Are You Prepared & Organized for Emergencies?

Being prepared goes hand-in-hand with being organized, and it is fitting that SpaceMasters would be part of a nationwide event aimed at better emergency preparedness. SpaceMasters is once again joined forces with the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) and Department of Homeland Security’s Ready Campaign for the annual National Preparedness Month (NPM), held during September.

Did you know?

  • Only 57% of people report that they have readiness items set aside in their homes for use in a disaster
  • Just 34% of people have readiness supplies in their car

Less than half of households have an emergency plan and yet…

  • 42% of individuals report that they would need help during a disaster

This year, National Preparedness Month will focus on A Time to Remember, A Time to Prepare and will help Americans understand what it truly means to be ready for emergencies that may arise at home, at work, or in the world. Preparedness goes beyond fire alarms, smoke detectors, dead-bolt locks, and extra food in the pantry. Being Ready includes: preparing an emergency supply kit, making a family emergency plan, being informed about emergencies and their appropriate response, and getting involved in community efforts.

Would You SINK or Would You Stay AFLOAT in an Emergency?

Emergency Preparedness Quiz:

  • In the past six months, has anyone in your family and/or business spent time being educated on disaster preparedness? 
  • In the past six months, has a family member or employee provided education to children and/or co-workers on disaster preparedness? 
  • In the past six months, has your family and/or business spent time preparing for disaster preparedness? 
  • Does your family and/or business have a disaster/emergency plan with supplies in place? 
  • In the past six months, has your family and/or business reviewed and updated the disaster plans? 
  • In the last year, has your family and/or organization made a specific plan for how you and your family and/or staff would communicate with each other during an emergency situation? 
  • In the last year, have your family and/or business practiced in or drilled on what to do in an emergency? 
  • In the last year, has your family and/or business prepared and/or updated a Disaster Supply Kit with emergency supplies like water, food and medicine  for each person? 
  • Does your family and/or business have a designated place where all emergency supplies are to be kept and can be accessed by everyone? 
  • In the last year, have you prepared each of your family and/or business vehicles with a small kit of emergency supplies if an emergency occurred when you were away from your home and/or business? 
  • Do you know what important documents you would need to have at your fingertips if an emergency occurred and you had to leave quickly? 
  • Do you have special items in your emergency preparation kit for infants, toddlers, children, senior citizens and/or disabled people? 
  • Do you have an emergency preparation kit for your family pets? 
  • Do you know about your local government’s emergency or disaster plan for your community? 
  • Do you know how to find the emergency broadcasting channel on the radio or television? 
  • Do you have a plan for your home or business if the power and/or gas service was out for several days or weeks?  How would you cook, see or function?

Did you answer NO to more than three of these questions?

Emergencies come in many forms, and they may require anything from a brief absence from your home to permanent evacuation. Each type of disaster requires different measures to keep you and your family and/or business safe. The best thing you can do for yourself and your the important people in your life is to be prepared.

SpaceMasters can turn your emergency preparation “NO’s” into “YES’s”. 

 Contact us at 818.297.0926 or go to http://www.thespacemasters.com for more information.  Special Emergency Preparation Products and Packages are available now through the end of September.


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Spring Cleaning or Spring Flinging?

It is that time of the year.  Flowers and trees are starting to bloom, the days are starting to get warmer and whispers of Spring can be felt in the air.  Along with the start of March Madness, another season of baseball and thoughts of the Easter quickly approaching, spring cleaning is a “to-do” that we see on the cover of every magazine at the checkout stand.

This year as you start to contemplate your task list for spring cleaning let me challenge you to approach this yearly chore with a new mindset.  Spring is a symbol of fresh starts, new beginnings and new life.  Yet, so much of our spring cleaning is really nothing more than dusting or rearranging the old, the tired and the unused.  So how can we call that Spring Cleaning?  Feels more like Winter Cleaning.  Blah.

It has been said that Americans only use 20% of what they own.  The other 80% comprises of items:

1)  We don’t use

2)  We feel we should use

3) We think we might use someday

The unfortunate thing is the 80% ends up costing us valuable time and money.  We spend millions of dollars a year to store the 80% in storage units.  The 80% takes up valuable spaces and places in our homes.  The 80% does not bring to our minds visions of fresh starts, new beginnings and new life.  So what does one do?

This spring . . . contemplate doing some Spring Flinging and not just some Spring Cleaning.  As you dive into the task of “spring cleaning” ask yourself:

  • Do I Need This?
  • If it is truly a treasure of mine, why is it in a box or in storage?  Why am I not enjoying it?
  • Could someone else benefit more for this?
  • Could I sell this?
  • Could I recycle this?
  • Could I donate this?
  • Could I toss this?

This year don’t spend the time “cleaning” the things that you never use or don’t even really like.  Did you know that getting rid of clutter eliminate 40% of all housework in the average home?  This year don’t spend the money storing items in a storage unit that could be purchased several times over for the amount of rent you pay to store it.

Don’t just spring clean . . . be willing to spring fling!

Need help with Spring Cleaning and Spring Flinging?   Mention this blog and receive 15% off on any organizing job now through March 31, 2011. Let SpaceMasters make it simple and easy for you! For assistance in mastering your home or business space, contact SpaceMasters at 818.232.7145, e-mail: info@thespacemasters.com or visit us on the web at: http://www.thespacemasters.com.

SpaceMasters’ mission is to free people from the bonds of clutter and disorganization in a non-judgmental and caring way by offering a complete range of solutions, services and products that transform unorganized spaces into efficient, functional and enjoyable environments thus allowing them to reduce stress, be more productive and save valuable time and money.

How to Make Tax Preparation Less Taxing and More Profitable

The calls of panic are already starting to roll into SpaceMasters. . .

“I need help with creating a system for my files so I can do my taxes!”

“How long do I need to keep my tax records?”

“I need help sorting through receipts for business write-offs!”

“I’m tired of filling for an extension because I am not organized!”

“I am so overwhelmed, I don’t even know where to start!”

“This is the last year I am going to let this happen.”

First, the bad news: The clock is ticking down and April 18, 2011 (Federal Income Tax Due Date) will be here before you know it.  But wait!  Now for the good news: It is NEVER too late to create a system to make tax preparation easier with each passing year.  So what can you do?

1.  Be honest with yourself. If getting your financial records in order isn’t your strong point, then admit it and get help.  Admitting that you need help and allowing the experts to do what they are best at is the first step in making your tax preparation less stressful and more efficient from year to year.  Asking for help shouldn’t be embarrassing, it should be empowering.   Fast forward to February 2012 . . . if all of your files were in order next year this time, would you still feel embarrassed?  I doubt it.

2.  Hire a trustworthy professional you like. Whether you hire a professional organizer to help you sort through your papers or use a bookkeeper to help you on the financial end, it is important to find someone that your personality clicks with AND that you can trust with your personal and financial information.  Some important questions to ask when searching for a professional organizer and bookkeeper are:

  • How many years of experience do you have?
  • Do you use specific tools, resources or software with your clients?
  • Is the company a single person or do they employ support staff that might be privy to my personal financial information?
  • Does your support staff adhere to confidentiality agreements?  Do they go through extensive background checks?  How do I know that my personal information will be safe?
  • Does your business carry liability insurance?  A Dishonesty bond?  Industry Certifications or Memberships?

Finding someone you are comfortable with and trust will make the task at hand more pleasant. It is okay to interview several professionals before you decide on one.

3.  Realize that MAINTENANCE is the key. Just like you have to do maintenance on a vehicle, so you have to maintain any organizing system you create for your taxes.  Can you buy a car today and expect to never have to  change the oil, tires or take it in for a tune-up?  Not if you want to have a vehicle that takes you the places you want to go.  If you don’t put the time and money into properly maintaining your car, you will probably be found on the side of the road, broken down and left with a laundry list of damages and needed repairs.   Many times we expect a organizing system to do the same for us.  Make sure you build a maintenance plan into your tax records throughout the year so your system doesn’t come to April broken down and in need of serious repairs.

4.  Know what to keep and what to shred. Before you throw out financial statements, records, or receipts, make sure you know what is needed and what is not.  Most people operate from one extreme or another.  Most of my clients when I first meet them keep EVERYTHING because they are afraid they might need it OR they don’t keep anything because they have either misplaced it or they just didn’t think they might need it down the road.  Most professional organizers can help you determine what you need to keep and for how long.  Don’t take any chances . . . if you are in the middle of an I.R.S. audit someday you will wish you would have taken the time to know what you need and don’t need.  Also, in this day and age with identity theft on the rise, make sure that all of your personal and financial information that you no longer need is shredded.  Never just tear it up in half and throw it in the garbage.  It might seem like an extra step to shred but your information is too important not to protect.

5.  Sort then Purchase then Place. One of the biggest mistakes people make when setting up an organizing system is to buy products before they know what they have left to organize.  Always, always, always . . . sort first!  Why?  Because once you have weeded through the things that can be: Filed, Shredded or Archived, you will know how much space you need to set-up a proper system.  Client after client, will show me a closet full of items at the beginning of an organizing job that they purchased at one time to organize something and then it didn’t fit the space they had envisioned or they outgrew it too soon.  Let’s face it, even for the SpaceMaster, buying new products is a lot more fun and exciting than sorting through paper!  Resist the urge to purchase anything or even put it away until everything pertaining to that category has been sorted through.

Bottom line: Don’t be embarrassed if you have let your financial files get out of hand.  And, most of all don’t be embarrassed because you might need to ask for help!  Having your financial records organized will help you itemize your deductions, help you save time and money (and quite possibly get some back from Uncle Sam) and will make life easier and less taxing if you put a system into place and maintain it.  Now doesn’t that sound nice!

Have you been putting off getting organized? Mention this blog and receive 15% off on any organizing job now through March 31, 2011. Let SpaceMasters make it simple and easy for you! For assistance in mastering your home or business space, contact SpaceMasters at 818.232.7145, e-mail: info@thespacemasters.com or visit us on the web at: http://www.thespacemasters.com.

SpaceMasters’ mission is to free people from the bonds of clutter and disorganization in a non-judgmental and caring way by offering a complete range of solutions, services and products that transform unorganized spaces into efficient, functional and enjoyable environments thus allowing them to reduce stress, be more productive and save valuable time and money.

 

 

Organizing Lessons from My First Client

Tammy's Pantry Before SpaceMasters

Tammy's Pantry Before SpaceMasters

This past weekend I ran into one of my very first organizing clients which I will just refer to as Tammy to protect her identity.  It was so fun to catch up with her and to hear that the organizing systems we had set up for her several years ago were still working.  As we were talking at this social gathering,Tammy started to tell me what she had learned from our time together and how it has changed her life.  I thought this week I would share some of what she discovered about herself and organizing during our time together.

Lessons Learned From Tammy

1.  A New Way of Thinking: Tammy shared that every time she goes to organize or straighten something in her house she asks herself: “What would Julie do?”  “Would Julie keep this?”  I have to admit that I laughed picturing Tammy standing in her closet asking: “Would Julie keep this hat?”  But after having a good chuckle she said, “I didn’t think like an organized person before, but working with you opened my eyes and I have a new way of thinking about organization.”  Tammy use to believe that she “wasn’t born organized”, but after working together she said she believes if you are willing to change your way of thinking, it is possibly to think and behave like an organized person.

2.  Break it Down: Tammy also confessed that she use to balk at the thought of organizing because it just seemed too overwhelming.  One of the very first things we did together was break down our organizing project (which was Tammy’s kitchen, pantry and service porch area) into steps.  Each session we would tackle a certain area and at the end I would assign Tammy a homework assignment to accomplish before our next session together.  Tammy would always struggle to want to do more than her homework, but then would find that she would get fatigued, overwhelmed and would just walk away from the mess.  It was then that I introduced Tammy to one of my favorite organizing tools . . . a timer!  I told Tammy she could not organize more than 30 minutes a day.  Tammy thought that 30 minutes would not be enough time, but soon discovered that she got more done when she knew there was a deadline and she had to tackle smaller projects.  Tammy shared that this past week she started re-organizing her closet, but she only allows herself to either do one section at a time or only 30 minutes per day.  Organizing projects no longer seem overwhelming to her but rather doable and enjoyable.

Tammy's Pantry After SpaceMasters

Tammy's Pantry After SpaceMasters

3. Less Time Doing Chores, More Time Doing Fun Things: As our conversation started to come to an end, Tammy said, “I have to tell you, I didn’t really think that getting organized would save me so much time.  I spend less time looking for things because they are organized and I know where to find it and where to put it away. Everything has a home.  It makes doing chores so much easier and faster.  I find that now I have more time to do the things I really enjoy like my crafts, tennis and cooking.”

Nothing excites an organizer more than hearing that their work helped change a person’s life.  I love hearing that people have more time to enjoy the things they truly love.  I love hearing that people save considerable amounts of money being organized.  I love hearing that people are no longer living or working in frustrating, stressful spaces.  Bottom line, I love helping people master their space, so they can master their world.

As we parted ways, Tammy told me one last thing.  With a remorseful look on her face she said, “I just wish I wouldn’t have waited so long to get organized.  I should have done this sooner.  You made it so simple and easy. ”

Have you been putting off getting organized?  Let SpaceMasters make it simple and easy for you! For assistance in mastering your home or business space, contact SpaceMasters at 818.232.7145, e-mail: info@thespacemasters.com or visit us on the web at: http://www.thespacemasters.com.

SpaceMasters’ mission is to free people from the bonds of clutter and disorganization in a non-judgmental and caring way by offering a complete range of solutions, services and products that transform unorganized spaces into efficient, functional and enjoyable environments thus allowing them to reduce stress, be more productive and save valuable time and money.

What Does Your Disorganization Say About You?

Through the years I have heard, “you are what you think” and even “you are what you eat” . . . but how about “you are how you organize?”

This past week the new 2011 Workplace Organization Survey by OfficeMax was published.  After reading through the results I was struck not by the statistics, but rather by the descriptive phrases giving life to these percentage points.  Words and phrases such as: negative impact, hurt productivity, unhappiness, reduced motivation, affected state of mind, thinking less of, lacking, and ashamed.  Depressing, huh?  These definitely aren’t the words that one would use to describe an employee of the month.  But, according to the survey, these phrases describe a good number of our American work force.

The Stats

  • 68 percent of Americans say they need to improve their organizational skills.
  • 90 percent of Americans say disorganization at home or work has a negative impact on their lives.
  • 77 percent say it hurts productivity.
  • 65 percent say clutter affects their state of mind.
  • 53 percent say it reduces motivation.
  • 40 percent say it leaves them feeling unhappy.
  • 53 percent of Americans admit they think less of co-workers who have messy desks, while
  • 40 percent say a co-worker’s cluttered workspace makes them assume the person is lacking in other aspects of their job.
  • 13 percent say they think less of their cluttered colleagues.
  • 35 percent of American admit they are ashamed of anyone seeing their desk/workspace.
  • 28 percent said they are ashamed to let someone see their bedrooms.

Source: 2011 Workplace Organization Survey by OfficeMax

It is easy to gather from these stats that disorganization negatively affects us and our work.  It is easy to see that we aren’t as productive.  But, oftentimes we forget what it communicates to our business clients, bosses, and colleagues. If a job offer, a client contract, a raise or promotion were dependent on the condition of our desk/workspace or our organizational skills, would we be granted the deal?

Several years ago I drove up in front of a house I was considering renting and was greeted curbside by the landlord.  This potential landlord started asking me questions about my car like: how long have you had your car? and how do you like it?  I was a little confused why the landlord cared so much about my little economic Honda Accord.  With all of the interest she was showing, you would have thought I was driving the newest luxury car on the block.  Finally after giving my little Honda the once over, she finally offered to show me the house.  After touring the little house, I knew I wanted to make it my home.  I asked the landlord if she had a lot of people interested in renting the house.  She said, “Yes, I  have shown this place to several people, but quite honestly, you are the only person I would consider renting it to.”  Puzzled, I asked her why I was the only person who made the cut.  She replied, “You are the only person that I have showed this place to that keeps their car clean and tidy.  From experience I know if someone takes good care of their car, chances are they will take care of my rental.”  That afternoon we signed a lease.

What does your organization or disorganization say about you?  Are you missing out on greater things in life like: promotions, business contracts, less stress, more productivity, greater job satisfaction because things are not in order?  Don’t wait until it is too late to do something about it.  Professional organizers are trained to help even the most disorganized people to achieve greater results, more focus and less stress.  Don’t allow yourself to become a national disorganization statistic.

Contact SpaceMasters at 818.232.7145 or e-mail: info@thespacemasters.com for more information on our organizing services.  http://www.thespacemasters.com

SpaceMasters’ mission is to free people from the bonds of clutter and disorganization in a non-judgmental and caring way by offering a complete range of solutions, services and products that transform unorganized spaces into efficient, functional and enjoyable environments thus allowing them to reduce stress, be more productive and save valuable time and money.

 

Organizing Life’s Garden

I couldn’t believe my eyes!  How could this have happened?  It looked fine just the other day and now everything was so out of control.  I just knew that it was going to take several hours of work to clean-up and sort out this mess.  I had to make the decision to continue to look the other way or to do something about it.  However, I knew that if I continued to neglect it, the problem would continue to grow.  I knew that if it continued to grow out of control I would be wasting money, spending even more time down the road to deal with the situation and feeling even more overwhelmed.  Sound or feel familiar?

This past weekend I spent several hours doing yard work on my patio deck.  To be completely honest, I must confess that I haven’t spent much time gardening since Fall turned into Winter.  I had allowed the busyness of life to keep me from truly tending to my trees, plants and flowers.  When I finally took the time to look outside I noticed that weeds had cropped up, my trees were overgrown and dead blossoms were taking up space on my flowers not allowing for new growth.  I also knew that it was time to prune back several of my plants so that new life could begin in the Spring.  Just like I let my garden grow cluttered, disorganized and messy, it can be so easy to do the same with our lives.

As I worked in my garden I couldn’t help but draw similarities to gardening and organization.  Here are a couple that came to my mind:

–  Piles of Paper and Weeding. If you don’t nip it in the bud early on, it grows out of control and becomes a very cumbersome task.  It is necessary to work at it on a regular basis and keep it under control.

– De-cluttering and Pruning. Getting rid of things that no longer serve a purpose is important for growth.  In the world of gardening, pruning is done in order to make room for new growth or blossoms.  In the world of organizing, de-cluttering is done to make space for the truly important, treasured things in life.  When we become so attached to “things” that don’t add value to our lives then we become stuck, we don’t grow and we crowd out any new, healthy things that could come our way.  There is nothing like seeing a rose-bush that is pruned in the winter produce beautiful new buds in the Spring.

– Systems and Eco-Systems. It is important to discover an organizing system that works for each individual.  There is no such thing as “one size fits all” in the world of organization.  It is important to develop a system that is optimal for your individual situation, your organizing style and your space.  The same is important in gardening.  A plant that grows and flourishes in one eco-system might not flourish in another.  You wouldn’t plant roses in the Arctic Circle, just as you wouldn’t plant a banana tree in Death Valley.  It is important to know which climate, soil, fertilizer, sunlight and watering needs are optimal for each plant to flourish to its potential.

– Maintenance. Whether you are gardening or organizing, maintenance is the key.  With organizing you can’t organize it once and expect it to always remain organized.  With gardening you can’t just plant some flowers and never lift another finger.  We have to build time into our busy schedules to maintain our lives or our gardens.  Isn’t it amazing that a yard that is properly maintained produces more enjoyment than a yard that is ignored?  The same is true with maintaining an organizing system.  The more you put into maintaining a system that works for you, the more you will enjoy your life.

  • So how is your organizing garden doing these days?
  • Are you in a period of growth or decline?
  • Are you needing to prune back your life and de-clutter?
  • Do you need to spend more time weeding through papers and important documents so you can find what you need when you need it?
  • Do you have the right systems in the proper place or are you struggling in your current eco-system at home or at work?
  • How well are your maintenance plans working for you? Do you have regularly scheduled time to file, to organize, and/or to weed through your stuff?

I can’t tell you how good it felt to get my outdoor garden back in order this past weekend.  I have peeked out the window several times since to admire the beauty.  Even though it is winter, my plants look pretty good.  I can’t wait to enjoy the benefits of my labor as winter turns into spring.  There is nothing like creating beautiful garden designs, nurturing your favorite plants and watching them bloom all around you.  Then again, I have the same feeling every time work begins on a new organizing project with a client!  I love working with clients to create purposeful organizing systems that with regular maintenance can reap the benefits of a less stressful and more enjoyable life.

SpaceMasters can assist you in achieving an organized life for your home or business.  We offer a variety of solutions and products to help you grow, maintain and flourish in life.  Contact SpaceMasters at 818.232.7145 or visit us on the web at: http://www.thespacemasters.com for more information about our services.

Streamlining: The Path of Least Resistance

This past weekend I participated with my triathlon club, Conejo Valley Multisport Masters (CVMM), in the U.S. Masters Swimming (USMS) organization’s  One Hour Postal National Championships.  The objective of this event: To swim as far as possible in one hour in any pool you choose that is 25 yards or longer without stopping to rest, quitting or burning out too early.  Being that I am a beginner to the world of swimming and triathlons I knew that nine months ago I couldn’t even swim 25 meters without stopping to rest, let alone swim non-stop for an hour.  But, over the course of the past nine months I also experienced that with excellent coaching, a lot of practice and a real commitment comes endurance.  Within three months time of barely being able to swim 25 meters  I was able to swim non-stop for 30 minutes.  So I decided to sign up for this event and test my endurance once again.

This past Saturday while I was competing in the One Hour Postal challenge as I turned my head to the right to take a breath of air I saw my coach standing on the deck holding a whiteboard with a message written on it.  My coach’s message in big, thick red lettering said, “Streamline Julie!”  Trying to stay in my swimming rhythm I waited for my next breath and a few strokes later to confirm the message I thought I saw on the whiteboard.  Yep, sure enough, Coach Nancy was trying to get my attention as she was pointing to the board.  Apparently as my hour long swim was rolling along I was focusing on just swimming and was forgetting to streamline off the wall at the end of every 25 yards.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines stream·line:

tr.v. stream·lined, stream·lin·ing, stream·lines

1. To construct or design in a form that offers the least resistance to fluid flow. 

2. To improve the appearance or efficiency of; modernize.
3.  

a. To organize.
b. To simplify.

n.

1. A line that is parallel to the direction of flow of a fluid at a given instant.

2. The path of one particle in a flowing fluid.

3. A contour of a body constructed so as to offer minimum resistance to a fluid flow.

Forgetting to streamline was causing me to work harder as I was swimming and not allowing me to cover as much yardage.  As I was swimming back and forth lap after lap I found it ironic that the “SpaceMaster” who helps people streamline their homes and businesses into a more productive environment had forgotten the importance of streamlining in the pool  in order to encounter the path of least resistance.

Sometimes due to the busyness of life, work and/or our family, we can lose our focus and feel like we are swimming through life just trying to endure the day.  However, as we take a sink or swim approach to our priorities, we begin to forget to streamline our lives.  When things aren’t streamlined in an organized and efficient manner we encounter the resistance of clutter, piles of paper, disorganization and inefficiency.  Unfortunately as resistance builds, so does the C.O.S.T. (C= Cash; O=Opportunities; S=Stress; T=Time) of disorganization.  We become fatigued by our “costly” inefficiencies and end up working harder rather than smarter.

I am proud to announce that I did indeed finish the hour swim without stopping once!  I surprised myself with completing 90 laps in a hour for a grand total of 2,250 yards (almost 1.4 miles).  I have already set a goal for next year: 3,000 yards in one hour.  With hard work, excellent coaching, determination and efficient streamlining it will be possible!

Just like I needed my coach’s help in making my swim more effective, sometimes we need the help of an organizing expert cheering us on and giving us tips to streamline our lives.  Take advantage of SpaceMasters 20+11= 31% off Organizing Special during the month of January.  For assistance in streamlining your home or business, contact SpaceMasters at 818.232.7145, e-mail: info@thespacemasters.com or visit us on the web at: http://www.thespacemasters.com.

SpaceMasters’ mission is to free people from the bonds of clutter and disorganization in a non-judgmental and caring way by offering a complete range of solutions, services and products that transform unorganized spaces into efficient, functional and enjoyable environments thus allowing them to reduce stress, be more productive and save valuable time and money.