Are Your Taxes Complete Yet?

April 14, 2015

dollar signBelieve it or not, the taxes are due tomorrow! We hope you have incorporated some of our tips throughout the year into your daily processes, all of which should have helped make it easier to gather the information for your tax return. With fresh memories of filing for 2014, you will know what worked for you this year, as well as what caused you the most headaches.

It’s not too late to start getting your tax documents in shape for next year. Here are a few tips which we find useful.

1) Create a tax folder for 2105 if you have not done so already. All tax forms you have received, or will receive in the next few weeks, should go into that file.

2) Collect all receipts for tax deductions you are allowed to take on your return. These would include both cash and physical donations to charitable organizations, receipts for medical items (if you qualify), and receipts for business related expenses such as mileage and supplies. Make sure you have received the tax form for your mortgage interest – a common deduction.

3) Gather investment statements which you will need to refer to for capital gains, interest, and puchases and sales which must be reported.

4) Gather your bank statements and confirm that you have received a 1099 form for any interest you received on those accounts.

5) Confirm you have received a W2 from your employer which reflects your earnings for the year.

6) Do you have students for whom you are paying college tuition? You should receive a tax form for that amount as well.

7) If you are retired and receive Social Security, have distributions from an IRA, penion or 401(k), be sure you have that information in the file.

8) Have a home office which you use for a deduction? Collect any relevant bills for that deduction so you are ready to pro-rate them on the return.

By having all of this information in the tax folder, when you begin to prepare the return, or take the information to a preparer, you will have everything you need all in one place. Review your tax forms to make sure they are complete, and call the providers if you are missing any. Being proactive will save you time, stress and money (fewer calls from the accountant and a reduced chance of missing a deduction)! If you set up this file now, you are even better equipped for the challenge when you file for 2015!

Thanks, for reading,

Muffy and JoEllen

PS This post was taken from a recent Monthly Tips Newsletter; follow the link to have them delivered directly to your in-box.

Storing Like with Like

March 9, 2015

snow sceneAnother snowy day in Northeast Ohio causes some doubt that Spring is almost here. But it really is March and it is good to know that things will be warming up soon. This month we will answer a question we frequently receive about storing like with like when deciding on homes for things. We will take this concept a bit further, and say:

“Store like things together close to where you will be using them.”

In the kitchen we suggest that you store all of your spices in one cupboard close to where you will be preparing your food. Additionnally, store your everyday dishes and utensils close to the dishwasher &/or the eating area. These suggestions may only save you a couple of steps here and there, but they really do add up; our goal is “…making life simple.” As with any rule, there are always exceptions, and this holds especially true if you have limited space in your kitchen. If you have a large appliance or cookware that is used only occassionally, there is no need to take up valuable space in your cupboards. These items can be stored in a nearby closet or on a shelf in the basement.

In the office we suggest that you store all the files and supplies that you use most frequently close to where you will be sitting to do your work. This can be with a desk-top system, or the more traditional file drawer. Conversely, those files and documents that you need to keep, but rarely refer to, should be stored further away. Past taxes and old investment papers can be put into envelopes or banker’s boxes and stored elsewhere .

We always say that organizing your time is just like organizing your stuff, and the concept of storing like with like holds true with time management as well. When planning your day, group similar activities in specific blocks of time. Instead of checking your email every time you think about it, set aside specific times of day to read and attend to the emails you receive; this will be less distracting. Have some telephone calls to make? The same holds true. When is your best time to be creative, or the time you know you will have a more difficult time concentrating? Group the various tasks on your to-do list accordingly.

With examples in these three areas, we hope you will more easily be able to find homes for those items you want to store. Have any other questions on organizing your home, office or time? Do not hesitate to ask by sending us an email:

Think Spring!!!
JoEllen & Muffy

PS This post was taken from a recent Monthly Tips Newsletter; follow the link to have them delivered directly to your in-box.


Our Top Three Tips Will Help With ALL of Your Resolutions!

January 19, 2015

Happy New Year!

Thanks for visiting our blog. We hope that our advice has helped you lead a more organized lifestyle. All of this advice is based upon our years of experience and the Top Ten Tips that we offer on our website. Now you can use them to help you with ALL (at least several) of your New Year’s Resolutions!

According to an article in Time, the top three New Year’s Resolutions are:

  • Losing weight
  • Getting organized
  • Spending less money

If you have made one of these Resolutions, then read on….. We want to let you know how our favorite Top Ten Organizing Tips can help you with all three.

Our favorite tip is to Start Small. Don’t think of organizing the entire kitchen or office. Rather, select a drawer, shelf or cupboard, and organize one area at a time. By the same token, don’t suddenly start a strict diet that is a radical change from your current habits; rather, try eliminating one unhealthy culprit at a time. To spend less money, you could gradually reduce the number of fancy coffees you purchase each week.

Our tip to Sort and Toss is obviously relevant to the organizing process. Get rid of that which you no longer need or enjoy. If you have duplicate or unused tools in the kitchen or office and donate those items, you will have an easier time finding what you need the next time you need it. Do you love to cook and want to create more healthy meals? Then sort through your recipes and toss any that are not consistent with your plans. Want to spend less at the grocery store? Then keep a running list of what you need, and remember to take it with you to the grocery. This will avoid purchasing unnecessary items and also return trips that waste time and gas.

When you Assign Things A Proper Home you will know where to look for something the next time you need it. This will also help you eliminate clutter because items will have homes to go to. In the kitchen, it is a good idea to store your spices close to the area where you do meal preparation. For the office, keep those files that are on your priority list close to where you will be using them. One cause of weight gain is the tendency to graze and eat mindlessly between meals. By determining eating times, and snack times, you will have more control over what you consume. Spend less money=saving more money. Keep track of your checking, savings and investments with an easy for you to use filing/storage system.

See if you can use these tips for some of your other Resolutions like being more efficient at work, spending more time with family and/or exercising more.

Good luck with your goals for 2015.

We hope you have a Healthy, Happy and Organized New Year,

JoEllen & Muffy

PS This post was taken from a recent Monthly Tips Newsletter; follow the link to have them delivered directly to your in-box.

Organizing Books and Magazines

January 12, 2015

books & magsHad we not started Organizing 4 U, JoEllen and I would have loved to own a bookstore.  We love to read!  And like you, we have many books, newspapers and magazines and now on-line favorites.  Figuring out where to keep all of this reading material can be challenging.

When we enter a new home or office, we tend to look up in every room.  So many of us fail to utilize our vertical space.  Adding bookcases or hanging bookshelves on the wall is often an easy solution to easing the clutter.  Once books are on the shelves, they can be further organized by type of book(fiction versus business, autobiography vs. historical, etc.), alphabetically, or by size.  Some people are very particular about their sorting while others are just happy to have them off the floor!  Whatever works for you and your family is just fine.

When you have outgrown all of the bookcases and shelves, it is time to part with some books.  We know how hard this can be, but the reality is we will never read most of our saved books a second or third time.  So share them with others by passing them on!  Some outlets include; donating books to Goodwill, schools, the library or the annual CWRU book sale (call 216-368-2090),  or sell them to Half-Price Books.  You can also call our friend Rodger Williams of Crestview Books (614-208-2698), as he often buys books and resells them.

Collecting newpaper articles is a favorite pastime for lots of people.  If you do save articles to read later, be sure to tear them out and put them aside in a folder or file that is near your favorite reading place.  Do not save the whole section of the paper because your stack will become enormous in no time.  If you save lots of articles, it might be best to separate them by subject – recipes, books to read, gardening ideas,etc.  Then you will know right where to go when looking for new design ideas for the garden or a new recipe for dinner.  Portable File ToteJoEllen likes to use a portable file tote like the one pictured here.  She can then sit in a comfy chair, sort the articles she wants to save, and they will be easy to file away into a new home later.

The same concept holds true for magazines which seem to multiply in the family room.  Cutting out an article or two and recycling the magazine is an excellent way to keep up with the volume of mail which comes in.  A specific basket or magazine holder is also a great way to limit what you keep – when the basket is full, it is time to make room for the new ones and dispose of the old!

Try a few of these tricks as part of your spring clean-up efforts and we are sure you will find they help control the clutter and help you to find things when you need them.

Happy Organizing,

                                  Muffy and JoEllen

PS  This post was taken from a recent Monthly Tips Newsletter; follow the link to have them delivered directly to your in-box.

A New Way of Counting

January 5, 2015

staplesA friend of ours recently forwarded an article from the New York Times that we would like to share with you. Perhaps it will be an inspiration as you try to become more organized in 2015.

In his essay Let Me Count the Days, James Collins performs some mathematical computations and realizes that he “owned more staples than I could possibly is in my lifetime, or several of my lifetimes.” He goes on to say that “Nothing says mortality like the realization that you will live only long enough to use up 3.2 percent of your office supplies.”
This post is not about life expectancy, but rather a different perspective on the amount of anything that you own or are thinking of owning. What has come to your mind as you read this?
• Is it your supply of staples or other office supplies? How many do you actually use in a week/month/year? Is buying in bulk really going to be less expensive if you only use half of what you have purchased? Plus, the added cost of storing (and finding) the extras?
• How many un-read books are on your night stand and/or book shelf? Like, Mr. Collins, perhaps you should think about how many books you actually read a month, and then be more selective in your purchases or requests from the library.
• Magazines? How many subscriptions do you receive vs the number of magazines that you really read? Is there some thinning out that can take place?
• What about all the bags you have been saving for another use? Whether they are paper, plastic or gift bags, think about how much of a supply you really need to keep on hand. You know that there will always be more coming into your home.
• Do you shop at place like Costco or Sam’s Club? Buying in bulk will save you money, but will you be able to eat what you have purchased before the expiration date?
These examples could go on and on, but we think that you probably get the picture. Remember, the more things you have the more things you need to care for: to dust, to store, to read, to use….to find….. Is any of that causing you stress? Like Mr. Collins, take out your calculator and do some math.

We hope we have inspired you with this perspective.

Happy New Year!!!!

JoEllen and Muffy

PS  This post was taken from a recent Monthly Tips Newsletter; follow the link to have them delivered directly to your in-box.

Holiday Storage Tips

January 3, 2015

holiday storageHappy New Year and Happy Get Organized Month!

As the holidays unwind, it is time to think about putting away all the holiday decorations, wrapping supplies and any gifts you wish to store for next year. Here are a few things we have learned over the years that may help!

• Most plastic storage items go on sale right after Christmas, especially the red and green ones. Check the discount stores for wreath boxes, ornament boxes and regular storage tubs. The beauty of tubs is they stack so nicely and are easy to label. Be sure to label them so you know at a glance what is stored in each box.

• Wrapping paper containers are wonderful because you can store the rolls using vertical space. The long under-the-bed storage tubs are great for wrapping paper as well.

• Saving gift bags? Choose one large one, keep it open, and put all the other gift bags inside – this will save space and keep them all together for easier wrapping next year.

• Keeping a few mailing boxes and bubble wrap or peanuts? Decide on a storage space and keep these mailing items together, making the next package shipment a breeze!

• If you bought a few extra gifts which you did not use this season, choose a place to have a gift center where you can go at a moment’s notice for a simple hostess gift or birthday gift.

When you go shopping for storage items, be sure to measure the space before you buy. It is annoying to find the product does not fit the space after you have filled it with decorations! Try to estimate how many boxes you might need, and keep your receipts in case you have bought more items than the job requires. Don’t feel rushed to put away all your decorations, but make sure your tree isn’t still up in July!

For more ideas and inspiration, be sure to visit our Holiday Organizing board on Pinterest.

Happy Organizing,

Muffy and JoEllen

PS This post was taken from a recent Monthly Tips Newsletter; follow the link to have them delivered directly to your in-box.

Spice Up Your Kitchen

December 15, 2014

Well, there is no denying it now….the Holidays are almost here and traditionally this is a time when many of us do some extra entertaining and baking.

Our advice for a less stressful season in the kitchen would be to select your menus and recipes as soon as possible.  The next step would be to check your cupboard to make sure that you have all the necessary ingredients on hand.  It’s pretty annoying when you are all set to bake and find you are missing that one special spice that will make the dish unique.  So take some time soon to review your current stock of spices, check to see if they are still potent, and make sure they are well organized and accessible.

As a general rule, most ground spices will be potent up to four years.  If you are unsure how long you have had a particular spice, just use the sniff test to determine its strength.  For more information on a specific spice, check out Still Tasty’s guide.

When we organize kitchens there are two common themes we find with spices.  First is duplication: multiple containers of the same spice.  Consolidating these various containers will help free up some space.  But the reason there are multiples is because the homeowner was unable to find or see what already existed, and purchased more, which is the second theme: disorganization of the spices.

The manner in which you actually organize the spices is up to you.  It could be alphabetical, by ethnicity or by frequency of use.  Once you have a plan, and you have measured the space you have available, then you can look at the different storage options.

On a recent visit to The Container Store in Columbus, we found many many ways to store spices.  You can also find a wide selection at Bed, Bath and Beyond, and even on Amazon.  Here are some of our favorites:

Sometimes the solution is just a matter of creating another level so you can see the labels of the spices in the back row.  A Spice Shelf like this actually Spice Shelfcomes in a variety of sizes and materials, and some are even expandable.  If you don’t want to purchase one, consider using a couple of blocks of wood.

Another way to maximize your vertical space is to utilize the inside of your cupboard door or even the side of the refridgerator.  The Spice Rack pictured here

Spice Rack

is a simple and inexpensive solution for you to keep your favorite spices close at hand.

One of our favorites is this Spice Dispenser, which will hold up to twelve different spices, can be mounted under the cupboard, and dispenses the spice in 1/4 teaspoon amounts!

Spice Dispenser

With this, you could eliminate the need for measuring spoons!

For more ideas, inspiration, and even some do-it-yourself solutions, be sure to check out our Organizing Your Spices board on Pinterest.

As the Holidays approach, we both want to let you know that we are thankful to you for inviting us into your homes and offices this year through our various social media outlets or for some hands-on assistance.  We hope the tips and advice have led you to a more simple lifestyle.

Happy Holidays,

JoEllen & Muffy

PS  This post was taken from a recent Monthly Tips Newsletter; follow the link to have them delivered directly to your in-box.


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