• Like a bad penny, debt always turns up…

    unless we change how we interact with money, of course!

    The Bad Penny is dedicated to two pursuits: getting out of debt and staying out of debt! It recognizes that frugality and caring for our planet go hand in hand, and that our unsatiated need for stuff is hurting us in so many ways.

    Easier said than done!


    I am not a finance professional. I write about the world as I know it, and my advice may not be the best course of action for you! Please seek qualified advice for your particular situation.

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New Year Decluttering – The Office

I’m one of those people whose desk is a disaster.  Piles of paper, loose pencils and paperclips, and often a food wrapper under all that mess!  Ask me where something is, and I can usually tell you which pile it’s in.  But not always!

And this disorganization isn’t frugal. It costs you – in time, in efficiency, and in money!


Have you ever forgotten to pay a bill because it’s at the bottom of a pile, only to be found two weeks after the due date?  What about not getting a rebate form filled out and mailed on time? What about late videos and library books?  Those fines can add up quickly, and they cost you unnecessary money.

And searching for those items in piles of papers, in a messy living room, or in your cluttered purse costs you moments of time – I’d argue, in fact, that they cost you more time than if you took the time to organize in the first place.

I’m not blameless in this.  Normally, I know that my penchant for piles on my desk will get me in trouble, so I spend time filing and throwing at least every few days – every day if possible – so the piles don’t build up. Lately, though,  our office has been really cold and while I continue to put things up in the office, they are sitting on my desk until I get them cleaned up.  I really just need to get the space heater going and get to work!

I thought I’d pass along some organization tips that I use (since I had to learn to be organized, rather than having it happen naturally.)

Efficient Desk Organization 101 

1. Make space for five piles:

1. A “file” pile
2. A trash can/shredder
3. A recycling pile
4. A “to do” pile
5. A “this shouldn’t be on my desk anyway” pile.

2. Grab a pile and get sorting.  Recycle what you can, but make sure you shred any documents with sensitive information.  Don’t file right now – the point is to make the piles smaller!

3. File your “file” pile – I have a file cabinet with folders labeled for each bill – for example, “Electric,” “Mortgage,” and “Tax Information/Giving.”  My semi-annual bills like garbage pickup all go in one folder label “Misc. Bills.”  I tend to throw out bills more than a year old, unless they are for taxes or credit card bills.  When I can get really organized, it really helps to have the bills in chronological order, paper-clipped by the year (so my 2006 bills are paper clipped together, and my 2007 bills are clipped together.)

We also keep a file for our cats and vet visits, one for product manuals, and one for warranties/receipts.  I’ve been so thankful I did that when we’ve sold appliances or we’ve had problems with a product!

4.  Your “to-do” pile should contain bills that need to be paid, rebates, and other assorted paperwork you need to take care of right away.  I like to keep a inbox for these items.

Bills go in a three-ring binder that I’ve placed pockets in for each month.  I file each bill in the month I need to pay it.  I keep track of what I pay on each bill with a list on a piece of filler notebook paper and place it behind the pocket.  That way I can look at my list and know exactly what still needs to be paid and how much.  When I’ve paid the bill, it gets filed.

Better yet, one of my goals is to start being paperless when it comes to bills!  No bills equals less mess, not to mention the benefits to the environment to have less paper in the trash!  I’ve already opted out of the prescreened credit card offers that I was getting every day.  When I feel like I have fewer bills and more control over my finances, we’ll start getting online statements for our bills instead of paper.  We do get some emailed to us already, but for some reason the companies still send paper bills, too.

Plan a day to sit down and take care of that paperwork!  It’s important!

5. Put away random items on your desk!  Put pens in a nice cup or inside a desk drawer (those drawer organizers are incredibly useful!)

6. Get your “it doesn’t go here anyway pile” and start putting things away.

7.  Wipe down the surface of your desk with an appropriate cleaner.

There!  Your desk should be nice and clean!  Now you just have to keep it that way.  It doesn’t take long to file a couple papers, or to put a pen back, or to put paperwork into your inbox instead of on the desktop.  In my own experience, as soon as there’s a little mess on my desk, it’s so much easier to just keep making a mess instead of keeping things clean.  And that costs me money, time, and efficiency!