Sometimes we have to "fight" our tendencies in order to elicit change. That's especially true about organizing. On May 2nd I talked about our fight plan:
Phase I - Stop the Bleeding
Phase II - From this Day Forward
Phase III - Reduce the Past
Getting organized and staying organized will take these three steps, done concurrently! As I mentioned earlier - you can't organize everything at one time. You will run out of time, energy and motivation! Getting organized and staying organized is more of a lifestyle that you develop and keep as you move forward. Below are examples of these 3 steps:
If accumulating paper is one of your organization challenges:
Stop the bleed: Every day, when the mail comes in, immediately pull out all junk mail. Some of us let our unopened mail pile up for days, weeks or months! If you're not actively searching for insurance, new windows, hvac repairmen, etc. to make an immediate purchase (within the next 30 days) don't even waste time opening and reading it. Either shred it or trash it, or shred your name and address and trash the rest. Most junk mail is from companies you're already seen over and over again. If it's a new company you may want to look into when you're planning to buy in the future, put their name on your "potential contractor" list and then trash the junk mail.
From this day forward: The remaining mail should now consist of items that need to be acted upon (you need to pay their bill, schedule an appointment, etc.) or items that need to be filed (a receipt, a medical visit record, etc.). If you can, immediately file what needs to be filed and do not put it into a "to file" pile. If you must put it into a "to file" pile, schedule a day each week to file that pile! Put the items to act upon in it's own file folder - sometimes called a tickler file. You should look thru this folder every few days to remind yourself what needs to be done, and to not miss any due dates or deadlines. You can also create a "bill payment" list. If you know how to use Excel, use it! It's wonderful for tracking costs and budgeting. List your bills by date due, with bill amount, account numbers, websites that take payment, your passwords, mailing addresses if you still mail checks, phone numbers, etc. With this one list, you can pay your bills, or call with questions, from anywhere you are - without having to look for any old bills, letters, etc. for the information you need. Look at this list every few days to make sure you're staying on top of your bills. This type of list is great too if you're helping someone else - like parents or grandparents - stay on top of their bills. The goal is to touch all incoming mail "one time" - look at it, file or trash it, or act upon it - right then. If you can't act upon it right then, park it in that tickler file until you can.
Reduce the past: Start to go thru all of those old piles of unopened mail, papers that need to be filed, etc. and begin to get rid of them. This may take awhile, but that's ok. With your newly acquired organizing skills, it may go faster than expected. You know not to waste time opening and reading mail that is not relevant to you at this moment in your life - so shred/trash and keep it moving. Old bills have been replaced with new ones - file or shred/trash the old ones. I've found checks (that have expired), gift cards and cash in unopened envelopes (before I got organized!). This project will be ongoing until you're done so place it in a box to go thru when time allows, like when you're sitting down to look at a show or movie.
So with these 3 easy steps, you can win your next fight with disorganization!
Take Away: Getting on top of your papers and files is a huge task but once it's done, it makes everything else so much easier. Don't forget we need to transfer these new skills to your computer files and emails. Those files need to be organized too! Tomorrow we will discuss organizing both.
About the Author: L. Sidney Irving is the owner of Sidco Properties, a real estate company dedicated to educating and assisting those that want to buy or sell a home, Sidney loves to organize herself and those around her because she believes that an organized space brings peace and fosters creativity. May the power of organization be with you!