To Shred or Not to Shred

We all know that one of the best ways we can protect ourselves from identity theft is to use a shredder for much of the personal mail that comes into our homes.  But what types of things need to go into the  shredder and what can go straight into the trash?   

Here are some of the things I recommend that you shred either in a home shredder or in an industrial shredder such as those found in corporate settings or those available at free community shredding events such as the ones I mention at the end of this list.

  •  Documents containing personal information such as your full name, date of birth, address, work or home telephone numbers, Social Security number, or driver's license number
  • Any documents containing account numbers, passwords, or user names
  • The pages of junk mail that have your name and address or computer bar codes which may contain personal information
  • Financial documents that contain information specific to your accounts
  • Credit card offers and applications
  • Blank courtesy checks
  • Monthly bills
  • Old credit cards and credit card statements
  • Unused checks
  • Any tax documents that contain personal information
  • Anything with your signature, including receipts that have all but the last four digits of your account hidden
For those in the Atlanta area, there are two upcoming shredding events that will help you get rid of your shredding backlog:

On April 16 from 10 a.m. - 1:00 p.m., the Community School and Eagle Secure Shredding will be having a community shred day in the parking lot of the First Baptist Church of Decatur located at 308 Clairmont Avenue.  A $5 donation per box (maximum of 10 boxes per patron, please) is welcomed and all proceeds go to the Community School, a school for junior and high school students with Autism Spectrum Disorders. You can find more information on this event at

There will also be a community shred day on Saturday, April 30 from 9:00 a.m. until 12:00 p.m. in the Resurgens Bank parking lot (2300 Henderson Mill Road, Atlanta, GA 30345).  This event will be sponsored by the Northlake Community Alliance, Inc. , Resurgens Bank, and Eagle Secure Shredding. The event is free but there is a request for (tax-exempt) donations to support the work of Northlake Community Alliance.  There is a limit of 5 copy-paper sized boxes or equivalent bags.  Arrangements can be made for large shred jobs by contacting Ian Taylor at Eagle Secure Shredding at (770) 619-5300.  For more information go to

If you would prefer to do your shredding at home, I recommend that you invest in the best cross-cut or diamond-cut shredder that you can afford.  Don't waste your money on the cheaper strip-cut shredders as their shredding can be put back together by identity thieves and the cheaper machines wear out really quickly.

March 19th Decatur Electronics Recycling Event

For those of you in the Atlanta area, it's time for the City of Decatur's bi-annual Electronics Recycling day.  Bring your old cell phones, cameras, PC components and other outdated and unused electronic equipment to the Decatur High School parking lot from 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 19th.  The lot for drop-offs is located at the corner of N. McDonough Street and W. Howard Avenue.

Electronics dropped off will be sorted and broken down into raw materials and sent to recyclers for reuse.  In addition to electronics, you may drop off batteries of any type, Styrofoam peanuts, clean Styrofoam blocks free of foreign objects, mercury thermometers and thermostats.

Televisions may also be recycled for a $10 cash-only fee per TV with exact change.  There is no charge to recycle other items.

Recyclables must be dropped off between 9 a.m. - 1:00 on Saturday.  Early drop-offs are not possible.  Almost anything with an electrical cord can by recycled except microwave ovens.  For more information including a full list of recyclables allowed and last-minute updates, visit

I take advantage of this recycling opportunity often and can attest to the fact that it's a very well run event.  You'll be in and out in no time!

Taking Photos of Visual Clutter

There is an interesting phenomenon that occurs with my organizing clients when I take "before" photos of their space.   When we look at the photos of the cluttered spaces they live in day-to-day, they are often shocked by just how cluttered the space appears.  It's as though they have become desensitized to this visual clutter and no longer notice it.  But a photograph offers them an "outsider's view" of the space and helps the client acknowledge the real scope of the project.

Some people have a very high tolerance for visual clutter and are quite comfortable living and working in spaces in which all flat spaces are covered with stuff.  With these clients, I tend to focus more on the functionality of the space rather than the way a space looks (not that you can't do both, but the emphasis on appearance is minimized). 

Other folks have a very low tolerance for visual clutter and become anxious and unfocused trying to function in a busy-looking, cluttered space.  With these clients, I focus more on storage solutions than I may with the clutter-tolerant people. 

The real challenge is when a clutter-tolerant person lives with a clutter-intolerant person.  In those situations, I work with both people to create compromises so that they can both be more comfortable and functional in their space. 

If you are clutter-intolerant and you're living with a clutter-tolerant person, consider taking photos of the space of concern.  Then try having a calm, constructive conversation with the clutter-tolerant person where you show them the photos and explain how the clutter affects you.  Seeing the clutter from the outsider's perspective offered by a photo may help them see things with new eyes prompting positive change.

Come see me Saturday, February 26 at Finders Keepers Furnishings

Join me this Saturday morning, February 26th at 9:30 a.m. as I wrap up the Finders Keepers free "Get Organized" lecture series.  This two month series has featured several members of the National Association of Professional Organizers, Georgia Chapter.

Saturday's presentation entitled "Making Room for Purpose and Passion" covers ways to make room, literally and figuratively, for more fun, creativity, purpose and passion in your life.  We will discuss everything from cutting clutter to dumping toxic relationships to reclaiming what YOU want more of in your space and in your day-to-day life. 

This workshop will begin at 9:30 a.m. sharp (we organizers like to respect your time) at Finders Keepers Furnishings.  Seats are first come, first serve, and there is also plenty of standing room available for overflow.  When I spoke in January we had a standing-room-only crowd! 

For questions, please call Finders Keepers at (404) 377-1944 or go to

I hope to see you there!!

Is Your Home Your Sanctuary?

When you walk into your home after a hard day's work, do you breathe a sigh of relief as you settle into your cozy space, or do you cringe at the clutter that faces you on the other side of your front door?

For many of us, clutter is more than just a nuisance.  Instead, it is a problem that can rob us of our sense of calm and well being.  Your home should be your sanctuary, the place where you come to relax and restore your spirit.  If you feel stress in your home because of chaos and clutter, one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself is to reign in this clutter, reclaim your space, and embrace a sense of calm.

The first step is to pick one room that you will deem your sanctuary.  This may be your bedroom, your study, a man-cave in the basement, or a nook for an artist's studio.  Once the space is decided upon, take a box or clothes hamper and remove everything from the space that needs to live elsewhere in the house. 

Then take a look at what is left and decide whether you REALLY need to keep everything or if maybe some of the items have outlived their welcome.  Assign homes to the items that are left and put them away.  Once you have only the essentials in the room, it is easier to organize what's left in a way that is visually pleasing either with shelves, boxes, bins or cabinets.   

Finally, make sure that you monitor the upkeep of this sacred sanctuary space so that you have at least one place in your home where you can regularly retreat to relax, read, meditate or whatever else helps you unwind and recharge your battery.

Opting Out of Catalogs

Now that the holidays are behind us, you may have noticed that you are receiving new catalogs in the mail simply because of your recent holiday shopping patterns.  There's a way to opt out of receiving most of these catalogs without having to contact each individual retailer.  Catalog Choice is a free service that offers opt-out requests for individual companies from one web site.  I used this service when they first came on the scene in 2007 and have noticed a drastic reduction in the number of catalogs landing in my mailbox.

The are also now offering a premium service where, for an annual $20 donation, they will communicate opt-outs to the third-party marketing companies that trade your name and personal information based on your buying history and behavioral characteristics.  This stops more mail at the source and enhances your privacy protection.  You may sign up for up to four name and address combinations that you want Catalog Choice to submit for unlisting. 

Save trees, stop catalogs from cluttering up your home, and protect your privacy by signing up at 

Free Community Shred Fest

For those Better Organized readers who live in the Atlanta area, there is a free shredding event scheduled for Saturday, January 22 from 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. at the Toco Hill Shopping Center.  The event is co-sponsored by real estate agents Joan Kaplan and Tammy Martin along with professional organizers Michelle Cooper and Linda Lanier (who you may recognize as one of Creative Order's Lead Organizers).

Look for the Eco Shredding truck near the clock tower by Kroger.  To guarantee that your sensitive documents are definitely gone for good, you will be able to watch your papers being shred.  Even better, there's no limit to how much paper you can bring!  If you've got a bunch of shredding that you've been stockpiling, save your poor little office shredder and bring your papers to the Shred Fest.

This Shred Fest is being held in conjunction with the National Association of Professional Organizers'  Get Organized Month which occurs each January.  Declutter and make room in your file cabinet for your more current and active files.  This is the perfect opportunity to get rid of those boxes of old papers that have been piled up in your home or office! 

For more information about this event, you can reach Michelle Cooper at 404.784.2100 / or Linda Lanier at 404.435.8425 /

National Clean Off Your Desk Day

Photo by VirtualCourtney on

Every second Monday in January is "Clean Off Your Desk Day" and what a great way to start off the new year!  Here in Atlanta, we're buried under about five inches of snow today making this the perfect time for my local organizing clients to tackle their desks at homes.

Here are a few tips to get you started:
  • Gather your supplies:  big trash bag or garbage can, a small box or container for the paper to be shredded, another box or laundry hamper for those items that need to be moved elsewhere in the house or office, hanging or manila file folders, depending on how you prefer to manage your files, and a label maker.
  • Start with a bird's eye view of your office and quickly grab anything that isn't supposed to live on your desk or in your office.  Put these items into a "MOVE" hamper/box.
  • Notice whether there are any other extraneous items on the top of your desk.  This includes framed photos, freebies from trade shows, excessive quantities of Post-It notes, etc.  These items need to be off your desk and placed elsewhere in your home or office.  The only thing on your desk top should be items and files that you use often.
  • If you don't have a supply drawer, create a makeshift one using a drawer organizer insert that sits on top of your desk.  Or you can use the upturned top of a decorative organizing box to house commonly used office supplies, which is what I do.  The supplies I use less often live in the bottom drawer of a rolling file holder that sits next to my desk under my printer shelf. 
  • Now combine all of your paper into one pile.
  • Start with the top piece of paper and work your way down.  For each piece of paper on your desk, decide whether to Keep, Shred, Throw Away, or Delegate.  If you are keeping it, add it either to your FILE pile if it's reference material or to your ACTION pile if there is an action that you need to follow up and do related to that piece of paper.  Remember to put paper that can be delegated into the DELEGATE pile with the person's name who you're delegating to on the top of the page or on a Post-It note.  If the paper is home-related, feel free to delegate it to appropriate family members.
  • After you get through your paper pile, if you have the energy and brainpower left to continue, file the paper in your FILE pile creating either manila or hanging files for your file cabinet or desktop holder.  If you don't have a file cabinet, a plastic file box with ridges for hanging files will suffice.   These are often on sale at your office supply store during tax season.
  • THEN, if your brain has not yet exploded, decide how you want to handle your ACTION pile.  Prioritize the action items by how critical they are and when their deadlines hit.  Many people find a tickler/reminder system such as the 43 Files system that David Allen writes about in "Getting Things Done" which is the one that I prefer.
  • Finally, deliver all of the items in your MOVE hamper to their appropriate rooms in the house or office.
If all of this is too much for you to take on in one day, go ahead and make this your "Clean Off Your Desk WEEK" and break it down into smaller steps.  Then enjoy the peace of mind that comes with a clean desk!