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Extra Organizing Tips: Deb Lillard

Clear away clutter for the new year -- or anytime.

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Professional organizer and Mission: Organization guest Debbie Lillard offers web-exclusive tips.

  • As you're pulling out your tax information clean out and update your files. Ask yourself, "Did I really need to save all this stuff?" If you find vital information all over the place, such as receipts from charitable donations, make a folder to keep it all in one place. If you can claim medical expenses or business expenses on your tax return, make a file and put receipts in it as the year goes on.

  • Think about the most efficient way to collect your tax information, then make a plan for the year. For example, designate one credit card for business expenses; make all charitable donations by check; and keep a mileage log in your car if you can claim miles as a business expense. If necessary, open a separate checking account for a home-based business. That way your income and expenses can be tallied right from your bank statements and check logs.

  • Compile your personal credit card statements from the previous year and use them to develop a budget for this year's spending.

  • Take your holiday greeting card list and update your address book — whether it is electronic or in writing. Also, go ahead and make address labels. This will make card sending a lot faster next year.

  • Pick out a beautiful calendar and hang it in a central location in your home. Write "where you need to be" on the calendar as a note to everyone in the house. If you really want to be organized, have each family member write down their schedule in a different color.

  • If you have a daily planner, be sure to order extra refills for years to come. If you don't have one, get one. It serves as a great reference tool as well as an ideal place to jot down notes and keep track of appointments. Start planning one day at a time, then you can plan your week and your month.

  • Get together with your spouse or other members of the household to make a list of home-improvement projects to be completed within the year. Prioritize and divide responsibilities. Planning together avoids surprises and keeps projects from seeming so overwhelming.

  • If one room of clutter overwhelms you, sort it into categories and take one box at a time into another "cleaner" room. Getting out of the clutter helps you focus on the task at hand. For example, take a box of files from the office into the living room and clean it out as you listen to music or watch TV. One chunk at a time — just make sure the files get back to the filing cabinet.

  • If you can't seem to finish even a small organizing task, use your bed as the "go through" area. That way you know that you can't go to sleep until everything is sorted and put away.

  • If your whole house needs organizing and you don't know where to start, use the "Mt. Vernon Cleaning method." Start at the front door and work your way through each room of your house, starting at ground level. Work your way up, or tackle the most-used rooms first. Clean out, redecorate, make changes or fixes and move on to the next room. By the end of the year, at least, your house should be beautiful.

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