Taming the Paper Bill Monster

Do you have a ton of paper staring at you in your office or on your kitchen counter? Most of the time this is a big complaint.

Are some of those papers your monthly bills?

Many of us have files we’ve labeled “Telephone”, “Utilities”, “Water/Garbage”, “Cell Phone”,  “Credit Cars”… Sound familiar? We’ve set up these folders because that’s how our parents used to do it. So when we moved out of their home we did the same thing. Only, we hate to file them. Do you really need to keep those bills?


Probably not. While what I am going to say may make you feel a bit queasy or uncomfortable, I say it to help you eliminate the paper monster in your life.  No, I am not recommending that everyone go paperless, don’t worry.  I am recommending, however, that you embrace technology. Create passwords to your utilities, phone, and credit card accounts so you can access your information online at any time. Get comfortable with their websites so you begin to use this valuable resource.  You can look up past bills, see recent statements at the touch of a button. If you are reading this blog then you have access to the internet so use it and eliminate the need to keep all those paper bills.

It’s okay if you still want to get your paper statement (or you can request that they be sent to your email in box).  The point here is that you don’t need to file or keep those bills. After you pay a bill, shred it. The information is still there online anytime you need it.

So get comfortable and let go (if you haven’t already) – I double dare ya!


The Dreaded Paper Filing System

I recommend revamping your paper filing system, when you have time. Although this is not a high priority activity, revamping your file systems will help you save time in the long run.   Here are a few reasons why you may have been avoiding this:

  •  The drawer is jam packed with paper files and there’s no room.
  • Once filed, you are not sure you can find it again.
  • You don’t know what to name the file.
  • The file cabinet itself is ancient and the drawers do not operate properly.

The first two bulleted points above are usually due to not purging your information on a regular basis. At least once a year or every six months, it is a good idea to go through your file drawers and eliminate those paper files that you have not used in the past 12 months. The exception to this would be any files that contain tax or legal information. There are rules for how long to retain that documentation. Ask your CPA or go to www.irs.gov for suggested guidelines. Once you get in the habit and purge on a regular basis, the time it takes to get through your files will shortened considerably.

While some files may need to be kept, some of the information it holds can be purged or updated. For example, you do not need to keep all the prospectuses for your investment portfolio, or at work, there may be updated forms that replace some that you have in your file drawers.

As we add files to our file cabinet we oftentimes complicate the system by micromanaging the data. Think in terms of broad categories. In other words, keep it simple. The fewer the categories, the more success you will have in retrieving your information. When making the decision where to file papers, put like with like. Each piece of paper does not need its own file.

Lastly, if you file cabinet does not function properly then you are less likely to use it. If your file drawers stick or do not close well, consider purchasing a new file cabinet. Your time is certainly worth more than the cost of aggravation over some square box that holds your papers! Use hanging file folders whenever possible. They are a big help in moving files forward and backward to access the information therein. They also are a replacement, not in addition to, manila files.

It may be the case that you shouldn’t use files at all.  You have them but never file things in them.  There is more than one way to manage the paper information you wish to keep.  Here’s an article with more about the variety of ways to file.

Back Up your Data in the Cloud

It’s important to back up the data and photos you have on your computer.  We all have so much data on our home computers today, especially if you have started scanning paperwork. One of the ways to back up your data is in “the cloud”.  Many of my clients are not sure what ‘the Cloud’ is and if it’s a secure place to store their data.

This is a short and simple explanation of backing up to the cloud from The Today Show:

backing up to the cloud>

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Key points:

  • You can store data off site, on the internet.
  • You can store documents, pictures and other data (not programs).
  • Not everything on your computer needs to be backed up.
  • You can access your data on other equipment –  your phone, your tablet and other places that have an internet connection.
  • You won’t get 100% safety on the internet, even on the most secure sites.  Encrypt your data and use strong passwords.
  • Having multiple back-ups is a good idea. For example, using an external hard drive in addition to the cloud services.

Providers of cloud services:

Some of the following links are affiliate links, if you choose to do business with one of these companies, Organized Habits may receive a small referral fee.

Having back up is part of maintaining the organization of your photos, paperwork and documents. Create your back up plan and start to implement it today.  We all hate to lose our data because there is never a good time to lose data!  Do you use other cloud services? I’d love to hear about them.

Managing the Calendar, Appointments and Tasks

Well, it’s back to basics for me. Over the past 60+ days I just really been struggling with managing my calendar, my appointments, and all the things I have to do. Yes, I know … I’m the organizer!

I had been using Google calendar via my iPhone and iPad for well over a year. It’s ideal in several ways, but there were the aspects I struggled with:

  • on my phone and my iPad I couldn’t read all the events for the entire month, in one of view; it was best to be sitting in front of my computer

  • on my phone, I could only read my appointments day by day

  • Google calendar took too long on my phone, in my humble opinion

  • on a few occasions appointments went missing on my phone (can’t figure that one out!)

Now for those techies out there, it may be that my iPhone and Google calendar are not ideal mates. In the grand scheme of things though, what is important?

What is important is that I have a system that works for how I do things.

And the same could be said for you…

What is important is that YOU have a system that works for YOU?

Let’s just say, for the sake of this post, my system was broken. I thought about trying something new but also remembered that what I had used before worked. It never broke, I just got bored with it and thought I should try to get all my “essentials” on my phone. Or, as my friend Jessica would say, I had BSO syndrome.  BSO stand for bright-shiny-object; you know, that thing that catches your attention and lures you toward something else.

So, what did I use before? I used a Planner Pad.  This year, I am back to the Planner Pad. I even made a YouTube video about it a couple of years ago. I highly recommend going to view it if you want to know how it differs from the other paper based planners. (It’s just easier to show you than explain in writing.)

Here’s a couple of photos of my Planner Pad to pique your interest.

Why I went back to my Planner Pad:

  • I have immediate access to my calendar

  • I can see my whole month on 2 open pages

  • I can also see my whole week on 2 open pages

  • I can list my tasks based on the roles I play

  • I can funnel tasks into the week around the timed appointments of the calendar

  • I can jot quick notes on the same page as I am making appointments

  • I can see at a glance what was not completed

 So what kind of calendar or planner do you use? Is it a system that works for you? Have you ever struggled to maintain a calendar, your appointments and tasks? Would love to have you share your comments below.

Organizing the Software We Own

Computer CDs are seemingly harmless; small and compact, they don’t take up much room. You get a new computer, it comes with a disc or two. Then you purchase some software, an antivirus protection, and maybe a few games, right? Often when I walk into a home office and look in the supply cabinet I find stacks and stacks of software CDs all jumbled with their empty boxes not too far away… It’s chaos.

It seems that the basic organizing principles are forgotten when it comes to our software and other computer CDs. Let’s review how these basic principles of organization can help:

1. Purge and Sort

Weed through and eliminate those programs and CDs you no longer use. Match the ones you are keeping with its box and key codes.

Tool Tuesday: Fishbinz

Last week I discovered a new product that is great for those who have a tendency to pile things. Pilers, you know who you are… if not, I described the 3 types of personalities when it comes to dealing with paper in a blog post. I interviewed the creator of Fishbinz, Lisa DeVeau, of Completely Organized. She confessed that she struggled with piling and had to find a better way. (Necessity is the mother of this invention!) I believe this product is the perfect solution for those who like to stack their papers and projects sky-high!

Introducing Fishbinz

Found: One Clutter Catcher

My desk can get out of hand quickly when I have a busy week. The messier it gets, the more frustrated I become. The reason for the frustration is that I cannot focus when there is clutter strewn about in my office. At the end of the day, I allow time to get things back in order.

Yesterday I found this note:

Managing Paper Memorabilia


Kids School/Artwork

–        Use a lidded box, color coded per child and label

–        Use large envelopes, labeled by year and child

–        Transfer yearly papers to labeled accordion file keeper

Travel/Sightseeing Memorabilia

–        Have a journal with you to notate date, locations, and events

–        Gather tourist brochures, postcards, etc. in journal

–        Transfer to accordion file keeper, categorized by year

–        Tear pages from journal and include with memorabilia

Product Review: FreedomFiler

I haven’t done a Tool Tuesday feature in a while, so here ya go!  I helped a client in her home office last week and introduced this product to her. She is a local realtor and although she had been in business for years, she felt that she needed to get “re-booted” in her office.  She felt it was cluttered, the work process didn’t flow, and her files were a mess (her words, not mine).

While we worked together for a couple of days on all aspects of her office environment, I want to tell you about the tool we used to revamp her filing system.  Based on my clients existing files, personality, and needs I recommended the FreedomFiler®.


FreedomFiler® is best known for being a self-purging file system. This system goes a long way in keeping your files organized and is very user friendly. It uses color coding to categorize odd year versus even year files as well as separating your active and yearly files from your permanent, or archive, files.


The system contains 200+ pre-printed file tab labels with a total of over 400 customizable file tab labels included.  There are easy-to-follow instructions and 5 great indexed cards to keep your system on track.  You also have the option to purchase other accessories if you need them.  This system works for home and work files.

Here are a few reasons why I find this product to be so helpful to certain clients:

  • easily integrates into your existing file system
  • streamlines the look of your files, making things easier to read
  • the even/odd year file sets make getting ready for tax time a breeze
  • gives you guidelines for when papers should be purged
  • eliminates the need to make new files each year

FreedomFiler® is a great system and so easy to use.  I am an affiliate for FreedomFiler and would be happy to answer any questions you may have. Contact me via the Contact tab or leave a comment here.

Getting Your loved Ones Organized

So you are determined to be more organized than ever but you don’t live by yourself… There’s your other half, the kids and maybe even a mother in law in the mix! You may be wondering how to get them organized. The answer … you can’t.  It’s like making someone love brussel sprouts (sorry mom). You cannot make someone be organized, and if you could, they certainly would not be organized the way YOU expect them to be.

Getting organized is a choice and a person must be ready to make that choice. The best way to get loved ones at least interested in getting more organized is by setting a good example. Here are a few simple ways to set a good example:

Set up easy systems for others to manage. For example, a launch area near the door you use to enter and exit their home. Have a place for keys, glasses, and bags in that area.


Label things. For example, label the laundry sorter. Label the kids toy bins.



Ask for help with keeping the common areas organized. Have family members spend 15 minutes before bed daily picking up the family room and putting things where they belong.  You have to ask for help, they aren’t mind readers.

Talk about what you are doing to be better organized. Open the door for communication and this may inspire them to work on an organizing project of their own!