Tax Prep from the daughter of a CPA

My dad owned his own tax business and LOVED getting the most money possible for his clients. Growing up I remember him working tirelessly for each of them and never raising his rates because he loved them so much and considered each one a member of the family. This has taught me so much as a business owner. Yes, everyone wants to make money, but clients should be the focus—treating each person as if you would like to be treated. The other lesson I learned was about organization! Many of my dad’s clients would send him BOXES of receipts and find themselves in a mess year after year.

This is what today’s post is about…starting the year on the right foot by developing a system that works for you and is sustainable throughout the entire year. You may have other systems or ideas that work for you, but I am going to share what works specifically for me and my business.

At the beginning of the year, I separated my receipts into categories and came up with these:

These bins are from Target and are only $5 for 5!

I know it seems excessive and a tad OCD, but if you’ve met me you know that basically describes me. Lol

Throughout the year, I add receipts into the bin category and don’t have to worry about it anymore. No boxes of receipts mixed together…all of them separated by category in an easy to use system. Yes, you can use file folders for the same purpose, but I had so many receipts for clients that this worked for me.

By the end of the year, here is what I ended up with.

It looks a tad messy even for me, but I loved that they are accessible and easy to find.

At the end of the year, I transfer all of them do this:

After prepping for my taxes, I can store this easily in the attic. The items in the box and this box are both from The Container Store and were not too pricey.

Good luck organizing your receipts and reach out to me if you have any ideas of your own!

*disclaimer-all of the ideas in this post are personal suggestions and should not be solely used to make tax decisions. Please see your tax professional for further advice.

Tips to tackle the ‘kid’s stuff’ before the holidays

Every year before the holidays I do a purge of my children’s stuff. For such tiny humans, their possessions seem to accumulate quickly! The holidays bring family gatherings, extra outfits, and extra toys! Lots and lots of toys.

The key to controlled chaos is to periodically assess the elements that become part of it. I suggest doing this seasonally, but your Winter Purge should be the biggest of the year.

Areas to work through:

Clothes:

  1. Go through each drawer and closet (it’s okay if you need to separate this task throughout the week).
  2. Ask yourself three questions:

  Does it fit?

  Is it free of stains/damages?

  Will my child wear it?

3. If the answer to any of these questions is no, donate or sell it. Be realistic and know that you are not wasting money by selling or donating items, you have already spent the money. You are adding value to your life and your children’s lives by making their environment more simplistic and limiting some of the excess.

Next, move on to toys.

Ask yourself similar questions for this space:

Do they play with it?

Is it complete (nothing missing or broken)?

Do they own multiple? (Multiples of toys can be pared down to the most complete set).

  1. If the answer to any of these questions is no, donate or sell it. Be realistic and know that you are not wasting money by selling or donating items, you have already spent the money. You are adding value to your life and your children’s lives by making their environment more simplistic and limiting some of the excess.  You are also making room for the toys they are about to receive. 

I perform most of this act with my children to help teach a lesson in giving and need vs. want. Yes, they are little. But if you teach them the ‘why’ behind the action, they get on board quickly. I say phrases repeatedly to help them understand the process and know that when they are done, that’s 100% fine. Some of their toys can disappear without them being aware, but I do want them to know that giving is very important.

These simple questions help.

“Let’s pick some toys to give to kids that may not have as many toys as you.”

“What toy do you not like anymore?”

“Do you have any broken toys?”

“Do you have any toys you’d like to give to someone?”

Do what you can. Do as much as you can. Whatever you end up selling/donating is at least better than not doing it at all. You also may have taught a valuable lesson in giving. 

Happy Holidays, Friends! 

~Steph

3 Methods to Tackling Laundry

It’s time to talk about every mom’s nemesis: laundry. Why, oh why is there so much? It even starts before the kid makes their grand entrance…you must wash everything. Maybe this is prep for the mountain of laundry those tiny, little people produce. Am I right? I can honestly say that I never had a problem keeping up until the littles came along. 

As a professional organizer, I feel it is my duty to attempt to master the clothes. Almost all of my clients share the same problem. How do we keep up? I have attempted to look at this problem as a science experiment and am here to share my findings. 

In my opinion, there are three separate methods for tackling the laundry. 

1. The Once-a-Week laundry hustle. 

 This is great for busy moms who do not have time to tackle loads and loads of laundry once or twice a week. The problem is unless you are fortunate enough to have access to multiple washers/dryers, this method takes a freaking day! Literally all day. The other issue is that your living room turns into a makeshift closet while you attempt to sort and fold in the midst of the chaos that some people refer to as the weekend. Also, let’s be honest, you most often DO NOT finish said laundry on your one-day marathon, and it drags on and on until you eventually wash it again because, well, you’re just not sure if it’s clean or not. Friends, I used to be a victim of this method, it’s not the best. 

2. The Twice a Week Laundry Dread.  

 I call it a “dread” because you fool yourself into thinking that there isn’t any laundry by not looking at it. “If I just don’t lift up the laundry hamper, it isn’t there.” 🙂 Unfortunately, it is there and multiplying like rabbits. The other issue with this method is that it never gets completely done. I tried a Wednesday/Sunday routine and found that my Wednesday laundry was still in a pile when I went back on Sunday. Plus I ended up hating these days. Yes, I had less laundry than once a week, but it was still A LOT of laundry! Too much! Although this method will work for some, I say only do it if you absolutely know you are going to stick to it stringently. 

3. Embrace your stage and just do it daily.

 This has become my new favorite method. Do I love doing laundry, no, I don’t, but do I prefer for it to be done as quickly as possible, yes! So does, um…every other woman! The best part about doing laundry daily is that you already know you’re going to do it. There’s no dread or stress about how big or disgusting that pile might be. You just know, “Well, I did it yesterday, so there can’t be that much.” I promise you it is actually amazing. Well, maybe not amazing…I mean it is laundry. lol 

Simplify Tips: 

1. Throw a load in while you are doing other things. 

2. Set a timer on your phone/watch/Alexa to correspond to the W/D. This way you don’t forget when it is “supposed” to be done with its cycle. 

3. Push it through and know that you only have to do one load of laundry today, but make it your mission to complete it that day. 

The third method ONLY works if you get yourself completely caught up. So you may have a marathon or two, but then NEVER again! Friends…this really has been great for us. 

Yes, I feel like my life consists of doing laundry, but I also know that when it is all completely done I can breathe a sigh of relief. Until tomorrow… 

Good luck! 

Steph 

How do you create a system in a closet?

Closet Systems

How do you create a system in a closet?
Many of my clients are struggling when it comes to closets. They don’t understand where to start or where improvements can be made because it’s difficult for them to see the closet as a whole. I always ask the same questions when consulting for a closet.

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#1. What is working? It is incredibly important to help the client start positively. Maybe they like where they hang their jackets or how they’ve separated their clothes from their husbands. There is always something to find to boost their appreciation for the space. I like to start with this because it helps set the tone for the changes to come.

#2. What is not working? By looking at the space, I can typically tell immediately what is not working, but I like to help the client see it as well. A client who has tee shirts piled everywhere is lacking a solution. Clothes in piles on the floor show a need for space as well. Sometimes this can just come down to the process for putting away clothes. Do they move them from the laundry room only to be frustrated at where to put them? This means we need to give every item a home. Once all items have a home, they can easily be placed where they go, and the process of putting away clothes becomes something you can do quickly and efficiently.

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#3. How do they get dressed in the morning?
Ordering a closet depends a lot on how they get dressed. Do they walk in and think “I want to wear blue today,” or “I need a short sleeve shirt?” These are essential questions to ask when reordering for a purpose. I personally always think about sleeve length first and if I am going to layer. My closet is sorted by sleeves and purpose (athletic shirts are separated from tee shirts), but I LOVE color coding in closets. It just doesn’t work for everyone. A client can only benefit from a system created specifically for them.

#4. Are there items in the closet that don’t need to be there? It’s crucial to separate by season, but it’s equally important to separate items for seasonal extremes. Do you have items in your closet from the one time a year you go skiing? Or a section of beachwear for when you vacation in the summer? Items that serve only one purpose and season can be labeled, separated and moved to an alternate place. I typically package up large winter coats, Christmas outfits or holiday-looking things, and very heavy clothes. Hats, gloves, scarves can also be moved to a bin and taken to the attic.
Let’s be honest; some items last all year when you live in Texas. Only move what you know they absolutely won’t need. The great benefit of doing this is that these items take up so much space; it will really clear up some room to move these to another location.

Professional Organizing sometimes feels like being a detective. I think that it’s one of my favorite parts about the job. I can walk in and assess the space and see a vision for what it could be once I finish. It is so much fun! I love that I can help people with my gift for organizing.


Top Three Reasons to Use Labels

Labeling is my Jam.

I am so serious when I say that labeling gives me a level of pure joy that is unparalleled. The label itself looks clean and gives instant order to any space. If labeled correctly, it can bring more than just order; it can add understanding to a space and make it easier to keep up with the systems set in place.

1. Systems are great. They create order and allow every item to have a specific place to call “home.” A problem with systems can occur when not everyone in the home follows them. Spouses or kids, for example, can unintentionally disrupt a system set in place if they forget what items are supposed to belong where. Enter the label. They are AMAZING reminders to help anyone know where things go. It’s also a subliminal message to help reinforce the system. If a bin is labeled “lids” and someone is putting away cups, it would go against the grain for them to specifically put something where it doesn’t belong. They would have to think, “I am not going to follow the system,” and do it intentionally, which in my experience is never the case. Typically family members do not attempt to disrupt systems on purpose; we have to figure out how to guide them in the right direction and make it easier for everyone.

2. Labels help create order and teach organization to children. Children need to feel a sense of belonging and contribution to their family. Giving a child a job, or an active role in keeping order in the house will help instill life-long skills for organization and order. Also, the labels act as sight words for younger children. My two-year-old can recognize the

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cars bin from the one for blocks by association even though he is not able to read. Simply labeling their toys and asking them to be responsible for cleaning their space, helps develop these necessary human skills.

3. Labels make cleaning up a breeze. Who wants to spend hours a day or weekend cleaning their entire house? Nobody wants to or has time to do this. The easiest solution is to spend a few moments a day, putting items back where they go. If everything has a place, this is a very easy task. I read an article about the secret to tidy people, and it said that neat people never leave a mess overnight — small moments of tidying up equal a clean and orderly house. Labels can help to create this order and ease of straightening up.

I hope this helped! Let me know if I can come to label some bins for you. 🙂 

Four Easy Steps to Organizing Any Space

Ever stare at an unorganized space baffled at how to start? Many of my clients are exhausted by their disorganization. They are frustrated at the lack of a working system and report that they spend so much time trying to “fix” the area themselves. By the time I am called in, the space has overwhelmed them to a point of raising a white flag. Here’s what I do to EVERY space no matter the mess or the goal.

1. Assess the Space: What is the problem? How much space do we have? Is the area devoted to too many uses/users? You have to figure out what you want eventually to get out of the area. Is it a guest room that has become a catchall? Or an entry that stores shoes, coats, and backpacks? Until you figure out what is there and what you really want to be there, it is impossible to move forward.

2. Sort the items in the space: I suggest taking everything out and making several piles. It is never a problem to have too many piles or specified groups. I actually prefer making more smaller groups than just a few larger grouping piles because it allows you to join like items at a later time. For example, I was working with a woman who inherited many items from grandparents and elderly parents; she had so much that it did not benefit her to create one large pile of sentimental items. Instead, we broke it down into many various piles from the specific family member. We ended up placing these in labeled bins for easy access and minimized the mess in the closet.

3. Weed out unwanted items: Make sure that you are in a mood to let go of the items you no longer need. I suggest sorting these as you create the piles mentioned above. Make one trash pile and one donation pile. Do not make a “sell” pile unless you know for a fact that you will sell the item within the week. If you are honest with yourself and know that you will just move the donation/to sell pile to another location only to gather dust and cause more stress, just trash it and do it immediately. I promise you, letting go of the items will relieve more stress than attempting to make them fit into a space for a just-in-case scenario.

4. Put items back: Ask yourself a few questions as you start to put items back into the space. How often do I need this? Will it be difficult to take it out and put it back? Would it benefit me if I labeled the box/container/item? These can be incredibly helpful in creating systems. As a professional organizer, I LOVE labeling and could find use for a label everywhere. 🙂 Sometimes this is beneficial and sometimes it’s excessive. The key is to find what works for you, your family, and your space.

I hope these steps helped! Sign up for more tips and tricks and message me if you have any questions.​