Monday, August 13, 2012

Menu Plan Monday

Happy Monday, y'all!  I hope that everyone had a great weekend.  Frank and I had a semi-productive weekend.  We visited with family and decluttered our guestroom (AKA:  The Dumping Ground).  We even scheduled a yard sale for later this month.  Also, we discussed finances and talked about changes that we think need to be made around our home.  All in all, we had a very good weekend.

Back on subject now:  Menu planning has long been hailed as an important aspect of getting organized.  It certainly helps on the budget.  For me, half of the problem with supper is figuring out what to cook.  Menu planning gives you the guideline to go by.  More times than not I will change up my plan some.  On a night that I have spaghetti scheduled, I may feel more like tacos.  But, it is good to know that we have a PLAN.  Without further ado, here's this week's menu:

Monday:  Chicken Tortilla Soup (me) and BLTs (Frank)
Tuesday:  Tacos (me) and Breakfast for supper (Frank)
Wednesday:  Bertolli Shrimp Scampi with Linguine Pasta
Thursday:  Beef Roast with veggies
Friday:  You're On Your Own
Saturday:  Hamburger Steaks, Boiled Potatoes, mac and cheese
Sunday:  Chicken Salad on crackers

In the beginning of this week, you will notice that Frank and I are eating separate meals.  This is because I am working tonight and tomorrow night.  He can cook his own supper but I rely on quick, microwavable meals.

By the way, I will be linking up over at I'm a Organizing Junkie!  Go check out her blog, it's awesome!  Here's the link:

Friday, August 10, 2012

Weekly Cash Flow Plan

Every week or two I sit down with paper, pen, calculator, and vodka (just kidding...sorta) to sketch out our weekly cash flow plan.  During this little session I actually plot out the financial situation for the next week (or two).  I take into account any deposits that will be made and any bills that will be paid.  I also deduct any other anticipated expenses like groceries, gasoline, dinner out, etc.

What this plan does for me is see if I need to cut back spending somewhere (I'm looking at you, "entertainment and dining out" fund.) to ensure that I don't need to transfer money from savings.  Also, it will show me if there is money that will be extra that I can apply to debt payments or the Christmas fund.

This process only takes ten minutes, give or take, but gives me a huge sense of reassurance that our week(s) will go smoothly.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Menu Plan Monday...'er Tuesday!

Happy Tuesday y'all!  I have a busy day ahead of me so I need to get a move on!  We had a busy weekend and when I got off of work yesterday morning, I spent a few hours sitting at my cousin's house eating breakfast and visiting.  Once I got home, the pups of course were ready to play.  So, play we did.  Finally around 2:00 we were ready for our nap.  Know what time I got up from my "nap?"  About two hours ago (at 3 a.m.)!  Needless to say, I have plenty of energy right now so I want to hammer out my menu plan for y'all so I can start crossing items off my to-do list.  Without further ado:

Tuesday:  Swim Party and a finger foods potluck supper.  I am bringing my uber-yummy chicken salad sandwiches and maybe something sweet.
Wednesday:  Cowboy Casserole
Thursday:  You're On Your Own
Friday:  BLTs
Saturday:  Hamburger steaks, baked potatoes, apple pie enchiladas
Sunday:  Supper @ Mom and Dad's (Hopefully)   :)

PS--I will be linking up over at I'm a Organizing Junkie for Menu Plan Monday!  You can check out Laura's awesome site here:

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Mail: Touch It Once Rule

In keeping with this week's general theme of organizing mail and bills.  I have decided to adopt the rule of Touch It Once.  I don't recall where I first read or heard about this rule, but it definitely makes perfect sense.

This afternoon, we had eight pieces of mail.  As soon as Frank brought it inside, I opened and dealt with each piece.  It took me four minutes to open all of the mail and distribute it to the appropriate holding area and file.  In fact, in that four minutes I even clipped the Kroger coupons that came in the mail and filed them!

Obviously it is not always appropriate to immediately open and file the mail when it comes in.  But dealing with it in a timely manner surely seems like it would help my system be more efficient.  It forces you to make decisions on your papers, thereby eliminating the need to handle papers multiple times.  I once read that most clutter is decisions that are waiting to be made. 

I hope that this attempt at starting a new habit is one that helps me simplify things around here!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Organizing Bills and Bill Payments

Bills.  Ugh.  They are an unfortunate part of life.  Each month like clockwork they show their sneering, ugly faces.  (At least that is how I see it.)  It is important for us as home managers to not only know what bills are coming out on a certain day, but to also know how much is going to be taken out of our accounts.  Yesterday, I introduced my new "tickler" file system.  Last night, I showed Frank how it works so that he can be a part of the organizational evolution in our home.

Once upon a time I had a difficult time figuring out how to organize my bills and maintain a bill paying schedule.  I would often forget if I paid so-and-so bill and would have to look back through my check register to see if I had already wrote the check for that statement.  Alas, things got so much easier once Frank and I started signing up for automatic withdrawals.  My only responsibility was making sure there was enough money in the checking account to cover the expense on the day it was withdrawn.  Easy peasy, right?  Wrong.

It is easy to "forget" that a payment is being made today.  Therefore, it is easy to overdraft your account.  It isn't as easy, however, to swallow that $30 overdraft charge.  It is so frustrating to overdraft your checking account and know that there is plenty of money sitting in a savings account that would have covered that amount!  Argh!  (I tend to keep very little extra money in our checking account.  I try to send any extra money to our savings for emergencies, Christmas, or vacations.)

Another problem with automatic withdrawals is that sometimes you don't receive a statement.  Currently, I have ten of my fifteen monthly bills automatically withdrawn from my checking account.  Only five of those billing companies send me any kind of notification (either through mail or e-mail) of what dollar amount will be deducted from my account.  Only seven of those fifteen bills never fluctuate a dime. 

This "Bill Due Dates" sheet keeps me informed of what money is going out and helps me see at a glance what bills have/have not been paid this month.  Also, for bills that are paid by automatic withdrawal, it helps me see if I have/have not deducted that amount from the checkbook.

I have seen all over the Internet where home managers have a printed monthly calendar that they sit down every month and write down the bills on the respective due dates...every. single.  month.  (Did I mention that they do this every single month?)  I am entirely too lazy busy to waste time doing that every month.  So how do I keep up with what's coming out of my accounts? With this handy-dandy table that I created in Microsoft Word:

So, here's how it Bill Paying Day works:

Disclaimer:  Ideally, all bills are collected in one central location.  In a perfect world, they are organized by due date.  (Yeah, right.)

Disclaimer #2:  Obviously I am not going to put my true Bill Due Dates sheet on the Internet for everyone to see.  I have used a generic form that will you the idea of how my system works.

I grab my Bill Due Dates sheet and write down any automatic payments from the transaction register that have been deducted from the checking account since I last sat down and paid bills.
  1. I "check off" on my Bill Due Dates sheet what I have just deducted from the checkbook.
  2. I then pay online any other bills that are due in the next week or so.
  3. I write the deducted amount in my transaction register and add a check mark in the appropriate column of my Bill Due Dates sheet.

In the pictures above, you will see that I have written numbers next to some of the companies.  This is the dollar amount that we pay every month to them.  This number never changes.  Also, you will see that the far left column is the day of the month that the payment is due.

This system has actually worked well for me for the last 18 months.  I keep this sheet in the folder with the bills that need to be paid, ensuring that it is accessible and easy to find.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Mail, Paperwork, Clutter....Oh My!

I have blogged before about the importance of maintaining your systems.  Except, I tend to NOT listen to my own advice.  The problem?  I lose interest easily.  Seriously y'all, my home is full of unfinished projects that started with good intentions and excitement.  *Rolls eyes*

At any rate, I realized that I am going to have to make a system that not only functions easily, but is nice to look at.  Because, let's face it, I'm lazy but I like things purdy.  So, I have decided to implement the "43 folders" organizational technique.  I'm not going to go into detail about how it works, but rest assured that it is not as complicated as it looks...I think.  I will use this system for a month and see how it goes.  (You can easily do a Google search on "43 folders" and come up with eleventy billion results.)  So let's get this party started!

First things first, start with a refreshing beverage and delicious smelling candle...'cause atmosphere is e'rything yo.

 Next, gather all your supplies.  I collected a pen, pencil, marker, note cards for notes (I will explain more tomorrow), letter opener, and my trash can.  I also grabbed my overstuffed Inbox and all the mess that wouldn't fit in it that was overflowing onto the table beside it.  Ugh.  That's a lot of clutter.

Then, I sorted my mess into nine piles, er, categories. This made the process of dealing with each item quick and painless. My categories were:
  1. Put Away/Actionable (Do Now).
  2. To File.
  3. Actionable (Filed by Date). <-- It's a 43 Folders/GTD thing.
  4. Receipts that need to be entered into the check register.
  5. To Shred.
  6. To Read (Magazines, Catalogs, etc).
  7. Coupons to filed.
  8. Bills to be paid.
  9. Trash.
Once I was finished sorting, I:
  • Put bills in my "Bills to be Paid" folder.
  • Put anything that needed to be filed in my "To File" folder.
  • Placed any receipts into my "Receipt" basket to be dealt with later.
  • Put any actionable item that needs to filed in my 43 folders category in the appropriate day.
  • Brought the "To Read" pile to the living room for me to browse tonight when I'm vegging on the couch.
  • Put the coupons in their little expandable file.
  • Shredded the "To Shred" pile.
  • And trashed the trash.
This is my New and Improved Inbox.  This inbox will house my 43 folders, plus bills that need to be paid, items that need to be filed, our budget/cash flow plan, anything that is "Holding" at the moment (Still not sure if this is going to be needed or not...), the cash for our "cash only" budget, a notebook, a letter opener, and writing utensils.  Pretty, huh?!?

From start to finish, this process took me about 45 minutes (including picture-taking).  I hope that this new system will be more conducive to our needs.  Now that I have the bulk of the back-log taken care of, I can start processing new items as soon as they enter the house.  I will also show Frank how this system works so he can also use it as well.

Now, off to take care of the bulging "To File" folder.  Later, y'all!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

August Theme Month Intro

Happy August, y'all!  Before we know it, we will be dusting off our "witchy" Halloween decorations!  I cannot wait until Fall.  I feel so ALIVE and energized during that time of year.  And I like hoodies.  :)

Anywoo, over the last few weeks, I have been trying to brainstorm different directions that my blog could take.  Do I want to continue to use it as a personal diary/place to spill random thoughts and observations about my journey to organization?  Do I want to instead focus more on making the process of learning to organize more fun?  Do I want to expand and grow my blog?  My answer?  Yes.  Yes to all those above questions.

I know if I continue to chronicle my journey here, I would feel more obligated to continue keeping my systems in place.  It's like a checks and balances system for me.  But, I know if I don't make the process of learning to maintain organizational systems fun, then I will totally abandon it.  (Like every other time I have attempt to "do it right this time.")  Therefore, I decided to invite all of y'all that read my blog to join me as I find out what works (and what doesn't) in what I am calling:


Catchy, huh?

I have decided that for the next five months, I will have a special and specific theme that I/we will be working on.  My goal is for my house to be more organized and clean by the time the holidays roll around this year.  This way, my loved ones and I can focus on traditions and activities that are special to us.

For August I will be focusing on mail, paperwork, filing, and finances.  I have made up spreadsheets and nifty tables that I will be glad to share with y'all.

Get excited, people!  It's gonna be a GREAT month!