Sort It ~ Professional Organizing for the Toronto Area


I Don’t Like Shopping

I don’t like shopping. There, I’ve said it. I have many friends, and clients, who enjoy a little (or a lot of) retail therapy here and there, but I just can’t quite seem to wrap my head around it. I can still distinctly remember my last impulse buy, 3 years ago. We had family staying with us, and they had given us some money to contribute toward their share of the groceries. Money doesn’t tend to burn a hole in my pocket, by any means, but as I went out shopping that day, I saw it: Guitar Hero: Aerosmith Edition, on sale for nearly the same amount as I had been given. It was screaming at me, “DEAL! DEAL!” and so I bought it. When I got back, I told my husband, and he nearly fell over. He was just saying to the others that of the 3 of us who went out, I would be the least likely to buy anything (and it’s true!). So, did I use the game? A bit. But it’s collecting dust now… And I was completely disappointed in myself.

I asked him if we should return it. He asked me if I thought I would use it, and enjoy it, and I insisted that I would, so he encouraged me to keep it. But I still felt bad. You see, we are currently debt free (YAY!). When we got married we had some debt, and we wanted to get out from under it. You’ve heard me mention Dave Ramsey before, and we used his methods to snowball ourselves out of the comparatively small mess we were in. This purchase set us back a bit, but I realized then that I really don’t enjoy shopping.

Clothing? Nope. I have a “shapely” figure, so it makes it difficult for me to find jeans that will fit my hips. Toys/Games? Not really. I get bored easily, and I hate to spend money on something that I just won’t use long term. Makeup? I don’t wear any, except for maybe twice a year. Food? Well, that one I don’t mind as much, but I find myself getting frustrated at the quickly inflating prices. Jewelry? Again, I rarely wear it. Gifts? Oh! Don’t even get me started! This last Christmas I found myself calling my Mom in a panic, not knowing what to buy anyone (and only wanting to purchase useful items, instead of dust collectors).

You see, the only time I even enter a mall is when I have a specific purchase in mind. I make a beeline for the store that will likely have what I’m looking for, walk straight to my desired purchase, cash out, and leave. I can physically feel myself getting anxious as I walk in. Perhaps it’s the number of people (although I’m pretty outgoing). Perhaps it’s the frustration of seeing so many families inside on a beautiful day. But I think, largely, it’s the fact that people spend money simply to waste time (double waste, really). I was about to go on a tangent about ethical shopping practices, and how our consumerist society is spurring on poverty in other countries, but I’ll leave that for another day.

Today, I will say this: I don’t like shopping, and I’m okay with that. Generally, it means that I have more cash in the bank, and I spend my time doing other things that I enjoy, and that will give me longer lasting rewards (reading, gardening, spending time with the hubby, saving for retirement).

Do you like shopping? What do you like shopping for?

P.S. Anyone in Toronto looking to purchase a slightly used Wii Guitar Hero Game? 😉


It’s Planner Time!

I’m just over the 6 month mark of using my first Quo Vadis planner, and I thought I would give you all an update from my earlier post Keeping The Calendar.

I have always been a planner-aholic. All throughout junior and high school, as well as university, I would be the first one with my planner out, making sure all of my life events were scheduled out. First, let me confess that I used two other planners last year. My first was a small, very thin, planner that cost quite close to $1. If you’ve been an avid reader of mine, than you’ll know that this is not uncommon for me, as I tend to be on the thrifty side. I used this planner (which I got for Christmas 2010) for about 7 months, but I really wasn’t fully satisfied with it. The style had 3 days on the left page, 2 days (plus a small weekend section) on the right. Also, the times slots that it gave were sparse, at best (7 & 10 a.m., 1, 4 & 7 p.m.). I guess those “in between” hours didn’t really matter to them. But, I made due, thinking that all planners are created equal. Then, I moved up a step. Someone gave me their daily Brownline planner, because they didn’t like the style (that should have been a flag, no?). I wasn’t a huge fan either, as each day had its own page, and it was very bulky and heavy. Although, I could include a lot of detail, which was nice. I will admit that I am probably busier than most, but I was never busy enough to have to put in 10 back to back appointments. I used that planner until November 30th.

Why November 30th, you ask? Well, let me tell you. I attended a Professional Organizers in Canada conference at the beginning of November, last year. We had about 5 different sessions, and they were all, for the most part, fabulous. I was incredibly fortunate to also take part in a LinkedIn session, conducted by Margarita Ibbott. Much to my excitement (perhaps over excitement to some), there awaiting me, like a beacon in the night, was a green, medium sized, Minister 2012 Quo Vadis planner. (Actually, I think that it may have been black, and a size up, but I stealthily swapped for one in my company colour 😀 ). Did my eyes deceive me? An actual, quality planner? Just for me? Sweet!

This particular model, so to speak, is fantastic and perfect for me for three reasons:

  1. It has a whole week on 2 pages. When I get into a daily situation, I lose sight of the big picture, plus it would probably triple the thickness of it. Remember: Less is more.
  2. It has a notes section – for each week! Five medium sized boxes to jot down to-dos, or in my situation, driving instructions (no, I don’t have a GPS – I have a love affair with Google Maps, because I’m a visual person). Looking back, there has only been one week when I haven’t used that handy section.
  3. It fits in my purse. Granted I’m not carrying around a clutch, but it is a great size to fit into any medium sized purse.
  4. BONUS: It’s green! Did I mention that I love green? And next year, I only have to order the refill. I don’t have to purchase a new exterior 🙂 Less waste is always a good thing.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m a busy gal. To recap from my previous post, I have a colour coded system that I use to keep myself straight:

Blue ~ Toronto Willowdale Aquarium Society (Blue = water 🙂 )

Brown ~ Tutoring

Orange ~ Brownies (Their uniform colour is now orange, not brown)

Green ~ Sort It appointments  (My business colour)

Pink ~ Personal

Purple ~ Church events

To do this, I utilize my Pilot Frixion Pens, which are erasable. Yes folks, erasable colour pens. And not like the ones we had back in high school, that would only take a layer off, but you could still read it. No, these erase fully, which is incredibly useful when a client cancels or changes the time to get together. I have too much going on in my mind to occupy it with trying to remember dates and times. I also hate double booking myself, as I try to be a woman of my word.

So, in short, would I recommend a Quo Vadis planner? Absolutely. It’s cute, and it’s easy to maintain. I will certainly be purchasing a refill for next year, if I don’t happen to “come across” one in the meantime 😉

What quality do you look for most in a planner/agenda?


Soap Sliver Solution

Happy Friday everyone! For a change of pace, I thought that I would share with you one of my favourite tips of all time.

I would first like to thank my beautiful Mom (Happy Belated Mother’s Day/Early Birthday), who has been using this technique since I was little, and I’ve always thought it was a great idea. The dilemma: What do you do with all those little soap slivers you accumulate as you near the end of the bar? It feels like such a waste to throw them out. In an episode of The Simpsons, when money was rather tight, everyone was asked to tighten their bootstraps. Little Lisa decided to gather these random soap slivers and smoosh them all together into a soap ball. Well, this is a variation on that technique.

Take an old plastic container (I use an old yogurt container) and the plastic netting used to hold onions together (you may want 2, but that’s up to you). Then, you place the plastic netting in the plastic container, like you would put a garbage liner in a bin. Place all your old slivers into the netting. When you have enough, simply tie a knot in the netting, and you have an automatic loofah of sudsy soap bits 🙂 I use the second netting to hold my next batch while I use up the current one.

P.S. It lather beautifully 🙂 Just make sure that you have a soap saver (the plastic disc that creates a space between your dish and you soap), or else the soap will be very soft.

Do you have a way to use up old bits and pieces around the house?


Let’s Get Digital

Paper. We all have it, but some of us have NO CLUE as to what to do with it! Here are a few tips to bring that mountain back down to a realistic, working, active pile.

 

 

1. Open your mail. I know that this might sound crazy, but it’s the first step. Also, open it right over the recycling bin. Why? Because inside most envelopes are flyers, pamphlets or brochures trying to sell you something you’ll never need. Open those envelopes and keep the one paper that you actually need.

2. Do something with the paper. Do you pay all your bills at one sitting, or as they come in? If you wait to pay them, have an area where you place paperwork that requires action. For us, we use the top of our filing cabinet. When we pay something off or update required information, then we file it. Right away. A lot of people hate filing, but it’s remarkable how quickly it can be completed if you have the right system in place, and if you are consistent with doing it regularly. With well labeled files, you know exactly where that paper belongs – quick and easy.

3. Cull your paper. Some documents you need for up to 7 years (for tax purposes), some longer (Will, Insurance, etc.) and some less (we only keep one year’s worth of bills, unless we’re claiming it on our taxes). Once your tax year is complete, put all the paper work for that year in a large envelope labeled with the year. Then, when the 7 years pass, shred it. Simple as that. If you’re only keeping one year’s worth of paperwork for a specific file, then as you put the most recent paperwork in the front, remove the last one (which should be a year old now), and shred it. One in, one out.

4. If you can manage it, go paperless. For my husband’s cell phone, we were charged $2 per paper bill – we quickly eliminated that. It will also  help with your paper dilemma. Create a good filing system on your computer and you can store all those bills electronically. No fuss, and no muss. Just remember to open those emails, and back up your computer regularly. I do like the idea of automated payments (especially for those that have difficulty keeping on top of things), but please review your bills – especially credit card bills. You never know when you might be charged erroneously, or spend more than you had intended.

How do you manage paperwork? How often do you file your papers? Have you gone electronic? Why or why not?


New Year’s Priorities

Let me start off by wishing everyone a very Happy New Year! I hope that it is full of fun and laughter, and many blessings. I also hope that we will all see 2013 – I, personally, won’t be holding my breath on December 21 🙂

This time last year, I wrote my first blog post about… New Year’s Resolutions! Surprising, I know. And this year, I would like to touch on the same, but with a twist.

I was giving this a lot of thought yesterday, as I was thinking about my previous year’s resolutions, and why I hadn’t accomplished some of them to my satisfaction. The main one that came to mind, as I’m sure it does for many others, is weight loss. I would love to get back to my wedding day weight, but I just can’t quite seem to get there. I’ll fluctuate throughout the year, have a few great weeks, then fall off the proverbial wagon (Oh cheese, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways… Blue, brie, boursin…). However, I can’t quite seem to keep on the down and down (as opposed to the up and up). So, what’s the issue? Am I motivated? Well, I can be. I want to feel, and look, good. But one has to eat, it’s a necessity, and moderation is key, which can be tough. Also, there’s exercise. I know I need to develop a habit of exercising regularly, just like flossing – I floss on days with a “u” in them, and either SatUrday or SUnday 🙂 But it’s habits like these that are easily broken.

Which leads me to my first epiphany of the New Year – resolutions are nice, but priorities are better. If you make you goals for 2012 a priority, then you’ll be more likely to follow through. Two years ago, my husband and I decided to pay off our debts, and live debt free. A little over a year later, we had paid off our credit cards, our line of credit for our furniture, and our car – around $25,000. And why did it work? Because we made it a priority, so we worked our TAILS off to get there. So, this year, I’m making getting in shape a priority – and now that I’ve written it I have to follow through 🙂

What are your New Year’s Priorities this year? Put them on paper, and make a plan. Wise words to live by: “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”.


If You’re Underwater, Start Kicking

Yesterday, I was listening to our local news station on the radio, and they said that consumers would be spending less this Christmas because they are not overly confident about our current economic situation, and they are instead opting to pay down debt. Great! I personally know how rewarding, and freeing, it is to be rid of debt, and I think that it’s fantastic that people are beginning to take a more serious approach. Little Jimmy might be upset that he’s not getting everything on his 40 item wish list, but reality has to set in sometime.

Then, I switched over to a news station that is broadcast from the U.S. They said that 30% of homeowners are currently underwater. (Underwater means that you owe more on the house than the house is worth, so if you sold your house and gave all that money over to the bank, you would still, technically, be indebted to them). As a homeowner, that must be an awful feeling. However, I want to offer you this piece of advice: If you’re underwater, start kicking!

Don’t give up. Your home will likely go up again as the markets recover. Don’t walk away. I’ve heard of people simply leaving their house key in the mailbox (usually when faced with foreclosure) – don’t do it! Start paying down your debt. Bring your costs down, and utilize the extra money to get those debt burdens off your back. Dave Ramsey, a popular financial consultant, suggests paying down the smallest debt first. This will give you the incentive to keep going, even when the going gets tough. He’s dubbed it the debt snowball.

Now, what in the world does this have to do with organizing? Lots.

First, if you can’t find it, you’ll buy another one. Don’t spend money on things you already own. If you have a system, you’ll be able to find things when you need them, instead of thinking that you need to buy more.

Second, you need to organize your finances. If you don’t keep track of your money, you will find yourself with more month left at the end of your money (Gail Vaz-Oxlade quote). There are plenty of great software options to help you keep track of your spending habits (we use Quicken). These programs allow you to sync with your various accounts, and keep track of them all in one place. You may come to realize that you are spending 30% of your money on food (eat out much?), 45% on your housing (including utilities), 25% on your car, and 15% on clothing. Quick math drill: add it up. 30+45+25+15=115% Too much? You betcha.

Third, being organized will help you to be more efficient. Rather than making three trips to the grocery store because you forgot this, that and the other thing, be prepared. Make a list, check it twice and shop once. Gas is too expensive to be wasting it on multiple trips to the grocery store. Also, try to streamline your errands. It will save you time, and money.

Do you find that staying organized helps you save money? How?


Financial Matters

Money doesn’t have to be a tough concept, but it does take organization to get your affairs in order.

First of all, it is essential that you have a budget. Look at what you bring in every month, and what your expenses are. If the expenses are greater than what you bring in, you need to reassess what your needs and wants are.

How does this relate to organizing? Keep a record! Keep track of how much you are spending on groceries, clothing, eating out, movies, etc. It is very easy for your money to get away from you if you aren’t carefully watching it. Next, assign yourself a specific amount of money for each category, and stick to it! Also, remember to save for those rainy days.

Have you noticed that tax season is right around the corner? I’m sure you’ve been keeping a neat file of paperwork that you will require, right? Organizing strikes again! Imagine how simple it would be to get those taxes done before the deadline, and get your refund cheque before people have even submitted theirs, if you had your important paperwork organized! Make it easy on yourself, and your accountant, and create a folder as soon as you receive that first piece of paper. As you accumulate more, keep adding to that folder, and you’ll be ready to go when you compile your tax return.

Almost everyone who knows me knows that my husband and I swear by the “Dave Ramsey Plan”. Really, it is a very straightforward approach to good financial management. Don’t believe me? Check out his book “The Total Money Makeover”. It will change your life.

Liz