Judith Heft  |  January is National Get Organized MonthIf your goal this year is to become more organized, experts agree: it’s best to take baby steps. Moving slowly into your new way of doing things will increase your chances of success. Setting overly ambitious goals and then failing to live up to them leads to a self-defeating mindset that causes some people to abandon their plans to get organized altogether.

Once you have taken a deep breath and set realistic goals, the next step is to make sure you have the tools to stay organized. Most professional organizers are quick to point out that buying things won’t make you organized, but there are some basics that every home office should have:

  • Accounting software: Software like Quicken or QuickBooks make it easy for you to categorize your income and expenses, balance your checkbook and download account information directly from your bank. Your accountant will also appreciate the professional-looking reports you can hand him or her at tax time.
  • Accordion files: These self-contained file systems offer the same level of organization as a file cabinet. Due to their low cost and portable size I use them as monthly organizers for my clients, cataloging all of their paper work for any given month in a separate accordion file. Some accordion files are indexed by date rather than alphabetically, which makes them ideal for organizing daily to-do lists or bills to be paid.
  • Label maker: An easy (and for some people, fun) way to standardize your filing system. When every label is written neatly, in the same size and font, scanning a drawer full of folders for the one you want becomes much faster. The simple design, dedicated to making labels, is quicker and easier than fishing out a sheet of blank labels and hoping your printer will work.

Besides saving valuable time, years of experience have taught me that being organized also saves money. Banks make mistakes all the time. Relying on their record-keeping is simply not enough. Protect yourself against erroneous fees by knowing your balance and updating your accounting software daily.

The key to staying organized is to do what works works for you. The age-old adage “a cluttered desk leads to a cluttered mind” is true – for me. You may find that having papers on your desk suits you just fine. As a financial concierge and organizer, I get it. I help my clients attain the level of organization that is most appropriate for them. I am available for weekly or biweekly visits to help keep your life in order.

Getting organized is one of the top 5 New Year’s resolutions. If you can’t do it yourself, make a commitment to get the help you need.

Judy Heft, Principal, Judy Heft & Associates is a professional and personal financial organizer with offices in Greenwich and Stamford. She can be contacted via email at judy@judithheft.com or by phone 203-978-1858.