Getting Organized When There is a Death in the Family

May 6, 2015 09:06 by elizabeth

Recently I’ve helped several clients and families who have lost loved ones. I’ve organized financial files, taken away car loads of donations and helped address envelopes for sympathy acknowledgement cards.

Losing a family member can be a very challenging time, and so much has to be done so quickly. We know that losing a loved one means you will need help with meals, arrangements, notifying relatives and friends, and general household help. But it also means that you need to manage an awful lot of documents and important papers. This has caused me to reflect on how being organized can help ease the stress during this time.

Ahead of time:

  • Organize your tax files and keep them in one place, easy to find. (I had one DeskTopFileclient who passed away, and her family was very grateful that we had financial papers in order.)
  • Keep your investment and IRA statements organized and easy to find. If they are all online be sure someone else can access them.
  • Be sure someone you trust has access to a copy of your will, your safe or safety deposit box (which should be organized) if you have one, and your passwords for key accounts.

After the loss of a loved one:

  • Keep all the important paperwork for funeral arrangements in one file.
  • Also keep one folder with the death certificate and keep a list of who has been notified, such as the bank, investment advisor, life insurance agent and social security.
  • Get a system in place for acknowledging the sympathy cards. Create a pre-printed “thank you” card, perhaps with a photo of the loved one, for your acknowledgements.
  • Get help from family, an organized friend or your professional organizer to keep the papers in order.

Several checklist are available online, such as these, to help with the important logistics and financial next steps:

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The Saved Piece of Paper that Changed my Career

May 1, 2015 14:36 by elizabeth

Recently I was going through my own files to shed excess papers and projects that no longer fit my goals. I came across an article and wondered why I had kept it, until I noticed a note I’d written at the top: “This is the article that inspired me to become a professional organizer.”

ArticleThe article was from a 1998 American Way, the American Airlines inflight magazine. Back then I managed volunteer teaching programs in Africa and Latin America. I spent a lot of time traveling on American Airlines back and forth from Boston to Miami, and sometimes on to Costa Rica and Ecuador.

This article was the first time I heard the term, "profesional organizer" and learned that it was a growing field. Although I loved my job something in this article spoke to me at the time, so I pulled it out an threw it in my “career” file.

I found that file and article years later, when I was a Product Manager for a large education company and was ready to move on. The article mentioned NAPO, the National Association of Professional Organizers. I joined NAPO, took courses, and realized helping others get organized (and love their homes again) was my passion.

Sometimes it pays to keep a piece of paper—if you know why it’s important. If you have a document that’s important or a piece of memorabilia, jot down the significance. 

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Quick Ways to Organize Memories

March 31, 2015 13:32 by elizabeth

Have you started a baby book for your child, but never finished it? Or wanted to write a daily diary or journal, but only kept it up for a month?

Last week I gave an organizing talk to a Parents of Multiples group: all the moms in the room had twins, and many had additional kids. We started discussing how to preserve memories and several moms talked about how they had piles of notes and photos for baby books that were never done (and probably never would be done).

This lead to several moms sharing how they keep track of memories. Here are some great ideas:

  • One mom uses the Memento app, which gives her a spot on her phone to jot down quick thoughts. You can also connect the app to your social media accounts to add in more photos, videos and notes.
  • My husband and I keep a shared Google doc of “Funny things” our daughter says. We both have added to the document over the years, and love to go back and read it. (We started this when our daughter was little, before the era of apps!) download
  • Another mom said that instead of creating a baby book, she notes milestones and fun things on her wall calendar. She keeps the calendars and can quickly scan through to see the memories.
  • As an alternative to a traditional journal, try a one-sentence journal. It’s much less daunting to write one sentence a day than a whole entry.

What creative high or low tech ideas do you have to preserve memories?

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Organizing Maps & Travel Brochures

March 6, 2015 19:46 by elizabeth

Do you still keep paper maps and travel brochures? I have to admit that I do. I keep a few for sentimental reasons (Paris restaurants, Geneva map) but also keep selected maps and brochures from places that I plan to visit again.

During one of our many snow storms last month I was looking for something in the attic and found a box half-full of travel maps and brochures. I decided this would be a good blizzard organizing project. (I could also dream of warm summer vacations ahead…)

Here’s what I did:

  • First I dumped all the brochures our on my dining room table. A few wereIMG_4125 sorted by place so I kept those together.
  • I reviewed all the maps and brochures and recycled a good amount.
  • Then I sorted what I wanted to keep by location.
  • I was hoping to put the maps/brochures into a blue accordion file I had (see corner of photo) but there were too many for the file.
  • Next I the thought of keeping everything together by rubber bands, but some piles were too large.
  • Finally I decided to use one of my favorite organizing tools: gallon size plastic bags. Easy, and the bags had a spot for a label.
  • All the bags were “filed” into a plastic bin back into the attic, waiting until the next trip is planned.

What’s great about this system is that for our next trip to VT, I just have to pull out the bag labeled VT and enjoy looking at all our favorite places.

AFTER: Organized into bags and ready to go!

IMG_4126

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Reduce Unwanted Mail and Phone Calls: Get off the Lists

January 8, 2015 15:16 by elizabeth

IMG_4133I noticed that this past December I got a ton of catalogs, many more than I had ever ordered from. I also seemed to be getting a lot of unsolicited phone calls to my home phone. 

Time to get off the lists, and sign up (again) for the national “do not call” and “do not mail” registries. These lists are only good for 5 years so if you find yourself getting a lot of unwanted mail or calls, it’s probably time to re-register your information.

Here are my favorite resources:

And here's one to try for unwanted email subscriptions: unroll.me.  
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