By Jean Chatzky with Arielle McGowen
February 12, 2009
Clutter Can Cost You Time and Money
That pile of mail on your kitchen counter and those stacks of paperwork on your desk are costing you.
Every minute you spend looking through clutter, wondering where you put this or that, being unable to focus because you're not organized costs you: time you could have spent with family or friends, time you could have spent being productive around the house, time you could have spent making money.
Overhauling your budget is great, but you have to get organized, as well. If you go about it the right way, it'll be painless.
Label your hanging folders according to your needs, but I like to use these categories: home and auto; healthcare and insurance; saving and investing; income and taxes; and credit cards and other debts. Then you can use file folders to sort subcategories. Let's say you have two credit cards; you'll want a folder for each. Start fresh every year. Step 2: Dig In
When I clean a closet, I pull everything off the racks and toss it onto my bed or the floor. You want to do the same with your bills and paperwork.
If it's sitting in a pile on your kitchen table, move it to an area that can be messy for a little while. This can take anywhere from several hours to several days depending on how much stuff you have to plow through and how much time you have to devote to the process. Step 3: Start Sorting
Once you have everything in front of you, make three new piles: Pay, File and Shred.
Take statements and bills out of their envelopes. If you find a bill that needs to be paid, do it on the spot, says Monica Ricci, an organizing expert and author of Organize Your Office in No Time. "Paying bills as they come in gets them off your plate physically and mentally," Monica says.
Bank, insurance and brokerage statements should be filed in their folders. Consider getting a shredder to get rid of obsolete files with personal info and other papers you don't need. Then recycle.
Follow the 5 Ds to give your paperwork an organizational overhaul Step 4: Stay on Track
Once you have a system in place, it's all about maintenance. Pay bills online and get statements via e-mail to cut down on clutter. When the mail comes, sort it in just a few moments. Every time you open a new account or switch insurance coverage, start a new folder for it.
Twice a year, give your system a once-over to ensure you're on track.