Spring Cleaning - tips & tricks to get it all out

It’s about that time. The time you can open the windows, turn off the heat, and just breathe fresh air. I don’t know about you, but I live for these moments. It’s also that time to start spring cleaning. It’s just something about opening up those windows that just make you want to clean. Am I right?

I still remember growing up and doing our spring cleaning and getting the trash bags out and the boxes that would eventually be moved to the basement. I am pretty sure I might still have some boxes at my parent’s house to be honest (maybe an item on my cleaning list this year).

I wanted to share with you some of the tips I use to get it all out. How to spring clean, if you will. This will help you get it all out, but keep your sanity while doing it.

Tip #1: Make a Storage, Donate and/or Garage Sale and Toss box

This is the lifesaver. I use this tip any time I am doing deep cleaning. I use storage for seasonal items, family heirlooms, things I am not ready to part with, and maybe even some things that I can give to others.

Donate and/or Garage sale box is more for the things that you don’t want anymore but someone else could breathe life into. My family is really big into this almost every other year. I live out in the middle of nowhere so it doesn’t work well for me at my home, but I take my stuff to my parent’s when their neighborhood has their annual garage sale.

The thing you have to realize is that you must use garage sale prices. I can’t tell you how many times people will comment on that to me at my parent’s house. They will always tell me that we are the only ones they see having “real garage sale prices.” You are not looking to make much money off of these things. If you don’t think a resale store would take it, you need to mark it REALLY low.

Now let’s say you do go to a resale store and they don’t take some things. Go to another one and if you think you can get SOMETHING out of it. Put it into storage until you can do a garage sale.

Anything left after the garage sale, donate it. You can also do this anytime of the year if a garage sale is not an option or you just wanted to donate. Look into multiple different places that take this besides just Goodwill. They are great, but there are multiple other places you can look into that just aren’t advertised as much.

Tip #2: As you are moving things around, DUST!!

I cannot tell you how much I gross myself out by seeing things that need dusted when I move things around. I mean, I try to get to it when I am dusting, but some are either hard to reach or you just don’t think about. Like your cabinet drawers or maybe even around some books you NEVER look at (maybe that’s a sign to move the books to storage or donate).

Some places to also look out for that don’t typically get much attention is inside your kitchen cabinets, the “junk drawer,” behind furniture and appliances, and behind anything that sits stationary (desktop computer, phones, decorative baskets, decorations, etc.).

Tip #3: Don’t do too much at once to overwhelm yourself. Do a few rooms at a time.

This one I do all the time. I like to think that somehow it is possible to do the whole house in a weekend. I am very ambitious and it’s not very realistic unless I had a tribe of people helping me. Try a few rooms at a time. That way you can thoroughly go through everything instead of rushing just to get it done. If one room is really big, you can make these into smaller tasks. For example, I do my closet at a different time than the rest of my room because I get too overwhelmed.

I typically start with my room and then work my way down to the main living spaces and then to the basement. I do recommend doing anything with paper documents on a separate day from anything else so that way you can really look into it and come up with a good filing system and see what is super important and what is not.

Tip #4: Don’t buy anything new until you have gone through everything. If you need organizational items, look around your house first before buying something new.

This one is hard for me. I am ALL about the organizational things. I frequent the Office Depot and Target office supply area often. However, you need to look at other things you might already own around the house. I cannot tell you many times I get done cleaning the house and find 5 extra binders, 20,000 file racks, and 1,000,000 storage boxes. So I really don’t need to buy anything else and just use the things that I already have in the house.

Now, if I can go through EVERY room and can’t find anything then I can go make a list to buy things. And yes, make a list. It will help you not get “shiny object” syndrome. That is my problem, I want everything!

Now that you have these tips in place, get ready to organize your house this spring! Let me know if you have any other tips & tricks I can add to this list! Also, send me photos of your hard work after you are done cleaning. I can’t wait to see them all.

Taxes - how to make your life easier when it comes to this time of year

This is probably the most dreaded time of year. Tax time. We all hate doing it because you never really know if you are doing it right or not. I still remember the first time I filed once I had a business and it took ALL day to come up with everything I needed because I was ill equipped. I had no sense of organization and a filing system that it took all day just do to Schedule C. It was awful.

So I wanted to make some tips for you to help you prepare for this time of year.

Tip 1: If it can be listed as a deduction, SAVE YOUR RECEIPTS! (i.e. work uniforms, taking clients out to eat, buying office supplies).

I can’t stress this one enough. If you don’t want a ton of papers lying around, that is fine. I scan them into my computer, or there are plenty of apps you can use to save your receipts. It doesn’t really matter how you save them as long as you do. You can mark these on your taxes and it will help you!

Tip 2: WRITE IT ALL OUT! – spreadsheets

This will save you a TON of time if you write it out while you are thinking about it. I keep a spreadsheet that has every single type of deduction on it, when I take it out, which account/card I take it out on, and where it went (company, etc.). I have included a template of that exact same one for you here!

Tip 3: Keep all your paper and virtual documents in one place

I have a very specific taxes folder saved on my computer. It has each year in separate folders and it has any receipts that I have used by month, the actual tax forms, and anything else I think I may need. This way, I can always find it if need be. Now when it comes to spreadsheets, I keep these in the same place in a Google Drive. It’s under an accounting folder and it has separate folders for each year.

It is very important to keep it this way so that everything is easier to find.

Tip 4: Create templates to use over and over again each year

The template that I showed you above is exactly what I use. I make copies of this every year so that I can use it over and over again. If I make a change to my current one, I will also change it in my template version. This makes it extremely helpful so I don’t have to keep making a new one each year. I have one each year so that way it becomes very easy during tax time.

You can have your own version of my template right here!

Tip 5: If you are unsure of what qualifies as a deduction, when you are doing your taxes for this year, write them out so you can start tracking them for next year

I learned this the hard way. I was not tracking over half of the possible deductions the first year that I was in business. So, I looked up all of the possible deductions and wrote them out on a spreadsheet with each definition so I could easily reference it and know what each category specifically meant. I even color coded it so I would know if my business may actually use this or not.

You can see that in the template I made you.

Tip 6: Use a service

I am one of those people that prefer e-filing. I love using a service especially because I can have the previous year’s information already saved and it’s pretty easy to go through. Plus, they check if there is anything that looks off or has a higher rate of being audited.

I personally use H&R Block just because I am more familiar with them and it is what I have used for a while. TurboTax is also a good recommendation.

Since this is one of the times of year that creates the most headaches for people, help yourself from one by taking some of these steps. Already feel like you have dropped the ball? Don’t quit! Start them now! It will help you create a habit.

Taxes Templates: Google Drive, PDF, Excel

How to use nature as your props: Winter Edition

For the last season edition of nature of props I am going to tell you how you can use the winter to your advantage. Yes, it may be cold out. However, these winter photos can be magical. I am telling you when I say to go on Pinterest and look at “portraits in the winter” photos, you will be blown away. I am going to give you some ideas on what props you can use in nature during this snowy season.

1. Snow

This comes in so many forms: snow men, snow angels, and playing in the snow. It would be so easy to use this as it is EVERYWHERE! It’s great for kids, families, individuals and couples. It’s great for everyone.

2. Frozen over body of water

Ice skating is where I am going with this one. Only recommend this if the ice is thick enough or if you don’t plan on falling/breaking the ice. If you still want to incorporate this, a good idea is to be cuddled in a blanket next to it.

3. Snow covered branches

These work well as backdrops, or even going right into the branches. One of my favorite things to do is “shove people into bushes/trees.” Meaning, I use greenery to make amazing photos. Having snow on the branches will only help enhance this beauty.

4. Christmas Tree lot

It is about the same as the previous one, but you can also use it to frame the subjects. I love being able to use a tree lot because it screams winter and you don’t need snow for it. I know that the snow likes to take it’s time into late December/early January so this is a great option for when you are waiting for that.

I know this list is small, but it may give you some ideas that you haven’t thought of for your session.

5 ways to make your holidays memorable

It is now the month of all the special holidays that allow family and friends to come together and celebrate. I for one want to make the most of it. Last year, my family and I went through a pretty tough time and it really made me want to cherish the memories every chance I could. I wanted to share some ways for you to as well instead of being caught up on what everyone else is doing (aka being on social media).

1. Only Take photos at events that are posed (i.e. everyone gets together and smile for the camera) and then keep your phone/camera away

I am really big on keeping your phone away during family events. I don’t even like to bring them out on dates. However, these are good times you want to keep. I get that. However, I have recently came to discover that the more you have your camera up, the more you miss what is actually happening. Have you ever noticed that? You are so concentrated on keeping the subject in the frame and in focus that you aren’t actually watching what is going on. You miss those moments in real time. This is why I say you can take photos, but leave it for the posed ones. Then, PUT IT AWAY!

2. Journal after the events

So how will you remember everything if your not taking pictures that aren’t posed or “in the moment?” By keeping a journal. It’s honestly the best way to do that. You will then be able to reflect on your memories. It is also a good way to caption your album or photos later on.

3. Do an activity at events

It may sound crazy, but I honestly thinks this helps a lot when it comes to remembering things. At one of my families gatherings, we get Christmas Crackers (Find out what they are here). Each year we open them after dinner around the table and it comes with some sort of toy/gadget/trinket, two jokes and two riddles and a paper crown. We go around the table and tell the jokes and riddles one by one (some repeat so it doesn’t go on forever). Last year we even got wind up penguins and had penguin races. This is something I look forward to every year and it is so much fun. My family may get a little out of hand with it because by then we have had some beverages and we all love to voice our opinion in everything. (You can even take a look at buying some here!)

4. Stay off your phone

In today’s world it’s something I really want to stress. I can’t tell you how disheartening it is to go to an event and see everyone just scrolling on their phones. It makes me want to scream “go talk to someone", or “how about you help grandma/little child out with something.” I am totally guilty of this in the past and it makes me ill thinking that I missed out on catching up with my family and making new memories. If you don’t know something about someone, ask them. I know it makes my grandparents world when I talk to them and just listen to what they have to say. So put them away for the events. Nothing life altering is going to happen during them. If you MUST have your phone on you, put it on airplane mode or do not disturb mode.

5. With the pictures you do get, add them to an online album (i.e. Facebook, Google Photos, Amazon Prime Photos, etc.)

AFTER you have left the event, add them to an online album. I have my phone set to automatic backup with Google Photos when I get to an area with Wi-Fi. From those photos, I can select the ones from an event and make an album. I can share these with anyone I send the link to and they can download it as well. This way, my photos are always backed up and if I ever want to see them again, they are organized and on a platform I can get to from anywhere with internet.

I hope these ways can help you enjoy your holiday more and have more memories with your friends and family. Trust me when I say it is worth it to be present instead of preoccupied with your technology. Now go make some memories.

Why it's important to book your holiday card mini session NOW

The holidays are quickly approaching us and before you know it, they will be here. It’s hard to believe this year has gone so fast. That’s why it’s so important to book your holiday card mini session NOW before it’s too late. There are many reasons to back that up.

1. To make sure your photographer’s available

I can’t stress enough how important this is. As a photographer, I can tell you that we book up fast. Plus, we need time to plan your session and get all contracts/payments squared away. This takes time. It’s a very busy time for photographers and making sure your session is on the calendar is important.

2. To make sure everyone involved in these photos are available

Anyone you need in these photos also needs to be available. With my family, this is the absolute hardest part. We all have very busy lives and trying to find a time when all of us can get together for anything is near impossible. Unless it’s months in advance. I always have more than one date prepared to give to my photographer just in case they are not available, so make a few with your family.

3. To have time to design/pick out your cards

The photos may take a minute coming back from the photographer, so be prepared for that. But once they do, you will want to design or pick out a card. I use three different services: Basic Invite, Minted, and Nations Photo. All three I like and they have different varieties.

4. Shipping from card company

Once you have designed and ordered your cards, the card company will need to make them and send them to you. They will do all the work and send you all the envelopes, so it will take time. Expect anywhere from 3-4 weeks.

5. Time to get all mailing addresses

While you wait for your cards to arrive, you can collect all the mailing addresses you need. There are some card company’s that may address them for you and if so you’ll want to do this way ahead of time. I keep mine every year and just update them if need be. I always check to see if I know anyone who may have moved or changed addresses in case I need to update them.

6. Time to get them to the post office and mail them out

If you decide to do the mailing labels yourself, this can take a minute to add them to all of your cards. I also stuff some and some have stickers on the envelopes. I also have to add all the stamps. This is all the prep work I need to do before I even get to the post office. But, once they are there, it’s now all out of your hands.

7. Mail carrier time

It does take a little bit for the mail carrier to actually deliver the cards. Also, things can get lost in the mail, cards can get returned. There was one time I had a card returned to me 3 weeks after the new year and I sent them two months before. Things happen. So plan for mishaps.

This seems like so much happening when it comes to just some simple card that someone gets in the mail during the holidays. Even though it may seem that way, just know you are telling someone that you love them or that you enjoy them when you send them a card. I even do it. I send them out to all my clients and to my family and friends. I know I feel special when I receive one every holiday season.

So, make sure you plan accordingly and get that session booked now! Especially since you are thinking about it now.