Category Archives: Organization

Manage Your Email Inbox

Managing Your Email Inbox

Email is a wonderful thing. It’s so simple to use for fast and easy communication. It’s convenient. It’s inexpensive. Nearly everyone uses it.

Email is a great tool, and like other types of tools, it needs regular maintenance. Without regular maintenance, it can quickly become out-of-control and over whelming.

As your Virtual Assistant, I will help you clean up your email inbox. I will help you organize and maintain your emails:

  • By “filing” them into their proper folders and sub folders. If you haven’t set up a folder type system yet, that would be one of the first things I would help you implement. When you have all the related emails filed together, you can easily find the one you are looking for.
  • By deleting unwanted emails and creating tighter spam parameters to prevent future emails from that sender.
  • By “unsubscribing” to emails that you legitimately requested to receive but no longer find helpful.
  • By setting up an auto responder for those times when a quick reply is not available. An “out of office” type of message would be sent out as soon as the email is received explaining when you will be replying to them and who can help them if their matter is  urgent and needs immediate attention.

Tracy Helps You can save you valuable time by organizing your email inbox for you. It is one of the many types of tasks that can be delegated to your virtual assistant, so your time can be spent on the matters that demand your expertise and/or personal attention. Call soon to schedule your initial appointment, then we can start to help you (in this area, as well as, in others)  🙂

Getting Organized ~ Jewelry

Getting Organized ~ Jewelry

This weekend, my church is having their annual garage sale. It is a huge event every year, and all the profits get donated to local area charities, like PADS and Neighborhood Food Pantry. Each spring, I try to get an area of my home more organized. Finding things to donate for this good cause helps to get me motivated 🙂

During the week, I’ve been sorting through our things to decide what I’d like to donate. In years past, I’ve concentrated on clothing, shoes & purses, holiday decorations, kitchenware, books, etc.

This year, I gathered those type items, but I also decided to sort through my costume jewelry. I love shopping at places like Charming Charlie’s, especially their clearance section. Over the years, I’ve accumulated quite a collection. I usually stored my necklaces and bracelets in various cloth draw-string bags, vinyl zippered pouches. I stored my earrings in a beautiful decorative brass bowl that my friends brought back for me from her trip to India.

It was getting hard to remember what & where I stored these pieces. I would know I had a certain pair of earring that would go perfectly with my outfit, but not be able to find them in a moment or two.

So I decided while I was sorting through all of it, that I wanted to store it in a more organized manner. I found a cute little rack that hangs on the wall. I also like that you can see everything … all your choices in plain sight 🙂

Here’s my AFTER pic …                                         

Getting Organized ~ Jewelry

After Organizing Jewelry

 

 

You've Got Mail ... Email

5 Tips for Managing Your Email Inbox

A year or so ago, I wrote a post about organizing and managing your piles of paperwork and junk mail. These days, I get more, actually much more email than snail mail. Email is a wonderful tool for business as well as for personal use. It is great to have (nearly) instant responses.

Technology has advanced very quickly in the last couple of decades. We now live in a 24/7 world, where practically everything is available at a moment’s notice. Gone are the days of typing a letter, mailing it, and then waiting a week or more for a response. Nowadays, people get impatient if they don’t get an instant response to an email they sent.

As a result, nearly everyone has at least one, if not more, email addresses. I have both personal and business email addresses … all told, I have 6 email addresses. Do you have more than one?
Email inboxes fill up fast. Some people get hundreds every day. It can become overwhelming very quickly.

Here are some tips I try to follow monthly:
• Create sub folders to file emails you will need to refer back to at a future date.
• After reading an email, delete it or file it away in the appropriate folder
• Try to respond right away … saving it for later keeps the inbox cluttered.
• If you get too many emails sales ads from stores, you can request to receive fewer by changing your preferences or unsubscribing completely.
• You can delete multiple emails at one time by using the search bar to find all the emails from a specific sender, then click on check all, then click delete all.

Once you get your inbox emptied out, try to stay on top of it by setting aside some time every month to keep it manageable. It will take less and less time each month.

I hope these tips prove “helpful” for you 🙂

Getting Organized - Email

Getting Organized ~ Email

I’m old enough to remember the days before email was even a word. In the mid 90’s I set up my first email account through AOL … like as in “You’ve Got Mail” (love that movie, btw). Remember the weird ringing tone as the dial up connection to the internet was made. It was fun sharing jokes and stories with family and friends. However, important things were still mailed through the Post Office … affectionately known as “snail mail”.

In today’s world, email has made snail mail practically obsolete … practically, but not totally. We all receive plenty of “junk mail” to attest to that. You can read about my tips about organizing paper clutter here.

These days, our electronic inboxes are overflowing with emails … some are from family & friends, some are business/school related, some are household related, but many, a great many, are advertisements.

I try to “organize” my email accounts monthly. I have a couple … personal and business.
Today, I’ll concentrate on my personal/household account. I’ve had the same email address for many years. That being said, I’m on many mailing lists that are no longer important to me. Here’s an example, as many of you know, I homeschooled my kids. My youngest graduated in 2011 … and I still receive emails from homeschool textbook companies 🙁 Instead of just deleting them, I unsubscribed so I won’t receive future emails from them. I also made adjustments to the frequency that I receive emails from companies that are still relevant to me but I don’t necessarily want to hear from on a daily basis. I also usually just delete all those forwarded jokes (sorry) … I just don’t have time to read them all, especially since I’ve probably seen many of them floating around on Facebook or Twitter.

I created separate folders and “filed” important emails that I may need to refer back to in the future. I have also created a new email address that I use strictly for signing up for free giveaways and following blogs, etc. I don’t have to check this daily, only when I have a little time for some leisurely reading. It is there when I need it and then my other email inbox doesn’t get clogged up so quickly 🙂

After my initial inbox clean up (which I admit, took awhile), I now delete and file stuff from my smartphone whenever I have a few minutes of downtime between clients and appointments.

Hopefully, I’ve inspired you to take a look at your inbox & get it more organized 🙂

Photo credit to SeanMacEntee

 

Help With Your Clerical / Administrative Work

Help With Your Clerical Work

In the past, I’ve blogged about various ways to get your household paperwork organized. I’ve suggested ways to get a better handle on managing those piles of paper clutter that seem to accumulate so easily. I’ve even shared the filing system that I personally use. It gives me a great sense of satisfaction helping people get their personal household offices more organized.

Since joining the Carol Stream Chamber of Commerce, I’ve started helping other small business owners with some of their clerical / administrative and general office type tasks in their businesses.

Here are some of the ways I have been able to “help” them:

For one client, I am helping him to digitalize his filing system. He has supplied me with a scanner and laptop so I can work from my home office. He gives me batches of loose papers and files for me to scan & save into the appropriate computer files on the laptop. It’s an ongoing, long-term project.

For another client, I stuff information packets (catalogs, order forms, hostess incentives, etc.) she passes out to guests who attend her home party direct marketing business. Again, I work in my home and we meet as needed to exchange finished packets for more supplies.

Another client is a financial advisor who has me send out hand written thank you cards to all the leads he has met at meetings each week. He emails me their names / contact info and I get the cards into the mail for him. This is a portable type of task, so I can do the work anywhere (while waiting for my oil change or at the doctor’s office, etc.) … or at home in my own office 🙂

These are ongoing projects, but I also do one time types of tasks. I’ve had several different clients that have hired me to send out their annual Holiday cards to their customers. I have also filled in as an office assistant/receptionist to cover for vacations and/or sick days.

There are many different ways Tracy Helps You can “help” you with your clerical type tasks! As always, just ask … we are always happy to customize our services to meet your needs.

Give us a call today 🙂

Garage Sale Top 10 Tips

Top 10 Tips For Having A Successful Garage Sale

Confession time ~ I just love garage sales … both going to & having 🙂 Here are my Top 10 Tips (aka … a few things I’ve learned from experience) for having a successful garage sale:

1) ADVERTISING ~ Have good signage that makes it easy for potential customers to find you. Make sure to place signs where people can see them coming from all directions. Put a sign decorated with colorful balloons / flags / streamers at the foot of your driveway. Remember to take them down after your sale ends. Also, hang a sign on your local grocery store bulletin board and create a free ad on Craigslist.

2) BE PREPARED ~ Be prepared to start very early. If possible, have everything set up and ready to go the night before. Customers may be at your house before your official start time, especially if you advertised well ∧∧∧ 🙂

3) ORGANIZATION ~ Try to organize your sale tables into departments … tools, toys, books, clothes, jewelry, kitchenware … etc. Try to lay everything out on a table, many people don’t like digging through boxes under tables. If possible, try to “display” items … for example, if you are selling dishes, display a place setting showing each piece in the set. For jewelry, display each piece in a separate compartment (not tangled up) or to show earrings, hang them on a piece of screen.

4) PRICING ~ Have everything priced ahead of time. Many customers will ask for a lower price, be prepared to haggle. Remember, everyone is looking for a bargain … so don’t expect to get the price a store would charge. Also, while you are pricing, try to wipe off / clean everything (no one wants to look at dusty or dirty items).

5) AMBIANCE ~ Have some fun, upbeat music playing in the background (you want to be able to have a conversation). If at all possible, have some of your sale items displayed in a shady area (maybe under a portable gazebo / tent). If it’s hot & humid, have a fan going to create a breeze 🙂

6) CHECK-OUT ~ Have your check-out area in an obvious place … a patio table with an umbrella set up for shade would be great. Have it near an outlet with an extension cord, so people can make sure their item works before purchasing (most garage sales have a NO RETURNS policy). Have an assortment on batteries on hand too.

7) CORRECT CHANGE ~ Have plenty of singles and coins to make change. It seems like everyone wants to pay with a twenty dollar bill and the singles can run out fast.

8) BAGS ~ Have plenty of bags or boxes (save them from shopping) for your customers to carry their treasures (purchases) home. If you are selling furniture or large pieces, have some rope or twine available for them to tie the trunk down or secure it on the roof of their car.

9) REFRESHMENTS ~ Have some candy or cookies for sale at your check-out area … have some water bottles on ice, too. Nothing is better on a hot summer day !

10) SECURITY ~ Sadly, this is something you need to be aware of. Pay attention when a large group of customers come together (especially with kids). One may ask questions to distract you, while their friend steals something … I speak from personal experience 🙁  Also, don’t put their payment in with your money until you have made their change … they could say they gave you a 20 dollar bill when they really gave you a 10 (again, personal experience). If possible, have another family member run the sale with you, or maybe ask a friend to keep you company for the day.

11) BONUS TIP ~ Offer some FREE items … little trinkets or small toys (stuffed animals or McD’s happy meal toys). Keep your FREE box at your check-out area and place a couple signs on your tables advertising a “free gift” with your purchase. Who doesn’t LOVE getting something for FREE ?

I confess ... Organizing Paper Clutter is Ongoing

Getting Organized ~ Controlling Paper Clutter is an Ongoing Job

I have a confession to make … it’s time to come clean … I issued a challenge to all of you in our Newsletter, but I haven’t been able to do it completely 🙁

I really wanted to get my piles of paper clutter organized and filed … but it wasn’t meant to be. Not in February anyway, but it’s OK ~ I got a little bit done, and “every little bit helps” 🙂 I was able to shred my pile of “you’re pre-approved” mail and “opt out” of receiving them. I also spent a lot of time preparing financial spreadsheets to give to our tax guy. I’ve made myself a goal to enter this data monthly from now on … no more procrastinating and waiting to the last minute.

I also spent some time going through and deleting some files on our family computer. As long as I’m confessing, I still had many, many homeschooling files … and, yes, my youngest child graduated in 2011 😉 I have to remind my perfectionist self that “every little bit helps”!

So, they say confession is good for the soul, and so is forgiveness … so I am forgiving myself, instead of mentally beating myself up. This paper clutter is an ongoing challenge that I will continue chipping away at … I hope you’ll join me.

Tips for Winter Roadside Emergencies

Winter Emergency Car Kit Tips

I live in the Midwest, and living through harsh winters is just a reality.

I have memories, as a young girl, maybe about 10 years old, of my Grandpa telling me to always have an emergency kit in my car when I grow up. He was pretty specific – he said to always have a toolbox, a spare tire, a flare and jumper cables. He also said to keep a coffee can filled halfway with sand, a big candle, matches and candy bars. He said I could spread the sand under my tires if I got stuck in the snow. He said if my car broke down, lighting the candle would provide some warmth as well as light. The candy bars were for energy. Of course, back in the day, coffee came in metal cans … not plastic containers or bags. Times have changed, but I love my memories of Grandpa teaching me life skills, by example. So

Winter Car Emergency Kit

I always try to be prepared for an emergency.

I have improvised some from Grandpa’s advice, but I’m still prepared for car emergencies.

I’m sharing some tips I’ve learned through my decades of winter driving experience. I have a bin with mechanical stuff and a bin for personal care stuff. Here is a list of my suggestions:

MECHANICAL BIN:
• Basic tools and wrenches
• Jack and tire iron
• Jumper cables
• Orange emergency triangle (flare substitute)
• Flashlight
• Rope and nylon zip ties
• Small shovel and some kitty litter
• Work gloves, rags and a plastic garbage bag (to kneel on or wear as rain gear)

PERSONAL BIN:
• Several water bottles
• Protein bars and nuts
• Blanket and hand warmers
• Extra pairs of socks and gloves
• First aid kit
• A book (something to help pass the time til help arrives)

These are some ideas for you to use as a guide … start with this list, then customize it to your preferences and needs geared toward your family.

One of my favorite sayings is … “I would rather have it and not need it, than need it and not have it”.

To - Do List

How My To-Do List Helps Me Get & Stay Organized

I love lists … it’s true ! I love making them, but I especially love checking things off my to-do list.

I make many kinds of lists, but my to-do list is my main list and then I make off-shoot lists from it. For example, I may list: go grocery shopping, run errands and pay bills on my to-do list. An off-shoot list from grocery shopping would be a meal plan list and a shopping list ~ an off-shoot from run errands might be drop off dry cleaning, return library books and pick up a prescription from the drug store ~ an off-shoot for paying bills might be to balance the check book, schedule individual online payments and then file the statements. Usually my main off-shoot type list is grocery related … only if I’ve procrastinated / blown things off like running the errands or reconciling the bank account, do I break it down into doable chunks. Writing tasks down is a way for me organize my thoughts and make a plan to accomplish everything. I’m a visual learner, so having a list in front of me helps me to see the “big picture” and then be able to prioritize things. Continue reading

Back to School Time

Back to School Time = Have an Organized Plan Time

Tis the season … Back to School season, that is 🙂

Yes, friends, it’s that time of the year again … and with it brings a myriad of feelings from anticipation/dread to stress/relief … and anywhere in between.

While my kids are no longer attending school, I remember that it can be a stressful and expensive time of year. I, personally, always felt better when I had a good plan. As a homeschooling family living on a single income:

  • I tried to set aside some money each payday during the summer for school supplies and textbooks/curriculum.
  • I attended conferences to get new & fresh ideas from other parents.
  • I tried to have my school year ‘planned out’ by mid summer, so I could be on the lookout for great prices on the curriculum I planned to use for the upcoming school year.
  • I tried to find used textbooks at Homeschool Used Curriculum Sales. Many times, I could buy used books from other homeschool families in my coop.
  • I also searched online for used books.

Some of my favorite websites were eBay.com and Half.com. I’ve found some good deals on some Facebook Groups pages and on Craigslist. I also like vegsource.com and homeschoolclassifieds.com. I have purchased, as well as, sold on both of these linked websites … it isn’t very hard 🙂 These two sites also have a convenient ‘want to buy’ tab. If you are in the market for any high school level curriculum (yes, I’m still emptying my last homeschool bookshelf), I am currently selling some Rosetta Stone and AO LifePacs foreign language and ABeka language arts items … check them out at the links above 🙂

Could you use some help with planning your Back to School schedule ~ lesson plans ~ school supply shopping ~ online research ?

Contact Tracy Helps You ~ I’ll come alongside you to help get it all figured out … then you can breathe a sigh of relief & focus on enjoying the last, long dog days of summer with your family 🙂