Clean Up

Paper Trails

I am notorious for not holding on to receipts. I can’t stand the clutter of all those tiny, useless pieces of paper. Receipts are so small and seemingly insignificant – every single day I find old ones shoved into little nooks and crannies in my kitchen, my clothes, my wallet – you name it. It drives me crazy! And I tend to keep everything that I purchase, so what’s the point of holding on to the receipt?

Well, to be honest, I still don’t really hold on to the little ones. A few groceries and household necessities from Walmart and I toss the receipt. But I DO hold on to the major ones. Receipts for monthly bills, car purchases, rentals, etc. Things that I may need to review or have in my records for some weird, crazy reason.

And, if you live in an apartment like I do, you don’t really have room for a desk or a gigantic file cabinet to hold everything. And so that brings me to step 1 in getting your blasted paperwork organized: finding something to NEATLY hold your loose papers (which won’t be loose anymore). I recently discovered these small storage boxes that are designed for files (you’ve probably seen them in your local stores, they aren’t a new invention or anything).

storage

I bought two of them, and it’s been more than enough space for the things that I keep. I found mine at Walmart and Target, but I’m sure that any other office supply store or home deco store will carry them.

The next thing to do when you’re trying to get your papers organized is to buy a box of file folders. I usually snag mine from my office, which are just basic, nude-colored files. I also have colored ones, but unless you are color-coordinating your categories, it really doesn’t make a difference which ones you use.

The most important step is to LABEL YOUR FILES. For example, mine are labeled according to content: Bella & Roca, Wells Fargo, Health Insurance, Auto Insurance, and-so-on-and-so-forth. I have a general utilities file, but if you feel you need to sort your papers even further, you can make individual ones according to gas, electricity, cable, Wi-Fi, etc.

organizing folders

I am über organized, so all of my folders are alphabetized, and also organized in each box according to how often I need access to the folder. My main box holds the files for my insurance, monthly bills, and my dogs. Obviously, your folders of importance will probably differ from mine, so organize it in a way that suits you and will make it easiest for you when you need to grab a folder or file something away.

The final step in this process is to find a NOT SO OBVIOUS place to store your boxes. This means, do not leave them on your kitchen counter. If someone was to break in, and found a file with your social security info and birth certificate just sitting and waiting, you’d be screwed. If you live in a small, rented space like me, this is limiting because you can’t sink a safe into the ground or anything like that; however, I keep mine in my bedroom, somewhat hidden, but easy enough for me to get to. If you know you’ll be getting into your boxes on a regular basis, DO NOT store them somewhere that is difficult to get to. It will keep you from staying organized and that pile of receipts will just start to build up again.

It’s not that difficult to stay organized! Just don’t be lazy – and if you have a busy schedule and don’t have the time to store your bills and receipts every day, then set aside 30 or so minutes at the end of every week to get everything organized and put away. It will save you a lot of stress and (if you happen to have a need for a bill or receipt) a lot of time and energy as well.

*Word to the wise, any papers you are throwing out that have ANY sort of personal information on them should be shredded. Believe it or not, there are creeps that actually dig through garbage just to see if someone is careless enough to discard the blueprints of their entire life. Also, if you come across something that you don’t know if you’ll need again but don’t feel good about throwing out, stick it in a miscellaneous folder. I have one, and every few months or so I go through it and clean out the things that I realize I no longer need.

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Get Your Sh*t Together!

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Organization.

Just the word itself is complicated to say. Our mouths can barely form the complicated grouping of consonants and vowels strung together so awkwardly it hardly seems like a real word. But, as difficult and as daunting as we may find it, it is without a doubt one word (and it’s meaning, really) that can significantly simplify your life every day.

Exhibit A: My Boyfriend. While I love the man, he is without a doubt the most unorganized individual (not to mention a total slob). To give you an example, he will come home from work and immediately kick off his shoes and dump everything on the ground – backpack, pants, keys, money – anything that happens to be in his pockets or in his hands goes straight on the floor. This has been his routine every single day in the two years that I’ve known him. In that time we have adopted two Doberman puppies (one is now 2-years-old, one is 9 months old). You may not know much about Dobermans, but they are extremely oral – they love to chew! Anything left within their reach that screams “humans only” will be repossessed and destroyed. You would think that after the first dog, he would have learned that leaving a brand new pair of Vans on the floor in Dobie world is grounds for removal and destruction. Alas, several iPhones, earphones, backpacks, dollar bills, shoes, socks (you name it, he’s lost it to a Dobe) later, and he still leaves things lying around. True to form, whatever “it” is ends up being chewed up and spit out, telltale teeth marks marking the culprit. This always results in an outrage in which the dog is immediately sent to its bed and said object goes sailing about the room amongst a string of curses and stomping around. After calmly reminding him that he should have placed his items in a safe location, nothing is done about it and it’s business as usual.

Here’s your first tip to getting organized – FIND A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING. You have a home, why don’t your “things”? How much time and energy do you expel every time you’re looking for your keys? The “I left them right here!” line gets old pretty quickly. And let’s face it, in a society like America’s that is so fast-paced, do you really have the time to be hunting for vital items every single morning? Blaming your misplacement on a befuddled, pre-coffee mind doesn’t help matters, either. Not to mention, knowing where everything is at all times will allow you to squeeze in some additional Zz’s in the morning.

Let’s look at it this way. Say you woke up this morning and spent 15 minutes hunting for your keys. That 15 minutes cost you precious beautifying time, and put you smack dab in the middle of rush hour traffic, and therefore you were late for work. Not a good way to start the day, eh? Now, let’s say this morning was the absolute last straw – you’ve been having these mornings far too often and you finally want to change it! The hardest part is admitting you have a problem! You’re already ahead of the group.

The next thing you need to do is to clean out. This part does not need to be organized. Grab a few trash bags and just start dumping. If you are a pack rat, it is time to come back to reality and accept that the Zombie Apocalypse just isn’t going to happen (at least, not in our lifetime). And if it does, you will not be needing a bunch of pens with dried up ink, or the Beanie Baby collection you spent so much of your babysitting allowance on in junior high. All of those sweet birthday cards you’ve been saving from everyone and their mother since first grade and have now caused a drawer jam in your desk have to go. It is time to learn to become emotionally UNattached to things. I know for some of you this will be difficult, especially if you have children and are so proud of every drawing they bring home, even if it’s just a big black blob due to a pen explosion at school (which additionally ended up all over their outfit, which you’ve hung in the laundry room and are swearing you are going to get to one of these days). GET RID OF IT! SIMPLIFY YOUR LIFE. They won’t miss the outfit or the drawing, and you’ll quickly find that neither will you. *Sidenote: if you find that you are having a hard time parting with something, consider donating it. Think about what it could do for someone who is much less fortunate than you are.

The next step is taking stock of what you have leftover. This is why I make my bed first thing every morning – it leaves space for me to set things on. This is not to say that I leave them there. Who wants to sleep in a bed with two 80 pound Dobermans and a full-sized man, AND a bunch of junk at the foot of the bed? Maybe your bed isn’t as full as mine is, but I sure don’t want the additional clutter at my feet. So use the clean space on your bed or your counter to your advantage. Sort through things by how often you use it or how important it is in your daily routine. For example, every woman likes all her kitchen appliances, but if you’re holding onto a breadmaker because once a year at Thanksgiving you make a delicious recipe for your family, you can certainly afford to stick it in the very back of the cabinet, and dig it out the one day a year that you use it.

Going room-by-room usually works best for me. Often times I find things that should be stored in a different room. These items go directly to that room, and stay there untouched until I have finished the other rooms ahead of it. Don’t try and do every room at the same time. Work your way around. Start at one end and move to the other. Trying to take on the entire house in one sitting makes the situation way too daunting, and usually ends up being an unfinished project. Every person is different, so you just have to find what works the best for you.

I’ll admit, I had my college glory days when the pile of clean clothes on my floor was indiscernible from the pile of dirty ones, and I chose my outfits according to whether or not something smelled sour (not amongst my finer moments in life). So I do believe it’s important to reward yourself when you’ve accomplished a deep organize, or even after each room, if it helps you to finish the process. I usually have a glass of wine or watch a favorite movie. Sitting down to relax and enjoy your clean home afterward is one of the best rewarding perks of the whole project.

Now, get off your lazy butt and take on your home! The energy and time you spend now will save you exorbitant amounts in the future (not to mention those pesky Dobermans will be forced to take advantage of the thousands of toys you buy for them in order to avoid all home and clothing destruction).

Stay tuned for room-specific organizational tips.

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