Small Steps to Get Organized

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Organize Your Financial records

  • Record your transactions in your check register as soon as possible. Remember to include any debit card fees that may apply. Then store your receipts safely in one place in case you need them later.
  • Keep your checkbook up to date. Know your current bank account balance before you use a debit card. Don’t forget to subtract checks and debits that have not yet cleared your account.
  • Get your family’s records in order. Set up a home “office” for bill paying and record-keeping. A corner in the kitchen or a desk in the guest room is fine—as long as you have everything you need to pay bills, track tax-deductible expenses, and manage investments.
  • Gather in one place information about all of your investments, whether in IRAs, brokerage accounts, savings accounts, or life insurance. Create a “master list” of all of your accounts, what they are invested in (stocks, bonds, cash) and the approximate amount in each. You can then create a picture of your present allocation and decide if you need to make any changes.
  • Keep track of papers that are important to your life. Visit your safe deposit box and make a list of everything inside the box, and store that list in your home or office in case of emergency. You’ll stop that nagging worry—what the heck is in that box anyway? If there’s nothing you need to keep in there, close the box and put the money you save to better use.
  • Create a list of all of your accounts, account numbers, and approximate balances. Make copies and store them in your safe deposit box and your house files. Gathering this information in one place will save time and keep you from wasting your life energy searching for what you already have.
  • Spend 15 minutes sorting and dealing with the money papers that worry you.
  • Write a quick list of 20 things you would take with you if you had to evacuate your home in an emergency. Dollars to donuts, the things on your list are not the most expensive things you own, but the things that are the most meaningful to you.

Unclutter Your Life

  • Go through your house and choose 15 items to donate to charity. Gather the items in a box, drive to the charity drop-off center, and get your donation receipt. Yay! A cleaner house, and a tax deduction!
  • Tackle some small organizational task you have been putting off—whether it’s a junk drawer, a closet, or a file folder, Start the project and then (gasp!) complete it.
  • Sort the bills in your wallet. Put small bills in front for easy access, and large bills behind for security. At the same time, dump loose change into a jar for savings. Every time you touch money, you should feel a sense of security, not disorganization
  • Spend 15 minutes clearing off your desk, and organizing the clutter of papers. Rearrange, refresh, clean up, and toss.
  • As you get your mail today, don’t toss it onto the pile of papers you already have. Immediately sort, do the actions that need to be done, and toss what you don’t need to keep. Half the trick in getting clutter-free is not adding to the clutter you already have!
  • Donate your unneeded clothes to charity. Get rid of everything that doesn’t fit, is worn out, or that you haven’t worn in two years. If you don’t need it or love it, or it doesn’t fit any more, get rid of it!
  • Spend 15 minutes thinking of ways you could cut down on stuff and have an easier and more fulfilling life. What could you do to make your life simpler?
  • Take a quick look around the house. Do you have any rental videos or library books that are overdue? If so, scoop them up and drive right down to there to return them! Don’t say “I’ll do it later!”
  • Make a clean sweep of your purse. Dump everything out on the kitchen table and start fresh. Clean out old pieces of paper, half-eaten mints, keys to nothing, and other junk you don’t need. Sort your credit cards in a sensible way. Put things in compartments where they are easy to access. Your purse is the gateway to your financial life, and it should be a well-organized portal, not your junkyard.

Managing your time

  • Ask yourself the following question throughout the day: What is the best use of my time right now? This technique is used by some of the most successful business people to keep themselves on track. Sometimes you’ll find yourself doing an activity that makes you feel busy but is not productive. By simply asking yourself this question, it will keep you moving forward with today’s tasks.
  • Let your phone go to voice mail or the answering machine for an hour each day. Use this time to catch up on things you find most important, and to recognize that your time is your own and your life is not at anyone’s beck and call.
  • Practice being on time for everything this week. Experience the calm of not trying to pack more into one day than can actually fit.
  • Take 15 minutes to plan this week. Review your appointment schedule, make sure you have everything you need, and make a list of goals for the week. In 15 minutes, you can gain peace of mind for the whole week.
  • For 15 minutes, practice really listening to someone important to your money life. It could be your boss, assistant, best client, or business advisor. Be entirely silent while they speak their mind, and focus only on what they are saying—don’t multitask! Then, ask a question that will help you understand more deeply what the person is saying.
  • Make a list of the financial questions you want to discuss with your advisors—attorney, financial advisor, tax preparer, insurance agent, mortgage broker, etc. Leave space to jot down the answers. In the meeting, be deliberate and articulate. When the meeting is over, be sure that all of your questions and concerns have been discussed.