Paperwork: How Long to Keep it, What to Toss, What to Shred (Printables)

Paperwork: How Long to Keep it, What to Toss, What to Shred (Printables)

Paperwork: How Long To keep it, What to Toss, What to Shred (Printable Guidelines)

The hardest part about purging for me, especially purging paperwork, is being afraid that I’ll get rid of something important that I’m going to need later.

With the identity theft increasing, especially the recent Target one – come ON people, really???, I’m also a little freaked out about not knowing for sure what needs to or doesn’t need to be shredded. The whole need for hyper-privacy really pisses me off to be honest, but obviously it’s a necessary evil, so we need to take steps to protect ourselves.

To make our lives a whole lot easier, I checked in with the Attorney General’s Office and found the following information. Knowing it came straight from the horses mouths (no disrespect intended), it set my mind at ease that they’re pretty accurate guidelines,


So, print these two lists out, put them somewhere you can see them, plug in your shredder, then tear through that paperwork and purge, purge, purge!

How Long to Keep Documents - Free Printable Guideline[paiddownloads id=”36″]

What to Shred, What to Toss - Free Printable Guideline[paiddownloads id=”37″]

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How to Keep Sentimental Things, But Reduce Your Clutter

How to Keep Sentimental Things, But Reduce Your Clutter

What To Do With Your Sentimental Clutter

photo credit: Easy Giving

I went to a Catholic school through the 8th grade. Nuns enforced rules and punishment. It was a life of rituals, uniforms, memorizing prayers and strict education. I learned piano. I made lifelong friends. I won a National penmanship award. I kissed a boy for the first time. We hid on the back of the church steps and played poker during recess. It was a life that isn’t seen today. I went on to public school and became social. I met new friends, fell in love (several times), played sports, was a cheerleader, went to prom. I loved those years. My mementos let me relive those years of being young, having a strong athletic body, not being able to imagine myself at the age I am now, and dreamed of a future that resulted in a totally different reality.

My mom was my best friend. When i married and had kids, she was who I called first to share good or bad news, get advice, or just to gossip. We sewed together once a week in our BPFC (Be Prepared For Christmas) club. We shopped. We shared recipes. Mom died on my 28th birthday, when my kids were 2 and 3. I was devastated and it took me years to feel halfway normal again. Holding on to some of mom’s stuff, in an odd way, is holding on to a piece of mom.

I married at 21. We had a good couple years of marriage that produced two great kids. His job took him in and out of town. We grew apart. The marriage ended 9 years later. That was years ago, we remain friends, and each of us are happily remarried, but the things I’ve kept from those years are tied to a marriage and time when my kids were part of a two-parent family. So I feel I need to save those things to pass on to them.

I was a single mom for most of my kids school years. It was us against the world, creating memories, tackling life head-on, and living our lives to the fullest as best we could. Although those years were a struggle financially, they were some of the best years of my life. I’m proud of the adults my children have become, and I’m proud of myself for powering through some really difficult years that resulted in the relationship I now have with my kids. The “things” I’ve saved from those years are precious to me.

So… how do you get rid of sentimental things? First of all, who says we have to? I’m an extremely sentimental person and have trouble letting go…of anything. When I love someone (or something), I love it hard! I cry easily. My kids “I love you, mom” produces a lump in my throat. Seeing the 12th man set Guinness noise level records when watching a Seahawks (GO HAWKS!) game makes me cry. Holding a baby, ANY baby, brings tears to my eyes. I’m a sentimental hot mess. So I’m sorry to all the minimalists who advise getting rid of sentimental clutter because they’re just “things”, but there are just some things I will NOT and CANNOT let go. I say, if you’ve got the room for it, and it means something to you, keep it.

I do agree, though, that saving everything that holds a memory can get out of hand. So here are some ideas for choosing what things to keep, uses for the things you save, and minimizing the space needed to store those things you can’t let go of…

Sentimental Paperwork

Elementary school artwork and projects, report cards, detention slips, essays, etc. Letters, cards, and notes.

  • Pull out your favorite few, or one item for each school year. If you can’t dump what remains, pack them all in a storage container and label it. If you don’t revisit that storage container in the next few years, throw it away without looking through it again, or ask your kids if they’d like to have them.
  • Take pictures of your favorite ones. Store the pictures on a disc or jump drive. Make them into photo books and gift them to your kids.
  • Make a scrapbook or shadowbox.

Sentimental Clothing

Your wedding dress, the bunting your baby wore home from the hospital, the t-shirt you bought in Mexico, your grandma’s pillbox hat, your cheerleading sweater, your dad’s favorite belt buckle, your favorite jeans from four sizes ago.

  • If they make you happy, turn them into display pieces. Make a shadowbox with pieces of these items grouped with pictures of you/them wearing them. Turn all those memorable t-shirts into a quilt.
  • If you’re saving clothing you hope you’ll fit into again, GET RID OF THEM! Although they may be holding on to them for motivation, I don’t know about you, but if I get back down to that size, I’ll be celebrating by buying NEW clothes!

Sentimental Items

Your grandma’s china, your dad’s favorite belt buckle, the framed picture of your great-aunt, your mother-in-law’s wedding ring, your mom’s old cookie press.

  • Use it. Even though these are close to your heart, they are just “things”. Things are meant to be used. Memories of those things will remain with you forever. So, use grandma’s china. If you break some pieces, it’s okay. Mom would get a kick out of you struggling to make spritz cookies using her old cookie press, and you KNOW she’d be okay with you eventually replacing it for a new one.
  • Display it. Hang that old picture of great aunt Hilda. Pull out other vintage photos of relatives and group all these together on a family wall.
  • Wear it. Have dad’s buckle shined and polished. Wear it yourself or give it to your brother, husband, son. Use it as an embellishment on a purse or clothing. Wear the ring on a chain, or take out the stones and have it reset in a more modern setting.

Don’t let anyone guilt you into getting rid of things that are important to you. Give yourself as much time as you need to let go. I feel that allowing yourself moments to relive and revisit memories can be healing. It can ground yourself by giving you a chance to revisit your past and pat yourself on the back for the progress you’ve made. It can remind you of plans you had for your future, and inspire and re-motivate you to attain those dreams.

I say that if you’re thoughtful about which items to keep, take steps to preserve them properly, and organize and label any containers where they live, if you have the room to store them, then do it. Who are you hurting? I don’t think it  means you’re living in the past. It’s true that these things are just “things”, but things, just like smells, taste and touch, can morph you back to a memory or a time that is close to your heart. My mom touched that sewing pattern, studied it over a cup of coffee, made notes on it, and was excited to start sewing it once we were all tucked away in bed. My kids held the crayon that colored that picture of the three of us, carried it home from school and proudly handed it to me with their little 1st grade hands. I’ll be damned if I’ll let those things go.

Am I wrong?

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How To Keep Your Email Inbox Empty

How To Keep Your Email Inbox Empty

How To Keep Your Email Inbox Empty | organizedCHAOSonline

Tawsha and I live on opposite sides of the United States, so a huge portion of our business communication is done through email. If you know either of us personally, you know we love what we do, have an idea a minute, and we do a lot of talking. This creates a ridiculous amount of work-related email. Then there’s the non-work related emails to each other, personal emails, subscription emails, …well, you see where I’m going here. Reading and processing 100+ emails a day left us little time to actually get any work done. We needed to find a solution. After some trial and error, we finally arrived at a system that really works for both of us.

Everyone uses email communication differently, and we all use different email programs. Although we use Microsoft Outlook, you should be able to use our process as a basic guide no matter what email program you use, and just tweak and adjust it where needed to make it work for you.

First of all, lets quickly clean out your inbox…


Your best friends are your Search and Find tools in your email program. Most of us get a lot of the same email notices that gunk up our inbox, like when someone repins your Pinterest pin. In Outlook, if you right click on a message, you can click the option “Find All From Sender”. It will pull up every message in your inbox from Pinterest. You can then click delete all. You could also type “Pinterest” in your email search bar to get the same list. Just repeat this process for all the messages you get a lot of…Facebook, Hometalk, your mom, that annoying person who forwards you jokes, etc, etc, etc. This is a great way to clear out a chunk of emails quickly. After you’ve cleared out as many as you can that way, you can then just individually go down the list of what’s left and delete them one by one.

The first time you completely clear out your inbox, it may take you awhile, but after you’ve done it this one time, if you follow our system below, you shouldn’t ever have to do it again. Do it, do it, do it! It will feel so good to have an empty inbox, even if you had to give up a Sunday morning to do it.

Now that you’ve finished, lets get you organized!


How To Keep Your Email Inbox Empty | organizedCHAOSonline

Think of and use your email inbox the same way you do your mailbox at home. Personal mail is delivered to your post office box or home mailbox around the same time each day. You retrieve the mail from your box, quickly scan through it, throw away the junk, respond to anything urgent or time-sensitive, then separate and distribute what’s left to it’s proper place. Right? After you’ve retrieved your mail each day, your mailbox is empty. That’s the goal we’re after for our email inbox.


Determine how often you’ll check your email each day. Keep yourself to a time limit. Stick to it! Set a timer. As we discovered, email can become a huge time suck. Example: You roll out of bed, grab a cup of coffee, and open your email. You don’t feel like working, you’re nice and cozy, and you click on the Wetpaint Bachelor recap link your friend included in her email that you have to read. Once your done, (if no other stories catch your attention), you go back to your inbox and open an email from Michaels. They’re having a 50% off sale!! You’ve got to see if that scrapbook paper is on special…. An hour later, you haven’t responded to any work emails and you’re totally unprepared for the Skype meeting with your client who’s trying hard to focus on your cute sweater and not drop their eyes to the pajama pants below it. Ugh.

We process email three times a day and limit our time to 30 minutes.  Make it known that you only check your email a few times a day, and if anyone needs your immediate response, suggest they send you a text or give you a call.


How To Keep Your Email Inbox Empty | organizedCHAOSonline

Turn off your audio and visual alerts. Some people have their social media accounts, such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest set to notify them by email when there is activity on their account. Most email programs offer visual or audible alerts to notify you of incoming email. Alerts are also available for your phones. So…if you have all these alerts activated, you’ve got yourself a whole lot of dinging, vibrating and notifications goin’ on that are screaming for your attention! If you’re tired or working on an extremely boring project, I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t take a lot to distract me and be checking out those incoming emails.

If you’d rather not turn your alerts off, another option is to change your email settings to only receive emails at a specific time, say during your lunch hour, or after your workday. Or… turn your automatic send & receive option off, which gives you complete control by allowing you to manually send and retrieve emails at times that are most convenient for you.


Our goal is to empty our inbox. To accomplish that in the time we’ve allowed ourselves, we need to have someplace to efficiently organize those emails. We need to create folders. Just as our email inbox is the same as our mailbox, email folders are the same as the file folders in our filing cabinet. The number of folders you create and what you name them, is totally up to you. All that’s important is that you create an organization system that lets you quickly move emails from your inbox to folders that make sense to you. They can be simple:

  • Need to Reply
  • Read Later
  • Add to Calender

or specific…

  • Meeting Notes
  • Applications|Resumes
  • Upcoming Seminars

During each of your allotted email times, try to delete, respond or file your emails as quickly as you can, and with any of your remaining time left, visit any “need to reply” or “read later” folders you’ve created and process as many of those as you can. When your time’s up, GET OUT!


How To Keep Your Email Inbox Empty | organizedCHAOSonline

Most email programs let you create “rules”. Based on options you check, an email will automatically be sent to a folder you choose as soon as the email is received. For instance, I subscribe to some yarn and crochet newsletters. I don’t want them in my inbox because I don’t have time to read them during the day, and I also want to keep all my craft patterns, etc in one folder. I first created a folder named “Crafts”. I then created a “From” rule for each of these email subscriptions. So when I receive an email, like  “From: Yarnspirations” it is automatically sent to my “Crafts” Folder. My OCD loves this because it keeps my inbox clear of emails that could easily distract me, and sorts them neatly in their designated folders for me to read when I’m done working. They are really, really easy to set up.

And that’s how it’s done.

Get to it…PURGE, PURGE, PURGE – you can DO THIS!

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Image Credits:



Woman Yelling

16 Reaons That Keep Us From Getting Rid of Stuff

16 Reaons That Keep Us From Getting Rid of Stuff

16 Reasons That Keep Us From Getting Rid of Stuff | January: Purging | organizedCHAOSonline

photo credit: tallkev via photopin cc

January is National Get Organized Month.  It’s time. This season my excessive-ness has finally gotten to me. I have purged my house hundreds of times in the past, but I still continue to hold on to certain items, or piles of items, for one reason or another. I’m a hugely sentimental person, so letting go of anything that is connected to a memory is really difficult for me. That’s my biggest purging downfall. I have finally become so tired of arranging and rearranging all my “stuff”, that I think I just may be able to put on those big girl panties, don a pair of those bad-ass yellow Playtex gloves, and overcome my biggest purging downfall by finally cutting that stuff loose.

I discovered I’m not alone in this. There are a lot of reasons that keep us from  tossing the things we don’t use, and a majority of them are based on fear. Below is a list of the most common reasons people have given for hanging on to their stuff. I was surprised at how many of them I had heard myself give as an explanation for re-storing a box instead of chucking it.

Through the rest of this month, we’ll offer suggestions for ways you can overcome whatever emotion it is that’s keeping you from Cutting. The. Crap.

“I may need it some day”

“I’m afraid of running out of them”

“I may not be able to afford a new one when I need it”

“I’m going to do something with this”

“I’m saving it to put in my yard sale”

“I’m going to sell this on Etsy/eBay”

“It brings back memories”

“I’ve always loved this”

“But it still works”

“I paid a lot of money for it”

“I got it free”

“It’s perfect to put things in”

“It was on sale”

“It’s a collectible”

“Someday it will be worth something”

“It was a gift”

I know, right? Did you hear yourself? Are you ready to purge, but don’t know where to begin? Click HERE to get started.

To purge along with us this month, you can get email updates every time we post new information by creating a free Bloglovin’ account. It’s simple. Click HERE to get your updates.

If, at any time, you have questions, a special request or need more, please CONTACT US. We love hearing from you!

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5 Ways to Take Control of your Chaos

5 Ways to Take Control of your Chaos

taking control of your chaos | organized CHAOS onlineThis was me. Until about an hour ago.

I was sitting in the same clothes I slept in, my hair was on top of my head (okay, it still is), my house was a mess, I have things to do more than I have time in a day and I was literally frozen in place.

This happens more than I care to admit.

My “thing” when I feel overwhelmed is to look in one direction toward something I need to complete and say, “Okay.” I’ll turn around and see another project and say it again… “Okay.” This will happen about 20 more times and it accomplishes nothing.

Have you ever felt this way?

It seems that September is the month that kicks us into a speed of about 500 miles an hour and it doesn’t stop until January. The chores, holidays, events and activities start coming in a lightning speed and unless you’re on your game, this will send you into a cell with padded walls.

Let’s control our chaos.

But how?

Get up and do something. It doesn’t have to be something huge. Your goal is to look for something that will provide a sense of accomplishment. It has a starting point and an ending point in a short amount of time.


notepadJust start writing. Unload what’s on your mind. This doesn’t have to be in order, all under the same topic or even written well. The goal is to get that clutter out of your head and on paper. You can go back and sort it out later.


shower-organizationWhether it’s your shower, the bottom of your closet, the silverware drawer or the spice cabinet. Tackle a small space that, everytime you go back to it, you feel a sense of accomplishment. Once you get started on your small space, you’ll get the drive to do other things. Tip: Set a timer. Don’t let this take you all day. It’s a small space and should take a small amount of time. If it feels like it’s too in depth, move on to something else. For now, at least.


creating-a-scheduleI’ve been talking to so many people who have all their days filled with sports, activities, club meetings, organization and travel. It gets so nuts. Start jotting it down in a calendar and make a schedule. Once you know when things are happening, your brain will start to sort it out, too. Place your important dates where they belong and back track a week or two and set yourself a reminder that your important date is approaching. This way, you aren’t caught off guard.


laundryAt my house, the laundry is the one thing I never keep up with. It is typically washed and dried but then it’s stacked up on the table in my laundry room neatly folded in half to avoid wrinkles…until my husband or son goes to look for the worlds smallest item within the stack. Then it topples. Taking the time to hang, fold and put away laundry is almost impossible. The funny thing is: Once I do it, I feel so much better. For you… find a chore that is nagging at you. What has a starting point and ending point and will make you feel better once accomplished? Do that thing.


fall-wreathIf the inside is just too much right now, go outside. How about adding a festive wreath or swapping out your summer flowers for something more fall-like (or whatever season you wish)? There’s a definite sense of pride when you drive up to your home and you see colorful flowers and decor. Everything feels so tidy and put together. Just don’t invite anyone in.

Are you rolling your eyes right now? Just like working out, you’ll feel better afterwards.

tawsha connell