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Organizing Kid’s Schoolwork

14 Feb

named-binsRecently we’ve addressed organizing paper for grown-ups: mail, important documents, and tax paperwork.  But anyone with kids knows that the amount of paper that they generate can be just as great, and keeping it organized presents its own kind of challenge.

(This is one of those topics WAY too big to cover in a single blog post, and since most busy mom’s we know love Pinterest, be sure to follow our Organizing Kid’s School Work board)

The Problem: Too Much Paper

Despite the increased use of technology in schools these days, we’ve yet to observe any significant reduction in the amount of papers that kids bring home from school, and therein lies the clutter issue.  Little ones walk in the door, proud as can be of their artwork and other treasures, and what Mom doesn’t melt? But …

Some Easy Solutions…

Staples® Letter/Legal File Boxes
One idea we’ve come across for organizing your kids’ schoolwork is labeling a plastic file box for each child, and putting all of their school work (and photos of bigger projects) into the box as soon as they bring it home. You’ll go through it at the end of the school year, and weed out the save-worthy from the recyclable.  So easy, so practical. 

I love this approach because revisiting the box will be a walk down memory lane, while time will determine what’s worth saving and what’s not. And as your kids age, they may enjoy participating in this project with you.

The Mommy Command Center

Another great idea comes from April Perry of Power of Moms:

We recommend clients modify the system April uses, and personalize it to their needs. Most often, we use one distinct basket per child. We also look to suggest a variety of different options for busy Mom’s to store that works for their personal lives to avoid a big basket of clutter on the kitchen counter (or laundry room!)

Tax Time: Let’s Get Organized!

7 Feb

taxesAlthough the April 15th tax deadline is never really a surprise, it can have a way of sneaking up on people.  Even if you’re the type of person that doesn’t really get going on your taxes until early April, you can still finish in time if you take time at the outset to get organized (bonus points if you put a system in place last year!)

Collect and Consolidate: “3 Piles”

The subject of organizing tax paperwork is a complex one, because everyone has a different situation:

  • Are you an employer, an employee, self-employed, or some combination thereof?
  • Do you need to factor in other things, such as charitable giving or investment-related income?
  • Did you buy or sell a car or a house? Have a baby? Pay tuition?

Complex and varied situations means there’s no one size fits all scheme. However your situation breaks down, whether your preparing your taxes on your own, or with the help of a professional, you want ALL of the relevant papers ready and organized. As mentioned last week, we’re huge fans of using durable plastic accordion folders to keep everything organized.

Regardless of the specifics of your situation, everyone’s tax prep comes down to 3 major categories: income, expenses/deductions, and investments. Getting organized (& maximizing your refund!) means no hunting for a lost receipt or W-2 once you sit down to file.

Pile 1: Income

For some people, this is as simple as a single W-2 from an employer. But as the number of sources of income increase, so does the paper trail. Make sure to collect in this folder all W-2’s (pro-tip: helps to keep December’s paystub too to verify your W-2 is correct!) and 1099’s. 1099’s come in many flavors, so if you have interest bearing accounts (1099-INT or 1099-DIV) or miscellaneous income (1099-MISC) you’ll want to collect those hear as well.

Pile 2: Expenses & Deductions (AKA: receipts, receipts, receipts!)

As a general rule, having printed statements (pro-tip: electronic statements, aka downloaded transaction lists, are more easily sortable & searchable) for all bank accounts and credit cards used throughout the year goes into pile 2. Also, bills that tie back to potential deductions- life events (house purchase, baby, etc.), medical/dental bills, charitable giving, etc. While you’re sorting, you can put all these into a single pile, but once you’ve collected the master list of receipts, you’ll want to run through them again and sort into sub-piles by their type. Bonus points if you create folders for next year’s receipts now so you’ll be more organized come next Winter 🙂

Pile 3: Investments

Only you know if this applies to you or not, but if you make regular investments, you may have some 1099-B forms, or if you’re involved in a partnership or LLC, you may have some K-1’s. Keep in mind, these forms all have a corresponding copy at the IRS, so you’ll want to make sure you account for them in your tax prep!

With your piles in order, you’re ready to move onto filing, and with any luck, shopping for some reward to honor the refund hopefully on it’s way! After you’ve filed your taxes, there are a couple more steps:

  • You can shred pay stubs, once you know that they match up with the W2 issued by your employer.

  • The rest of the materials that you’ve used to prepare your taxes should be consolidated and put in a safe but out of the way place for 7 years, should you ever be audited.

While it’s still somewhat early, take the time to prepare mentally and get your papers in order for taxes.  And if you haven’t been as proactive as you could have been this year, it’s the right time to start employing these strategies for next year, to make tax time as easy as possible.

(If you’re searching for a tax pro here’s some helpful tips)

Puppy-Proofing Tips

17 Jan

Organization is Easier Before the Chaos!

mini-cooperMany joke that getting a puppy is practice for having a baby.  While you can’t really compare the life impact of bringing a baby into the world to welcoming a pet into your home, they do each require their own special kind of preparation & organization. 

Preparing your home for a puppy may even be more work, for one major reason- time before the chaos strikes! A puppy is still relatively small and will nap a lot, but is also mobile, and therefore immediately prone to getting into trouble!  Even the most organized home may need some “puppy proofing” adjustments.

Let’s Go Room by Room to Get Organized

In the Entryway:

If your entry is a catchall for lots of shoes, bags, and more, you’ll want to rethink the area.  An all-encompassing unit would certainly do the trick, (provided the bins don’t have too much clearance on top for puppy noses to get into), but it’s an investment.  Ikea offers some less pricey options with slim profiles, good for smaller spaces, as does The Container Store.  If new furniture isn’t feasible, repurpose baskets or bins that keep shoes off the floor (and out of the pooch’s path!)

While we’re talking about the entry way, designate a spot for puppy essentials- leash, waste bags, and training treats.  They could be in a basket on a table or in a front closet or mud room, depending on set-up of your home.  Wherever they live, make sure they’re handy because when you’re in the house-training phase, accidents can happen quickly!

In the Kitchen:

photo 1New pet owners may be surprised to learn of how many foods that are bad for dogs.  Transfer items with harmful ingredients to pantry containers with lids that a puppy won’t open.  Oxo Good Grips Pop Top containers are great–durable AND they’re spatially economical, because they’re square, not round.  The Container Store also offer lots of options.

Rearrange your pantry so that the low shelves house impermeable or non-food items, such as canned goods or spare trash bags.  No need to tempt fate with boxes of spaghetti or bags of beans!

Transfer dry dog food into a plastic container with a screw top or locking latch top.  Nothing with a wimpy lid that could pop off if puppy manages to topple it!

photo 3If you keep cleaning chemicals under your sink, as many of us do, consolidate them into a sturdy plastic bin.  If the cupboard door is left open, they’ll be more protected- You definitely don’t want your puppy licking or chewing on anything and getting sick 🙁

Get a sturdy trash can with a lid; ditto for bathrooms.

In Family Areas:

As with very young children, small objects and toys are choking hazards for puppies.  Corral toys and other small items into baskets that are off the floor.

Keep puppy toys in a low but sturdy plastic bin (*not* a basket- too chewy!) so they’re accessible.

In the Bedroom:

In your own bedroom, keeping shoes in bins or in closed closets is key.  Likewise, keep purses and other accessories off the floor.  This may mean some closet reorganization, but at the end of the day, everything needs to fit and the door must close.

In Bathrooms:

Get into the habit of closing the toilet seat (a good habit, regardless!), so your new family member doesn’t try and drink out of the bowl!

Finally, All Around the House:

  • Survey your shelves and move anything that might look like it’s good to chew on, like baskets or overhanging books, off the low shelves.
  • If you have area rugs that can be rolled up, you’re likely better off doing so while your puppy is in the house-training phase (to save yourself from having to buy new ones once they’re house-trained!)
  • Put electrical cords behind furniture or in boxes. This is key, as to someone who spends much time close to the ground, these cords can look mighty tasty.
  • Use bitter apple spray on furniture legs to discourage chewing.
  • Research your house plants, and make sure that yours are non-toxic.  Even if they’re safe, it’s a good idea to move them to higher ground in the short term.
  • Walk around your house and identify any nooks and crevices that a puppy would like to cuddle in or under, and clean them out.  Make a mental note of these places, so you know where to look if your puppy is hiding.
  • Screen low windows and consider adding dowel rods to prevent falls when windows are open.

Calling All Dog Owners

What did we miss? Experienced dog owners, please chime in and leave a comment if there’s some helpful hint, or something unique or unusual that you discovered as a first time pet owner!

Getting Organized This New Year!

10 Jan

A Major “Mini” Resolution

Happy New Year!  2014, a new year, fresh and ready to be filled with projects, adventures, and naturally a few resolutions.

Like many people, I have an organizational goal for 2014 (shocking, I know 😉 ), to pare down to the essentials to reduce excess in my life (& by doing so, reduce stress.) 

The Major Mini Problem

While unpacking after moving earlier this year, I noticed far too much of type one thing: mini toiletries! After a hotel stay I always keep the half-used bottles of shampoo and conditioner, figuring they’ll just get thrown out if I don’t.  But instead of finishing off the bottles at home, I’d “file” them away in the drawer of minis, in clearly labeled Ziplocks (hair, face, lotion, etc. -remember “like with like”?), with the idea I’ll use them again when I travel.  But then I get new stuff, and the stash grows.  So, my resolution is to use up all of these minis by the end of 2014, and attain a less-cluttered vanity in the process.

In conversations with friends and experiences with clients, I know I’m not alone. Keeping hotel “minis”, and eventually ending up with a bigger-than-intended stash, is a common issue.  So, what to do about it? 

To achieve my resolution I am ignoring my full-sized products and putting out the minis, one bottle at a time, until I’ve reduced the stash to just one of everything, which will live in my travel kit, ready to go at a moment’s notice.

526612483_df70725fb0If you have a stash of mini toiletries that has grown unwieldy, (particularly full ones) and this tortoise-like approach isn’t for you, here are a couple other ideas:

  • One friend whose brother is serving in Afghanistan right now sent over her stash of full mini bottles in a care package. You can send care packages in flat rate boxes through the USPS.  Find out more about shipping restrictions.  If you don’t have any connections to anyone in the military, but this idea appeals to you, find a soldier through Any Soldier Inc. (or its affiliates, Any Marine, Any Sailor, Any Airman, and Any Coast Guard).
  • A client whose hotel toiletry collection had grown out of hand donated them to Boston Children’s Hospital, where parents are often staying overnight in high-stress situations, and giving little thought to planning their own personal hygiene! Children’s was near and dear to our client’s heart, but you can get creative!

What are your New Year’s Resolutions (organizational or otherwise)?  Leave a comment and let us know!  If that resolution falls into the “tackle that closet” or “deal with my kids’ cluttered playroom” category, we’re always here to help!

Organizing Your Guest Room

20 Dec

Making Guests Feel At Home… In Your Home

You’ve attended the kids’ holiday concert at school, your spouse’s office party, and spent countless hours shopping & prepping for this joyous season. While hosting out of town relatives or friends make the holidays even more special, if you’re not prepared, it can also add a ton of stress to an already insanely busy time of year.  With that in mind, here’s a few Wiggle Room tips for making your house guests feel welcome and comfortable during their stay:

Get the guest room ready, and don’t forget the little touches:

Make the bed with clean sheets.  An extra blanket at the foot of the bed will make them feel cozy and comfortable, and an extra set of pillows in the closet or in an under bed box is a nice touch, too.  Add a few books and current magazines on the nightstand for before bed reading.

Test the air mattress:

If your extra bed is an air mattress, don’t wait until your guests are at the door to blow it up.  Test it ahead of time and keep it inflated overnight to make sure there aren’t any slow leaks– all too common with air mattresses!

Have a suitcase stand handy:luggage

A luggage rack actually keeps me more organized when I’m living out of a suitcase!  It’s an
inexpensive addition to your guest room
, and particularly nice for older guests who might have trouble reaching their suitcase if it’s on the floor.

Make some room in the closet:

The guest room closet is a great asset for off-season storage most of the year, but as an out-of-the-way space, it is also a prime candidate for clutter and disorder.  Make sure that there’s enough room for your guests to hang their clothes, or make space in another closet that’s easy for them to access.  (And if those closets need some serious help, it’s not too late to book an appointment with Wiggle Room!)

Make a toiletries basket:toiletries

Gather all those hotel mini bottles and dentist office freebies you’ve accumulated and display them in a basket for your guests to use.  Have shampoo, conditioner, soap, lotion, toothpaste, and a toothbrush, along with a clean washcloth or bath poof.

Set out spare towels:
Using ones that are a different color than your own lets guests know which towels are theirs.

Stock the kitchen:

Nothing makes me feel more welcome than when my host knows what I like for breakfast, and stocks the fridge (nor guiltier when they’ve bought every imaginable food item, for me, when I just want a banana 😉 ).  Find out what your guests like, then have plenty of it on hand.  Ditto for afternoon snacks.

Make a spare key:

Hide it if your fam is arriving when you’ll be out of the house.  If they’ll be coming and going on their own during their visit, a spare key will simplify logistics!

Create a list of important phone numbers:

While this type of list is great to have all year round, a list of important numbers is especially useful for guests, should anything go awry while you’re out.  Along with the police, fire department, and nearest hospital, include numbers for your plumber and handyman.  The locations and hours of the nearest grocery store and pharmacy will be appreciated by guests that aren’t familiar with the neighborhood, especially if they’re staying in your house without you!

Write down household instructions:

My grandmother always left post-it notes for how to work the TV and VCR.  In this age of increasingly complex electronics, this practice is more important than ever!  Writing down instructions for the TV/remote(s), WiFi, alarm system, etc., will make things easier for you and your guests.

From our families to yours, have a happy & healthy holiday season!