Last minute tax time tips

last minute tax preparation


If you are paralyzed about tax time, here are a few ways to get started and unstuck.

Items you can get off the internet if you don’t have the papers you need.

  • Use your year end credit card statements.   These are already categorized for taxes.
  • Go online to your mortgage company and download your mortgage expenses and property tax for your 1098.  Property taxes  and mortgage expenses are the biggest deductions in Texas.
  • Use your online pay stubs to find the taxes you paid on your final paycheck for 2010.
  • Visit your online banking and print statements out needed for income and expenses.

If you have papers, but are overwhelmed and not sure where to start.

  • Go through your papers and mail to find all the 1099s, 1098s and any other envelope marked important tax document on the outside of the envelope.
  • Spend one hour sorting income and expenses.  Spend 30 minutes sorting income into interest and dividends and then stocks for capital gains.  Spend another 30 minutes sorting medical into doctors/dentists, labs, eyeglasses, out of pocket and deductibles.    Spent another 30 minutes sorting charitable deductions.  Spend another 30 minutes using to tabulate your charity non cash donations. Finalize with 30 minutes of wrap up.
  • Group your credit card and other receipts by categories for your small business, such as advertising, meals (with the name of who you worked with and the work you did written on the receipt), office supplies, mileage and educational expenses.

The hardest thing about taxes is getting started! Just do it, jump on it, get help with a professional or tax software, and you will be very glad you did!

Effective, Efficient, Productive Home Office


Organizing your home office, whether it is for personal or business reasons, makes all the difference!  Getting down to business at your desk is a chore if it is piled with papers! Establishing a comfortable area for paper work and other office activities is important for productivity. Use these tips to create a space dedicated to effectiveness, efficiency and organization.

Create a Work Zone
As you begin, determine what tasks you are doing in your office and the tools needed for these tasks. By making these decisions at the outset, you are preparing your space for accomplishment. Create areas specifically designated for most frequent activities. As for room arrangement, place your desk in a position that allows maximum use of natural light. Position the desk in a direction that allows for direct viewing of all who enter without you having to turn.  Add an L shape or credenza behind for easy access storage for your command center or project files. 

Desk drawers should have only what you use at the desk in them. Store your additional office supplies in another area. Keep specific categories of items individually stored in different drawers. One drawer should contain checks and bill paying items, one drawer stationary and note pads, one drawer with a pencil tray holding pencils, pens, tape, stapler and scissors. Again, keep just enough to use and not over stuff the drawers. Place books on book shelves, magazines or reading material in a basket to grab and go. Be sure that your telephone, computer and other essentials are placed easily in reach.

A Personalized Paper Plan
A “paper plan” is most important in this work zone. Create an area for “Action” files. This is a temporary home where papers live until either filed away or thrown away. Papers used frequently or that are a “hot topic” need a basket, vertical file, or other space on your desk. Label them according to what actions or terms fit best with your needs. These files can be call, file, mail, or pay. Or these can be named by client name, project name, or other key word that comes to mind quickly. Clearly label your files so you will always know what is in them, and just as importantly, the labels will remind you what not to put in them.

Arrange for the placement of frequently used files to be placed in the desk’s file drawer. Less frequently accessed files can be placed in a separate filing cabinet. As for filing cabinets, use a low-lying, two-drawer cabinet that can be placed next to or near your desk for the added use of its top for other items that you often need. Filing system should be simple easy and manageable. Create categories in your files for the different major work/home areas. For work it may be clients, administrative, financial. For home it may be home/auto, personal, and financial. Use general key words that come to mind quickly, and sub categorize as needed. An example would be Car – insurance, Car – maintenance, or Insurance – Car, Insurance – Home. Think about how YOU think about the paper to find it. Color-coding your files makes it faster to find information. Use one color hanging file to easily slip information into a file. Label the file with a tab using a label maker!

Work Life Balance

work life balance


Is there such a thing a work life balance?  Does balance mean the “scales” are always even?  Work life balance can be seen as always a work in progress, arms of the scale going up and down in small increments, but mainly toward the middle where balance occurs.  In pilates, balance occurs when you are moving many parts in very small ways to keep the momentum of balance in place.   That is really what our lives appear to be when we are balancing home, work, relationships, wellness, spirituality and community.

How do we get this momentum of balance together?

Work life balance comes together when you are strategic about your goals and your plan.   Know what your goal of the balance is.  It can be many different aspects of your life, but not every aspect.  It could be to be healthier, “me” time, career advancement, contributing to the community, deeper relationships or peace of mind.   Choose three areas you can positively change to add to your balance.  Then think through your elements to keep them in balance.


Then here are my six elements of balance.

  1. You can do it all, not all at once.  Again, it comes down to choices.
  2. Put in the big rocks first.  do the most important first in your day.
  3. Plan your work and work your plan.  Have great tools like a planner and task list, have a weekly meeting with yourself and keep a task list for every day to keep focused.
  4. Build a team using everyone’s strengths.  Learn to delegate waht you don’t do well.
  5. Power periods and productivity.  Be in the moment, set up power periods in your day for productivity and be brutal about disruptions.
  6. Put your own oxygen mask on first.  Have time in every week to rejuvenate and take care of your health in exercising, relationships, proper sleep and good eating habits.



Decisions make work life balance happen

Decide on actions that fulfill these elements and position them in your calendar as “sacred” and unchangeable.  You have established a boundary for the really important aspects of your balance, and have flexibility on the rest.  You have to know that your goal is and aim at this with specific actions, not generalities.  Having specific times these actions are set, you can now work around them.  It comes down to plan your work, and work your plan!

Tough to do? Knowing what  is most important to me, I find really makes the difference. If being a great mom is most important, drill down and decide what 3 actions show this.  If being top in your field is most important, you must decide what 3 things establish this criteria for you.  If it is both, let’s create a balance between considering the actions.   I think of it as a road map, getting you to where you want to be.

Work life balance for me means a full schedule of clients, time with my grand kids, time to exercise and time with my husband.  I work with clients in blocks of time throughout the week, including Saturday.  On Friday is my “Gigi” day where I pick up my grand daughter from school.  Each week I schedule pilates, and then walk with a friend 3 times a week on a flexible schedule.  Dinner time each night is my time together with my husband, but it can happen anytime between 6 and 8 pm.  Everything else I work around these 3 aspects of what I consider the most important parts of my week. I see clients around the schedule, accomplish tasks at home including paper work, and take personal care with a good bedtime and focus on healthy eating.

Find your work life balance with this equation and share with us what made the difference for you!

Presentation: Its A Spring Thing! Tackle the Clutter & Take in the Color

IT’S A SPRING THING! Tackle The Clutter and Take In The Color 

Get ready for spring with a new look for your home! Join Certified Professional Organizer and Family Manager Coach Ellen Delap to learn the six step technique to tackle your clutter.  Interior Designer Leslie Sarmiento will share the newest trends in color and design for your home.  Bring a friend to enjoy this delightful afternoon program held at Kingwood Public Library on February 15 from 1 – 2:30 pm.  Please rsvp to Ellen at or Leslie at

 To learn more about organizing, visit  To learn more about interior decorating, visit  Join us on Facebook at or Leslies Interiors.

Clutter Support Groups Fall 2010

This fall I am excited to host 2 clutter support groups to help people define, establish and maintain an uncluttered life

 The Clutter Support Group supports members in

  • Clarifying their organizing and lifestyle goals
  • Transition their space and paper from disorganized to more organized
  • Discussing systems that will facilitate organization for them
  • Discussing routines that will facilitate organization for them


  • Group setting facilitated by certified professional organizer
  • Set your organizing goals and learn your organizing strengths
  • Put your strengths into practice by working on one space in your home during the 6 week time frame
  • Read along with Peter Walsh’s book Its All Too Much and discuss organizing challenges you face. 

Meeting structure

  • Beginning Tuesday evening September 21 or Wednesday morning September 22
  • Six weeks, Sessions of 1 ½ hours, at Kingwood Pine Hospital private room
  • Fee based membership of $120 for all sessions.  Pre-registration required.
  • Limited enrollment

Working with Hoarding Clients




Hoarders have become a national fascination!  Not only we do all know families struggling with this challenge, we know how tragic these situations are with respect to finances, emotions, safety and sometimes legal aspects.

Work with a hoarding situation begins with the client.

Who is the client? It is the hoarder, even though  the family, friends or other community members want the home decluttered.  An assessment of client readiness for change makes the difference.  Is the client ready to begin the process of letting go, creating a new way of life, and working toward maintenance and balance of acquisition ?  As a professional organizer, the first phone conversation with the hoarder tells me so much about our work together.

A successful approach for hoarding includes a team.

The team members are the client, the therapist and related professionals, the professional organizer, assistants to the organizer, skilled labor or other trade professionals as needed, and possibly haulers.  Collaborative therapy, where the client works with both a therapist for inner change and a professional organizer for outer change, makes for the best possible work arrangement.  As a professional organizer, I also find my hoarding clients work best with additional team members.  The energy that more people bring, the additional hauling off capability, and the resources that all the other team members bring to the project, neutralizes the shame and perfectionism the client is feeling.  In our work we usually find several home repair projects as we progress.  The project moves forward more quickly by having a handy man, electrician, and other trade people to call in as needed.


Work with hoarders proceeds at their pace.

With my own clients and their cases, we work on a regular basis, working in most difficult areas together.  Together we establish guidelines for donating through coaching.  Clients are encouraged and affirmed in good decision making.  Trust is the most important aspect of our relationship.  Clients see me as a motivator to change.    Every situation with hoarders is different in terms of how quickly progress occurs.



Hoarding resources

John Hart, PhD             


Tolin, Frost and Sketetee      Buried in Treasures


Tomkins and Hartl               Digging Out: Helping your loved one manage clutter, hoarding and compulsive acquiring

Organizing for the Mom Entrepreneur

I  love learning what works for moms!  In using twitter, I met the most organized entrepreneur mom ever, Melissa Lierman, @timeoutmom.  She shared with me the most important technology tools she uses to keep her busy home organized. 

  • My blackberry allows me to go to more kids activities because I can take the office with me.
  • Online bill paying takes the stress out of finances. 
  • Have  a dimmer switch in your bathroom for  bath time relaxation.
  • Have a DVR so you  are not tied to regular television viewing.   We just record our shows and watch when we want.   We have 2 DVRs, one for the family and one for me!
  • We have a slew of timers.  We play beat the clock, set the timer for 15 minutes and do crazy fast RTO = Restore the Order to the house.
  • The computer makes great spreadsheets for chore charts, after school routines, and organize weekly & monthly projects.
  • My  favorite non-tech item is her end-all be-all giant family calendar – master calendar to organize everyone’s work and activities.

Thanks Melissa for these great ideas! 

About Melissa

 Melissa Lierman will be married to her wonderful husband John 14 years in November and is a busy mom of 3 great kids – smart and sharp 11 year old MacKenzie Peter, artistic and creative almost 9 year old Maria Stella, and powerhouse action-packed 2.5 year old Jonathan Roger. She believes that the keys to success for a busy household are: lots of love, lots of patience, and lots of organization, and great communication.

 Melissa runs 3 businesses as a work at home mom. She travels once a a month speaking all across the United States and Canada teaching and training how to use Social Media and Twitter for Business. She fills in her time between travel with her product business (all mom-made), her training and consulting business, and her work with authors.  She teaches how to do it smarter, better, faster, stronger and goes by the nickname The Bionic Wonder Woman ! 

 Website: (complete re-do in process this summer, re-launch in september)







10 Ways Organizing Saves You Money


Here are 10 ways that cut to the chase on organizing and saving money. These 10 ways organizing saves you money will be the best reasons to get organized now.

1.                  You won’t need to buy things you already have. You won’t have to run to Walgreens to buy your kids index cards or school supplies.

2.                  You find money in your pockets – lots of it! We found $15,000 in a bin of papers!  We have found some money in every home where I work. 

3.                  You get reverse income by donating and using  Make a list of what you donate and create a spreadsheet.  Each time you donate usually adds up to $500 for tax deductions.

4.                  Your emotional and physical health improves so fewer doctors’ visits.  There are tons of allergens in paper piles, especially dust mites!

5.                  You prioritize saving money in entering your receipts into Quicken and know where you spend your money. Having a strong connection to your money saves you money in prioritizing how you spend it.

6.                  You clip coupons and save money every time you are at the grocery or drugstore. Some families spend only $20 on groceries a week with coupons.

7.                  You keep on top of home repair and other tasks. Prevent big expenditures by routine upkeep of your home and car.  Regular maintenance of your car means you can make more money on the resale.

8.                  You save money on the utilities in your home.  Being organized about your laundry means consistently filling the tub, washing the dished regularly with a full load and saving on heating/cooling costs by setting the temp at a consistent level.

9.                  You keep your purchases to a minimum. Being organized means buying what you need, when you need it, rather than compulsive shopping to assuage your emotions.

10.             Everyone knows saving time is saving money.  You can be more efficient and effective at everything you do by being organized!

 How does organizing save you money?








Start a new holiday tradition: Clutter free gifts

clutter free gifts


Each year we really want our holidays to be special.  Purchasing just the right gift, being sure it arrives on time, wrapping it, and budgeting for all the gifts can all be overwhelming, paralyzing and most especially not in the spirit of the season.  Is it time to rethink gift giving and simplify?  Start a new holiday tradition with clutter free gifts for your family and friends.

Our family is moving to the next step of gift giving. We are going to share in the fun of creating our Delap Family Cookbook. Everyone contributes recipes for this.  We  will print it and share it with the spirit of the season.

For our grands, we are giving memberships to the Houston Children’s Museum  and Houston Zoo  It is all about the experiences we will share as we go together to these places.

So here are some other conscious consumerism ideas. What creative and fun ideas will your family share this holiday?

Make some yummy treats to share with your friends and family too!

Ellen’s Banana Bread




½ c oil

1 ½ c sugar

1 t salt

1t baking soda

4 T milk

2 beaten eggs

3 very  ripe bananas mashed

2 c flour



Mix all together n electric mixer in the order given. Bake in 2 loaf pans sprayed with Baker’s Joy.   Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.  Freezes well!


Making the most of your money

Wondering about a budget? Here are some ideas to get you started!


Getting Started

Create a list of monthly expenses. Write down a list of all the expected expenses.  This includes your mortgage payment, car payments, auto and home insurance, groceries, utilities, entertainment, dry cleaning, retirement or college savings and everything else that is money spent.  These are the big ticket items.

Record ALL your spending. Write down all your expenses, both credit and cash in a daily log.  Doing this will make you think twice about unnecessary expenses, just like keeping a food diary makes you aware of every bite you take! After a month, review what you have spent your money on and ask yourself the true value of it.  Review this with your partner and confer on what is important, valued and prioritized. 



Look for ways to make small saving add up.

·                     Make dinner out a once a week splurge!  Bring your lunch to work and pack your kids’ lunches. 

·                     Curtail your afternoon coffee stop at Starbucks, stops for beverages like soda, and bring your own water in a non disposable container.

·                     Shop for clothes and household furnishings at resale and consignments shops. Need a holiday dress for your little girl? It is much cheaper at consignment than a major department store. Pick up furniture or other large items at

·                     Keep your home warmer in the summer and cooler in the winter.  You can save 5%–15% on your cooling bills by raising the temperature setting on your thermostat when you are away and don’t need cooling.  Keep your thermostat at 78 in the summer and 68 in the winter. Have your AC/Heat checked twice a year to be sure it is operating properly.

·                     Do chores you are paying someone else to do, like mow your lawn or clean your house. 


·                     Minimize your dry cleaning expense. 


Bigger savings on big ticket items

·                     Trade in your car for a less expensive model or purchase a used car instead of new.

·                     Reduce larger expenses by eliminating season tickets to ball games or musical events. 

·                     Refinance your mortgage with the new lower rates.  If new mortgages are costing at least two percentage points less than the rate you’re paying, refinancing may save you significant dollars.

·                     Increase your deductible on your insurance.



Some ideas for percentages for the budget

·                     Savings 10%

·                     Mortgage 25 – 30%

·                     Household expenses of utilities 10-15%

·                     Other obligations (debt/tithing) 10%

·                     Insurance, medical care 10- 15%

·                     Auto payment, car care, gas 10%

·                     Recreation and entertainment 5%

Once you have found ways to make your expenses at least 10% less than your income, create an automatic deduction each month that sweeps that 10% into a savings account. Now you are on track to be a stay at home mom!


Cultivate a mindset of less is more.

Accumulating stuff, whether it is a luxury auto, designer clothes or a big abode, takes its toll.  We have more to take care of and it ends up as a burden instead of a blessing.  Cultivating a mindset of less is more is thinking through the whether that “stuff” is more important than relationships. In creating our family, we should decide on our values and mission and create priorities as a result. Is your mission to have your children raised in a one income family with a stay at home mom or dad? It will take valuing that goal above all else to make it happen. It is in having less stuff, fewer expenses, a smaller home, less extravagant autos, and more about relationships, that we can accomplish this mission.