Some Back-to-School Organizing Tips

‚ÄúIt’s the most wonderful time of the year…‚ÄĚ Staples Business Depot’s¬†iconic 1996 commercial, featuring an exuberant dad back-to-school¬†shopping¬†with his not-so-enthusiastic kids, captures the feeling of relief felt by many parents at the end of summer. However,¬†the daily school routine¬†comes with its own organizational challenges for both¬†adults and children. So before you start singing from the rooftops, take some time to prepare a back-to-school plan that will make everyone happy to be hitting the books this fall. Start a back-to-school routine Routine is important for school-aged children.¬†Two weeks before school starts, re-introduce¬†kids¬†to a¬†typical school day schedule.¬†Younger children in particular will benefit from earlier bedtimes, while teenagers¬†should be gradually woken up closer to the hour they’ll need to rise when school begins. Make sure you leave enough time for things like breakfast, bathroom time and the trip to the bus stop. As the week progresses, you can make adjustments to ensure everyone has plenty of time to get ready. Create a centralized school calendar Keeping track of parent-teacher meetings, band rehearsals and hockey practices can seem like an impossible task. Take some of the stress out of after-school scheduling by¬†creating a one-stop calendar for events and deadlines. The calendar¬†should be prominent, easy to¬†use and utilize a format that everyone is comfortable with.¬†(A large dry-erase board or a 12-month paper calendar works serves as an excellent visual reminder for younger children, while¬†older kids may benefit from email or text-based reminders). Make the calendar part of your daily routine:¬†Get in the habit of adding events to the¬†calendar as soon as you hear about them (older children can help with posting duties). Talk to your kids about upcoming events so they won’t forget. Organize your back-to-school shopping Involve your kids in¬†back-to-school shopping¬†by having them help you prepare a shopping¬†list before you hit the mall. This (hopefully) will prevent in-store arguments and tantrums. Most schools will¬†provide¬†you with¬†a list of required back-to-school supplies, which¬†can serve as a starting point for back-to-school shopping. With clothing, clear out some space in your kids’¬†wardrobe before going on a spending spree. Go through each item in¬†your child’s¬†closet,¬†setting aside anything¬†your child has outgrown (older children can help with this).¬†Discard or donate anything your child will no longer wear. Don’t go overboard buying stuff you think your child might need. Instead, wait until the first week of school to purchase any items you may have left off the list. Gather your documents Now is the time to start looking for vaccination records, birth certificates, doctors notes and other documents your child might require for school. Make photocopies of these documents before you send them off to school. Check your school’s website to make sure you have everything necessary to start the year off right!

Office tech: 6 tools to increase office productivity

For all its amazing uses,¬†sometimes¬†technology can feel¬†like an impediment to getting things done, rather than tools to increase productivity in the office. But fear not! Goldstar has scoured the Interweb for¬†apps and online platforms that actually do work, rather than create more of¬†it. Give these six¬†productivity tools a spin and¬†you’ll wonder how your office ever got along with them.
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MindMeister: Brainstorming sessions, long the realm of the dry erase board, get a 21st century makeover with MindMeister. Record and alter flowcharts via a shareable online platform that makes creative use of icons, flowcharts, links, collapsible lists and other tools. Free. Evernote: A storage app for all your bright ideas, musings and stray thoughts, Evernote seamlessly syncs your personal notes across devices and can store audio, video, notes and photos on a single searchable database. Free.
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Dropbox:¬†This cloud-based¬†folder¬†is the answer to the¬†age-old question: “How am I going to send you this huge file?” Organize and upload files and share those files with whoever you choose. It’s easy to use, and the free version comes with a huge memory cache. Free. ScanBizCards:¬† With this time-saving¬†app, simply take a picture of a business card and it automatically records the information in your phone’s address book. ScanBizCards¬†can also¬†sync with other devices and send you¬†reminder emails to follow-up with your new contacts.¬†Perfect for networking events ad first-time client meetings. $4.99.¬†
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Square: Take your business on the road with Square, an app¬†that turns¬†your iPhone, Android or iPad into a mobile point-of-sale (POS) machine. With a small (free) attachment, customers can swipe their credit or debit cards and complete a transaction directly on the phone’s screen. The app will even text message a receipt to the buyer’s phone. Bonus: You pay just 2.75% per swipe for Visa and MasterCard, with no other fees or charges. TaskForce: Feeling overwhelmed by an inbox full of requests?¬†Take control of your to-do list with¬†TaskForce, an¬†app that¬†converts email messages from¬†various providers into tasks that can be accessed¬†via¬†your computer or¬†smartphone.¬†Set deadlines, share¬†work with co-workers and¬†organize tasks from most-to-least important¬†with the click of a mouse. Free.  

Spring clean your business

Organizing your files can help clamp down on clutter (istockphoto)
Organizing your files can help your business clamp down on clutter (istockphoto)
The office¬†is¬†second only to¬†the bedroom as the most lived-in space in our daily lives. And yet,¬†our workplace rarely¬†gets the kind of special attention that we commit to cleaning our homes. It’s time for that to change. This year, consider “spring cleaning” different aspects of your business to make your company more efficient and effective year-round. Clean your physical workspace:¬†A clean workspace can improve employee morale, prevent office-borne illness and¬†create a more professional working environment for workers and clients. Give your office a makeover by: -Deep cleaning carpets or floors; -Dusting office furniture; -Wiping down computers and other office equipment with electronics-friendly cleaning cloths; -Vacuuming behind your desks, making sure to unplug electronics and pull away the wiring first. De-clutter¬†your filing system: This applies to both¬†paper documents¬†and computer files. Create archives to store¬†old data.¬†Invest in organizers.¬†Throw out any files¬†that¬†are no longer¬†useful or necessary¬†for record keeping purposes. Your goal should be to clear your desk (and your computer’s desktop) of extraneous files. Finally, consider going paperless in the office; online storage systems like DropBox or Apple’s iCloud allow you store files¬†securely and share them across¬†a network, rather than constantly making copies. Fix up your website:¬†A company’s website is a direct extension of its¬†brand. An old or outdated webpage may discourage new customers from contacting you, no matter how amazing your in-house products or services are. Take some time to perform some basic¬†e-maintenance by: -Repairing broken links -Updating contact¬†information, logos and¬†company bios; -Introducing new pictures and testimonials; -Integrating features like Twitter and Facebook into your website. If your web¬†design skills are less than stellar, consider enlisting third-party help.¬†Content management platforms like WordPress provide¬†customer support services and¬†can help you create¬†a design¬†practical, stylish¬†(and affordable)¬†website from the ground up. Evaluate your goals: If you’ve set business goals for 2013, now is the time to check in and see how those goals are progressing. If you haven’t set goals, it’s not too late. A simple visioning exercise, like this one developed by Purdue University, can help you identify where you’d like your business to be five¬†to ten years down the road, and¬†develop a strategy¬†to get there. Organize key information: Put together an administrative manual that contains all your processes, passwords and contacts.¬†Having the information readily available will help ensure¬†that you and your employees follow proper procedures when performing day-to-day tasks, which in turn promotes productivity and consistency. Thank your customers: Take the time to craft an email or a newsletter addressed to all the clients who have frequented your business in the past year. Thank them for their patronage and¬†tell them that you’d love to work with them again.¬†It’s a small gesture that goes a long way towards fostering positive¬†relationships with your customers.

Cleaning blogs: Online help for your spring cleaning plans

Here at Goldstar, we try as much as possible to provide you with experience-based tips and tricks to make cleaning easier. But we know we’re not the only game in town – in fact, there are a staggering number of online blogs dedicated to house cleaning, organizing and decorating. Most are written by ordinary folks, just like you. So, if you’re looking for some DIY inspiration for spring cleaning, check out these four outstanding blogs: The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking: How does a mother of six find time to blog, craft and keep an immaculate house? Follow Kelly as she dispenses pearls of wisdom on everything from child-friendly art projects to simply delicious cooking. ( Check out: Free Printable Spring Cleaning Checklist,¬†A Million Great Uses For Binder Clips   iHeartOrganizing: Jennifer Jones has a place for everything. Her blog, iHeartOrganizing, was recently featured on HGTV’s Clean Freaks, but Jones wants to make clear that you don’t have to go crazy to have an organized space. In fact, her tips may bring some serenity back into your house. ( Check out: Quick tips for getting your garage summer ready, An organized cleaning caddy   Spring Cleaning 365: People encourage us to take life one day at a time; why not cleaning, too? This comprehensive blog provides daily, step-by-step instructions for every conceivable spring cleaning chore, from washing the windows to organizing the nightstands. The blog also reminds you to perform regular “habits”; little chores that make housework easier. Check out: Spring cleaning windows, Cleaning window frames   A Slob Comes Clean: Let’s face it: we all fall short of our Martha Stewart-esque dreams for keeping an immaculate house. That’s what makes Dana White, aka Nony’s blog so refreshing. A Slob Comes Clean holds nothing back while chronicling Nony’s continuing battle to de-clutter her family’s home – the good, the bad and the grungy. She also has several e-books available. Check out: Dishwashing Rhythm ‚Äď And My Lack of Cleaning Intuition, Simplifying My Bathroom Counter