Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Day Six Decluttering Our Home: The Office

It is so easy for papers to get out of hand, isn't it? I have a computer-paper box just full of papers that I need to sort through. At least there is only that one box to do. I've had a dozen at a time in the past.

The #1 thing that helped me cut down on paper clutter is to take care of the mail the minute it enters the house. I don't even open junk mail, unless it is from a company with which I already do business (I open those because I've been surprised in the past to have a refund check or an important note in what was disguised as junk mail).

We also subscribe to few magazines now. I wasn't taking the time to read them anyway, and then I'd feel guilty about throwing away something I hadn't read! When you get rid of your magazines, take them to your doctor or dentist office. Have you ever noticed how old their magazines are? Ugh!

About the bills.....

What works well for us is a very simple system that we created after years of frustration:

In a three-ring binder (mine is RED so I won't lose it), I have:

several page protectors
college-ruled paper
a pencil case (or use the binder's front pocket)

On the page protectors, I wrote in permanent marker:
"To Do"
"Bills To Be Paid 1-15th"
"Bills to Be Paid 16-31st"
"Paid Bills"

The college-ruled paper is kept behind the page protectors.

The pencil case is kept in the front of the binder. It holds a credit card for paying bills online, a checkbook, envelopes, stamps, and a pen.

Now that I have the binder set up, here is the system:

One sheet of paper is labeled with the current month. "January 2006" is our current paper. It is placed in front of all of the page protectors.

When a bill comes in, I write simple information on my "January 2006" paper, such as:


For example, when a bill comes from my phone company, I write:


The bill with its envelope wrapped over it is then placed in the page protector pocket of the date range where it belongs, which in this case is "Bills to Be Paid 1-15th."

When I pay a bill, I simply write the following on the (January 2006) sheet of paper:

1/08---Bellsouth---$47.00---OL 1/01 CC (or PH Lisa 1/01 CK)

My codes:

OL=online; SNAIL=post office mailed; PH=phone-try to get the name of who took the info; TELLER=in person

CC=credit card or bank card; CK=check; CA=cash

I pay almost all of my bills online, and my email program saves the email from the company saying that they received my payment, so I don't usually write down a confirmation number on my paper.

I then write OL 1/01 CC on the paid bill, in case I find it loose later and wonder if I've paid it (this step is not at all necessary, but since we have a mischievous toddler, it is nice). The paid bill is then placed in the PAID BILLS folder.

At the same time, I remove the last paid (Bellsouth) bill, because I know that they received the payment or the balance would have been off. (I do keep medical bills longer if they have itemized information on the bill, because I've had disputes with the hospitals before, and have been double-billed for items. If your credit card company does not have good online records, you might want to keep this bill for record-keeping, too).

The "To Do" pocket is used for things like bills that come in too early to be put in the To Be Paid pockets, such as our Auto Registration Bill which comes too soon. It is also used for forms that we need to sign or offers that we may want to accept. Rather than taking time to do them when they come in, I let the offers or forms wait until our Bill Paying Day, around the 1st or 15th. This pocket is always cleaned out on the 1st or 15th, keeping its clutter down.

A couple of notes:

I like to pay our bills on the FRIDAY before the 1st of the month and the 15th of the month (but making sure there is enough time for a snail-mail bill to get there). Why Friday? Because paychecks often come on Fridays, but also because creating a day of the week to think of bills helped me to form a habit of remembering to do them. If it is not the Friday before the 1st or 15th, I am then happy to ignore my mind's reminder.

I used "I" in the above, but actually Tim and I have found it more pleasant to do our unpleasant Bill Paying task together. Usually, he takes care of any phone calls and I take care of online payments. He does the math, and I am the record keeper.

p.s. Here is the link to Mrs. Cat's post on Decluttering the Office.

by Lori Seaborg

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