16 December 2010

The Simple Secret to Living with Less Paper Clutter is Not What You Think

15 October 2010

Letting Go of Your Stuff - 3 More Questions to Ponder http://ping.fm/GxSu0

06 October 2010

What Do I Do? Good Question. http://ping.fm/3LO80

13 May 2010

Somethings Just Need a Fresh Coat.

I am always so inspired by all the wonderful creativity rampant on this online world. A recent post at the inspired room really got me motivated to do something with my grey blah shed.

So, I whipped out my paint brush, Martha's Talc paint and spent the day in the sunshine. It's not perfect and it certainly needs a new roof. (your creative suggestions are welcome!)

I would love to have a new shed that looks as perfect and lovely as my motivation. But for now, this will do just fine. Even on a grey day it doesn't look so dreary.

10 May 2010

How to Create Healthy Meal Plans - Start with Fresh Local Food http://ping.fm/xhC5n

05 May 2010

How to Set-up a Really Good Home Filing System to Get All Your Papers Organized http://ping.fm/QRWfP

28 February 2010

Laying the Foundation to Get Ahead.

My husband does a bang up job keeping the accounts balanced and paying all our bills on time. We are building up our retirement nest egg. I am extremely grateful for this, however it would be really nice to get ahead.

We control our credit card debt by only spending what we have. Lucky for us, I really don't like to shop. Our emergency fund bounces up and down all year long. We always seem to have just enough for what we need and a little extra for some fun stuff. Again, this makes me happy and I am grateful. But, I want to do a better job. I want to have plenty, for fun, for emergencies, for anything and everything.

For awhile now I have been wanting to implement the JARS systems for our finances. I first read about it at Freedom Education, Mind Power for you Personal Growth.

Well FINALLY. I put my foot down. We are using our tax refund to start this system. We have decided to hold off on a new car. Our second car died last week, we are back to one vehicle. It will be a bit of challenge, but we have done it before. Besides we have no idea what we want anyway.

Since our return is going to be a nice lump sum of money, we can easily lay the foundation for JARS success.

First I created a new budget. It was fairly easy to do because we have been keeping track of our finances in a money management program.

Then I created new ING accounts
(or our jars).

Live - Mortgage, Insurance, Utilities, Home and Vehicle Maintenance, Loans

Give - Charity, Gifts and Entertaining

Save - Home Improvement, New Car, Emergency Savings, Investments, Health Care

Splurge - Self-Care, Trips and Travel, Clothes, Fun Stuff.

We will use our current checking account for everyday expenses, like groceries, date night, housekeeping... that kind of stuff. The majority of our income will be put into the the ING accounts, making it much more difficult to spend frivolously and much easier to save.

I spent the day reviewing our spending, categorizing it and deciding where it would be jarred. Needless to say I got a bit cranky. Money does that to me. I MUST work on changing that mindset, immediately.

Anyway, I am in a much better mood now. I have such high expectations for this year, getting ahead financially is only one of them. I know this is going to make a huge positive impact. Taking totally responsibility and getting this one little thing done, feels great!

So, what works for you? Anyone out their using the JARS system successfully? Got any hints?

24 February 2010

Stepping Out. Being Vunerable. Letting Go.

I just got back from an amazing experience. An experience I could have easily passed by because I was afraid to step out of my comfort zone.

Yes it was hard to spend lots of money on me. There are so many other things I could use the money for, say like, one of the many projects that needs completed around my house.

Yes it was really hard to put myself in a group of strangers without a friend nearby for support. Would people like me? Would people judge me?

Yes it was really really hard to know I was going to be doing things I have never done before. Would I look silly? Would I say something stupid?

Yes it was super duper really hard to get on a plane a fly across country to a place I had never been. My fear of flying has robbed me of wonderful experiences, more times than I can remember.

I did it anyway.

My life is on a totally new path. I am so grateful.

I spent the money because I needed to shift my reality. By making an investment in myself I knew I could change my perspective, in a very good way. I could learn things about myself. Or should I say, I could allow myself to accept me, the way I am. Not the way I think others want to see me.

I made so many new friends. Amazingly talented people. Willing to share their gifts, their insights and their time, with me. I cannot wait to see where they go on their personal journeys. I wish them all more success than they ever dreamed of.

I did countless things I have never done before. Those things gave me new insights and a new inner strength. I realized I have so much to work on. I realized that I really really need to work on my self confidence. Because we all have a gift to share and mine requires me to be in front of people. To teach. To be vulnerable. To be open.

I have tried to run my business behind this digital wall. Thinking I don't need to put myself out there. If I just create helpful well designed tools, people will come. They don't need me. They just need my stuff. After all, even though I may lack confidence in my personal presentation, I know without doubt that I am really really good at what I do. I know that JOYS is so uniquely different that it can organize your life, for your whole life. I know this because it wasn't that long ago that my life was in complete chaos and now it's not.

Now I know, I need to do more.

So, even though the thought of getting on an airplane makes me want to run and hide and puke. I will do it again. And even though I am still very uncomfortable putting my true self anywhere online, I am going to do it more. Starting today, with this post. See that's me up there. The me here has a knot in her stomach. But that ok, it will be gone soon.

So, share with me your thoughts. Have you done anything lately that was totally and utterly out of you comfort zone? When was the last time you invested in yourself? How did it change your life?

In case your wondering where I went for this amazing transformation, it was with Max Simon and unbelievable tribe of truly talented people. I highly, very highly recommend a Max Simon experience. Especially if you are afraid.

10 February 2010

Hey, I Might be Wrong, but...

"The IRS officially accepts all scanned copies of receipts and bank statements."

~a blog that deleted my concern.

I read this type of advice all the time. Especially around this time of year. And here's the thing... it makes me uncomfortable.

I asked, very nicely I might add, the above blogger for the source of this quote. Because, I would actually like to start recommending it myself. They did not reply. They deleted my comment. Here's the thing,

It is not because I designed a filing system for paper. Really.
I am all about making things easier, more efficient and less clutter. If scanning and storing is easier and more efficient for you, go for it. There's more than one right way to get anything done.

The reason it really bothers me is because, I am pretty sure it isn't true. The only reason you have to save any records is to prove yourself to the IRS or support insurance claims and ownership. Although I have not received a definitive yes or no from the IRS, I have done a bit of research on the matter.

Receipts you receive digitally, yes. Paper receipts. No. A scan can be easily modified. IRS Publication 552 states, "In addition to your computerized records, you must keep proof of payment, receipts, and other documents to prove the amounts shown on your tax return."

Open to interpretation, don't you think?

That statement concerned me so, I contacted all 50 state tax advocates offices a few years back, only a handful were comfortable saying scanned receipts were acceptable. By a handful I mean, around 3.

I also contacted the IRS directly. You don't get much directly from them, they refer you back to the publications, but most IRS folks I spoke with said scans were not acceptable.


Enough of that. I just had to voice my concern. I read this recommendation everywhere and IMHO it might not be the best practice. It would be really, really nice if the IRS would clarify this. I'm ok being wrong.



So I have done some more research on the matter. It seems the IRS updated Publication 552. The update is much more specific regarding digital records and it referenced, Rev. Proc. 97-22 where it states,

.01 General Requirements.

(1) An electronic storage system must ensure an accurate and complete transfer of the hardcopy or computerized books and records to an electronic storage media. The electronic storage system must also index, store, preserve, retrieve, and reproduce the electronically stored books and records.

(2) An electronic storage system must include:
(a) reasonable controls to ensure the integrity, accuracy, and reliability of the electronic storage system;
(b) reasonable controls to prevent and detect the unauthorized creation of, addition to, alteration of, deletion of, or deterioration of electronically stored books and records;
(c) an inspection and quality assurance program evidenced by regular evaluations of the electronic storage
system including periodic checks of electronically stored books and records;
(d) a retrieval system that includes an indexing system (within the meaning of section 4.02 of this revenue procedure); and
(e) the ability to reproduce legible and readable hardcopies (within the meaning of section 4.01(3) of this revenue procedure) of electronically stored books and records.

(3) All books and records reproduced by the electronic storage system must exhibit a high degree of legibility and readability when displayed on a video display terminal and when reproduced in hardcopy. The term “legibility” means the observer must be able to identify all letters and numerals positively and quickly to the exclusion of all other letters or numerals. The term “readability” means that the observer must be able to recognize a group of letters or numerals as words or complete numbers. The taxpayer must ensure that the reproduction process maintains the legibility and readability of the electronically stored document.

(4) The information maintained in an electronic storage system must provide support for the taxpayer’s books and records (including books and records in an automated data processing system). For example, the information maintained in an electronic storage system and the taxpayer’s books and records must be cross-referenced in a manner that provides an audit trail between the general ledger and the source document(s).

(5) For each electronic storage system used, the taxpayer must maintain, and make available to the Service upon request, complete descriptions of:
(a) the electronic storage system, including all procedures relating to its use; and
(b) the indexing system (see section 4.02 of this revenue procedure).

(6) At the time of an examination, or for the tests described in section 5 of this revenue procedure, the taxpayer must:
(a) retrieve and reproduce (including hardcopies if requested) electronically stored books and records; and
(b) provide the Service with the resources ( e.g., appropriate hardware and software, personnel, documentation,
etc.) necessary to locate, retrieve, read, and reproduce (including hardcopies) any electronically stored
books and records.

(7) An electronic storage system must not be subject, in whole or in part, to any agreement (such as a contract or license) that would limit or restrict the Service’s access to and use of the electronic storage system on the taxpayer’s premises (or any other place where the electronic storage system is maintained), including personnel,
hardware, software, files, indexes, and software documentation.

(8) The taxpayer must retain electronically stored books and records so long as their contents may become material in the administration of the Internal Revenue laws under §1.6001-1(e).

(9) The taxpayer may use more than one electronic storage system. In that event, each electronic storage system must meet the requirements of this revenue procedure. Electronically stored books and records that are contained in an electronic storage system with respect to which the taxpayer ceases to maintain the hardware
and the software necessary to satisfy the conditions of this revenue procedure will be deemed destroyed by the taxpayer, unless the electronically stored books and records remain available to the Service in conformity with this revenue procedure.

(10) Taxpayers may use reasonable data compression or formatting technologies as part of their electronic storage system so long as the requirements of this revenue procedure are satisfied.

.02 Requirements of an Indexing System.
(1) For purposes of this revenue procedure, an “indexing system” is a system that permits the identification and retrieval for viewing or reproducing of relevant books and records maintained in an electronic storage system. For example, an indexing system might consist of assigning each electronically stored document a unique identification number and maintaining a separate database that contains descriptions of all electronically stored books and records along with their identification numbers. In addition, any system used to maintain, organize,or coordinate multiple electronic storage systems is treated as an indexing system under this revenue procedure.
The requirement to maintain an indexing system will be satisfied if the indexing system is functionally comparable to a reasonable hardcopy filing system. The requirement to maintain an indexing system does not require that a separate electronically stored books and records description database be maintained if comparable
results can be achieved without a separate description database.

(2) Reasonable controls must be undertaken to protect the indexing system against the unauthorized creation of, addition to, alteration of, deletion of, or deterioration of any entries.

So, scan away... if you have the right scanner with integrated software with reasonable controls to prevent and detect the unauthorized creation of, addition to, alteration of, deletion of, or deterioration of electronically stored books and records. But, I wouldn't be so quick to use any basic old scanner.

23 January 2010

I Am the Watcher.

"Of two sisters one is always the watcher, one the dancer."

—Louise Glück

I discovered this lovely quote at The Sister Project. It made me think. What am I? The dancer or the watcher. I do love to dance. I have my carefree moments of really sucking life in.

But, my sister is the dancer. She always has been. Right now more than ever. With four beautiful little girls... how can you not dance everyday?

12 January 2010

A Make it Work - Modge-Podge Organized Home Office

I have been very conscious of waste. I use what I have, when I can. Functionality in a home office is priority. If it functions and I can slap a coat of paint on it to make it pretty, I use it.

My home office is a modge-podge of old family stuff (the cabinet storage), dumpster dives (the wood filing cabinet), and renovation scraps (the built in shelves). Even my desk is a combination of an old kitchen table and more contemporary ikea piece that didn't work with my style.

I found, in all the chaos of home renovations, that I didn't need as much as I though I needed in my office space. Thank goodness, because I also didn't have a huge furniture budget. You can read more about my home office here. One Essential Element of the Perfect Home Office

Get creative. Use what you have.

11 January 2010

Still Inspired to Eat More Veggies.

We enjoyed our vegetarian meals last week. For the most part the flavors were very good and the textures were not unpleasant.

A successful first for me last week, homemade pasta. It was surprisingly easy.

A new favorite, the Hearty Winter Veggie Burgers. I cannot wait to eat that burger again, the flavors were fabulous.

The fried wontons were just ok and it felt wasteful with all that oil going in the trash.

We had mushrooms I needed to use, so I never got around to the souffle. I made a mushroom pasta instead.

Not only am I still inspired for I am an Organizing Junkie - Menu Plan Monday, I am inspired to do a bit of kitchen re-organizing this week.

All of last weeks meals came from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food by Mark Bittman.

Many of this weeks come from the same cookbook. Chicken is also the menu this week. I need to start getting my seafood back too.

Chicken Noodle Soup
Pan Fried Chicken and cauliflower Mash
Asian Style Dumplings
Butternut Risotto
Bear Glazed Black Bean Burritos.

My weekly menu planning form.
(You can plan your meals with this form too. It is an acrobat editable file.)

06 January 2010

New Dad Toolkit - Perfect Baby Shower Gift for New Dad.

It has been years since I put one of these new dad toolkits together. It is the perfect co-ed baby shower gift for the new dad with a sense of humor. Dad shouldn't be left out of all the fun.

Both my sis and I are planning co-ed baby showers for dear old friends, so I tracked down all my old graphic files to put a couple more of these together.

You can get most everything you need at Target. You could also try the dollar store. The biggest expense is the The Baby Owner's Manual: Operating Instructions, Trouble-Shooting Tips, and Advice on First-Year Maintenanceby Louis Borgenicht, md and Joe Borgenicht, dad. But IMHO, the book pulls the whole shower gift together. Not to mention, it's a great reference for new parents. Beautifully designed and written.

The shopping list.

  • 15 oz bedtime bath - johnsons

  • soft cloth baby wipes - target

  • 2oz hand sanitizer - target

  • baby owners manual
    louis borgenicht, md
    joe borgenicht, dad

  • safety goggles

  • masks - 3m

  • ear plugs

  • plastic tool box - stanely

  • optional - diapers, onesies, finger stuffed toys

The new dad toolkit labels are here.

Print the first page on a heavier stock, cut, hole punch and attach with a string.

Print the second page on an adhesive label sheet or regular paper and mount with super77 or preferred glue.

The labels are not fancy. Just simply designed to make dad laugh.

05 January 2010

Time to Take it Down.

We always have a bit of a disagreement in our house around December 30th. It starts with "honey, when are the decorations coming down?" It ends with "when the three kings come."

Well, Three Kings Day or the Epiphany, is celebrated on January 6th, twelve days after christmas. I can't really take the star off the top of the tree until then, right?

Besides, I have just begun to really enjoy them.

I plan on taking an inventory this year before I store the holiday decor away for the season. Along with the tips in my Declutter and Organize your Seasonal Décor article, you can download holiday storage labels and an inventory worksheet.

04 January 2010

Inspired to Plan Healthy Delicious Meals

Up until last week I wasn't really planning a weekly menu.
I have not been super inspired to cook in my kitchen, as my kitchen is less than inspiring. The blah of my kitchen totally reflected in my food. Boring. Dull. Same.

Everyone participating in I am an Organizing Junkie - Menu Plan Monday has inspired me. I know I need appreciate my current kitchen more—to eventually have the kitchen of my dreams. The only way to truly appreciate a kitchen is to keep it clean, uncluttered and put lots of love into healthy meals.

My focus will be 80% Vegetarian with local, seasonal ingredients as much a possible.
The majority of my recipes will come from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food by Mark Bittman.

This week I will be making -

Cold Sesame Noodles
Hearty Winter Veggie Burgers
Tofu Stuffed Wonton
Cheese Souffle
Eggplant Parm

There was a time when I would look at vegetarian recipes and...yuck.
But if the few meals I have already prepared from this cookbook are any indication of what is to come... I can't wait. The flavors are delicious.

My weekly menu planning form.
(You can plan your meals with this form too. It is an acrobat editable file.)
My monthly menu planning calendar.
(Not sure if I am ever going to be this proactive, but some of you may find this handy.)
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