Monday, September 29, 2008

Shredding Resources

Until you are able to go completely paperless, shredding is a critical step in avoiding identity theft. Plus, it's a cathartic way to cut down on paper clutter in your space. There's nothing more satisfying than the grind of a shredder cutting up paper you don't need.

But, if you are in the midst of a big cleanout of your files or getting rid of paper back-log, the task of shredding can be overwhelming.

There are many shredding services available that will do shredding on-site at your home or office, or offer drop-off services. Here's a list of some Boston-area shredding resources. This was developed by a fellow professional organizer and distributed/shared through our NAPO-New England email list.

  • Mansfield Shredding Service (174 N. Main St., Mansfield, MA, 02048, 508 618-4222, Mon - Sat 9 - 3) is a non-profit storefront that charges $4-$5/box to benefit children with special needs.
  • Northeast Data Destruction will pick up papers to be shred and take them away (shredding is done at their facility) for a base price of $62 plus $5/box. Or, drop-off shredding services start at $75.
  • Shred-It in Woburn: 781-937-0888. Has on-site shredding at their facility for $150 for up to 10 boxes. On-site shredding is more expensive, starting at $350.
  • Shred King does on-site residential shredding in the Boston area. They are based out of Quincy. Fees start at $85 for 1-10 boxes.
  • ProShred has many upcoming community shredding events in the western part of the state.
Many communities sponsor town recycling/shredding days, so watch calendars for opportunities to bring your shredding to an event. Northeast Data Destruction will be participating in one with the Town of Arlington on Sat. 11/15 from 9-12. The cost is $10 and you can bring paper, bikes, DVDs/tapes, CDs, etc.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Guest Blogger: Organizing Your Books

Tonight we have a very special submission from my sister-in-law, who is probably the most organized person I know. She's a librarian by day and loves books, so she wanted to share some ideas and tips for making your book collection look great! Please leave us some comments and share your ideas, too. I'll take this opportunity to invite anyone who has an organizing question, idea, or tip to forward them along to be included in this blog! And a big "thanks" to Michelle for this great post.

There are many ways to organize your book collection. There are really only two rules... You should be able to find a book when you need it, and it should look neat!

Often it makes sense to separate Fiction (stories) from Non Fiction (facts), but it really depends on your personal collection. You can make up your own subject breakdown using the categories that make the most sense to you and that fit with your collection. If you have a large collection, alphabetizing by author might make sense, but if you're not someone who remembers authors, you could also alphabetize by Title.

For aesthetic reasons, it can also be nice to display certain special books in areas that lend themselves to that. On a coffee table, or a side table. You could even arrange books by size and/or color if it worked with your decor. There are many examples of this on the internet, one of my favorites can be found here:

Frequently used cookbooks should go in the kitchen, if possible, or near to it for easy access. Cookbooks you use less often can go with your other books.

When you've exceeded your book storage space, it's time to go through and let go of some of the titles. Libraries, used book stores, and thrift stores will take your gently used books in good condition. They will rarely take text books or other dated materials such as travel books; it's best to simply recycle those with your newspapers and magazines. It's good to leave your shelves with a little room to grow, and you can always put mementos on the shelves if you have a lot of extra room. (Wendy's note: Hands Across the Water is a great charity that will take books and send them worldwide. They have drop boxes in certain areas.)

As long as you're happy with it and you can find that copy of your latest book club title, you've done a great job!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Disaster Preparedness Month: Creating an Emergency Supply Kit

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is the best resource for emergency preparedness and planning.

Preparing an Emergency Supply Kit may not seem necessary, but in the event of a disaster, it's critical to not have to search your home for important medications, first aid supplies, lighters/matches, and emergency food and water provisions. By assembling a kit in advance, and keeping it in an easy-to-access, convenient area in your home, you won't have to give it a second thought.

For a list of recommended items to include in your Emergency Supply Kit, visit

Periodically check your kit to make sure items haven't expired and that supplies are in full stock.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Handling Donation Requests

Requests for financial donations throughout the year can become overwhelming, and it's difficult to say "no" when you are solicited by a charity. Here are some tips for keeping your charitable giving under control and organized:

1) Set an annual budget, and stick to it. Decide at the beginning of the year what you are comfortable giving, and then work within that number. Keep a tally of donations so that in September, you'll remember what you gave back in February. You'll feel good about what you have been able to give, and feel less guilty when you have to pass on an opportunity.

2) Choose your favorite causes, and give to those. If you feel passionate about one cause or another, put your resources towards something that really matters to you.

3) Beware of charity scams. Not all organizations are truly charitable, and many will take a portion of your "donations" - even up to most of the money - and put it towards their own operating costs and profit. It's better to put money in a fireman's hat than fall victim to a phoned solicitation posing as a policemen's charitable group. Always research the charity or stick with the ones that are most established.

4) Toss repeat mailings and don't feel guilty about accepting unsolicited "gifts" (address labels, stickers, etc.) without making a donation.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Donate Your Wedding Gown

Is your wedding gown hanging in your closet or packed away in a box in the closet? Think about why you are keeping it. Chances are, styles will change before your daughter or anyone else gets to wear the gown again. If you think you can bear to part with it (and gain some valuable storage space), here is a great cause and resource.

Brides Against Breast Cancer is part of the Making Memories charitable organization, granting wishes to men and women who are terminally ill with breast cancer. By conducting national sales of donated wedding gowns, the organization is able to support families in a difficult time.

The organization is currently in need of contemporary gown styles (year 2000 and later) and accessories. They ask for a $40 donation in addition to the gowns to cover costs for cleaning and preparing the dresses for sale. Visit for full information on donating guidelines.

I donated my wedding gown here two years ago, and it made it easier to part with knowing that I could help a cause so important to me.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Bagster: A Dumpster in a Bag

I got a request to check in to The Bagster and provide any insights into the service.

For those of you not familiar, The Bagster is a waste disposal bag, available at most home improvement stores, for about $29.95. You set up the bag, and then fill it with up to 3,300 pounds of household junk, construction debris, or trash at your own pace. When you are finished and the bag is full, you arrange a pick-up, which costs about $140.

There are some limitations to what you can put into The Bagster - nothing hazardous, and in some cases, yard waste is not acceptable. The Bagster team disposes of the items at a licensed facility. The Bagster website has lots of tips about where to place your Bagster, how to fill it, and what can and cannot be disposed of.

I'd love to hear any first-hand experiences you've had using The Bagster. Leave a comment and let me know what you think of the service. To me, it seems like a convenient and affordable alternative to renting a traditional dumpster for home renovation and clean-up projects.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

National Preparedness Month: Creating a Family Communications Plan

September has been designated "National Preparedness Month," and while I don't typically follow designated topics-of-the-month, it does provide some fodder for some great ideas and suggestions for making sure your family is prepared in the case of an emergency. I'll be posting a few blog entries this month focused on disaster preparedness.

Sometimes it's easy to feel insulated from disasters, especially in New England where the weather doesn't get as severe as other parts of the country. But remember that a fire, flood, or power outage can happen at any time and anywhere.

When thinking about disaster preparedness, remember that being prepared empowers you and your family, so that you can react quickly and efficiently. It shouldn't be based on fear. When communicating with children about disaster preparedness, always keep a positive and calming tone.

One of the most important things you can do to be prepared is to have a family communications/reunion plan. This is a simple document to put together, but is often overlooked. September is a great time to put one together as the family gets settled into new routines for back to school.

A family communications plan should consist of the following types of information:
  • Key phone numbers for the family members - home phone, home address, parents' work numbers, cell numbers, day care providers, neighbors, and an out-of-town relative. Remember that sometimes it can be easier to make a long distance call than a local call in the case of an emergency, so an out-of-town relative can be a good point of contact. One other important suggestion is to use cell phones' ICE (in case of emergency) feature. Most cell phones now have an entry reserved for ICE and you should definitely program in an emergency contact. Most first responders and EMTs are now trained to look for an ICE number in the case of a car accident or other incident.
  • Pre-designated reunion spots in the case of an emergency. First location should be your home address; second should be a close neighbor (in case of fire, flood, etc.); third should be a community location (church, town hall, school, etc.); and a fourth and final choice should be an out-of-town relative or friend. You should go through various scenarios so that everyone understands the purpose of the different reunion spots.
Once your document is created, take the time to sit down with the family and review it together to make sure that everyone is comfortable with the procedures. You can also make wallet cards with the critical information for everyone to carry with them. Also - remember to communicate your plan with other people involved, including neighbors, day care providers, schools, and any out-of-town relatives/friends. If you make any changes to the plan, distribute new copies to everyone.