Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Tackle It Tuesday: How to Organize the Disorganized

I once read somewhere (I wish I could remember where), "the more stuff you have, the more time you have to spend dealing with that stuff." Isn't that the frustrating truth? How many times have you found yourself wasting away hours looking for a warranty, owner's manual or title to your car? You could be doing so much more in your life with that time if you were organized...and, could possibly save you some money!

Let me explain. For the past few years, we have played the "out of sight, out of mind" game with boxes of paperwork. You know that game don't you? Just keep putting everything in these boxes that are stuffed in the farthest corner of the basement because at least it's all together and someday you do plan-to-get-it-all-organized-and...and...and...*sigh* Oh, it's a great game alright until you desperately need something in that box - like a Nikon camera receipt or a dishwasher warranty certificate.

Yes, I've needed both of those recently. Pathetically, I spent over a week looking for that receipt.
I never found it. All of that wasted time. Oh - and I never found the Sears dishwasher warranty either. Luckily for me, both of these companies had their A games on and had us in the system. Whew!! Do you know how much money a broken lens AND a busted dishwasher might have cost us? All because we weren't organized? THAT makes me want to puke.

After managi
ng to avoid both fiascos, I knew it was time to start on that dreaded, SEVEN box pile up growing in the basement. To be honest, I think I have put off this task for so long because it is just overwhelming. I wasn't even sure where to start. The last thing I wanted to do was unload a bunch of boxes, only to move things around and re-box them again.

I pulled out the first box and started lightly sifting. Pay stubs from 2003? Receipts so faded that you can't read what they say? An owner's manual to my son's crib???

He's almost eleven.

Grrr...how did I let it get this far?

At that point, my eyes glazed over. I started to envision myself old and gray, covered in cobwebs, sitting in a dark, dank basement STILL going through paperwork. Well, ok...that's pretty far fetched, but you get the picture.

I needed a plan. Let me walk you through a few steps on how to get started.
  • What do you want the end product to be? In other words, where are you planning on putting the paperwork you need to keep? In a file cabinet, Rubbermaid tote or fire safe? I have this portable filer that is filled with hanging paper files. Seems like an impossible task to fit seven boxes worth of stuff into this little box, doesn't it?

  • How much time do you have to spend on a project? The last thing you want to do is pull a dump load of stuff up into your computer office and not have time to finish. Then what? You are left with a MESS, right in the area that you often work in. Not fun. If you only have two hours to work, only bring up one box of stuff. Be realistic on how much you can get done in the time allowed.
  • Don't leave messes until the end of the project. File and shred paperwork as you go. Maybe not sheet by sheet, but about every fifteen minutes or so (or when your shredder cools down - more on that later.) Like any project, when you have been working on it for a long time, the last thing you want to do is clean up a huge, leftover mess.
  • Make good decisions on what to keep and what to pitch. Unless you are looking to take a trip down memory lane, try to avoid that venture. Rehashing memories with cards and such can easily turn a one hour project into a three hour tour. With official paperwork, do some research on the internet on what you SHOULD keep and what you don't need (ex: keep tax forms, real estate, insurance policies - pitch: bank statements after a year, monthly bills once they have been paid, etc.) You don't have to rid of everything if you don't want to. Though, just make sure it has a place in your filing system.
Fortunately, I was given a Brother Personal Labeler Machine from Ebay Classifieds at the recent SV Moms event in Chicago. What a perfect time to use it! Not only did the labels make my filer look nice and neat, it was fun to use. The labels I needed to make were: Automobile (for titles, work records), Auto Insurance (policy), Life Insurance (policies), Medical, Personal (copies of birth certificates, etc), Receipts, Mortgage, Savings, Tax Info (receipts for deductions throughout the year) and Veterinary. Behind all of that, I have just filed my past years tax folders. Really, that is all I needed. I ended up spending an entire day organizing; getting through about 5 1/2 boxes. I was left with my planned filer, a small box of mementos (which I plan on putting in a labeled tote) and a small stack of product owner manuals (which I will do the same with.)

Oh...also...I burned up my shredder. GRRmpuffttbbzzzzzz and it was on it's way to the landfill. It was old anyway. Be SURE to let yours cool down according to it's specifications. Good thing I have $30 in Staples Rewards to put towards a new one.

I'm so glad to have dwindled that pile. Obviously, it has been weighing on me for YEARS. Do you have any other suggestions for tackling an organization project? Let me know!


Robyn said...

Great information! I love that file to organize things. I have something similar for my bills and I really should have one for any warranties. I have NO clue where mine are either!! UGH. lol

Mom All Day

Toni said...

Oh, I know what you mean - anytime anything was ever mentioned about a "receipt" or "owner's manuel" I always got that feeling of dread - knowing I would have to go dig through all of those boxes. It's SO much better now!

Bonnie said...

Great tips and I need to follow some of them as I sit in my clutter filled office reading your blog...lol.

Toni said...

One box at a time Bonnie - that's all it takes!