We’re giving away our secrets?

Organizing may be a big word and a daunting task but it can be done easily if broken down into these three simple steps. And… really… it’s no secret. You know that you can do this, all you need next is to get motivated and inspired.

First you must set aside an uninterrupted hour or two and role up your sleeves to work. Apply the A.S.K system that we use at Mercury Organizing Professionals.

A = Assess. Make an assessment or take inventory of what you presently own.

S = Sort. Separate all like items together and put into difference categories.

K = Keep or toss out those things you don’t need anymore, expired, or broken.

You can chip away at any piles you have if you follow these easy steps.

Good Luck!

Its Tax time!

If you haven’t done this yet, then its time to gather all of the tax information that is relevant for your tax purposes.

First, don’t forget to ask what your accountant expects from you. Ask them how they prefer to see your information. And do the best you can. They will be so thankful that you did this and it will save you lots of time and money in the long run.

Here is a step by step instruction to help you get organized before you meet with your accountant.

1. Create a 2009 file pocket folder and separate income (W2 forms) from expenses.
2. Sort expense receipts by month
3. Identify your expense categories (Auto, insurance, medical, utilities etc…)
4. If you don’t use some kind of software then enter your data onto an excel sheet or onto an accounting data sheet.

Sometimes your bank statements will be all you need, and the receipts you keep are used for supporting documentation.

Only keep the records you need in your newly organized system, the rest is just clutter.
By gathering as much of your expense information that you have, you can make the difference of a better tax return. Remember, also, your donations made to charities are sometimes tax deductible.

Good luck and I wish you a successful 2010!

What’s for dinner?

That’s a question for many folks after a long day of work. But the hard work it takes to create a meal can be made easier if you are “uber-organized” says Cynthia, our featured organizer: an editor, mom and wife. Today she provides a helpful tip on how to prepare and feed your family with fresh healthy meals.

“There is nothing more stressful than those three words at the end of a long day. The only way I combat the stress of cooking dinner every night for four while holding down a hectic day job is to be uber-organized. And this is how I pull it off.

Every Sunday morning I wake up early, make a pot of coffee, and while everyone is still asleep, I plan the meals for the week. I pour over my cooking magazines for inspiration and start working on my shopping list. I have a master shopping list with all our staples typed out with check boxes. I keep a dozen blanks in a kitchen drawer. The list is organized by the layout of the grocery store-in my case Dominick’s on Fullerton. First I list the produce, then deli and bread items, then meat and dairy. I work my way around the perimeter before I hit the main aisles. This way I fill up my cart up with the freshest, healthiest items first and then I can skip aisles if I don’t need anything down them.

Having this master shopping list is key. It means I don’t have to worry about forgetting something. During the school year I have things on the list like drinks for the kid’s lunches, snacks for the kids, green veggies (meaning any green vegetable that looks good), ketchup, Ranch dressing, butter, eggs and bread, etc. That way I only make one trip to the store a week and we never run out of essentials until next Sunday morning. Now I know this sounds compulsive, but trust me, once you make the master list in your computer and tweak it every season or so, you will never go back to shopping without it.

Once I know what we have and I have checked all the staples I need on the list, I turn to my black binder of recipes. The recipes that graduate to the black 3-ring binder are the ones that everyone likes, that are easy to make in 20-30 minutes when I get home from work, and are healthy and low-fat. If I pick a recipe from this “magic” black book, I know I can get food on the table by 6:30PM and it won’t blow my diet. So all I have to do on Sunday morning is flip through the book and pick my seven recipes for the week. Then I add any special ingredients I need to my shopping list and I am good to go.

No, it’s not quite that easy. By this point I’m on my second cup of coffee and the angels are awake. My husband sits down and I ask him what the schedule looks like that week. He’s a stay-at-home dad and musician, so the family schedule can get pretty complicated. This is when he tells me which nights he’s home for dinner and which nights he has a gig and when our daughters have late-night soccer practice or karate. Then I might switch up a few meals and write in “leftovers” or “pasta,” the quickie fall back meals. I usually try and cook a big meal on Sundays so we can have some leftovers throughout the week. I write the week’s menu on the back of the shopping list and I am off to the grocery store. Sticking to my list and planning out all the meals helps me save money and reduce stress”.

Cynthia Sherry
Editor-Chicago

Networking in Lakeview

Neighborhood Networking kicked off the the new year in style last month in the West Loop. Our next stop is a neighborhood near and dear to both of the hostesses’ hearts: Lakeview.
Join us, along with our co-hosts BBR Chicago (Business by Referral), for an evening of networking at local favorite Wishbone Restaurant (3300 N. Lincoln Avenue, Chicago IL) February 23rd, Tuesday from 5:30-8:00 pm.Make sure you stay for our now-famous raffle, which always features items from local businesses.*
Buy tickets in advance for $10 ($12 at the door). Please RSVP if you plan to pay at the door.
See you there!
*Lakeview businesses: Promote your business by donating an item to our raffle! Contact us for a donation form and details.

www,neighborhoodnetworking.wordpress.com

Featured Exhibitor at Neighborhood Networking

The Ignite the Spirit Fund

At Neighborhood Networking in the West Loop next week, we will be featuring The Ignite the Spirit Fund. The northwest side group was created to raise funds for Chicago firefighters and their families in times of need. By supporting the Ignite the Spirit Fund, you’ll be helping the firefighters take care of their own. It’s your chance to give something back to them for doing so much for the communities in which we live.

The Ignite the Spirit 2010 Chicago Firefighter Calendar features 12 male Chicago Firefighters and their stories. Sam Holloway (Mr. January) will be at Neighborhood Networking on Tuesday, January 26th at Plush Restaurant & Lounge to sign calendars and raise funds for the local organization.

By tickets for Neighborhood Networking on Tuesday, January 26th here.

Is there a formula for keeping your New Year resolutions?

If  “A New Year resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other”, then your New Year resolution is only as good as your commitment to it. Resolving to be true to your commitments this year will help you achieve other goals. But how can you do this? Does it take will power? or something more?

I believe one doesn’t need will-power just the right support system that you create around you. If you don’t want to eat junk food, for example, then don’t purchase them and have them around your pantry for starters. Keep only healthy food around and when you feel like snacking then your only option will be a healthy one. Finding someone to help you be accountable will contribute to your success. Someone else will help motivate you when you can’t find the inspiration yourself.

I  approach maintaining and organizing in the same way. Create boundaries that help you visualize how much disorganization is enough. Acknowledge that you have reached your limit. Once you reached those boundaries, then resolve to tackle your piles, tasks or chores then ask someone to make you accountable. Many daunting tasks can be reduced to manageable goals.

There may not be just one formula to keeping your new year’s resolution but having a vision, making a choice and setting your goals will certainly get you closer to success.