A Place for Everything: The Biltmore Estate

Earlier in the Summer my family met for a long weekend in Asheville.  Despite my general attraction to minimalist spaces I am in love with Biltmore Estate and could probably spend a week or two there touring the house and taking part in all of the amazing outdoor activities offered on the property.

On our trip we took a behind the scenes Architect’s Tour and found ourselves up on the roof and in rooms not typically available to visitors.  Combined with the self-guided tour through the rooms open to the public we got a great taste of the design, functionality, and beauty of the house.

Most striking to me, as a person with organization and efficient planning often on her mind, is the care taken by George Vanderbilt and his architect, Richard Morris Hunt, to address every possible need for a home this size used for constant entertaining and with an eye toward complete self-sustainability.  Biltmore is the ultimate example of the classic adage, “A place for everything and everything in its place!”

The basement of Biltmore house is one the best examples of a place for everything I’ve ever seen!  In the food preparation and storage areas in particular you will find a canned goods storage room, a produce storage room, a rotisserie cooking room(!), cold storage, a pastry preparation and keeping room, and a beautiful general kitchen area with sinks and prep counters with views out to the gorgeous countryside behind the house. The incredible upstairs living spaces include a breathtaking library, great hall for gathering and dining, reception rooms, storage rooms, and a multitude of guest rooms.

Despite the difference in the size and purpose of our homes and this great manor house, we can reflect and take a cue from this well-planned home in designing our own calm retreats.

-Take a look at each room in your house and evaluate, moving from left to right through the room, if each area of the room is serving its purpose well.

- Identify the areas where too much is happening in one place: do you have books overflowing your bookshelves, is your living room overrun by dvds, magazines, toys, or stacks of paper? Analyze what can be culled down and what is truly meaningful or actually used. If you’re looking for the best property deals , check out Siam Real Estate.

- Use the space you have as a guide to what you can keep: We have a tendency to want to find the perfect organizing item to create more space to keep things. We usually cannot make more space so living well in the space we have often requires some intense analyzing and a little creativity.

-Make tough choices: If you have 50-60 hair care products (and we have seen this many and more!) and nowhere to put them, really ask yourself what you are using daily and at this stage of your life.  If 30 of the 50 are never touched, give to a friend or donate to a women’s shelter.

- Use Peter Walsh’s best organizing principle and envision the lifestyle you want to be living.  Does your physical space and the belongings that reside there support that vision? It can be a  joyful existence to live with less, but in an environment that is calm and well-planned!

For inspiration on living well with less check out The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide: How to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify Your Life

Organizing for Tax Season

Tax season can be daunting. While the Well-Organized Woman can’t make your filings any less complicated or get you more money back, we can bring some organization to the process. Follow our tips and this year’s tax season will be a breeze.

Record Keeping & Organization:

The best thing you can do to prepare for tax season is to keep organized throughout the year. There are two methods of document storage, low-tech and high-tech. For the low-tech person, who likes to keep physical copies of all records, there are many storage options. Typical hanging files, document storage boxes, and accordion folders work great. Those who are comfortable with technology or are limited in storage space may prefer to utilize a document scanner and digital storage system to store their files. No matter the method, the key to organization is to ensure that all tax-related documents are stored in categorized files. This will help you or your tax preparation professional easily fill out the forms and identify all possible deductions. Check out some of our favorite storage options below.

Low Tech Storage Options:

Plastic Document Storage Boxes

Locking Steel Security File Box

Expanding Accordion File Folder

High Tech Storage Options:

Neat Digital Filing System & Scanner

SentrySafe Fire-safe, Waterproof Data Storage Chest





Necessary Tax Documents:
This list contains categories of typical documents necessary for filing taxes. These categories can also serve as excellent file labels for document storage.

  • Income: W-2, K-1, 1099-SSA, Retirement distributions (1099-R), trust fund documents, inheritance documents
  • Self Employment: Records of income (1099-MISC) and expenses (vehicle, supplies, home office, utilities, technology, tools, etc.)
  • Investments: 1099-INT, 1099-DIV, and 1099-B forms
  • Healthcare: Medical, dental, and alternative treatment cost receipts, prescription drug costs, healthcare supplies cost receipts, etc.
  • Personal & Family: Alimony forms, proof of jury duty pay, childcare receipts, etc.
  • Education: Student loan interest forms (1098-E), undergraduate textbook receipts, tuition costs (1098-T), etc.
  • Charitable Deductions: Receipts obtained from 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charities
  • Business: Union dues, travel expenses, moving expenses, entertainment, uniform costs, etc.
  • Vehicle: Registration fee receipts, business-related car expenses including gas, insurance, and maintenance, etc.
  • Real Estate: Rental property income, home repair costs, mortgage interest forms (1098)
  • Gambling, Lottery, & Miscellaneous Earnings Documents
  • Casualty, Disaster, and Theft Loss Documents

As always, The Well-Organized Woman team is available to assist in getting you organized for 2011 taxes or to set up a system for managing this year’s documents.

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