)

Time trackers: track the time you work on client projects

Schedulers: to schedule your own time or book appointments

Please note: this list of suggestions is just that. Please do you own due diligence and research to determine what is best for you and your work situation. I am not endorsing any of these suggestions.

Some popular CRMS (the paid ones typically have a free trial period):

Excel –

Zoho –

Really Simple Systems –

Apptivo –

Less Annoying CRM –

Time Management – Check out these sites for a list of various time management apps:

Scheduling apps – Look for recommendations at these sites:

I am sure there are plenty more offerings to be found. Ask colleagues if they are using productivity tools and which ones they would recommend. Asking those that work in your industry is a great place to start as they are dealing with similar obstacles and challenges. Having the tools you need may help reduce the chaos in your work.

Photo: Pexels

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I Know it’s Here Somewhere: How to Organize your Computer Files

I Know it’s Here Somewhere:  How to Organize your Computer Files

Are you one of those people who has every file on your computer’s desktop? And are they by chance all unhelpfully named “document1,” “document2,” “document3”? More to the point, when you go to find it, you think, “I know it’s here somewhere?” Well then, read on to learn how to organize your computer files.

Naming your file for future access is key, and the easiest way to do so is either when creating or downloading a file.

If your files need to be renamed:

On a Mac, click on the file name until it is highlighted. (Don’t double click right away or it will open the file.) Then type in the new name and press enter.

In Windows, right click on the file name, select Rename, type in the new name, and press enter.

To create and name folders.

On a Mac, be in the Finder, and then in the window, or folder, you want the new folder to reside. Go up to the menu bar and click on File and drag your cursor to New Folder. A folder will appear and be called, Untitled folder. Click once and the words will be highlighted. Now type in the folder name and press enter.

In Windows, right click inside the folder or desktop where you want the new folder to be. Choose Folder. A new folder will appear, enter the name and press enter.

Folders can be nested inside one another. This is where it becomes crucial to name your files and folders to represent exactly what they entail and to follow the naming convention you adopt.

For example, in your Documents folder, you may have a folder called House. In that folder you may have a Home Repairs folder, which contains documents of saved invoices and downloaded maintenance manuals. Naming each of the invoices and manuals according to what they represent will allow you to locate that document when you need it the most … and without panicking.

Still can’t find what you need? Here is how to search on a Mac (Spotlight) and Windows (search feature on taskbar)

            On a Mac, to use Spotlight, which is available on any screen, look for a magnifying icon located in the top right-hand corner, and type in the file name to search on your computer. Spotlight can also search the web.

                        You can also search for a file by using the search box in your Mac’s Finder to search for a file either within that folder, or your entire computer.

            In Windows, via the taskbar, in the search bar located on the left side of your taskbar, next to the Windows button, type in the name of the file or document you are searching for. When the search results appear, click on the file or document that matches your search name.

To simplify both your professional and personal life, the importance of naming a file cannot be overstated. You may want to devise a naming convention to keep files and folder names consistent, and therefore, easier to find.

Photo: Pexels

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How and Why to Balance Your Checkbook – Even if You Are Not Writing Checks

How and Why to Balance Your Checkbook – Even if You Are Not Writing Checks

Most of us aren’t writing many checks these days, but we are still spending money and receiving payments. In the old days, there were only two ways to withdraw funds from your bank account: write a check or hand over a withdrawal slip to a bank teller. You deposited funds in person at the bank. Then with the marvelous innovation of ATMs, it was no longer necessary to go into a bank to withdraw, deposit, or transfer money. Today you can pay bills online through your bank’s website or app, or through apps such as Venmo, Zelle, & CashApp or transfer funds to and from PayPal. Your paycheck is most likely deposited directly via EFT. All this said, how and why do you need to balance your checkbook even if you are not writing checks?

Transactions flow through your bank account, so even though you aren’t writing physical checks, you still need to keep track of what’s coming in and going out. Bank errors are rare, but if they do happen, you want to be able to correct them as soon as possible. You also want to monitor against fraud. Therefore, the need still exists to reconcile your bank account to monitor the flow of money.

Here are some resources for you to explore to decide the best approach for you.

For a basic understanding of how to balance a checkbook

To learn how to balance a checkbook in a paperless world.

This is very informative for an overall way to not only balance your checkbook (pen to paper or electronically) but also to explore budgeting

Regardless of the method you choose, I can’t emphasize how important it is to monitor your bank accounts.

Photo: PicJumbo

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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