Cleaning up clutter can help clean up finances

Little — or big — stacks of bills are shoved in a drawer. Bills and notices, some needing immediate attention and others needing to be discarded, are lumped in one pile. The mail comes into the house and is tossed on a table and ignored until you’re tired of looking at it.

It’s paperwork chaos, and besides the general mess it’s creating, the result of such disorganization is often symbolic of financial upheaval as well. Eliminating clutter can clear the path for a more accountable and efficient financial plan, experts say.

It can also bring in money. Items no longer needed or used can be sold or donated for additional revenue. You’re better able to keep track of what you have and don’t have. And, you might even get lucky, said Decatur’s Susan Fox, co-owner of Chaos 2 Comfort.

“We always find money: cash, checks and traveler’s checks,” Fox said. “That in itself makes a huge difference. We found $8,000 for one client.”

So, how do you emerge from the paper mountain? Here are some tips from professional organizers, Fox and Monica Ricci, founder of Catalyst Organizing Solutions based in Alpharetta.

Fox: Avoid the traditional To-Do List.

“Instead, have an action file: to call, to deposit, to pay, to shred. A to-do list is like a hall closet; everything goes there. Process mail correctly and make going through it a calendared event. Once or twice a week, that file has to be gone through.”

Ricci: Reduce the paper coming in.

“Reduce the influx of paper in any way you can. Get bills delivered electronically. Opt out of magazines that you never read. Just accept that you don’t have time. Get off junk mail lists and opt-out of pre-approved credit card offers (1-888-567-8688). I don’t feel compelled to keep anything that can be easily reproduced, like bank statements.”

Ricci: Take the DIY approach.

“I’m a big believer in making others responsible for their own information. Everyone in the house should handle their mail.”

Fox: Practice letting go.

“For things that are hard to separate from, we recommend that people take pictures to be able to remember things, but be able to give it away. Also, it helps to figure out a good place for their things to go. Donating to charities that are true to what people are interested in makes it easier.”

Organizing belongings is a good first step to a clearer picture.

“Even a disorganized wallet or purse can be reflective of a financial life in disarray,” Ricci said. “It’s not displaying a respect for your money. Cleaning up the physical manifestation is a really good step.”

Follow me on Twitter @atlbargains and on Facebook at AJC Atlanta Bargain Hunter

4 comments Add your comment

Andrew Craig

October 28th, 2010
5:45 pm

TAke a look at, this is a simple 3 step approach to taking control of the ugly old personal budget, easily. Save a few more $, enter James Bonds M16 code number in the coupon code, a great start.

Monica Ricci

October 28th, 2010
7:26 pm

Thanks Rana for including me in your story, it turned out well! :o )


October 31st, 2010
10:26 pm

I wanted to ask Monica a question. Rana – any chance you’ll do a column where we can submit questions to an organizer?

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