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.

Organizing Manuals, Instruction Booklets and Warranties

I have found product manuals in the weirdest places when helping my clients. Places like the cabinet under the bathroom sink, mixed in with a stack of recipes, and crumpled in the back of a kitchen drawer. It just goes to show you how frequently we even access this information, right? What if you needed to find a manual right now? Today’s post is about organizing manuals, instruction booklets, and warranties. I know it’s not a top priority on your organizing to-do list, but when you are ready to tackle this project, just come on back to my blog. (There’s always the handy dandy search bar to help you find these posts.)

1.  Gather and purge

As you gather your manuals and such, you will likely find many for items you don’t own any longer. Throw those away now. Don’t even waste your time trying to remember who you gave the toaster to so you can give them the booklet…most hand-me-downs don’t come with instructions anyway!


2.  Location

As I mentioned before, we typically do not need to refer to these manuals and warranties after the first time we look at them. They are reference materials. As such, they do not need to take up precious space in your home. Mine are located in an old file drawer we have in the garage. The point is not to have them taking up the space you have for more important things.


3. Containerize and Label

Get hanging file folders and label one for each room in your home. You will probably need 3 more files – Tools, Lawn/Garden, and Laundry. Having a file for each room in the house helps separate the multiples you may own. Take TV’s for example, you may have several TV’s and if you put the right manual in the correct room file, you won’t have to know the make and model when you go searching for it. For example, if you need to look up something about the TV in the family room, you only have to look in the Family Room file.

4. Maintain

The easiest way to remember to maintain your manuals is to purge every time you go in the file, whether you are looking something up or adding a new manual to it.
This is an easy project, once you have collected all those manuals, instruction books and warranties. It should take you about an hour to label and file. Now that we’ve talked about how to organize the manuals, instruction booklets, and warranties this brings me to another “soap box” moment.


Are you keeping all those empty boxes that once held the iPad, computer, printer, TV??
Leave me a comment and tell me what you think I would have to say about that!

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

Receipt Organizer

Many people complain that receipts seem to over run them. I am often asked “What’s the best way to manage receipts?”
My answer: Get in the habit of staying on top of them every week.

I personally have a secret weapon when it comes to receipts. Here’s a look at it…

Yes, it’s a simple magnetic notepad holder. So the key to managing receipts isn’t the tool, it’s the process.

Here’s how it works in my home:

• My husband and I try to empty our wallets/purse about every other day

• All receipts go into this notepad holder (aka the in-box of receipts)

• Every week when we look at our account we check to see of the amounts are correct and assign categories to the expenses

• Most receipts are then shredded

• Any saved receipts go with merchandise to be returned or stapled to the product manual (in the case of big ticket items)

During Christmas we keep an envelope marked Christmas 20XX that holds all receipts for gifts purchased. That’s usually tossed about March of the following year.

This system works for us because we have a landing place for incoming receipts and we deal with the receipts on a weekly basis. How do you manage your receipts? Please leave a comment below.

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.

5 minute tasks to Keep You Organized

Got 5 minutes?  Then you can stay organized!

Here’s my list of quick things I do to stay organized and manage my time:
  1. Put incoming mail into a basket
  2. Sort laundry as I put things in the hamper (whites-colors-jeans)
  3. Use a paper recycle basket in the room where I read newspapers & magazines
  4. Make my bed as soon as I get out of it
  5. Review my calendar every night
  6. Set things in family room that can be done while watching TV
  7. Just before bed, I quickly pick up the main area of the house
  8. Religiously use my tickler file!
  9. Have a birthday calendar and set up cards to be sent out for the entire month, in one sitting
  10. Have a tote bag packed for each of the groups I belong to so I can grab and go
  11. Separate bulk meat purchases into smaller freezer bags after grocery shopping
  12. Have a designated donation container so I can purge & have a place for thing s to accumulate before donating
  13. Label, Label, Label


There’s More than One Way to File

When you hear the word “file”, what do you think of?  What image pops in your head?

There is actually more than one way to file your papers.  The traditional method of file folders and file drawers is only one option. You don’t have to file the way your mother did.  Choose what works for you! Here are just two other options:

1.              PileSmart® – a Pendaflex® product

Remember the Pilot from my other blog post, Three Personality Types of Paper Mania?  Well this is the product for that person.  The PileSmart® Organizer features a clear lucite tray that is open on two side.  There are 6 plastic dividers, with end and side tabs that are easily seen as you stack things vertically. The dividers are very sturdy so you can lift up a stack by the divider tab and retrieve papers when needed.  In addition to allowing you to color code your stacks, the labels on each divider are durable and are “write-and erase”, which means you can use re-use them after a stack is purged. Nifty product, huh?  You can get it online at Amazon.

2.              Binders

Yes, binders!  They are not just for school anymore… You can use binders with dividers to keep categories of paperwork manageable.  Don’t relish the thought of hole punching and/or pinched finger accidents?  That’s okay; use plastic pockets in the binders.  This will enable you to quickly “file” your papers away.  Binders can be stored on shelves, in file drawers, or archived in boxes.  You can also color code your binder, if that’s what you like to do or purchase colors that match your office décor, looking sleek and orderly on a bookcase or credenza.

These are just two options for filing the papers you keep.  Would love to hear how you manage your papers, please leave a comment.