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As a working professional, your livelihood depends on your ability to produce high-quality work within a reasonable timeframe. Therefore, maintaining a high level of productivity is essential to both your professional and personal success. 

But sitting in an ugly, cramped office is the easiest way to send you running to your favorite websites to waste time. This lack of productivity allows your valuable creative juices to escape. Luckily, you can adapt the design of your office painlessly and inexpensively which increases your productivity. 

Photo by: Christopher Shane Photography

Follow these tips to easily turn your office into a space that encourages a productive workflow:

1. Comfort is Essential. Your chances of churning out high quality work rise substantially if you’re comfortable in your own office. Ensure that your office space is well ventilated. A window is ideal. However, if your office lacks a window, use plants to promote airflow. Leave your office open to keep it from feeling like a stuffy cage. In my office, I don’t have a lot of space but I make sure that I am getting the most out of it by strategically organizing to maximize the space. Getting the most out of your office organization really helps boost your productivity.

In addition, ergonomics should be a high priority. Invest in an ergonomic office chair, keyboard, and mouse. Good lighting is also essential to avoid eyestrain while sitting in front of a computer. Get both a desk lamp and an overhead light for a well-lit office.

2. Color Therapy. Choose a subdued, cool color for your office that promotes tranquility and focus. Colors such as light blue, fern green, or white tend to encourage effectiveness. Therefore, they’re the ideal color selections for your office. 

Photo by: Christopher Shane Photography

Stay away from warm and dark colors. Avoid colors such as orange, red, and magenta. These colors are very distracting and heavy on the eyes.

3. Aesthetics. Though most professionals hate to admit it, the aesthetic appeal of your office space is an important factor in determining your level of efficiency and happiness on the job. You should have an office you’re proud to show off. Create a space that makes you feel like an executive, no matter what position you hold. 

Wall colors, plants, the finish of furniture, lighting and window treatments all play a vital role in the aesthetics of your office space. However, you’re the only person that can determine the right aesthetic direction for your workspace. 

4. Efficiency. If you must get up from your seat and walk across the room, you’ll interrupt your work focus and return to your desk with a blank mind and a confused expression. Items that you must access regularly during the day should be just a desk chair roll away. Make it a point to keep the following items within arm’s reach:

  • Printer
  • Fax Machine
  • Scanner
  • Phone
  • File Cabinet
  • Other commonly used tools or documents

Photo by: Christopher Shane Photography

The strategic placement of these items maintains an uninterrupted work focus that’ll shave valuable time off of your routine each day. I also make sure that I don’t run out of my favorite office supplies.

5. A Touch of Personality. You spend a great amount of time in your office every week. Therefore, it’s important that you feel as if the space is “yours.” Personalize your office by hanging artwork that you find enchanting, placing photos of your family on your desk, and bringing along a snazzy throw pillow which accents your office’s overall color scheme. 

Photo by: Christopher Shane Photography

These simple injections of personality will create a feeling that you’re spending time at your home away from home. After all, you’ll be spending at least 40 hours a week here! Make it an inviting work environment by incorporating your favorite colors, beautiful plants, and pictures of the people you love the most.

Whether you’re self-employed or working for a boss, a comfortable office is an essential factor in your potential for success and advancement. Optimize the design of your workspace to promote effectiveness. When you do, you’ll be surprised how quickly you begin to experience the success you deserve and a sense of control over your work life. Check out At Work With Nikki on Youtube, Instagram, and Facebook where I share the tips that have helped me grow my business and survive the struggles of being a small business owner.

Hugs and Love, Nikki.

Are you determined to get your home office under control? It doesn’t take long for financial records to get the best of us. One of the most important steps to organizing is determining what is worth keeping and what isn’t. Paystubs, credit card bills, mortgage statements, utility bills, and the endless stream of financial mail are enough to overwhelm anyone.

There are several records that are important to save:

1. Save pay stubs for a year. If you receive your paycheck via direct deposit, you can get away without saving your paystubs. Though errors are infrequent, the ability to double-check your W-2 form against your paystubs can be useful. You can run them through the shredder a year after your taxes are completed.

2. Keep investment records for as long as your investment. Waiting 12 months after your taxes are filed is even safer. It’s beneficial to double-check your gains or losses when selling. Remember that these records are frequently available online, so paper copies are redundant.

3. Keep tax returns for a minimum of four years. For a standard audit, the IRS will go back 3-4 years. If you’ve underreported your income by 25% or more, they can go back even further.  If you want tips on how to organize your taxes, you can check out my Tax Organization Tips video and I hope you will find that helpful.

Disclaimer: I am not a tax professional so you will always want to follow the advice of a tax professional.

Do you have a nanny, housekeeper, gardener, or other domestic help that you hire directly? Keep 3-4 years of pay records.

4. Mortgage records are also worth saving. This includes all the documents received at closing and records of payments. Also, keep receipts related to home improvement projects.

Fortunately, there aren’t many records that require saving. While there are financial records worth keeping, most paperwork can be fed to your shredder. 

Avoid keeping these records:

1. Put your bills in the shredder. Most bills aren’t worth saving. Only keep bills that are necessary for tax purposes. Check your bills for accuracy and then pay and shred them.

2. Throw out all junk mail except preapproved credit card applications. As annoying as junk mail can be, avoid the urge to throw all of it in the trash. Shred preapproved credit offerings to avoid identity theft issues.

3. Computer media can have sensitive information. Be aware of simply throwing away memory sticks, old computer disks, or hard drives. There are companies that will destroy these items for you. A hammer can serve well, too. Some experts recommend fire, but the fumes aren’t exactly safe. A hammer is more environmentally friendly.

4. Unless needed for tax purposes, avoid saving receipts. If you’re very conscientious and go over your finances in great detail each month, keep your receipts for a month. Otherwise, throw all receipts in the trash except those that are for items that you might want to return. Keep these receipts until the return period has expired.

As a general rule, the more expensive the item, the longer a receipt should be saved. It makes more sense to keep a receipt for a new washer and drier than a pack of gum.

It’s easy to determine which items should be shredded. Shred items that you wouldn’t want falling into the hands of strangers. If an item contains your social security number or credit card number, shred it. Beyond that, it’s up to you.

Financial records are a part of everyday life. From ATM receipts to mortgage statements, financial papers accumulate at a rapid rate. It’s important to know which financial records are worth keeping and which aren’t. Avoid keeping records that serve no purpose. Keep your financial records neat and organized. If it gets to a point where you are overwhelmed with the piles of paperwork in your home, you can click here to schedule a Virtual Organizing Session with me and I would be happy to be your go-to Professional Organizer so we can tackle this seemingly overwhelming task together.

Hugs and Love, Nikki

Decluttering and organizing your home can quickly feel overwhelming and frustrating. If you’re afraid to get started because it seems like so much work, try doing fewer tasks at a time. When you take small steps to declutter and organize your home, you can conquer the task smoothly.

DIVIDE THINGS UP

Tackle only one room at a time. This will make your task appear much less daunting. Avoid moving on to the next room until you’ve completed the last one.

Try these tips for organizing and decluttering your home in small steps:

1. Choose your starting point. Select a room that you can tackle in a day, rather than the most challenging one in the house. Once you’ve chosen your room, start early, so you have as many daylight hours as possible to work on your cleaning and decluttering.

• One thing I recommend is to use a Cleaning Checklist. This will give you a general overview of what needs to be done and brings structure to your plans. Day by day you will see what you have finished and this will give you a sense of accomplishment which is very important in reducing stress caused by overwhelm. Check out my Cleaning Checklist Printable here.

2. Basic sort. Go through everything in your starting room and sort out items you no longer want. Everything that you touch in the room should go into one of four categories: Things you want to THROW away, things you want to DONATE or SELL, things that should REMAIN where they are, and things that you want to KEEP but that are in the wrong room.

• Use this sorting principle for every item in the room. When you’re finished, you should have four distinctive piles or areas in the room. Each item in the room will be in one of the four piles.

3. Remove trash. Merely taking all the “throw away” stuff out of the room is going to make a huge dent. Keep in mind that personal paperwork should be shredded rather than simply put into the garbage.

4. Remove donation items. Anything that you intend to sell, give away, or donate should come out next. Store these items somewhere else in the house for now. Continue to add to this section from each room in your home until you’re ready to make one single donation or yard sale.

5. Sort the “belongs elsewhere” section. Do not merely move these items into another room; otherwise, you’ll need to sort them again. Create a box or container for each room for which you have the items. Make sure that you want to keep them so that you can transfer them into the right room without having to sort them again later.

• To help you with decluttering, check out my video on what items you should get rid of to start the organization process.

6. Organize what’s left. Now that you’ve removed a large portion of “stuff” from your room, you can organize everything that remains. When you’re only working with the things that are supposed to be in the room, decluttering and organizing becomes much simpler.

7. Repeat this process. Continue steps 1-6 in each room until you’ve finished the whole house. When you handle one space at a time, the process will be much simpler and less stressful.

Once you’ve finished organizing your house, take a few minutes each day to ensure everything you’ve used during the day is back in place so you can continue to enjoy your “new” clutter-free home.

Big tasks can seem overwhelming. Break your decluttering challenge into smaller increments and before you know it, your house will be clean, organized, and absolutely ready for a celebration.

On the subject of celebrations, I want to take this opportunity to let you know that I have launched my Home Hostess Collection. This toolkit will help you plan a party with the fine details and party budget and inspirations for menus and party themes. I am so in love with this collection, and I hope that you will too!

I hope these decluttering and organizing tips can help reduce clutter in your home. If you feel like you need a little more help, you can schedule a virtual home organizing session with me here. I will be happy to talk to you about your organization needs. See you!

Hugs and Love, Nikki

There are simple rules to home organization and getting rid of clutter everyone should live by to eliminate the clutter and stuff piling up around your house.

Let’s be honest. Nobody likes rules. But the thing is, if you’re serious about home organization, there are some specific rules you want to follow.  You’ll see how much its simple organization will be by taking the following simple steps:

Photo credit: Christopher Shane Photography

Home Organizing Rule #1: “Touch it Once!”

This is a form of procrastination, and it causes piles because something is being put off until later. It could be a little laziness, but more often it’s due to lack of time. The thing is, this rule will save you time. For everything you put off until later, you’re touching it twice when it should be just once. You (or someone you live with) is procrastinating and putting things off until later. Why? To save a couple of seconds today, you’re wasting five minutes tomorrow. For example, you come home, throw the shirt on the bed because you’re going to hang it up or throw it in the laundry basket later, or you shove it on a shelf in the closet and will hang it then. No good! These are two steps when it should be one. Common sense? Of course. But only a few people practice this simple rule of home organizing, Touch it once. The coffee cup goes in the dishwasher, not on the counter, and into the dishwasher later. The mail coming in the house should be dealt with immediately, not added to a pile where you touch it more than once for no reason at all other than procrastination.

Photo credit: Katie Charlotte Photography

Home Organizing Rule #2:  Keep things together that belong together. 

Sweaters with sweaters. Shirts with shirts. One shelf for snacks and one shelf for cans. Take a look around a fancy clothing store. They are designed to help you (the customer) find what you need precisely.

Wouldn’t it be nice to find whatever it is you’re looking for in a matter of seconds? The same goes for a grocery store. If these shelves were unorganized, these stores would go broke because nobody would be able to find a thing.

Photo credit: Katie Charlotte Photography

Home Organizing Rule #3 – Organize ONLY one space at a time.

Work on one small space at a time in set increments, then try and do it every single day. It might only be for fifteen or twenty minutes, but the key is to get something organized every day and make it consistent. The smaller the task, the easier to complete, and the better you’ll feel.

Often organizing something as small as a junk drawer or even your wallet, it can give you the boost in motivation to “step it up” into a bigger project. If you have to do the junk drawer over a two day period, big deal? Take two days to do it. Getting it done is the key. One small step at a time. If you are looking for motivation, check out my clean with me video for more tips on how I put things in order in my own house.

One thing I really want to recommend is getting a planner to keep everything in order and I have a Beautifully Organized Home Planner that can definitely help you manage your household. This beautiful home management system planner gives you all the tools you need to bring order and routine to your family’s life at home.

I hope these simple home organization rules can help reduce clutter and stress in your home. If you are still feeling overwhelmed, I can help you by scheduling a virtual home organizing session with me here. I will be happy to talk to you so we can customize your personal organization needs. See you!

Hugs and Love, Nikki

DISCLAIMER: This post is sponsored by H&R Block Online. All reviews and opinions expressed in this post are based on my personal view. I am not a tax professional and you should always consult a tax professional for all your tax questions and concerns.

Getting a jump on tax planning and preparation will save you time and money in the long run. The current tax filing extension due to COVID-19 allows us to get the most out of our tax preparation. Although the tax filing deadline has been extended, it’s best to still file and get your refund faster, as most people need the money now more than ever. However, if you’re not ready to file just yet, rather than waiting until the last moment, missing out on opportunities for using specific strategies, and stressing out about the process, start organizing and preparing your taxes now (but don’t delay you need a refund now). But first, let me share my tips on how to make organizing and completing your taxes easy, affordable and a total DIY.

TIP ONE: KEEP ALL TAX DOCUMENTS IN ONE PLACE

One thing that can cause you to dread filing your taxes is having to filter through all of your paper clutter to find the documents needed to file. This is such an easy problem to resolve:

  • Have one binder or folder for all tax documents. I keep a binder for each tax year. As materials arrive that I need in preparation to file my taxes, I place them in binder. Using a folder can work just as well. It is essential to make sure that your tax binder is easily accessible.
  • Within your binder keep all your documents sorted by category. Example, all w2’s together, 1099’s together etc.
  • Place your previous years tax return in your current years tax binder. This makes for a great reference tool.
  • Keep a tax log. A tax log is a great way to ensure that you received all of the documents needed to file your taxes. Place this log in the front of your tax binder.

TIP TWO: DO-IT-YOURSELF

My office is located next to an accountant’s office. During this time of year they are usually busy. Of course that is not the case this year with the need for everyone to stay socially distant. This makes for the perfect opportunity to do-it-yourself. The cost-effective way to do this is by using H&R Block Online. It allows you to easily file your taxes from your smartphone or a computer.

As a professional organizer, in my mission of living a beautiful life and helping others do the same, I am always on the hunt for four key things to start:

  • Order
  • Function
  • Money savers
  • Time savers

By focusing on these four things it makes many of my decisions a simple process. When H&R Block Online approached me about working with them, I went straight to my list.

ORDER & FUNCTION

Their website is very user-friendly. I was not intimidated one bit! As soon as I hit the site, it was clean and straightforward. I also respect the fact that they are very transparent. Right from the start, you see pricing, options, and customer reviews for each solution under their DIY service. There are no frustrating pop-ups or ads. Descriptions for each service were concise and made it easy to select the appropriate filing service.

MONEY & TIME SAVER

This was huge for me. As a small business owner (and during such difficult times) I found that H&R Block Online is at least $10 less than TurboTax. I also found that H&R Block Online offers excellent value in tax preparation. One thing that I love is that they have online assistance (from actual human beings) for anyone who is needing a little help as they complete their filing. Instead of getting a help menu that is often not helpful and a time-wasting effort, they have on-demand chat service with highly trained tax experts available for DIY filers.

TIP # 3: DON’T FORGET YOUR PETS

No, that is not a typo. You know how much I love my two pups Bentley and Albert, so of course I am going to take this opportunity to include them in my tips. But seriously, May is National Pet Month and I thought it would be the perfect time to share tax some pet-qualifying tax deductions:

  • Moving a pet. Moving expenses that involve a pet can be deducted in some instances. The move has to be work-related, and there has to be at least 50 miles between the new job and your old home.
  • Guard animals. If a dog is used as a guard animal for your business, then some expenses can be deducted. Expenses related to caring for the animal are deductible, and it’s important to save all receipts to show how much they cost. The IRS will allow a percentage of the cost of care to be deducted, depending on how much time the animal spends on guard duty.
  • Pets related to work. Jobs that involve animals are eligible for some tax deductions. Are you a professional dog breeder? Do you love to race horses? Are you a dog walker who purchases supplies to care for the animals you watch? Depending on your job, you can deduct some expenses.
  • Service dogs. Households with service dogs used for therapeutic purposes may be eligible for tax deductions. Guide dogs and service dogs fall into this category. The IRS requires careful documentation, so save all your receipts, bills, and veterinarian notices. These deductions go on the medical expenses form. Food and leashes are some of the common items that can be written off. Trips to the vet and training are also frequent deductions. The actual cost of buying the service dog or guide dog is also included.

Here are two bonus tips:

  • Fostering an animal for a charity allows households to take the cost of caring for the animal off their income. The charity has to be a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and registered with the Internal Revenue Service. The animal shelter can provide paperwork proving that your household is fostering animals. Items like pet beds, food, leashes, medication, vet visits, and others are eligible for deductions. The IRS may ask to see receipts, so it’s important to save all of them and keep them separate from other pet-related files to avoid confusion.
  • Sales taxes. States with sales taxes can play a part in writing off some of the cost of caring for a pet. According to the IRS, filing Schedule A and deducting state sales taxes can help some pet owners. The sales taxes include the cost of pet food, supplies and other items purchased throughout the year. Local sales taxes, which differ from state versions, also qualify for Schedule A. Saving your receipts is essential, but the IRS allows you to use Schedule A without them. The optional general sales tax tables let you calculate the deduction on a worksheet. In addition, the IRS has an online sales tax deduction calculator.

Friends, I hope that you found this information helpful and a money-saver for you this tax season. Be sure to take advantage of my 25% discount on all H&R Block Online solutions. This is the perfect time before we get back to our day to day hustle to get a major item off of your to-do list. Hugs and Love, Nikki

As a professional organizer I love working with realtors to help bring salable organizations to their clients homes. There are several strategies available to make your house more appealing to potential buyers. These quick fixes don’t cost much money and can improve the value of your home. An easy way increase your home’s salability is to remove excess furniture and items and de-clutter.
You’ve all seen the house that has too much stuff in it. The sight of clutter can bring negative feelings to potential buyers who are touring your home.
Try these suggestions to improve your home’s salability by de-cluttering:

Start with the front door

Start with the front view of your home from the street. Are there too many items in the yard or on the front porch? The first impression of your home is how it looks on the outside. If you de-clutter your front yard or doorstep area, you’re most likely helping potential buyers to experience a more positive first impression of your house.

Establish a good first impression

In my book “Beautifully Organized” A guide to function and style in your home I call your entryway the first impressions space because it is that space that tends to seal the deal on someone’s perception of your home. As you step inside your front door and enter the foyer, living room or great room area ask your self these questions:

  • How does it look to you?
  • Can you see open spaces between furniture where you see the trim board?
  • Have you tastefully hung one or two art items on each wall?

Look at the surfaces of all your furniture, like the dining table, the entertainment center, end tables, cocktail table, and even the kitchen countertops if they’re within your view. If the furniture surfaces are overloaded, removing some of the items will help the buyer see the space you have without getting distracted by all the items you display.Simplifying what your visitors will see makes it easier for them to look beyond your personal items and see what your home actually has to offer.

Complete a home sweep

Put away most small items. A quick and handy method to clear out the “small item” clutter is to grab a large laundry basket or cardboard box and walk through each room, plucking up items that don’t need to be there. Deposit them in your basket or box. Then, put them all away.

If you do this activity periodically, you’ll find that surfaces won’t get cluttered as quickly as they used to.

Furthermore, this is a great technique to use once your home is actually up for sale. Just before your home will be shown, you can do a quick “sweep” of each room to improve the look of your home to potential buyers.

Seriously consider whether you must display the personal items that are cluttering your living areas. Improving your home’s salability means you’re helping potential buyers to see themselves living in the home. Too many of your personal items tend to hamper that vision.

If you’re looking for an inexpensive way to improve the salability of your house, use a discerning eye to see if you have an excess of clutter. Ridding your yard and home of unnecessary items will make your home shine for prospective buyers.

If you are a realtor in the Summerville, South Carolina area and you would like to learn more about how my services can help you get your client’s homes sale ready please contact me. I also work with agents worldwide as I have virtual organizing services available.

-Nikki

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