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  • Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine

Organizing Your Life in 2023

By Kathleen Reynolds

Remember when Marie Kondo came into our lives and persuaded us into thanking, then purging old clothes, pantry clutter and garage detritus? We felt revitalized and organized for the first time in a long time.

What about the other areas of our lives? We checked with several experts to learn about the benefits of organizing our electronics, heating and air conditioning, taxes, finances and legal matters. Follow this advice and feel fresh and prepared for the start of 2023.

Many of us spend half our waking hours interacting with a computer. What steps should we take to declutter it?

“Keeping your computer well organized serves two practical purposes: efficiency and cost,” says Don Hirsohn, owner of Napa One, offering sales and service for Apple. “Efficiency means that when it’s time to pull out the letter your lawyer sent you a few years ago or to find the picture of your daughter from high school, you don’t have to spend hours combing through random files and pictures. Cost means that you can avoid the rush to the tech store to buy external storage drives when you get that stop-you-in-your-tracks notice from your computer that there’s no space available to add any more photos or receive any more emails.”

“Organizing one’s computer generally boils down to creating folders and placing files with them according to their relevance. You could have a finances folder and put with it other folders like utilities or stocks. Or maybe the utilities folder would be better placed in a household folder? The organization is up to what makes sense to you. Create this folder organization in your Documents folder and know that when it comes time to retrieve information, you’re sure you filed but can’t remember exactly where it’s stored, you just open your Documents folder and start poking around. It’ll be obvious.”

If I have time for only one thing this month, what should it be?

“The one thing somebody could do at any time, but January is a good start, is to head to the email program you use and delete all junk mail and empty all trash. Methods for doing this vary according to whether you’re using a Mac or a PC, a dedicated email program like Outlook or Apple Mail, or a webmail screen like Yahoo and Google. It might be worth scanning your inbox as well, for obvious candidates for deletion.”

“Ultimately, the organization of your computer should reflect the way your own mind works.”

My heater’s been on steadily since November, what about my HVAC system?

Gary Awai, Service Manager for Bell Products, says that having a properly functioning HVAC system ensures you do not have to spend a fortune on significant maintenance tasks all year long. “Keep on top of your HVAC system maintenance and solve a problem before it even pokes its head, so that you can live in comfort all through the year, with complete peace of mind,” says Gary.

“Regular HVAC maintenance is said to reduce the risk of costly breakdowns by as much as 95%. Chances are you wouldn’t drive your car for 30,000 miles without getting an oil change; you’d be asking for trouble. This analogy holds true for your heating and cooling system.”

“Preventive maintenance helps ensure that your HVAC system runs at close to peak efficiency. This can mean savings of up to 30% on your energy bill, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Regular maintenance also extends the life of your system, reducing the likelihood that you’ll need to spend big bucks on an HVAC installation soon.”

According to Gary, the simplest step for your HVAC is to change your filters. “Filters remove dust, hair and other particles from the air so that these pollutants are not spread throughout the home. You can improve the air quality inside of your home and use less energy by changing the HVAC filter every 30 days. Clean filters let more air pass through, allowing the system to heat and cool more efficiently.”

How about taxes and finances?

Ted Mihm, owner of Ted’s Tax has advice. “The more up-to-date the information on the taxpayer’s situation the more accurate the tax preparer can be in preparing the tax return, determining what is the most appropriate considerations for filing and advising the taxpayer for tax planning.”

“Don’t procrastinate,” says Ted. “Start collecting documents and don’t wait until the last moment to call your tax advisor. Second, have a specific collecting place and device that you use. For example, an accordion file where you put every document that is tax related, with a pocket for income items, another for deductions, etc. Third, utilize that tax organizer your tax pro sends in the mail. It’s a guide, a reminder to you of the things you need to think about finding, it is there to focus your attention on the important tax related facts in your life. Fourth, make a copy of every relevant document and give copies to your tax pro. Your tax pro will want an actual copy of the tax documents because often there are details that are required when e-filing a return, or that make a difference in how the item is reported on return. Too much information is better than too little information when comes to preparing your tax return.

If a person can do one thing in January for this, what should it be?

“Have a specific place, set of files or folder created to hold your tax documents and develop the habit of always placing your tax documents in it, as you receive them from the mail or retrieve them, from online accounts.”

Finally, your lawyer. Wait — do I need a lawyer?

“Approximately 75% of wills and trusts are out of date when those who created them die,” says attorney Anthony G. Celaya of Celaya Law. “That’s an astounding statistic. However, it’s not completely surprising given how life changes so quickly. In estate planning terms, there are three categories of changes that can make wills and trusts out of date: asset changes, family changes and law changes.”

“As a result, we recommend that an estate plan be reviewed at least every couple of years. Make sure you create your plan with a firm that will do these reviews at no charge for the rest of your life. Meet with a qualified estate planning attorney, one who specializes in that area, who will review estate plans at no charge and make recommendations.”

“If a person can do one thing in January for this it’s to make an appointment with a firm like ours who will review any current plan at no cost, in person or via telephone or Zoom.”

We hope these hints help you get and stay organized in this new year. Why are you still waiting?



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