January is National Get Organized Month! Getting organized within one month is a lofty goal — when I talk about getting organized, I’m thinking of long-term and sustainable systems and solutions.

Achieving organizational well-being has several prongs to it. The easiest one consists of getting rid of things that are no longer needed. Taxpayers are obligated to retain their tax returns and all accompanying paperwork for seven years. Every year, another set of documents will age out. 

How can you tell what to keep? The following is a list of things that do not have to be kept for seven years:

  • Invoices or monthly statements from vendors
  • Bank statements
  • Old insurance policies and instruction manuals

The next part of becoming organized is writing the “constitution” for your operation (household or business). I’m big on binders, so I encourage others to use them as a type of one-stop shop for their organization system. Descriptions, drawings, and directions for everything from chores to bank accounts can live in your binder. Having a binder prepared will also make getting directions to house sitters, pet sitters, cleaning services, etc. as simple as making a copy.

Once you’ve got your physical binder, households should think about replicating it online. By scanning all of your receipts and invoices, you can create a set up that is identical to your home file cabinet. Imagine how useful this would have been for the passengers Southwest Airlines stranded for a week.  

Lastly, the bells and whistles available to us in our calendars often go under utilized. You can actually leverage your calendar to do much more by learning all those features you never use. Some people are big fans of color coding, others use plugins to schedule outgoing messages. On the “brick-and-mortar” side of things, desk calendars have fared better than wall calendars, and it’s easy to see why one might be useful. You just have to be a really circumspect coffee drinker if you have one.

These are just some best practices for emerging out of an organizational situation that is harmful. Whenever we endeavor to do something that requires time and patience, we’re bound to slip up at one point or another. I look at organizational slip ups like diet-plan slip ups; the fact that I had a slice of birthday cake today does not mean I have to have one again tomorrow. Setbacks happen, but overall you’ll be killing it!