Tag Archives: organized

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

 

 

Handmade Gift Ideas for the Holidays

Handmade Gift Ideas

It is a glorious September afternoon. I’m working on my blog post while sitting on my new patio enjoying the beautiful weather. It is warm & sunny with a gentle breeze blowing through the branches of my gi-normous maple tree.

So (on one of the last days of summer) … I decide my topic will be about ideas for making a handmade gifts for Christmas. That’s right, I said Christmas … but only because you need plenty of time to plan and work on your gift projects. Otherwise, I am a believer of enjoying each holiday as it comes, not rushing it 🙂

I have always loved doing crafts. Making or creating something is a labor of love. I feel like the finished product has a little piece of me in it ♥ However, I have learned (the hard way) that in order for me to love making the gift for someone, I have to allow plenty of time to finish it … not be rushed to get it done in time.

That being said, here is my game plan:
• Search Pinterest, craft websites & blogs to pick the projects I want to make
• Only choose a handful of recipients, so making the gift remains a joy ~ not become a burden.
• Decide early on who will be getting what gift
• Buy all the supplies I will need for each project ahead of time, (that way I can have multiple projects going at the same time)
• I’ll work on the gift while watching TV in the evening
• I can switch up which gift I’m working on, so I don’t get bored … like I can work on my knitting project if I don’t feel like making jewelry.

Some of the handmade gifts I given in the past are … a knitted or crocheted scarf, note cards for stationary, jewelry, Christmas ornaments, personalized photo frames, a “scrapbook style” keepsake shadow box, bath salts, and, of course, baked goods 🙂

I really enjoy giving handmade gifts to friends. I feel that because time is such a valuable commodity, the time I spend making the gift communicates how much I care about them. I hope they enjoy receiving them. Of course, because it is so time consuming, I only choose a few friends to make gifts for each year. My other friends receive store bought gifts … I love shopping too <3

I haven’t decided what I want to make for this year’s gifts yet, but I’m glad I’m starting to think about it early … because, as we all know, times flies by quickly.

Back To School Tips

Top 5 Tips & Sanity Savers for Smooth Back to School Mornings

Back To School

In my humble opinion, a peaceful & out the door on time “back to school” (or any other busy) morning really begins with an organized & planned out night before 🙂

Here’s what has worked for me in the past (my kids are grown)…

(1) Have everyone’s lunch made & packed into their lunchbox / cooler, then store in the frig overnight. It will be easy to just grab-n-go in the morning.

(2) A hot breakfast will be easy if you have it pre-planned and pre-cooked beforehand. You can cook over the weekend, then just warm it up in the microwave. Set the table / have as much stuff out & ready to go as possible. Make sure to get everyone up early enough to have time to eat … feeling rushed is not the best way to start the day.

(3) Make sure all the backpacks (and briefcases) are packed and ready to go near the door. Be sure all forms that need a signature are signed … homework is in the proper folder … library materials that are due, etc.

(4) Pick out the clothes for the next day, get everything together – down to the shoes. Then you won’t discover their favorite jeans are dirty, or someone can’t find their shoe = no meltdown 🙂

(5) Try to do showers in the evening … it will help to free up congestion in the bathroom while everyone is trying to get ready at the same time in the morning.

Bonus tip:

Establish a “No Electronics Before School” rule (yes, for grown-ups too) It’s much easier to communicate when people are not staring a screen 🙂

I hope these tips will help you establish a good routine that works for your family. Please share some of your ideas and “tried & true” tips with the rest of us 🙂

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

 

camping

My Top 10 Best Camping Tips & Hacks

I love camping, but if you know me at all, you know that I love to have a plan. Even if things don’t always go as planned, you can go on to Plan B 🙂

Here are some tidbits of wisdom (no particular order) that have served me well …

#1  Plan all your meals and snacks (I suggest lots of snacks) ahead of time – then use your menu plan to create your shopping & packing lists

#2  Create a separate plastic storage bin (with tight fitting lid) to store camp essentials – one for your “camp kitchen” aka, pots & pans, dishes, utensils, dish towels, etc. – one for your “camp gear” aka, tools, flashlights, rope, fire starters, bug spray, etc. – one for your “camp pantry” aka, to store all your non refrigerated, dry food items.

#3  Have 3 separate coolers – one for meats (freeze ahead of time and put in zip lock bags (to catch blood from the meat so it doesn’t mix in with the water from melting ice)) – one for beverages (I keep these separate because the lid is opened so often). I also fill a gallon zip lock with clean ice for my glass each time we get more bags of ice. – one to serve as the “frig” … for your fruits & veges, condiments, butter, eggs, etc. I freeze gallon jugs of water before hand to keep things cold and then use the melted water to make lemonade.

#4  Try to choose a shady campsite – it is cooler during the day and you can always find a sunny place to hang out if you want heat & fun in the sun.

#5  Get inexpensive solar garden path lights from the Dollar store – place them around your site so you can see where you are going a night … darkness fall very quickly. These generally work even if they don’t get direct sunlight during the day, maybe not as bright, but enough to light your path.

#6  Use aluminum foil and aluminum pans – the grates over the fire pit are usually pretty dirty and gross, so I use foil grill pans to cook my meats – plus easy clean up 🙂

#7  Have two matching (size/shape, so they can stack) laundry baskets – pack your clothes in one with the empty underneath. Each night as you change clothes, put the dirty clothes in the bottom basket and stack the clean clothes on top of it.

#8  Have small mesh bags for carry bath & hygiene essentials to the shower house – make one for males & one for females, or one for each person. I also set up a hand washing station at the campsite for quick clean ups. I put a bar of soap in an old knee high nylon stocking and hang it with a towel near the water / dish washing area.

#9  Always take your trash to the dump station every night before going to sleep – you do not want animals prowling around your campsite because they smell your meal leftovers! I also fill all our water containers at this time too – I need fresh water for my morning coffee 🙂

#10  Always have a well stocked first aid kit with a basic first aid manual. I use a jumbo vitamin/pill day of the week type container and re-labeled them for a supply of Advil / Benadryl / Pepto-Bismol / etc.

Do you have any tips or tricks or ideas about camping that you could share with us? Leave a comment … I’d love to hear them. We can all learn from each other !

Camping - Nap Time

There’s nothing like a relaxing afternoon nap while you are camping.

Happy Camping 🙂

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.

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