9 Things to Review & Do in 2013

A New Year means that certain items in your life may require attention. We’ve put together a list of the most common tasks to complete or review as soon as possible.

1) Prescriptions: Review prescriptions and toss any that have expired. Make note of the ones that are in need of refill and contact your doctor to process the order before it becomes urgent.

2) Documents: Take a look at your passport, driver’s license and any other documents that expire to determine if they require a renewal in 2013.

3) Annual Appointments: Schedule annual appointments for doctors, dentists, optometrists, and accountants.

4) Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detectors: Change the batteries on the detectors and mark on the calendar when the next change will occur.

5) Pantry & Fridge Contents: Review the food in your pantry and fridge for expired goods. Purge anything that’s expired and make note of the items that have upcoming expirations so that you can use them soon.

6) Filters: Change the filters in your HVAC unit and mark on your calendar the next swap out date.

7) Credit Report: Get a free annual copy of your credit report and review the past year’s changes.

8) Policies: Review any policies that may require updates or renewal in the new year, such as insurance and product warranties.

9) Taxes: Take a look at your income tax withholding from last year and determine if your personal situation has changed in a way that affects your number (i.e. marriage, divorce, children, etc.)

Good luck!

TWOW

Get Organized for Halloween

Halloween may not be one of the most important holidays, but for families with children the day can require much preparation. In order to avoid last minute scrambling, we’ve put together a list of things to get organized ahead of time.

1) Costumes: By shopping for costumes earlier in the month of October you’ll not only have a better selection, but you may also get a better price. Costume stores typically offer coupons in early October, so keep a look out in your coupon mailers or check online sites like retailmenot.com for discount codes for online shopping. For optimum organization, you should aim to have all costumes purchased by the second week in October.

2) Decorations: Halloween decorations can help to get your family and neighborhood in the holiday spirit. Plan on decorating your home and yard by the weekend of October 20th. If you’re carving pumpkins, ideal timing is the weekend before (27th) Halloween to ensure they stay fresh. Keep in mind when you are decorating that the weather changes quickly this time of year, so if you have delicate ghosts or spider webs, be sure to bring them in before any rain hits.

3) Candy: Stores like CVS, Costco, and Target have deals on large bags of candy early in the month, so now is the time to stock up on the sweets you’ll need for trick-or-treaters.

4) School Activities: Schools often plan Halloween activities, such as costume parades and trick-or-treating. Find out the dates of these events now and mark your calendars to ensure your child will be prepared. In addition to the activity dates, also add deadlines for costume and accessory (candy pails) purchases.

5) Trick-o-Treating Plans: Plan on setting up your trick-or-treat plans two weeks ahead of time. If you are coordinating with other families, set a meeting time, location, and plans for child supervision and safety. It’s also a good idea to assign each child a ‘buddy’ to stay with for the evening to ensure no one is left alone.

6) Party Plans: If you plan on throwing a Halloween party, you’ll want to send out invitations the first week of October. During the second week, you can start to plan decorations, food, theme, music, and other party needs. The third week is the time to firm up these plans and finishing buying necessary non-perishable items, such as decorations. The last week leading up to the party is the time to decorate your space and complete the grocery shopping. On the day-of, you’ll prepare the food and drinks, set up last minute items, don your costume, and get ready to have a spooky evening with friends.

7) Holiday Food: Although Halloween is best known for candy, some people have traditions that include certain Halloween foods. Ensure you’ll be able to make these for friends and family by making a list of foods and necessary ingredients two weeks before the holiday. When making the list, keep in mind the little items, such as spices for pumpkin seed roasting and drinks such as apple cider.

We hope that by getting a head start on your Halloween plans this year you’ll have more time to enjoy the festivities on the day of.

TWOW

Reassess Your Resolutions

It’s the end of February! Time to reassess your New Year’s resolutions.

We ran a feature in our most recent newsletter about planning your goals for 2012.  We wanted to help you plan in a way that will set you up for success over the course of the year.  The end of February is the perfect time to evaluate what is and isn’t working and make positive adjustments to our goals! These adjustments can help get you back on track to achieving your organizational goals without abandoning them altogether.

I recommend taking just 30 minutes of quiet time during a weekend when you’re more likely to feel calm, rather than during the week when you may already be anxious due to work and home duties. In that half hour, pick out the resolutions that are completely off track. Are they relevant to where you are in your life anymore? If not, it’s okay to remove them from the list completely. Let them go. If the goal is still one you’d like to achieve, leave it on the list.

Remember to be realistic in how much time it will take to reach this goal and give yourself a little more time beyond that to get there. Reset your deadline and remember to work backward in setting your milestones. Check that newsletter for a crash course in doing this.

What else? Check back in with your buddy! Let her know that you’ve reassessed your resolutions and the goals you’d like to achieve have changed a bit, but you’ll still need her support in getting there. Set weekly check-ins with each other.

This is your year to reach your goals with diligence. At the same time, be gentle on yourself by performing a resolution reassessment every so often. Readjusting your 2012 to-do list will set you up for continued success over the rest of the year. Priorities change, and so should your goals!

Here’s to 2012, again!

-TWOW

On the Go: Our Favorite Organizational Apps

In keeping with our recent theme of organizational resolutions for the New Year, let’s spend a little time going mobile! That’s right, your mobile devices and computers are great resources for helping you achieve your goals in the time management, organizational and financial arenas – on the go. Here are the best WOW-approved apps for keeping your life organized, no matter where you are in your day!

EverNote: Let’s face it, it’s tough keeping track of everything you need to do and remember in your life. That’s why I LOVE Evernote.com and its mobile app. The majority of my day is spent out of the house and at appointments. Working is therapeutic for me –  I often do a lot of my best thinking during this time – which means I’m always coming up with ideas and to-dos for my own life. It can be tough to organize these goals, but with the Evernote app, I can easily whip out my phone and record such things as the books I’d like to read, movies I’d like to watch, articles I’d like to write, recipes I’d like to cook, webpages I’d like to revisit and new organizational tools I’d like to try. But what if I can’t remember the note once I need it? Well, there’s a tool for that, of course! Evernote has a search function that allows me to use keywords to reference the note or list I’d created for myself earlier that day or even two weeks ago. It syncs with my other devices, and I can even share notes with friends and employees. This app is my organizational lifesaver, and I recommend it to most of my clients.

Mint: Ever feel like you have so many accounts in so many places and no way to organize them? Fear not!  Mint.com does it for you in a safe, secure and mobile environment. Your Mint app connects and tracks information from each of your checking accounts, savings accounts, credit cards, loans and retirement funds. At any point in time, I can pull up my mint.com profile and see how much money is in each my financial accounts, all in one place. But what I love most about this app is the goal-setting function. You can set goals for paying off credit card and loan balances or saving for big purchases, on a self-determined timeline. The app shows you how much you need to pay or save each month to reach your goal. We all need a little help to reach our financial goals, and mint.com provides the encouragement and accountability you need to achieve an organized financial year.

PageOnce: Pageonce.com is a wonderful app that helps you organize your finances AND pay your bills online, from one place. Like mint.com, you can view each and every account in your financial life, safely and securely, and you can pay your bills on time from your smartphone with the touch of a button. Pageonce.com will also send you alerts and reminders when you have a bill due, which helps avoid late fees. You can even choose which account you’d like to use to pay that bill. I appreciate this function, as I can’t always remember every single log-in and password when I’m on the move and in between appointments. As a bonus feature, Pageonce will also import updates from other online accounts, such as travel, shopping, social networks, event management sites, and email. If you’re a busy woman, the Pageonce app keeps your online life organized and respects your time management goals – WOW!

Dinner Spinner: Whenever I decide to cook a meal that is unfamiliar to me and my kitchen, I head straight to allrecipes.com for ideas that are quick and easy. I love to cook, but I’m also very busy, and so are my clients. Not only do I find what I’m looking for, but allrecipes.com also points me to variations on the theme in the event that the first recipe I find isn’t the right one for me and my family. Dinner Spinner is the mobile app for allrecipes.com, and it is compatible with both the iPhone and Android platforms. With this app, I can browse recipes, bookmark my favorites, share recipes with friends and create a shopping list. Cooking dinner at home helps me save money, a goal I set for my family every year. Being able to organize my meals on the go is just the icing on the cake!

 

Grocery Gadgets: Another app that saves me money and time on my way to the grocery store is Grocery Gadgets. It allows me to organize my grocery lists, recipes and coupons for free, on my phone. The app even syncs with every device in my household, which keeps my kitchen life managed, no matter where I am. With Grocery Gadgets, I can create my list, see the prices and search for offers online – talk about organized! The part I love the most about this app is that I can check the items off when I’ve bought them – putting the check in check-list is most gratifying for a Well-organized Woman!

 

If you are a mobile woman who is on the go all of the time, give any of these apps a try. You’ll be an organized, domestic and financial goddess in no time! Enjoy!

-TWOW

Holiday Gifts – Plan Ahead for a Stress-Free Season

It is officially December, which means the gift-giving season has begun. For some, holiday gifting can be stressful due to the money and time required to purchase, wrap and ship out your gifts to all of your loved ones. Don’t fret! The Well-Organized Woman is here to help you plan for a stress-free holiday season with these organizational gift-giving tips!

Timeline - Identify which gifts are ‘due’ when so you can work backward from those deadlines to build your oganized gift schedule.

  • For those gifts that need to be mailed to the recipient, allow 1 week for mailing and 2 days for wrapping. In other words, if your gifts need to arrive by the 23rd, begin wrapping them on the 14th and mail them out on the 16th.
  • For those gifts that you’ll be ordering online and sending directly to the recipient, make sure to order at least one week before you’d like them to arrive. If they are coming to you first before you mail them out, make sure to order them with ample time for them to come to you, get wrapped and then be mailed out. In fact, you may want to get started on ordering those gifts this week!
  • And finally, for those gifts you’ll be presenting in person, I’d recommend having them wrapped up two days before giving – simply for peace of mind so you aren’t rushing to complete your wrapping.

Budget- Set a budget and stick to it. You can do this one of two ways:

  • Set a mini budget for each person on your list – start with the amount you have to spend overall and then designate an amount or a percentage of that to your giftees. You’ll be surprised how creative you can get when you have parameters around how much you can spend.
  • Set an overall budget for the whole group of recipients. This can be tricky, though, as it’s easier to go over or lose track of your expenses in the moment. I recommend budgeting by person within your overall budget.
  • Allow yourself just a touch of leeway for each person. $5 of ‘invisible’ budget built in for each person can save you from going way over.
  • Don’t forget to budget in the supplies you’ll need, including wrapping paper, scotch tape, scissors, to/from labels, postage, stickers, ribbon, boxes, bubble wrap, packing tape, etc. These things can get pricey!

Shopping List – To the extent that you can, make a shopping list for the gifts you’ll be buying. Like an ambiguous budget, an ambiguous list can lead you to either buy more than you need or buy something that just isn’t right. If I’m just not sure what to get for someone, I’ll ‘window shop’ online first to get a sense of what I might want and then head to the stores to see what I can find.

Shop- Online or In-Store? Well, that’s up to you and your preferred shopping style! Over the years, shopping online has become a convenient way to take care of all of your holiday gift needs. You can avoid the crowds and often get great deals through a company’s internet store. However, a good old-fashioned shopping trip can also get you in the spirit and save on shipping costs, which can add up quickly. I like to mix it up and do a little of both. For those friends/family who I won’t be seeing before the holiday, I’ll buy their gifts online, select the store-wrapping option and send them directly to the recipient. For those I’ll be seeing face-to-face, I’ll often buy their gifts from stores – it helps to see and hold the gift while visualizing them opening it up.

Wrap – Now for the fun part! I love wrapping gifts and have such a blast picking out the papers I’ll use each year. Wrapping paper can be pricey, though, so I always go to my stash from last year to see what is left. I use that paper to wrap gifts for people who are new to my list because they haven’t seen that particular wrapping before. I love the Container Store for gift wrap, and Target also has great choices. If wrapping doesn’t come naturally for you, the Container Store offers in-store demonstrations and has great instructional tips on their website. Click here for ideas and for your nearest store!

Ship – As I mentioned above, allow at least one week for your gifts to ship based on the date you choose for their arrival. Also, buying your own packing supplies can save you a lot, as many shipping centers charge quite a bit to use their supplies on the spot. As for which shipping service to use, that is certainly up to you. Personally, I have had great luck with FedEx Ground shipping and do recommend the service.
For additional advice on gift giving for all of the people in your life – even your hairstylist and your mailman – check out The Well-Organized Woman’s TV clip from CBS Atlanta!

Best of luck in your gift-giving endeavors!
Cheers,
-TWOW

Choosing Your Personalized Stationery

Recently, I ordered two new sets of personalized stationery and an address stamp, and it struck me that I should share the process with my readers. Not only is having your own stationery a small way of showing care for yourself, but it also shows your recipients that you think they are special. After all, there is nothing more personal and thoughtful than a handwritten note.

I am crazy about stationery and always have been. In my pre-WOW years, I even collected too much of it! I had note cards of every style, shape and size. As I began my transformation to a well-organized life, I realized that I didn’t need so much of a variety, but instead wanted something a little more personal.

Claire's Personal Stationery

I’ve heard similar stories from many clients who, as they discovered the well-organized woman within, made the choice to free themselves of quantity and opt for quality.

To create a streamlined, organized and simple stationery wardrobe, you can start small with a set of correspondence cards, fold-over notes (informals) and envelopes.

  • Personal Set: Allow yourself one set that is just for you for personal notes, thank you notes, notes of sympathy, etc. I’ve included pictures of my choice for my own personal set.
  • Family Set: A set for you and your partner or family is optional but often appropriate. It can be perfect for thank-you notes and attaching to gifts from the family or the two of you. If your spouse does not want his own stationery, a family set with just your last name initial is easy for him to use, as well. I’ve also included a photo of my family set choice.
  • Gift Enclosures: I ordered gift enclosures with my new set of stationery. They are usually the size of a business card, come with a corresponding envelope and are perfect for tucking into a gift.
  • Materials: For fine stationery, choose cotton paper. For informal stationery, any material is appropriate.
  • Color: The most common paper colors are white and cream, but choosing an unexpected text color, border or embellishment to express yourself is one of the pleasures of selecting your personal stationery.
  • Layout: Your name and/or monogrammed initials can be the central image of your stationery, while your address should be printed on the back of the envelope. You can also opt for an address stamp or personalized embosser, instead. I chose to print our address for my family stationery and to use a fun address stamp for my personal set.

Kurtz family stationery

After choosing your signature stationery, make sure to designate its place in your home office or bedroom. Keep pens, stamps, tape, embosser, and address stamp in the same place, as well, so that dashing off a quick thank-you card or writing a note of sympathy is not a time-consuming process. Remember, the point of being well-organized is to move through your life smoothly and easily. You want to be prepared but not over-stocked.

Where to Order Stationery

I have been taking advantage of Groupons offered by Paper Affair to order my new sets, but there are myriad places to order stationery to fit every budget.  Atlanta favorites include Paces Papers and Bumblebee Press.  Two online companies with beautiful options are Delphine Press and Dauphine Press.

Resources on Amazon

All of these books have crept into my collection over the years. They are great resources to explore the traditional rules regarding building and using a stationery wardrobe. Each book gives a nice bit of guidance on crafting appropriate written correspondence. As we become an increasingly informal society, it is a pleasure to engage in the social arts that fall by the wayside!

Happy Writing!
–TWOW

Power to the Purse: How to Keep Your Handbag Organized

As a follow-up to our last post, Pack it Up, Pack it In, it seems only fair to address a piece of luggage that is near and dear to every woman, every day — her handbag! A woman’s purse can be a form of self-expression and creativity, yet it can also be one of the most disorganized areas in her life. Personally, a messy bag makes me feel, well, messy! Stress and discombobulation creep into my day when I cannot find what I need, when I need it, in my purse. And what woman has time for that??

Below are our tips for keeping your handbag beautiful, organized and efficient. When your purse works perfectly for you and your lifestyle, your image gets just the boost it needs to get you through your busy day with confidence…read on!

*The key is to “re-set” your bag each night so that you can pick up and go every morning. You can make this a nightly ritual, so that it feels like a special activity that is just for you.

  • Remove receipts and used napkins, corral loose change, replenish business cards, medicines and tissues.
  • Make sure your lipgloss, wallet, keys and mints are in the bag, as well — you don’t want to be caught without these important items.
  • Remove your or your kids’ half-eaten snacks and re-stock those items if needed for the next day.
  • Wipe down your bag with a soft cloth – it was an investment, so treat it with care.

*I often find it helpful to change bags every few days. Try it. You’ll feel like you’re making more of an effort with your wardrobe choices and you’ll be forced to constantly reevaluate what goes into the bag, what goes into the trash and what goes back on the shelf.

*Use a bag organizer like the Purse Perfector – it has many pockets for everything you need to carry, and you can easily remove it and place it directly into another bag or tote.

*Create a list of the items that are allowed in your bag, and stick to the rules.

*Assign designated areas that are easy to reach for each of your most important items.

  • Cell phone in phone pouch (most bags have them now).
  • Lipgloss, keys, pen and business -card holder in interior pocket.
  • Wallet in large bucket of purse, makeup bag, notebooks, flat shoes, etc. in the main pouch of the bag.
  • Receipts should have a designated area, as well, but make sure to clean that out every 2-3 days. Paper and wrappers are one of the biggest sources of handbag clutter for me!

*To cut down on the number of items in your bag:

  • Go paperless! Use a calendar app for your phone instead of carrying a paper planner or use a notes app instead of carrying an extra notepad.
  • If you commute on public transportation, decide whether this is a music day or an e-reader day and choose which item you’ll take in your bag. Don’t weigh yourself down with both.

And lastly, here’s a list of recommended items to fill your bag.

Lightweight Lugger:

  • Lipgloss
  • Gum
  • ID, wallet, money, credit cards
  • Phone
  • Pen
  • Keys

Heavyweight Handler (add these):

  • Notepad
  • Planner
  • iPod/iPad/Kindle
  • Flats
  • Business-card holder with cards
  • Makeup bag

Enjoy the power of the purse!
– TWOW

Prepping for the Holidays

The Well-Organized Woman talks about prepping and organizing your home for the holidays in Atlanta INtown newspaper this month. Check out the article for ideas on getting ready for entertaining and creating a calm, organized living space!

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