Taxes and Paper Records

Tax season is approaching… and you’ve probably been looking at all the paperwork and wondering, how long do I need to keep this stuff? Well, it isn’t as long as you think!

The IRS says:
“You must keep your records as long as they may be needed for the administration of any provision of the Internal Revenue Code. Generally, this means you must keep records that support items shown on your return until the period of limitations for that return runs out.” Need more clarity?

Here are some tips from
http://www.irs.gov/uac/Keep-Good-Records-Now-to-Reduce-Tax-Time-Stress

Generally, you should keep any and all documents that may have an impact on your federal tax return.

Individual taxpayers should usually keep the following records supporting items on their tax returns for at least three years:
• Bills, Credit cards and Invoices
• Mileage logs
• Checks or any other proof of payment
• Any other records to support deductions or credits you claim on your return

If you aren’t saving bills / statements, verify that you can request records from a service provider for at least three years after you close your account, just in case you need a statement.

You should normally keep records relating to property until at least three years after you sell or otherwise dispose of the property.

Visit the above website for specific information related to small business owners, especially for employee records.

A word of caution regarding digital storage: Some websites suggest that you store old tax returns electronically in order to cut down on paper storage in your home. Please consider the risk associated with online data storage sites. Large organizations promising security and privacy are still susceptible to hackers. Your tax return contains extremely confidential information, and if stolen could provide significant identity theft opportunities. Be wary and careful when weighing your options.

If you’re facing paper overload in your home office, Gig Harbor Home Management’s professional organizing team can bring some calm to your chaos. Call us today 253.225.4864

Senior Living Colors

IMG_5197I’m intrigued by Sherwin Williams’ new “Senior Living Colors” that provide retirement/independent living homes with color pallets designed specifically for seniors.

From Independence color schemes that are “a favorite of seniors who crave spaces that reflect their culturally active lifestyles” to Memory which helps “aging eyes see better by highlighting the location of certain rooms or pathways,” these pallets are a jewel.

 

 

Here at the NASMM conference for Senior Move Managers, I spent three hours in a space planning session yesterday with ViewIT Technologies. Amazed to hear that even in high-end, new, pricey facilities there are still obvious signs that designers are not consulting health care professionals.  Rooms that are all beige – from carpets to linoleum to walls and shower curtains – are potential hazards for seniors with eyesight difficulties when there’s no color and contrast. Mirrored closet doors create confusion when a resident tries to walk across the room and hits the mirror instead, falling to the floor.

I’m excited to be engaging with so many experienced, caring professionals this week. The Senior Move Industry is growing leaps and bounds as more seniors and their caretakers see the value in hiring expert consultants to navigate the challenge of moving into a new home.

We aren’t moving companies. We’re move managers. We’re there to make sure the area rug is removed, so our client doesn’t trip and fall. We’re there to make sure that on the first morning she wakes up in her new home, she knows that her toothbrush will be exactly where she always keeps it – to the left side of her kleenex box. We’re there to relieve stress, reduce the chaos of a move, provide feedback to distant family members. We’re there to be an advocate in the middle of a challenging and sometimes daunting transition.

If you have a loved one who is considering a move to a new home this year, please call me to set up a free introduction of our Senior Move Management services. I’d be honored to share with you all the ways we can make those decisions easier for your whole family.

I can be reached at sarah@GigHarborHomeManagement.com or 253.225.4864

Click here for more information.

Moving with Care

Senior PhotoBetty’s 91-year-old mother hesitantly found the words she was afraid to say, as she watched the great-grandkids playing in the yard. “This house is so big… and sometimes I feel like I can’t do this alone anymore. It’s so hard to keep up… I miss your dad… and…” She looked back into her daughter’s eyes, searching for reassurance, afraid of what her confession would mean. “I think I need to sell the house.”

Comforting her mother and swallowing the lump in her throat, Betty quickly said that she’ll take care of everything. However, it wasn’t long before Betty realized the magnitude of what the next 3 months would hold: finding a Realtor, preparing the house for sale, sorting 91 years of treasures, choosing a retirement home, making decisions on where furniture would go, and what items needed to be sold or be donated. “I don’t know how to take a 3,000 square foot home and all these memories and fit it into a 500 square foot apartment,” she confessed. “I’m very overwhelmed.”

By choosing Gig Harbor Home Management, Betty found peace of mind and the assistance she desperately needed to make this move happen in a short timeframe, while honoring the emotional and physical needs of her mother. Because GHHM specializes in helping older adults and their families through the process of moving to a new residence, our help makes the transition so much easier.

Making a major move at any age is difficult and stressful. Recognizing and managing the stress of downsizing and relocating older adults is the hallmark of the National Association of Senior Move Managers® (NASMM). As NASMM members, we are bound by a pledge of integrity, safety and ethics.

This month, we are very excited to attend the NASMM national conference in Florida and return with even more expertise in:
– Floor plans and organizing for small spaces
– Sorting papers, record keeping and photos
– Exploring emotional connections to our belongings
– Selecting quality moving companies, estate sale and consignment providers

If you can relate to Betty, and have a family member or friend transitioning to a new living space in 2015, we can create a customized plan and support you every step of the way. Call us at 253.225.4864 for a free consultation.

Fresh Start

Admit it.

MessyCloset_photo

This is how your life feels sometimes – doesn’t it? Whether it’s a closet, a junk drawer, the garage, or simply your calendar – sometimes it takes all your energy just to keep it together.

GHHM staff members have not only seen it all – we’ve LIVED it. Chaotic mornings with kids late for school. Last-minute stops at Big 5 to replace yet another lost football mouth guard. Spilled coffee in the new car. Five minutes left to drive 25 minutes across town. Aging parents. Families in transition. Houses on the market. Yes, even the cat barf on the white carpet.

Yep, we’ve been there, done that. And it’s because we’ve walked in your shoes that we love our work at GHHM and all it stands for: Peace of Mind Strategies for Getting IT Done.

January is full of opportunities for starting fresh and choosing a new outlook. Hire a life coach, join the gym, go back to college, or start a new job. Wherever the year takes you…we’ll take care of the house.

Here are our suggestions for getting started. And whatever you can’t cross off yourself, we’ll take care of it for you. Just call us!

• Send thank-you cards for gifts received.
• Purge holiday decorations, and re-pack items in labeled, tidy containers for next year. Donate whatever you didn’t use for the last 2 years.
• As you put away your gifts, find something in each cupboard to give away.
• Encourage kids to sort old toys and donate items they no longer play with in order to make room for the new.
• Throw out expired medicines.
• Complete a home maintenance list of all items needing repair, replacementor upgrading, and work them into your annual budget.
• Change furnace and water filters.
• Recycle last year’s magazines.
• Buy your new 2015 calendar and fill in annual events.
• Set up your 2015 files for household bills.
• Create a “tickler” filing system to keep your home organized throughout the year.
• Arrange for a deep clean in January to tackle nooks and crannies that haven’t been touched
in months.

GHHM can help you tackle the areas of your home that cause you the most stress, bringing calm and peace to one room at a time. Call today for a free no-obligation consultation. 253.225.4864

Go Make a Memory

We’ll take care of the rest.

Holidays are here, and chances are that you add something to your “Must-Do-Soon” list every day. Are you wondering how to actually ENJOY time with your family in the midst of the busy season? Company parties, neighborhood potlucks, school performances, holiday decorating and weeks of shopping can easily take over the schedule and rob you of time to create meaningful memories with those you love.

Visit our Pinterest page for awesome ideas on how to spend quality time with your family. You’ll find craft ideas, games and memory-making fun. http://www.pinterest.com/gigharborhome/

Our Holiday Checklist helped many families in November, and it can still guide you as the holiday countdown continues through December. http://gigharborhomemanagement.com/holiday-checklist/

Join our Facebook page so that you can get updates on local holiday events, and see suggestions from others on December activities you won’t want to miss.

https://www.facebook.com/GigHarborHomeManagement

Perhaps you’re like many local residents who have realized their schedules are too full and they need assistance. We’re always excited to share the many ways we can help:

  • Clean your house for special events and arrivals.
  • Organize closets, pantries and mudrooms.
  • Purchase or set up holiday decorations.
  • Provide vacation home watch services.
  • Provide referrals for winter home maintenance services such as holiday light installations and gutter and window cleaning.

Did you know we are a member of the National Association of Senior Move Managers? And, we are continually receiving training on how to provide support and oversight for individuals downsizing into a retirement home. If you are taking time over the holidays to discuss with your extended family the need to move a loved one into a new living space, we offer free consultations and can assist you with these big decisions. Visit http://gigharborhomemanagement.com/relocation-services/ for more information.

 

 

Family Fun

Laugh yourself silly this holiday season and create hilarious memories with your loved ones. “Minute to Win It” games are only limited by your imagination. The idea is to perform several tasks with items found around the house, in 60 seconds or less. And because these games are so simple, they can be played easily by all ages. Form two teams, and for each round select one teammate (or couple) to tackle the task. Set a timer, and whoever gets done first, or accomplishes the most, WINS!

Some ideas:

Tweeze These: Move as many Tic Tacs as possible from one bowl to another, using only a pair of tweezers.IMG_7977-680x10241

String of Ornaments: Attach a string from one wall to the next. With a partner, hang ornaments on the string without using your hands.

The Jiggle Effect: Tie an old tissue box filled with ping pong balls to your waist; get as many balls out as possible by jumping.

Jelly Nose: With petroleum jelly on your nose, transfer cotton balls from one bowl to another, one at a time, with no hands.

Eye of the Needle: Pull a thread through a needle 10 times in one minute.

Marshmallow Toss: See how many marshmallows you can toss through a holiday wreath into a bowl.

Ornamental Yard: Balance as many ornaments as you can on a yardstick (that’s resting on two paper towel tubes) without it falling down.

Nut Job: Arrange 8 iron nuts in a row at the end of a table. Using a chopstick, string the nuts onto the chopstick – but don’t use your hands! You can also change the game for kids: stack up the nuts using only a candy cane (and one hand).

Hanky Panky:  See how many tissues you can remove from a box of Kleenex…using only ONE hand.

More Minute to Win it games can be found online. Read more at Buzzle: http://www.buzzle.com/articles/minute-to-win-it-games-to-play-at-home.html

Holiday Checklists 101

Our new client Reece is a busy, working mom. When we met, her days were maxed out, time was limited, and keeping her house clean and organized felt nearly impossible sometimes.

“I know I have ADD,” she said during our first meeting. “I begin projects but then lose focus, get distracted, and start something else. But this is important to me and it’s time to get it under control. I need help.”

We began talking right away about regular house cleaning services and monthly organizing sessions, but then she had another request.

“I know it’s only August. But I want you to put up my Fall decorations before September 13th. And when we take them down, I want you to organize the storage bins, help me de-clutter and give away what I haven’t used in a few years. And then we’ll start on Christmas decorations.”

We were impressed with Reece’s desire to start early, and proud of her for acknowledging that she couldn’t do it all alone and planning in advance to get help. Even more exciting: all of her requests were services we love to provide while making personal customizations suited to her own needs.

The great news is that even if you didn’t start your holiday planning in September, GHHM can get you on track! Avoid the rush and stress of the season by using our Holiday Checklist as a guide. Pick and choose the tasks important to you, and you’ll be sailing through the holidays and truly enjoying time with loved ones.

When you access our popular Holiday Checklist, you’ll be entered in a drawing for ONE FREE HOUR of house cleaning. Visit www.GigHarborHomeManagement.com/holiday-checklist/ to enter and download the checklist!

 

Our team of experts can manage the holidays for you! Outsourcing your holiday organization, preparation and shopping allows you to focus on your career, family, and free time. Do what YOU do best…and we’ll take care of the rest. Call us at 253.225.4864 today!

 

Balancing Work & Family

Balancing Work & Family
I live in a sea of Post-it notes… color coordinated by topic. This works until one color runs out and my system falls apart. My only regret in 1980 is being too young to understand Post-it power, and therefore failing to buy stock in the company.

Surely I’m not the only one drowning in a sea of to-do lists and reminders. I’m up before dawn (even on the weekends) as a local business owner juggling my clients, my staff and my kids. Add housework and the dog, and I’m MAXED out. With the weight of a business on my tired shoulders, I’m constantly juggling my passion for my business, family time, and a requirement to make a living. And I’m not alone.

So many working women are stressed, balancing work and family life. With the catchy title “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All,” Anne Marie Slaughter’s article in The Atlantic (July 2012 edition) created much controversy as women across the nation debated on whether “having it all” waspebble-balance-1117007-m just a myth.

As an organizer and home management professional, I can quickly provide tips to help women get more done in their days. Wake up earlier; create morning rituals to maximize time; avoid morning emails; prioritize ruthlessly; and delegate well. But one catch-phrase from the experts gets under my skin: “create work-life balance” (as if it appears with the wave of a magic wand).

With the internal drive to “have it all,” and the external pressure to appear that we are living the gold standard of got-it-together-ness, it’s no wonder we question if we’ll ever achieve balance and success in our business and home life.

Wouldn’t it be healthier to define success in a private way, determining what success really looks (and feels) like personally?

This excerpt from an article on www.womenpoweringbusiness.com is well-stated:

“I think balance is in the eye of the beholder, so it’s based on what your expectations are,” shares Marilyn Midyette, CEO of Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta, Inc. “I’m really concerned about people feeling like they have to define balance based on anyone else’s definition. It’s got to be what works for you.”

Midyette tackles “having it all” in seasons. “In one quarter,” she said, “I may hunker down because I have major initiatives I need to get accomplished. In another quarter, it may be my kids are getting ready to go off to college and I want to be present for that.”

Having it all is possible, as long as women dispel the myth that work and life have to be equal parts all of the time, according to Patricia Falotico, an IBM executive. She shared a personal story of when she was caring for her sick father. “There were days when I had to be daughter first and executive second,” she said. “You can do it all — all that you choose to do — but you have to be able to navigate around the pot holes.”

Perhaps finding success in business means we are 100% devoted at work, focused and striving for excellence. And finding success at home means we are 100% dedicated to being a daughter, spouse or parent when with our loved ones.

The key to making this work is to choose which “piece” of life to fully embrace at any moment, and allow ourselves the freedom to live in those moments peacefully. We need to give ourselves permission for our needs, desires and dreams to change with the ebb and flow of life’s seasons.

“True success cannot be simply defined by recognition, financial gain, company growth, or our kid’s accomplishments,” shares local business coach Lisa Markman, of Jigsaw Solutions. “True success comes from finding a place of satisfaction and peacefulness within yourself, where courage and wisdom guide you to exactly where you need to be in this moment. And then finally embracing that moment with all the energy you can give to those around you.”

Success is an evolution; allowing yourself to adapt, change course, and “go with the flow” as part of the journey. Accolades along the way can motivate and encourage us; but the deep satisfaction of success can only come from within, when you are where you need to be.

Sarah Friesen is the owner of Gig Harbor Home Management, a local company offering house cleaning, home organization, home watch and relocation services…and hopefully a little bit of peace of mind in the process. She can be contacted at 253.225.4864 or www.GigHarborHomeManagement.com

(Printed in Peninsula Gateway, special “Women in Business” section, September 29, 2014)

 

 

Feeling Overwhelmed?

Outsource your way to peace and productivity
Like many of Gig Harbor’s local residents, Annie and Sam work busy full-time jobs, leaving the house early in the morning to drop off young kids at daycare before heading to work. Struggling to solidify their career paths while also trying to fully enjoy parenthood, they often feel guilty, overwhelmed and simply tired. “I feel like time is literally slipping through my fingers; like I’m trying to hold a cup of sand in my hands,” confesses Annie.

This year, they vowed to take a few simple steps in order to gain some sanity around the house. They took our advice on some easy steps:

  • Wake up earlier than the kids in order to have a peaceful, smooth start to your day.
  • Make your bed every morning so that your room feels manageable and presentable.
  • Plan ahead for meals using simple, quick ingredients and plan for only one shopping trip.
  • Do a 10-Minute Tidy every night so you can keep ahead of the clutter.

But Annie and Sam knew they had to take it even further. Sam’s career was at a critical turning point, and working extra hours could result in a rewarding promotion down the road. Annie wasn’t sure she could handle her own job responsibilities and still care for the kids in the evenings, on top of keeping up with household tasks. Something had to give.

Susan Athey, an economist at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, says “You have to start from a point where you say: What is necessary for me to be happy with my decision to be a working mother?” Athey believes, “A lot of working mothers end up throwing up their hands in exasperation saying, ‘I can’t live this way!’ and quit their jobs.”

Enter the home management outsourcing solution that is sweeping the nation.

“If parents who want to work abandon their careers before trying outsourcing, quitting may be shortsighted,” writes NY Times author Catherine Kampell.

Even if you’re faster and more effective than everyone else at a given task you still might be better off paying someone else to do it for you. Why?

“Ask the experts and they’ll point out there is a huge opportunity cost for every hour spent on tedious household tasks,” says Sarah Friesen, owner of Gig Harbor Home Management. “In most cases, there is a higher-value activity waiting for you instead.”

family-moments-983338-mFor some, outsourcing their house cleaning at a rate of $30/hour makes financial sense when they could use that time to earn $100/hour by going to work. In other situations, the cleaning service might be more of a financial sacrifice, however in the long term it allows them to get the job promotion that increases their income potential for a lifetime.

Friesen adds, “For household outsourcing to make sense, it must provide value that is higher than the cost of the service. For some families, the added value is simply time with their kids. Those items are the intangibles, and often what a family needs most in the middle of chaotic schedules.”

Home management solutions that offer full-scale services like house cleaning, professional organization and coordination are growing in popularity. And with increasing financial responsibilities, workloads and leisure activities, you might find it’s the perfection solution for your family too!

Call 253.225.4864 for more information on how GHHM can simplify your life.

 

Snowbird Prep

Snowbird Prep
While You Are Away“During a season that brought ants into our kitchen and rainwater into our basement, we’re so glad we hired Sarah as our Home Manager to check on our home and oversee calls from service providers in our absence.”   -Sandy, happy GHHM client

Every fall, snowbirds prepare to pack up and head south for the winter. Sometimes they discover just how much can go wrong inside their home where no one can see what’s happening.

“I’ll just turn off the water heater…”

Did you know that turning off your water heater has the potential to void its warranty?

“I’ll just turn the temp down…”

Did you know that a cold water heater can interfere with water softener systems, and lead to speedy corrosion and spring a leak overnight?

“It’s clean enough for while we’re gone…”

Did you know that sugar ants can literally explode in a feeding frenzy when unchecked, and are one of the hardest infestations to eliminate?

“The Security Guards will walk around the exterior every day…”

Did you know that a running toilet can waste up to 4,000 gallons per day and cost thousands if no one is inside to hear it?

Inside your home there’s potential for a variety of issues with pests, water systems and furnaces that stop working during freezing spells. Just as snowbirds in the south hire Home Watch Services for the summer, a growing number of local residents are seeing the value in Home Watch Visits for ensuring the safekeeping of their home in Gig Harbor during the winter.

Did you know?
GHHM can provide peace of mind for the safekeeping of your home with our experienced and professional home manager who will regularly inspect the inside of your home with pre-scheduled Home Watch Visits. Sarah Friesen, the Owner of Gig Harbor Home Management, will meet with you personally for a free consultation and will create a customized checklist and inspection plan in order to protect your home investment while you are away.

Call 253.225.4864 and visit our Home Watch page for more information on how to prepare for extended absences.