Tips & Inspiration for Organizing a Simpler Life

“Sometimes I lie awake at night, and I ask, ‘Where have I gone wrong?’ Then a voice says to me, ‘This is going to take more than one night.”

— Charles M. Schulz, world-renowned cartoonist and creator of Charlie Brown

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FEATURE ARTICLE: Getting organized for tax time

Many refund delays, time-consuming correspondence and audits are triggered by taxpayer carelessness.
Here are some IRS reminders about items to check in advance of filing your return, along with some steps to take afterward.

START WITH THE BASICS Check the package of forms and schedules that came from the IRS. First read the instructions to make sure you have all the ones you need. If not, they are easily available from the IRS through several channels. To have them mailed to you, call 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676); to use the automated fax service, call 703-368-9694 (not a toll-free call); or to download copies, go to the Web site, http://www.irs.gov.

Should you fill out the 1040 yourself or hire someone? The answer depends on how complicated your finances are.

Does your income come mainly from salaries, with some interest from savings and dividends from stocks and mutual funds? And do you claim either the no-questions- asked standard deduction, a flat amount based mostly on filing status and age, or simple-to-calculate itemized deductions for such outlays as state income taxes or sales taxes (one or the other, but not both), charitable contributions, real estate taxes, and mortgage interest? Then you probably are able to file without paid help. The IRS and many volunteer organizations, such as AARP, offer free help. Also consider electronic filing. TurboTax, TaxCut and other software programs are comparable in quality and prompt you step by step to make filing easy.

Do you have income from, say, rental properties or partnerships or do you operate your own business, whether on a part- or full-time basis? Then you might need professional help.

If you decide to turn the chore over to a paid preparer, meet as early as possible during the filing season. For a first-time meeting, bring along returns for previous years.
In some cases, reviewing past filings uncovers miscues that require amending or ways to trim the tab that you might now be overlooking.

Whether you go it alone or hire a tax pro, set aside time to rummage through your personal records, including last year’s returns, checkbooks, credit-card statements, receipts, appointment calendars and bills. Your objective: to scavenge for forgotten deductions, particularly if you are self-employed.

FILLING OUT THE 1040 If you do your own return, read the instructions carefully.
They include plain-language explanations of changes in the tax laws and are essential in accurately preparing your return.

Before sending in your return, photocopy it. Also be sure to attach securely all required schedules and statements – for example, Schedule A, on which you itemize deductions, or Schedule D, which lists gains and losses from sales of individual stocks, mutual fund shares and other assets.

AFTER YOU FILE Save records that support deductions, exemptions and other items on your return, and that photocopy of your return.
You will need them if the computers bounce your return.
Generally, the statute of limitations for the IRS to start an audit is three years from the return’s due date.

As one last step, open a file now for this year and begin to save the information that you will need next year at 1040 time.
———————————————————– Julian Block is an attorney, syndicated columnist, and former IRS special agent (criminal investigator). He has been cited as “a leading tax professional” (New York Times) and “an accomplished writer on taxes” (Wall Street Journal). This article is excerpted from “Tax Tips For Freelance Writers, Photographers And Artists: Savvy Ways To Trim Taxes To The Legal Minimum.” To order a copy, send $19.95 for a postpaid copy to J. Block, 3 Washington Sq., #1-G, Larchmont, NY 10538. For information about his other books and more articles, go to his Web site, www.julianblocktaxexpert.com. Copyright 2007 Julian Block.
All rights reserved.

Next month: Getting a jump start on spring cleaning


Rolodex is sponsoring a $10,000 Grand Prize “Go Live Your Life” contest. The contest is open to US residents only and it ends March 1. Enter to win by filling out a brief survey at http://goliveyourlife.rolodex.com/

Rubbermaid.com has encouraged me to share my 20% Rubbermaid Club savings with family and friends. These savings are valid on online purchases made February 1 through March 15, 2007. Use promotional Code CL337 in your online shopping cart. Shop at http://www.rubbermaid.com

Phoenix residents: Want to organize your closet or garage? Call freedomRail expert Jay Peskoff at 480-773-1628 to get $150 off your installation. Just tell him Donna Smallin sent you! Take a peek at the freedomRail products at http://www.schultestorage.com/. He also offers a line of garage organizing products that you can see here: http://www.slide-lok.com

SURVEY RESULTS: Paper or electronic planner?

Last month, I asked “Do you use a paper planner or calendar to keep track of appointments and things to do? Or do you use an electronic planner such as Outlook or a PDA?”

As promised, here are the results of that survey:

70% said: Paper 7% said: Electronic 21% said: Both 0% said: None

Well, I’m sure it’s no surprise that most people rely on paper planners and calendars. I’m partial to paper myself, probably because I almost always have a pencil in my hand. But I do like to use Outlook for tasks, especially reminders to do something at a particular time or specific date.

The best planner is whatever works for you. Decide which system – paper or electronic – feels most comfortable. Then check out your options. Spend some time choosing a planner that you really love. You’re more likely to want to use it if you love it.

If you are currently using both paper and electronic solutions or would like to use both, there’s a nifty new product from At-a-Glance.

Outlink lets you jump between paper and software planning and back again. You can use Outlook or Lotus for your calendar and then print out your schedule and put it into the Outlink Padfolio. You can make lists of things to do on a task pad and then enter them into your computer. To see a demonstration, go to http://www.myoutlink.com
NEW SURVEY: Seasonal storage

When the seasons change, do you separate out-of-season clothing from in-season clothing?

Yes No

TO RESPOND TO THE SURVEY, click the following link editor@unclutter.com or send email to editor@unclutter.com with the word “Survey” in the subject line. Feel free to add comments in the body of your email.

I will share the results of this survey in the next issue.

READERS WRITE: No more sorting socks!

To keep from losing my baby’s tiny socks in the laundry, I used to wash them in a lingerie bag. And now that she’s a bit older and I wash her things with her sister’s things, I give them each their own lingerie bag with a colored ribbon sewn to the top. No more sorting socks!

— Submitted by Kate Szczap, West Chester, OH

WRITE TO WIN an autographed book!

Do you have a really great organizing tip you would like to share with other readers? Or a question about an organizing challenge you have?

Send an e-mail to editor@unclutter.com with “Readers_Write” in the subject line.

If your question or tip is included in a future issue of this newsletter, I will send you a free autographed copy of my bestselling book, The One- Minute Organizer Plain & Simple. Check it out at http://www.unclutter.com/books.html

PLEASE NOTE: I get a lot of email messages and it’s impossible for me to respond to them all. Please know that I do read them all and try to answer as many as I can.

SHAMELESS PROMOTION: My how time flies

I just realized that I am in my fifth year of writing and sending this newsletter. Thank you for your continued loyalty, support and encouragement. I know that many of you have been with me since the beginning.

It’s hard even for me to believe, but I have yet another book now in bookstores everywhere. The One- Minute Cleaner is full of tips to help you keep a cleaner, less cluttered home.

I will be traveling around the country in late March/early April to promote The One-Minute Cleaner, so you might just see me on your favorite morning news program.

From a fellow SendOutCards distributor, I learned of a boy in Canada who wants to set the world record for receiving birthday cards. Shane is 7 years old (about to turn 8) and has leukemia. If you would like to help Shane reach his goal, send a birthday card to him in care of KISS FM Radio:

SHANE C/O KISS FM 2001 Thurston Dr.
Ottawa ON, K1G6C9 Canada

SendOutCards makes sending cards very easy and I’m having a lot of fun sharing it with people like me who love to send cards.

Here’s how it works: You choose a card from thousands available in the online catalog, personalize it with your own handwriting font, signature and even photos, and then click send. SendOutCards prints, seals, stamps and mails your card for as little as 62 cents plus postage. I’m talking about real paper greeting cards – not e-cards.

If you want to try SendOutCards, let me know and I will set up a guest account for you that will let you send a couple of cards on me. Send email to: donna@YourCardConnection.com


For nitty-gritty cleaning tips and techniques, look for Cleaning Plain & Simple in your local bookstore. If they don’t have a copy, please ask them to order one! For quick tips, look for The One-Minute Cleaner, an abridged version of the big book.

If you are looking for organizing tips, look for The One-Minute Organizer and Organizing Plain & Simple in bookstores everywhere (including online bookstores) and in select Target, K-Mart, Staples, Discovery Channel, and Lowes stores.

If you feel a need to simplify your life, check out Unclutter Your Mind: 500 Ways to Focus on What’s Important.

Want a signed copy of one of my books? You can order directly from me: http://www.unclutter.com/books.html

Click on the SignedCopy.com logo to have a signed copy sent to you.

Note: The One-Minute Cleaner, Cleaning Plain & Simple and Unclutter Your Mind will be available on my Web site soon. I will be sure to let you know.

That’s all for this month. Until next month, keep it simple.