Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Managing Work Flow

Tips for Tuesday

Whether it's your work desk or your personal desk at home, the papers can get overwhelming.  It's sometimes difficult to determine where everything should go.  It seems like more is coming in than is going out.  So how do you handle your work flow to make your desk a productive space?

First, look at every item as it comes "in."  Determine if it needs action.  If not, then it belongs in one of three categories; Discard (trash, recycle, shred), Incubate (hold for later review), File (reference material when required).

If the item needs action, what is that action?  If it can be done in less than two minutes, then do it.  If you can, delegate it. This can be tracked via a communication system.  If you are waiting for someone to do it, check up on the progress on a regular basis.  Anything else needs to be deferred.  When a task is deferred, separate them into tasks that need to be done as soon as possible, and tasks that can be done later.  Schedule time on your calendar for those that can be done later. 

Sometimes the action required on an item is multi-step.  In this case, the individual steps within the project need to be planned out and scheduled.  Each step must be reviewed for further action.

Finally, keep your desk as clear as possible by following these rules:

·         If it's used every day, it belongs ON your desk.

·         If it's used every week, it belongs IN your desk.

·         If it's used every month, it belongs in your office.

·         Everything else belongs in storage.

Monday, July 30, 2012

How to Move A Fish Tank

Moving on Monday

There are some items in your house that need special handling during a move.  A piano and grandfather clock are two of these items.  Another is a fish tank or aquarium.  These are risky because the fish need to be transported alive, but can't travel in the tank itself.  The movers can't move an aquarium full of water.

Unlike dogs and cats that be placed into a crate, fish need to stay in their environment.  The closer your new home, the easier the trip.  But you still need to take precautions. The aquarium should be one of the last things emptied in the old home, and one of the first items to set up in the new house.

Ideally, you will want to take as much water with you as possible to lessen the stress on the fish.  Use clean five-gallon buckets with lids.  Use these buckets to hold the fish and plants as well as the water during transport.

Remove as much water as possible from the tank.  You may need to remove some of the gravel, depending on the size and weight of the tank.

Once you arrive at your new home, set up the tank as quickly as possible.  Start by attaching all the equipment, but don't turn on the heater or pumps yet.  Place the gravel into the tank, then the plants and other decorations.  Start replacing the water from the buckets, leaving enough for the fish.  If you don't have enough water to fill the tank, add de-chlorinated tap water. 

Finally, place the fish into the aquarium.  Let the tank sit for 30 minutes before turning on the pumps or heater.  Over the course of the next several weeks, replace 10-15% of the old water with water from your new home so the fish can slowly get used to the new water.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Green Cleaning-General Uses for Salt, Part 1

Frugal Friday

So many cleaning products on the market are full of dangerous chemicals that can harm both the environment and your health.  They are also expensive.  So why not look to the past for both inexpensive and healthier alternatives?  Over the next few weeks, we're going to look at ways to use common household products to clean your home.  This week, we'll look at general uses for plain old table salt.

·         Soak clothes in salty water as soon as possible to get rid of bloodstains.

·         Make a paste of salt, vinegar and flour to clean copper, brass and pewter.

·         Use to clean a stained coffeepot or mug.

·         Soak sponges and cleaning cloths in salty water to freshen.

·         Soak enameled pans in salty water, then boil salt water to remove dried on food.  Do NOT use on chipped pots or metal pots.

·         Soak discolored glass in a salt and vinegar solution to remove stains.

·         Remove odors from drains by running hot salt water through them.

·         Add salt to the water in your washing machine to remove soap scum and hold colors.

·         Mix salt and lemon juice to remove mildew.

·         If you spill something in your oven, pour salt over the liquid, then let the oven cool.  The mess will form into a dry, light crust that will wipe up easily.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Do the Pieces of Your Estate Plan Fit Together?

Senior Thursday

Do the Pieces of Your Estate Plan Fit Together? 
by Patricia Deemer

If your estate plan documents are older than 2007 or 2008, you may want to review them yourself and consider having an attorney review them.  The four "basic" document components of a basic estate plan are a will, a durable power of attorney for property, a power of attorney for health care, and a revocable trust.  There are state law rules governing the execution (or signing) of each of these documents that must be observed.

A will disposes of your real and personal property and takes effect only after your death.  You may change it as long as you are competent. Your will may have other provisions, including naming guardians for your minor children or burial instructions. If you have a revocable trust, your will generally 'pours over' into your trust any property not specifically disposed of by your will.

A trust is a legal entity created by a Grantor for the benefit of designated beneficiaries under the laws of your state and a valid trust document.  A Revocable Trust can be changed or completely revoked by the grantor at any time during the Grantor's lifetime as long as the grantor is competent to do so.  A trust must have a trustee.  Often, the Grantor is the initial Trustee of the trust, and the primary beneficiary.  The Trustee holds the legal title to the property for the benefit of the beneficiaries of the trust.  The property held in the name of the trust is known as the trust corpus or trust estate.  The Trustee is a fiduciary, and thus, is held to a high standard of conduct and responsibility to the grantor and the beneficiaries.  The terms of the trust are directions from the Grantor to the Trustee; the trustee is obligated to follow the terms of the trust.  A revocable trust typically provides for Successor Trustees who continue to follow the Grantor's directions after the Grantor is either deceased or no longer able (or willing) to manage his or her trust.  For example, if the Grantor becomes unable to manage his or her own affairs during life, a successor trustee may take over without the need for a court proceeding to appoint a guardian.  A trust continues to exist after the Grantor's death.

A Power of Attorney for Property names an agent, a person who can make financial decisions for you if cannot make them for yourself, without going to court.  Since 2007, an agent under a Power of Attorney for Property cannot take any actions with respect to an account titled in a Trust unless specific language referencing the Trust is included in the Power of Attorney for Property.  Thus, if your documents are older, they may not work together the way you originally intended.  Some people do intend that the agent under a Power of Attorney not have the ability to take actions with respect to their trust accounts, however, it is important that you understand whether or not your current documents still express your intentions.

A Power of Attorney for Health Care names an agent who can make medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so yourself.  This is a very important document that should be a part of every estate plan.

Do you understand how your documents work together? Do you understand them?  Many people are very surprised to learn what their wills or trusts actually say, particularly about how and when distributions are made to their children after their deaths.  A trust should be drafted to fit your particular family's needs and circumstances.

Patricia Deemer, of Deemer Law Firm, has been helping families with their legal needs for over 17 years.  Call her at 847-847-7463 to schedule an initial consultation.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Organizing Home Repairs

Tips for Tuesday

As a homeowner, you know the frustration of home repairs.  They seem endless.  As soon as one project is done, something else breaks.  Life is a constant stream of hammers and wrenches and wires.  So how do you keep track of everything that needs to be done on the house, and who will do the repairs? 

First, walk around your entire house, both inside and out.  Write down everything that needs to be done in each room/area.  This may be as simple as replacing a light bulb, or a major project like replacing the roof.  Then assess what to do first.  Prioritize the tasks, and assign responsibility to someone.  You can do some jobs yourself, and others you'll have to hire professionals. 

Determine what tools you will need to complete the tasks.  You may need a level and hooks for hanging pictures, or caulk for sealing your tub/shower.  Collect all your tools into one place.  Put tools into a toolbox, sort nails and screws into small containers, and put larger items like paint brushes and drills onto shelves in a designated work area. 

Some items you should always have on hand are:  a power drill, measuring tape, putty knife, adjustable pliers, screwdrivers, hammer, level, caulk, and glue. 

As you complete each task, cross it off your list.  Look at the next set of tasks to determine what preparation needs to be done.  You may need to prime walls, buy paint or get estimates from a plumber or contractor. 

Plan ahead and be prepared.  You won't avoid all surprises.  That's just how life is.  But being ready will make those disruptions easier to handle.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Items You Shouldn't Move Yourself

Moving on Monday

Moving can be expensive.  With supplies and packing and movers, the costs add up.  You may decide to save money by borrowing boxes and packing yourself.  Or you may decide to rent a truck or portable storage units you load yourself.  But there are some items you shouldn't move yourself because of their intricacies. 

One of these items is pianos.  Whether yours is an upright or baby grand, you should never move a piano yourself.  The inner workings of a piano are delicate and complicated.  Professional piano movers are skilled at knowing how to handle them.  They know how to maneuver uprights through doors, and disassemble and reassemble grand pianos without damaging the inner workings.

Another specialty item is grandfather clocks.  These should never be moved with the weights and pendulum intact.  Clock retailers often have staff who come to the house to disassemble your clock and pack up the pieces correctly.  Call well in advance of your move, as they may be booked, or only visit neighborhoods on specific days.  Schedule the reassembly at the same time.  Do not have the movers pack/unpack your clock.

Other items that should be left to the professionals are pool tables and fish tanks.  Pool tables must be disassembled in order to fit through the doors.  They are also extremely heavy, and if dropped can be destroyed.  Smaller fish tanks can be moved by you, but anything larger than 20 gallons should be left to professionals.  They must be emptied, the fish transported separately, then re-filled and the fish re-introduced. 

Anything expensive (like art) or extremely heavy (like exercise equipment) should be left to professionals also.  If you drop it, the item is a loss.  If movers drop it, then it is covered by insurance. Check with your moving company for adequate coverage.

While it may be tempting to do the entire move yourself, consider the consequences if something is damaged.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Spend Less on Groceries

Frugal Friday

Whether or not you have a large family, it's always nice to save money on groceries.  With the cost of gas and utilities rising, it's more important than ever to save money elsewhere.  Here are some ways to save money on your next trip to the grocery store.

·         If you find yourself going through a large amount of items quickly, ask your local grocer if they will give you a deal on buying by the case.  We used to purchase ten bags of dog food at a time to save $5 on each bag.  We shared the discount with other pet-owners.

·         Don't dilly-dally through the aisles.  Get what you need, then get out.  The longer you linger, the more impulse items you will purchase.

·         Shop around.  Comparison shop at wholesale stores and dollar stores for the items you usually purchase at your local supermarket.  Look at unit cost ($$ per ounce, or $$ per pound, etc.).  Where can you get the best price for the items you buy?

·         Use your cell phone.  You can comparison shop on your phone for best prices.  You can also use it to download store coupons.  Many supermarkets run special deals for loyal customers and offer special pricing on items you purchase on a regular basis.

·         Check online.  Visit Amazon.com and Drugstore.com for deals on non-perishables.  You usually have to buy larger quantities, but the savings are better than any sale price you can get in the store. 

How have you saved money on groceries?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Elder Abuse Awareness

Senior Thursday

Elder abuse is often a silent crime.  Most of us never see it because most victims are abused behind closed doors by their own family members. And, too often, people who do see it choose not to get involved because it’s none of their business.

Yet, if you are a witness to elder abuse, you are legally obligated to report it. 

Elder abuse can happen on various levels.  There is physical abuse (injury, illness, medication administration), neglect (withholding medical care, lack of food, neglected pets), sexual abuse, emotional abuse (lack of eye contact, anxiety around caretaker, confusion) and financial abuse (recent changes in will, frequent ATM use, transfer of titles). 

If you have an elderly relative or friend, the best gift you can give them is time.  Take the time to call them, visit them, and check up on their health and physical space.  Look for signs of abuse on your visits.  If you suspect anything, you should call your local Adult Protection agency. 

Take care of your elders.  It will be you one day.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Organizing Your Electronic Gadgets

Tips for Tuesday

If you have teens, pre-teens or college students in your house, you probably have several cell phones, MP3 players, and cameras, all needing to be charged.  In fact, the average household owns about 24 electronic devices.  Walk through your house now, and you'll find a phone in your kitchen, another in the bedroom, another in the laundry room.  What happens when you're ready to walk out the door?  Do you find yourself racing from room to room looking for your phone or camera?

To tame the tangles, designate a central place to charge all your gadgets.  A phone charging station is ideal for this purpose.  They come in a variety of styles to suit your decor and needs, but basically serve the same purpose.  There is a hole in the back of the station for running wires, and individual compartments for holding each of the devices.  Some stations have places to label the compartment.  For those that don't, you should mark them yourself.  A standard label from a label making machine can be folded over the wires, or use one of those plastic tabs that comes on bread wrappers.  Label both the wire and the compartment. 

Finally, corral all the cords in the back with velcro or twist-ties.  Plug your cords into a surge protector, rather than an outlet, to protect them from power outages.

The next time you are running out the door for your workout, you'll know exactly where your MP3 player is.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Is Staging Worth the Investment?

Moving on Monday

Many homeowners struggle with whether or not they want to have their home professionally staged.  Professional stagers charge anywhere from 1% to 3% of the sale price of the home.  That is a sizeable investment.  Yet, when they consider the benefits, they can see that Home Staging can easily make back what is spent, and often earn the homeowner more. 

Staging helps a home stand out and presents it as move-in ready playing up the positive and playing down the less than perfect.

·         Leaving a house “as is” will help sell the competition.

·         Staged homes sell for more money. (Stats show that they earn a 586% ROI on staging.)

·         Homes that are staged sell up to 78% faster than those that aren't.

·         The longer a house is on the market, the lower the selling price will be.

·         Staging doesn’t cost anything, because it is made up in increased value of the home.

·         79% of buyers value updated kitchens.

·         63% of buyers will pay more for move-in-ready status

·         Top selling features in a home are fresh paint, adequate storage, and updated flooring.

So you decide—IS Staging worth it?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Green Cleaning—General Uses for Lemons

Frugal Friday

So many cleaning products on the market are full of dangerous chemicals that can harm both the environment and your health.  They are also expensive.  So why not look to the past for both inexpensive and healthier alternatives?  Over the next few weeks, we're going to look at ways to use common household products to clean your home.  This week, we'll look at general uses for lemons.

·         Wash your hands in lemon juice to remove odors from bleach, garlic or onions.  Rinse well.
·         Mix one part lemon juice to two parts honey for a cough syrup.
·         Cure dandruff by rinsing your hair with one to two tablespoons of lemon juice every day until gone.  Shampoo in between rinses.
·         Drink lemon juice in water to aid in digestion.
·         Soak your fingernails in lemon juice for ten minutes to whiten and brighten.
·         Add one tablespoon sugar and two tablespoons lemon juice to water for fresh cut flowers to lengthen their life.
·         Add a spoonful of lemon juice to your rice while cooking to prevent it from sticking.
·         Pour lemon juice on a cloth, add cream of tartar, then rub into shoe stains.  When stain is gone, rinse well and buff.
·         Add pieces of lemon to your ice cube trays for lemon-flavored beverages.
·         Apply lemon juice to skin affected by poison ivy to alleviate the itching and rash.
·         Rub lemon juice into rough skin, rinse, then massage with olive oil.
·         Drink tea with lemon and honey to relieve a sore throat and cough.
·          Store lemons in a jar of water in your fridge to produce the most juice.
·         Add to vinegar when cleaning to lessen the odor of the vinegar.
·         Use on weeds between your paving stones.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Preventing Feuds Between Children

Senior Thursday

Death and dying are not very comfortable conversation topics.  Who wants to talk about life after they leave this earth?  Yet being prepared is important, especially in larger estate matters.  Tying up an estate in court usually results in the lawyers making more money than the children will inherit.

In order to have peace among the family, and make sure they get as much as possible from your estate, it is important that you have these discussions and make these decisions. But more than making decisions, you must make the right decisions to prevent feuds among your heirs.   Here are some ways you can prevent these arguments.

·         Name only one trustee—the most competent of your children, rather than co-trustees.

·         Name a corporate trustee who can be an impartial party.

·         Meet with your children (either individually or in a group) and discuss your estate plan with them.

·         Explain your choice of trustee to your children.

·         Tell your children as much as you are comfortable with about your assets, net worth and debt.

·         Collect all your financial information in one place for your children/trustee.

Talking with your children now will prevent stress later.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Organizing Your Kitchen Gear

Tips for Tuesday

As mothers and homeowners, we spend a good amount of time in our kitchens preparing meals and cleaning up afterward.  While it is necessary to eat, it isn't necessary to waste time.  Having an organized kitchen will help you spend more time with your family and less washing dishes.  Here are some ways to keep your kitchen functioning smoothly.

·        Clean out your cabinets!  Be ruthless.  Are you really using every appliance and every gadget in your pantry?  Or are some wedding gifts still unopened?  Get rid of the items you don't use.

·        Remove seldom-used and holiday items from your kitchen cabinets.  Store them elsewhere in your home.

·        Use space outside your cabinets.  There is space under your upper cabinets, on the wall, on your countertops and above your head.  Take advantage of every inch.  For example, install a paper towel holder under a cabinet near your kitchen sink.  Or hang a magnetic strip on the wall above your stove to hold knives.

·         Containerize small items.  Use plastic bowls for spice packs, cake decorations, etc.

·         Use dividers in drawers to keep gadgets separated and easy to find. 

·         Use a letter or file organizer to store pot lids.

·         Insert vertical tension rods in your cabinets to store cookie sheets and trays vertically between the rods.

·         Use box lids as a cheap alternative to slide-out drawers.

·         Discard broken and mismatched items such as pot lids missing handles or lids with no bowl.

Make it easy to find, and your life will be easier!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Benefits of Using Portable Storage

Moving on Monday

Portable storage usually consists of compact units a company delivers to your door for you to load.  Sometimes they stay on the property, and sometimes they are taken away and stored in a warehouse.  There are different styles and sizes of pods.  Some have canvas sides, while others are corrugated steel.  Some are large enough to hold the contents of a small apartment, while others are designed to navigate through narrow city streets. 

They differ from offsite storage in that they are delivered to you, rather than you driving your belongings somewhere.  This is the major benefit of these storage pods.  They are brought to you.  There is no need for you to rent a truck to transport your belongings to a storage facility. 

Another benefit is that they can be kept in a temperature-controlled warehouse rather than sitting in your driveway.  This will better protect your belongings. 

When you are moving, pods are useful for storing all your extra boxes and furniture to make your house look less cluttered.  Just remember that access to the pod is limited, so don't store anything you'll be needing soon.  Also, do not use them to store any valuables, as insurance coverage is limited.

Finally, pods can be a cheaper alternative to hiring a mover.  If you are physically able to load all your furniture and belongings into a pod, it is much less than paying a moving company.  Any damage to your property will be your responsibility in this case.  So take care when packing your items.