January is traditionally the time of year to make resolutions, but you don't need to wait until then to make a change! You might want to lose those pounds you put on during the holidays, communicate better with your spouse, or (my personal favorite!) clean the clutter in all the rooms of your home.
Here are a few tips to get you started in any room of your home. Using this simple procedure over time will allow you to have a clutter-free home!
All of us will downsize eventually. If you are young or middle-aged right now, it's not too soon to develop a lifestyle that will make it easy to make the changes you want when you want.
If you are a senior right now--even if you are physically able to stay in your present home you may not want to deal with the extra maintenance and expense of home ownership. You may be tired of cooking three meals a day and would like to take advantage of the meal plans available in senior adult communities. You may want to embrace the freedom these retirement communities offer so you can travel near and far and do the things you've been waiting to do while you were busy maintaining your home.
Here's some quick advice to make your job of downsizing easier and more manageable.
How do you start?
To eliminate future clutter:
Here's some advice about what to do about all those papers which are piling up on your desk, or in a drawer or filing cabinet.
Check with your accountant, lawyer, or office manager for retention guidelines on tax and legal papers. If you must keep these papers for legal reasons, place them in storage. Confidential files must never be left out on your desk and must be filed in lockable storage. Keep "core information" only - materials you are actually using.
Ask these questions to purge your piles:
Recycle or Shred:
"Getting Your Finances Organized" - By Lynn Brenner (as printed in Parade Magazine, September 17, 2006) (Spire/Revell, 2006)
You carry your basic financial information in your head-like the name of your bank, the location of your checkbook, where to find last year's tax return. (OK, it might take a while to put your hands on that return, but you know where to look.) But does anyone else know what you know? No? Then create a one-page crib sheet. It's the smartest, easiest way to prepare for the unexpected. If anything happens to you, it will be vital to your survivors. And if you're ever forced to flee a natural disaster, it will help you reconstruct your financial records.
What You Should List
Contact information: Write down the names and phone numbers of family members, your closest friend, your doctor, any professional advisers (lawer, tax accountant, broker, insurance agent) and the person who handles employee benefits where you work.
Financial accounts: List your accounts and the institutions where they're located. For example: "Checking and savings accounts, First Citizens Bank, 124 Bank Street." No need to list account numbers if you put down your Social Security number; that should be enough to identify your accounts.
Where to find your important personal documents:
Where You Should Keep It
Make three copies of your crib sheet. Keep one for yourself. (Tell your spouse where it is!)
Give one, in a sealed envelope, to your sibling, adult child, best friend or lawyer.
Mail the third to someone you trust who lives in another town-preferably one
unlikely to experience the same natural disasters.
As for documents on your one-page list, relocate them to a fireproof file cabinet, with
active drawers (for current bank statements, for example) and inactive drawers
(for long-term papers, like insurance policies and passports).
If you have documents stored in a bank safe deposit box in your name alone, ask the bank
how your survivors could gain access to it. (Getting authorization can be time-consuming.)
Better to keep documents like your will at your lawyer's office or in a locked file cabinet at
home, where they will be immediately available to your family.
It happens to the best of us. What can you do ahead of time to minimize the damage when you lose your wallet, and what should you do afterwards?
Suggestions for Security:
What To Do if Your Wallet is Stolen:
Getting organized is also about eliminating waste in your life, and I'm all for getting rid of junk mail BEFORE it comes into the house! -Bet
From the Bucks County (PA) Department of Consumer Protection:
Q: I've been getting solicitations in the mail for refinancing and other financial services. I don't give out my personal information and I always opt out of these type of notices. So how did I get on this marketing list?
A: They may have gotten your information from one of the credit bureaus. They sell your personal information, including how much your home is worth and how much you owe on it. This is probably why marketers know so much about you. Some consumer advocates have been trying to stop this practice and the issue may go to court. Our suggestion is to contact the credit bureaus and opt out of these programs. Call (888) 567-8688 or go to www.optoutprescreen.com. You'll need to provide your Social Security number and other personal information. This should stop the solicitations.
Reprinted from The Fresno Bee Action Line article by Blair Looney, President and CEO for the Better Business Bureau serving Central California.
A reader: All of a sudden, my Dad is receiving stacks of mail every day. I’m not sure how it started but it has really gotten out of hand. He has received lottery and sweepstakes mailings. He also receives mail from charities that I have never heard of. How do I stop it?
Action Line: Your father could have donated to a cause or entered a drawing. The first thing to do is to start by asking each of the senders to remove his name from their “list”.
To stop unwanted mail, you can register with the Mail Preferences Service of the Direct Marketing Association, www.dmachoice.org. You can also register for phone calls and email as well. This will help but will not completely eliminate the “junk” mail. You also need to allow several weeks to see the progress. I had one consumer tell me that if the “junk” mail includes a postage paid envelope, she takes the contents of the mailing, puts it back in their postage paid envelope and mails it back to the sender on their dime.
If you suspect fraud, contact your U. S. Postal Inspector at 877-876-2455, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Better Business Bureau’s Scamtracker.
If you decide to open it and review the offers, the FTC warns that some con artists use the lure of a sweepstakes to convince consumers to send in money to claim a prize they’ve supposedly won. They tell consumers that the only thing that separates them from the winnings is a fee to cover the taxes or service charges. But as all too many consumers know, the winnings as described never turn up.
Crooks are getting bolder, using names of government agencies and legitimate phone numbers that mask where they’re calling from. Claiming to represent the National Consumer Protection Agency, the non-existent National Sweepstakes Bureau, and even the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), they say that the delivery of the sweepstakes prize is being supervised by the supposed government agency.
They also use internet technology to make it appear that they’re calling from Washington, D. C., the nation’s capital, or the consumer’s own area code. These scammers then convince consumers to wire money to a foreign country and they usually suggest a money transfer company like Western Union to wire the money to an agent or an insurance company to ensure delivery of the prize. In reality no insurance company is involved and con artists take the money and disappear.
According to the real Federal Trade Commission, consumers can keep from falling for the lure of the sweepstakes scam by taking a few precautions.
Avoid the following if:
Concerned about working online? Worried about identity theft?
Here's a few tips to help protect yourself and your family.
Excellent information is available at http://www.ftc.gov/idtheft about Avoiding Identity Theft. This is the Federal Trade Commission's site.
What to do if you are a victim:
If you recognize a credit/debit card charge that you did not authorize, call the company immediately and identify fraudulent charges! If you suspect that your personal information has been compromised or that someone has used your personal information to establish credit:
Credit Bureau Contact Information
Tax season stresses everybody out. Here's a few websites to help save you some money. Find out the value of your donations to charitable organizations so you can itemize on your income tax:
By Liz Martin
My favorite web sites:
"Breaking Bad Habits" By Abigail Walch - adapted from the March 22, 2015 edition of Parade Magazine.
Snacking late at night, skimping on sleep, nail biting, binging on House of Cards—nearly everyone has vices. That’s because, try as we might, bad habits are maddeningly hard to break. On the flip side, good habits, such as eating more healthfully or exercising regularly, never seem to stick. The upshot: Most people throw up their hands and surrender.
But now a new book "Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of our Everyday Lives", (Crown, 2015) by best-selling author Gretchen Rubin, offers some insightful solutions. (Warning: There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy.)
“It would be so great if there was a magic answer that would do it for all of us, but it doesn’t exist,” says Rubin, 47. “We know that because we’d all have great habits if there was one thing we could all do. You have to take it back to yourself.”
Rubin, whose fascination with habits evolved during her exhaustive research on happiness—which resulted in two blockbuster books, The Happiness Project (2009) and Happier At Home (2012)—found that our inability to master unwanted behaviors was a major downer. So, after guiding millions of readers down the path of true contentedness, New York City-based Rubin, a former law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, turned her investigative skills towards habits.
Her most revealing find? Change is possible if we do some soul searching and identify how we respond to expectations. And, just about everybody falls into one of four personality categories: Questioners, Obligers, Rebels, and Upholders. (To find out more about your personality type, visit parade.com/habits to take Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies Quiz.)
Rubin believes herself to be a classic Upholder, someone who forms habits relatively easily because she responds well to both other people’s deadlines and her own. As to the other types, Questioners will only form a habit if it makes sense to them; Obligers work hard to meet other people’s expectations but often let themselves down. And Rebels resent—and resist—habits.
The trick, says Rubin, is to “tailor your habits to suit yourself.”
After acquainting readers with tendencies, Rubin poses questions in the book to help tease out more nuanced personality puzzle pieces. Are you a lark or an owl, a lover of simplicity or abundance, an underbuyer or an overbuyer, an abstainer or a moderator, a sprinter or a marathoner?
“Think about the habit that you want to form and then think, What’s everything I could do to set myself up for success?” says Rubin. For example, if you want to exercise more and you’re an Obliger and a lark, call your friend who lives across the street to meet at 6:30 every morning for a walk.
At the end of the day, good habits free us from making decision after decision and from exerting self-control. “The more things you can make into a habit, then the less you have to drain yourself using your willpower,” she says. As Rubin sees it, better habits pave the way for growth—and growth leads to greater happiness.
And, after all, isn’t that what it’s all about?