Five minutes – Create two files to lessen tax-time stress

Tax documents will start to arrive in the next few weeks. Get ahead of the document deluge and create two files. Label one 2017 and the other 2018. Keep things simple for now.

It’s not about organizing your tax documents; it’s making sure you have a go-to spot to file them when they arrive. Come tax time, you’ll know right where everything is. Since you have your 2018 file on-hand, your receipts and other documents can be easily filed away throughout the year.

A professional organizer advocating for more paper? Yes, but only when it comes to taxes. Keep your documents easily accessible. You won’t have to worry about tech issues from a computer on the fritz to a lost USB drive or misbehaving printer. Scan and back up your documents if that’s how you prefer to keep records. But for ease and speed, my money is on paper.

20 minutes – Corral your medical costs

Some taxpayers can itemize medical costs. If that’s the case and you haven’t kept receipts for each co-pay, prescription, etc. you can obtain a statement from your provider(s) detailing your out-of-pocket expenses.

If you have online access to your insurance/prescription provider, you may be able to obtain the same information yourself with just a few clicks. Make this request sooner than later to beat the rush of requests as tax time nears.

Also, start to utilize that 2018 tax folder. Make it a habit to file receipts as soon as you are home.

15 Minutes – Clear out the medicine cabinet

The beginning of the year is the perfect time to go through your medicine cabinet. Take everything out and check the expiration date or every bottle, box, and tube. If it iss expired, dispose of it properly.

The FDA advises to mix expired/unused prescriptions and medical products with something undesirable such as used coffee grounds, cat litter or dirt. Place everything in a container, seal and dispose of it in the trash.

As you put everything back into the cabinet, consider grouping like-items such as cough and cold, allergies, wound care, etc. Take note of anything you need to replace. If you discarded something that still had quite a bit left, buy a smaller amount this time around.

Five Minutes – Prepare for swim season

While you are in the mode of checking expiration dates, gather up your stash of sunscreen and check that it will still provide protection. Anything past a printed expiration date should be tossed. If you can’t find a date, heed the advice of the Mayo Clinic and discard anything more than three years old or that has noticeably changed color or consistency.

The New Year is a time of resolutions and creating new habits. Make these actions part of your February and avoid some aches and pains come April (taxes!), June (the sun!) or any time of year.

Amber Ehrlich is the founder of The Tidy Bungalow and a professional organizer serving the Phoenix area. She works with clients to declutter, organize and create joyful space. She is a member of NAPO (The National Association of Productivity & Organizing Professionals) and graduate of the KonMari Consultant Seminar specializing in the KonMari Method. You can find her online at and