I have found that among its other benefits,
giving liberates the soul of the giver.”
~ Maya Angelou

Many of these products and services are part of official affiliate programs which pay a referral commission to me based on any purchases you make through these links. However, that is not the reason I recommend them. I only recommend products and services that I believe are of high quality, value, and will benefit you in a tangible way as you improve your home, office, and life.
The Help Kenya Project

This is a Westchester County, NY based charity that focuses on helping the children of Kenya. They collect donations of used computers, books, clothing, sports equipment, and other supplies and ship them to Kenyan schools and libraries. In return, they ask that the recipients plant trees to combat deforestation and provide children with a place to rest and play out of the sun.

It’s incredible how valuable the book or computer you might be throwing out is to a Kenyan child. By providing Kenya’s students with science, English, and computer skills, they give them a much better chance of finding good jobs later in life. It breaks the cycle of poverty by helping Kenyans to help themselves. This is a charity that truly leaves a lasting impact.



National Cristina Foundation

Linking Life to its Promise.

The National Cristina Foundation is a not-for-profit foundation dedicated to the support of training through donated technology. For more than two decades, it has encouraged companies and individuals to donate computers and other technology, which is then matched to charities, schools and public agencies in all 50 states, Canada, and in many countries around the world.


Vietnam Veterans of America
VVA accepts donations of household goods and clothing in 30 states in the continental United States. To make a donation, please refer to the state map. Identify your area and call the phone number referenced.


Tangible Karma is a donation tracking service that gives you a chance to see the difference your donated goods can make in the world.  At Tangible Karma their mission is to inspire and motivate you, to transform items that are hindering your life into valuable gifts that could make a meaningful difference in the life of another.


Overseas Coupon Program Did you know that expired coupons can be sent to troops stationed overseas and they can use them for 6 months after the expiration date?  If you find this idea redeeming, go to OCPNet.org and get the details. It’s 100% legal and each overseas base has a USA address so it is a local mailing. Save your coupons, even if they are expired to help out our troops!


DisposeMyMeds.org is an online resource to help you to find medication disposal programs at the local independent community pharmacy near you.

Your local community pharmacist has knowledge to ensure the safe and proper handling of your medications, from dispensing to disposal.


Recycle These Items That You Never Thought Of…

Vintage Doorknobs, Radiators, Windows and Mantels
Donate or sell classic architectural elements to salvage firms or restoration projects. SalvageWeb is an online ad space that links buyers and sellers all over the world; here you can buy an Art Deco church chandelier, or unload a clawfoot tub after renovating your bathroom. Baltimore-based Second Chance Inc. accepts salvage donations and trains low-income people in the art of “deconstructing” buildings.

Toothbrushes
The Radius Original Toothbrush has a handle made of cellulose, an organic fiber. (Radius also recycles the handles of its battery-operated model once the battery runs out.)

Foam Packaging
Lightweight “peanuts” made from expanded polystyrene (EPS) contain 25 to 100 percent recycled material.
The Plastic Loose Fill Council has a “Peanut Hotline” (800-828-2214) you can call to find local recycling centers, including chain-store shippers such as Pak Mail and The UPS Store. To recycle large, molded chunks of EPS used to cushion televisions, air conditioners and such, contact the Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers.

Sneakers/Tennis Shoes
Nike’s Reuse-a-Shoe program turns used athletic footwear (no cleats) into a material called Nike Grind, used to surface playgrounds, running tracks and outdoor courts. Or send your still-wearable athletic shoes to Shoe4Africa, which forwards them to athletes in developing countries.

Toys
Ask your local shelter for homeless families or battered women if they accept gently used toys. The Salvation Army and Vietnam Veterans of America also take used toys. Adult-appropriate items such as board games can be sent to troops overseas through www.AnySoldier.com

Wine Corks
Yemm & Hart, which produces recycled building materials, turns used corks into floor and wall tiles.

Motor Oil
Recycled motor oil can find new life as a lubricant or fuel. The American Petroleum Institute estimates the electricity created with just 2 gallons of reused motor oil would power the average home for nearly a day. Preserve used oil in a clean container with a secure, leakproof lid. You can recycle the used oil filter, too. Earth 911 has a list of motor oil recycling centers that’s searchable by ZIP code.

Prom, Bridesmaid and Formal Dresses
Charities like the Glass Slipper Project accepts donated gowns, shoes and purses to provide free prom wear to low-income teens. Another great resource is Donate My Dress, which is the first national network to bring together local dress drive organizations across the U.S. Books such as “Always a Bridesmaid: 89 Ways to Recycle That Bridesmaid Dress” offer tongue-in-cheek recycling advice to every woman who has a hideous gown buried at the back of her closet.

Eyeglasses, Frames and Cases
The Lions Club and Give the Gift of Sight Foundation collect used eyeglasses for needy people around the world. Donate your glasses at one of 17 Lions Clubs recycling centers, or at chains such as Pearle Vision Center, LensCrafters and Sunglass Hut.

Computers, Cell-Phones and Other E-Waste
The EPA maintains a list of charities that accept used electronic equipment. Staples, Office Depot and Best Buy offer in-store e-waste recycling — Best Buy also recycles used appliances. Dell, Toshiba and Sony lead the way in recycling computer products. Donate cell phones to organizations like The Wireless Foundation. Ship old videotapes and DVDs to Ecodisk or Greendisk.

Radio Shack Electronics Trade-In Program

Have electronics to trade-in? Use Radio Shack’s Trade-In Program!

You go online to http://www.radioshack.com/tradeandsave and indicate what items you wish to trade. Items must be in working condition. The site will determine the trade-in value of your items and create a pre-paid shipping label for you. You print off the shipping label, affix it to a box, pack your items and mail it to Radio Shack free of charge. When they receive it, they will mail you a Radio Shack gift card.

Electronics
Electronics improve the way we live, work and play. But, there’s one place where electronics should have no impact — the environment. Through responsible use, reuse and recycling of electronics, the consumer electronics industry and consumers can protect and preserve the environment — together. Many organizations offer free recycling of used electronics, so it’s easy to be green. Check out the following sites, which offer ways to sell or recycle your used electronics.

http://www.Gazelle.com
http://www.MyBoneyard.com

I was working with a client recently to organize her home papers. We were purging papers that were no longer needed, and sorting the keepers into categories so that we could put them into files for future retrieval. So far, so good. My client confided that she considers herself organized at work, and actually likes a fairly clutter-free environment. She shared that at home, however, she has a really hard time dealing with paper. This is not uncommon. Some clients can maintain organizing systems at work, and not at home, while others can keep it together at home, but things fall apart at work. There are many reasons for this organizing disparity, and I assumed that as I worked with this client, the reasons would surface.

And surface they did. As soon as we started to set up the filing system, I noticed that my client lacked confidence in her decisions. When I would ask her what to name a certain file, she would get very nervous, mention a possible name, then second-guess herself almost immediately. She became visibly distressed, and started to lose steam. We took a break, and started discussing what she was feeling. She was feeling overwhelmed with choices, and was scared that she would make the wrong choice (her words) and not be able to find papers when she needed them later on. This, my friends, is what happens when someone does not trust his or her instincts when organizing.

It is not a surprise that my client became overwhelmed as soon as we got to the implementation phase. This is when you set up the organizing system in a way that makes sense to you, and can be integrated into your life (for more information on the stages of organizing, check out my unique approach to organizing, DECIDE). For many people, this is the toughest part, as it requires the person to make decisions and own them. If a person lacks confidence in his or her ability to set up a system or to maintain it, that lack of confidence usually manifests itself through indecision. For my client, this reared its ugly head more at home than at work. At work, often the systems are already in place and an employee merely has to follow them. For some, this makes it harder as the system may be far from what he or she would have created. However, for others, following a ready-made system is easier as it takes the decision-making part out of the equation.

So what to do? Use your instincts. Go with your gut.

If you were unfortunate enough to have to sit for the SAT exam in high school, you may remember the common tip that people would give: do not change your first answer, as it is usually the right one. You can say the same thing when it comes to organizing systems. I often will say to a client when they are having a hard time choosing a name for a file, “Quick, what file name would you think to look for this paper under?” I am trying to make my clients use free association, and not over-think the naming process. File names are only important when it comes to retrieval, not storage. Most people get caught up in what to name a file because they are focusing on the front-end – the storage process. But filing is most important on the back-end, during the retrieval process, when you need to access something quickly after time has gone by and your memory is not as fresh.

I am amazed how often clients will fight their natural organizing habits and tendencies. For example, a client will explain that he is having a hard time with mail being everywhere in his home. He will advise that he has a mail slot system but is not using it. I ask why. He tells me it is hanging by the front door, but he uses the back door. I then suggest moving the mail slot to hang near the back door. My client will say, “Oh that makes sense, why didn’t I ever think of that?” Sometimes the easiest solution is staring you right in the face, but you don’t trust yourself to grab it. Organizing systems should be intuitive, not difficult.

Back to my recent client. She realized that she wanted to set up her filing system by using each family member’s name and then using sub-categories within each person’s file area. For example, let’s say her son’s name is Tom. She wanted to have a main category called Tom, and then file folders within that category for Tom-Auto, Tom-Education, Tom-Medical, Tom-Work, etc. The reason for this, she explained, is that she tends to think of each person as a universe unto him- or herself. Once she is within that universe, then she wants to break it down by subject matter category. Others set up their filing systems based on main subject matter categories of Auto, Education, Medical, Work, etc. and then use each family member’s name as the sub-categories and file folders within.

Which is right? Well, both, actually. It depends on the way your brain thinks about and processes paper. For my client, this system worked. As soon as we set up her filing system in this manner, I could see her confidence come back and her spirits rise. This felt “right” to her. She just lacked the confidence to try it before.

So, when organizing, trust your instincts. They usually guide you to a great solution. 

Copyright © 2009 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

Want to Use This Article in Your E-zine or Website?

You can, as long as you use this complete statement:

Copyright 2009. Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and operate productive and profitable businesses. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for success-minded individuals, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com. Lisa is the author of The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life, published by Peter Pauper Press. Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at Lisa@LMOrganizingSolutions.com.

“Summertime, and the livin’ is easy.” ~ George Gershwin

Ah… nothing like summer. And I know you want to make lemonade, jump in the pool, go for long walks, and read some good novels. I plan to join you.

But not so fast. Summertime is also a perfect time to organize your office. Yes, I am serious! Many people experience slow times at work or in their business in the summer. Put that down time to good use. Here are some quick and easy organizing tips to organize your office this summer:

  • The Dreaded Inbox – Go through that dreaded, piled-high-with-paper-inbox once and for all. Yes, until you see the bottom of it. Sort papers into categories of Action, To Scan, To File, To Shred, Recycle, and Belongs to Someone Else. Then take action on each category as the summer progresses, so come fall, you will have dealt with all of the inbox backlog. Make sure to keep up with the incoming paper so the inbox doesn’t get piled high again this summer!
  • The Overstuffed Files – Go through all of your files quickly and efficiently to pull any papers out that are no longer necessary to keep, can be scanned instead or can be given to someone else to act on. This will make room for any papers that need to be filed from the inbox.
  • The Backlog of Phone Calls – Return all of those phone calls you have been meaning to return. Everyone will be much more relaxed over the summer anyway, and perhaps not too busy to take your call.
  • The Overstuffed Calendar – Take a look at your calendar for the coming weeks, months and rest of the year. Answer any invitations that you did not get to, plan ahead for any major events coming up, and say no to a few obligations that you now realize you jumped at too hastily.
  • Label Like You Mean It – Take the time to finally label all of your files once and for all. I highly recommend you use a label maker to label these files so they look clean and crisp, and are easy to read. The more professional your filing system looks, the more likely you are to use it! Check out some of the fantastic label makers and printers by Dymo so that you produce professional looking labels every time.

Full disclosure: This is sponsored content and I have been compensated to do this post. That being said, I do not blog about anything I do not believe in and Dymo did not edit this post or direct the content in any way.

By Guest Blogger, Jared Heath

Everyone has pencil drawers and filing systems that we fondly refer to as “organized chaos.” But sometimes you have more to organize than five years of tax returns and insurance policies. If you’re anything like me, you love your motorcycle, the entertainment center you built for your wife, and that hideous couch-and-chair combo you bought before you got married. And if you’re still like me, you need to find a place to put all of it before your wife auctions it off on Craig’s List.

Fellas, I know you love your garage, but it just isn’t that big. In fact, home sizes have been shrinking according to this USA Today article, presumably to accommodate the new “slim-but-not-so-sleek” look of the average American’s wallet since 2008. So what do you do with all your stuff without all your space?

Storage units. You start by biting the bullet and selling the nasty couch, and then you take those valuable and seasonal possessions and put them away for the time being. As Lisa Montanaro recommends, getting rid of the clutter saves time and money. Some things, however, don’t fall into the “clutter” category, though it doesn’t quite qualify as junk, either.

Here’s the principle in action: my wife and I got married eight months ago, and we started collecting furniture before we had a place to live. Paying rent in the LA area is a beast as it is, and paying a few months’ rent before the wedding while still paying for our personal apartments was not going to happen. That’s when I discovered that Los Angeles storage units were far more affordable than Los Angeles apartments as my wife and I got our lives put together.

Everything needs it place, and your basement and garage are not as bottomless as you had hoped. That doesn’t mean, however, that you have to sell absolutely everything with which you can’t bear to part. Downsize your house, downsize your life, and get a storage unit for a few bucks a month to keep things organized.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jared Heath is a freelance writer whose passions are his family, writing, and motorcycles. After reading Lisa’s blog on putting every aspect of life in its place, Jared offered his own ways to keep order in life and peace with his wife. Jared and his family now live in Utah.

So, if you played your cards right, you filed your taxes on time this year. If so, good for you! But was it an organized and painless process? Or were you scrambling through files, drawers, shoe boxes and your briefcase or tote bag to find the papers to document and back-up those deductions? There is a better way!

Most tax advice centers around how to make the most of your deductions and ignores the problem that sabotages a large number of people each year: finding the proof to support those deductions. Most people hate the dreaded task of keeping track of receipts and other documents throughout the year. Yet, that is exactly what will decrease the stress come tax time and increase your chances of getting more deductions!

The best time to prepare for tax season is right after you file your taxes. Why? Because you are in “tax” mode. You just filed and, therefore, have a copy of your tax return handy. Or you still have the  Turbo Tax software loaded onto your computer.

You need to create a system for filing all of the tax-related paperwork throughout the year. Take a look at the list of deductions you took, as well as the ones you did not qualify for. Start a hanging file folder labeled Current Year Taxes, using the plastic file tab as the main category. Now, create several cut folders to place within the hanging file folder. These should be labeled to match the general tax deductions you take.

For example, you can create a cut folder named Income. You would keep your pay stubs, W2, 1099s, and dividend distribution statements, gain an loss statements and annual statements from financial institutions in that file. You may also have a file labeled Charitable Contributions where you keep evidence of donations made. If you qualify for a medical expenses deduction, then keep a file for all of that paperwork. If you own a business, keep a file for Business Expenses Deductions. You get the point!

I highly recommend you use a label maker to label these files so they look clean and crisp, and are easy to read. The more professional your filing system looks, the more likely you are to use it! I use the Dymo LabelManager 260 because it is light weight, easy-to-use and produces professional looking labels every time!

Even if you pay your bills online and are a very active electronic user with regard to your financial life, you will still get certain papers in hard copy form that have to be maintained in order to fully support a tax deduction. Take the time to set up a Tax Center in your home and drop papers in their categories throughout the year. Come tax time next year, you (and your accountant if you use one) will be in a much better position to get those taxes done with the least amount of stress while maximizing your financial savings!

Full disclosure: This is sponsored content and I have been compensated to do this post. That being said, I do not blog about anything I do not believe in and Dymo did not edit this post or direct the content in any way.

I love being organized. Yes, you would expect that from a Certified Professional Organizer, but let’s face it, not everyone practices what they preach. But I really do live my life and run my business in an organized way because I truly believe that being organized makes your life and business run more smoothly in every way imaginable.

Continue Reading…

If any of you are in the NYC area and want to learn how to be more organized at work, come join me for Get Organized! Learn the Tips, Tricks, and Shortcuts to Becoming Organized at Work on Tuesday, December 7, 9:00 am-4:00 pm for the Pace University Professional Development Program. The workshop will deliver great content designed to assist you in being more productive in your work life. The workshop is open to all that are interested. Click here for details and to register.

Learn hands-on, practical solutions that will not only improve your work performance but also assist you in getting and staying organized.  Develop smart, efficient systems that are easy to follow for both packrats and neat-nicks!  A comprehensive self assessment will be performed to develop your own organizing style.

Topics Include: Learn the basic principles of organizing, efficient paper management, filing systems, and email management, and how to get through your inbox and piles of paper.

Meet the Instructor
This course will be presented by Lisa Montanaro, an inaugural Certified Professional Organizer (CPO) and member of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) and its Golden Circle, reserved for organizers that have been in business for 5 years or more.  Lisa’s presentations are informative and entertaining!

I was recently asked by Get Buttoned Up to review The DYMO® LabelWriter® 450 Twin Turbo. And I am calling this one the “Mother Ship” of Professional Label Makers, as it is really cool, my friends.

If you are a busy professional working hard in your office, you will love the Dymo 450. Why? Because the Dymo LabelWriter 450 Twin Turbo increases your labeling and mailing efficiency in the office. How? It holds not one, but two, label rolls, allowing you to get more labeling and mailing done in less time.

Yes, you read that right. Labeling AND mailing. You can print address labels and United States Postal Service approved DYMO Stamps® postage without swapping label rolls. Wow! You can also print large batches faster by loading two rolls of the same label – the DYMO LabelWriter 450 Twin Turbo automatically switches to the second roll when the first runs out.

It is also fast! You can print up to 71 labels per minute. And it even pays for itself in a short time, as you can say goodbye to expensive ink and toner — it doesn’t need any! It uses direct thermal printing.

The Dymo 450 Twin Turbo packs a powerful productivity punch in a small attractive device that easily fits in a small space on your desktop. It comes with software to print labels directly from text in popular software programs, verifies US addresses and ZIP+4 codes, and much more.

As an added bonus, Buttoned Up is doing a contest! Anyone who emails them a tip for labeling info@getbuttonedup.com or posts one on their Facebook page (facebook.com/getbutonedup) will be entered to win a $50 AMEX gift card.  Send in your tips to enter!

(Full disclaimer – I am receiving a $20 Target gift card from Dymo as a thank you for trying out their product line, which I will use to buy . . . What else? Organizing products to give away during workshops to my participants!)

So if you want the Mother Ship of label makers, with a postage printer thrown in, take a look at the Dymo 450 LabelWriter. You won’t be disappointed, trust me!

I was recently asked by Get Buttoned Up to review a sampling of Smead office products. Of course, I said yes, as I frequently organize offices for my clients (at home and work) and was eager to see and use the products, and put them to the “professional organizer” test.

They arrived in the mail brand spanking new, still wrapped in plastic. The package included three products: Smead Stadium File, Smead Supertab File Folders, and Smead Viewables Labeling System. All of them are designed to make viewing (and finding!) your files and papers easier. And I am happy to report that they work great!

(Full disclaimer – I am receiving a $20 Target gift card from Smead as a thank you for trying out their new product line. I plan to use it to buy . . . What else? More Smead organizing products to use as giveaways for my organizing workshops! Yes, I like them that much.)

1. The new Smead Stadium File™ is ideal for clearing clutter from your workspace or counter top, especially if your primary learning style is visual. The tiered expanding file lets you see everything at a glance. The Stadium File works even better if paired with the Smead SuperTab® folders. Talk about being able to see everything easily? It is very much “in your face” so papers can’t hide and pile up! Papers sit horizontally within the vertical system. It hold up to 900 sheets of paper, but I would not recommend stuffing it that full. There are 12 tiered pockets, which lend themselves nicely to the months of the year, but can be customized and labeled to match any system you create. The system comes with labels for A-Z, Jan-Dec, 1-31, as well as household subjects and blanks. It is a perfect system for a busy professional at work, or a busy stay at home Mom in the kitchen!

2. Smead Supertab® File Folders have a 90% larger label area than regular everyday file folders! Larger labels or big printing makes those important files quick and easy to locate. They come in a wide variety of colors, including the standard manila and are priced from $11.99 (manila) to $17.99 (colors) for a box of 100 folders. Just like the Stadium File Organizer, they are ideal for someone that is extremely visual and works best by having their files be somewhat “in your face.” They are also perfect for someone that is visually impaired and needs larger print, as well as young children that are learning how to read.

3. Smead Viewables® Labeling System makes labeling files and hanging folders a breeze. The patented product allows you to customize your filing with color and fonts to make finding information fast and easy. The starter kit comes with the latest version of the software, as well as label sheets and the software remembers how many labels are left on your page so there’s no waste. You can download a free version of the software from Smead (with less features). I have been a fan of Viewables for quite some time now, for the primary reason that you can easily see the file tab from the side as you can with standard tabs, but also from above! This is unique to Viewables and very handy when you are using a lateral filing cabinet and the file tabs face to the side. Instead of having to bend down to see the names of the files, you can stand above the drawer and clearly see them from above. Nice!

All of the above products are available from a wide variety of office products dealers, including Office Depot, Office Max, Staples and Amazon. I recommend you try them out for home or office. If your organizing style is visual, I suggest you run to get them!

In August 2009, I had the honor of taping a segment of the public access television show, The Path: Positive People, Places & Things in the Hudson Valley. It was a great experience! I was interviewed by co-hosts, Marisa Miles and Tameeka Williams. We discussed my business, LM Organizing Solutions, including the funniest and most embarassing moments I’ve experienced as a professional organizer! I also offered tips for staying organizing during back-to-school time and throughout the year, and demonstrated some great organizing tools and products.

You can watch the video by clicking here. Be sure to leave me a comment and let me know how you liked it.