Sunday, March 1, 2009

March: Organizing the Business of Life

March is the month to tackle the home office. It's a good thing that March is a long month, because we are going to need every possible opportunity to clean and organize the messiest and least-organized room in our house. It's become a trash heap. We have an enormous paper and book problem.

I used the remaining days of February to make some headway in clearing out the kids' bedrooms, and I have only made a dent in that project. But since today is the first day of March, I could no longer put off beginning to tackle the study.

In the introduction to March, Regina Leeds talks about the need to conquer "the paper bogeyman." She says that many adults fear tackling the piles of paper for fear that they will throw away something important. In our house, I describe Mike as the "household manager," which is far more all-encompassing than "stay-at-home dad." I earn the income, but he does our taxes and pays the bills--in addition to taking care of the kids and organizing their lives and commitments. (I think I have the easier job!) He also organizes our paperwork and files, and usually does a very good job of it. (We've already received our tax refund!) However, with the demands of three children, combined with the fact that both of us are heavy readers, we seem to have accumulated lots of piles of paper!

Leeds recommends asking the experts in the field (financial advisors, tax preparers, real estate agents) if we wonder how long to keep a particular document. In many cases, this information can be obtained on the internet. She also gives some general guidelines of how long to keep certain records such as credit card receipts, warranties, insurance policies, tax records, and mortgage information). She also advises keeping the most important papers in a fireproof safe or box. (NOTE TO MIKE: We need to buy a fireproof box!)

She also makes the point that many of the papers and articles we feel we have to hold onto can be now found on the internet. Mike has a tendency to collect writing articles, which pile up and don't get filed away. (I'm not sure whether he actually reads them later on or not.) For now, I'm piling all of his papers in one corner of the study, in the hopes that he will be brutal in weeding through them. Leeds says that "our goal is to fly free, taking with us only what we truly need. Think lean and mean. Well, okay, lean and organized!"

The big event the book covers this month is learning how to set up a file system. Since we already have a reasonably okay filing system, for me the task will be organizing and cleaning the study so that it can be a nice place to sit in (and so we don't have to close the door when guests come over!). If I have time left over, perhaps we can revamp our filing system.

The habit of the month: Leeds suggests that when we open our mail, we toss away extraneous matter. This, I'm happy to say, we already do. Mike leaves the mail out for me to look over when I come home, and then we immediately recycle as much as we can. At least this is one extra habit I will not need to add to my list...since I'll have my hands full with the office cleaning!


  1. great summary. If my office wasn't in the living room it would be the collect all place too. My filing system is also mostly in order, but I do have this one box of unfiled stuff I am avoiding. I guess I'll have to get to it this month. Also, you mentioned about your mail. I do that too. I try to get rid of as much extra paper as I can, but I know that I still keep too much!

  2. Thanks--yes, having your office in your living room would definitely be an incentive to keep it clean. Ours is in the basement and easy to shut away!