1. Plastic coupon file
I saw these in the dollar section of Target, but those have only a few pockets. When I'm out running errands or buying specific items, I'll always have this in my purse since it's light in weight. I adore the Container Store version bc it's clear and has 13 dividers. The pre-labeled month stickers don't really make sense to me (maybe it'd be good for keeping track of bills?), so I used my nifty new label makers to create categories useful to my needs: retail (clothing, bookstore, etc), health/meds, sweets, condiments/sauces, snacks, dairy, dining out, cleaning, baby, home & crafts, misc. I keep both coupons and gift cards in these pockets, as well as receipts in the very front. When I'm standing in line, waiting in the car, or procrastinating, I'll go thru the file and toss expired coupons. I shred receipts once I see the charges on my credit card online, and when I know I won't be returning an item.
2. Label maker
I actually didn't own a label maker until this past Monday since I usually make my own labels. But, I saw an ad at Staples featuring a standard label maker for $9.99 (orig $29.99!) so I couldn't pass up this deal. At my friend's annual White Elephant gift exchange this year I *almost* went home with a nifty label maker. But someone snatched it from me and I've been wanting one since then. If you must have one on hand, get something cheapy (def under $30). Useful for spice jars, binders, plastic bins.
3. Excel spreadsheet or some other database type program: organize addresses, birthdays, passwords. I know there are lots of fancy database programs out there now, but I still love me my Excel (partly bc it already comes standard with most computers)! I have 4 electronic files on my desktop that I reference on an almost daily basis.
- Addresses: This is handy for Christmas cards, invitations, sending bday cards via snail mail. Every time someone emails out their new mailing address, I immediately add it to this file. I have a column each for First Name, Last Name, Names of sig others/family members, Street, City, State and Zip. My master contact list can be easily formatted for address label mail merge programs.
- Birthdays: I have 12 columns for each month of the year and 31 rows for the days of the month. I simply insert my contact's birthday/anniversary/special date into the appropriate cell.
- Passwords: If you don't really carry your laptop around, this would be a more safe idea. Otherwise, you might want to purchase some kind of security enabled Password keeper. I have too many versions of different PWs so simply list the institution (bank, student loan, vehicle loan, credit card, etc) and the login ID and PW.
- Budget: I will prob have a separate post on this so I'll just summarize quickly. For every cent I spend, I keep track of it. I know it might be a pain for some, but I've actually been doing this since college and it's not that time consuming once you have a template set up. I have categories for Food (dining out, groceries, sweets), Transportation (gas, maintenance, etc), Fixed (utilities, student loans, tithing, etc) and Variable (clothing, baby stuff, etc) costs. Of course, Income is also recorded to easily calculate net savings.
4. Calendar: both physical and electronic
- I purchase my weekly calendars right after Christmas every year when they're 50% off at Barnes & Noble and other specialty stores like Hallmark or Carlton Cards. This year, I got myself a Moleskine soft cover weekly planner...and I'm lovin' it! I at first thought the space allotted for each day was too small, but the lined journal area on every right-hand page more than makes up for it.
- Google calendar: It might be a little redundant, but I like to add important events and appointments on my electronic calendar as well. All birthdays and monthly payments are set on repeat ad infinitum. One important piece of advice: be sure to LOOK at your calendar online or print it out. In fact, even if it's a hard copy, remember to look at it. You can have all your important dates listed for naught if you forget to glance at it daily. Oh, and it's nice if you can sync this up with your smart phone for reminders that pop up.
5. 30-60-90 Report
I completed a certificate for event and meeting planning this past year and my instructor, seasoned event planner Carroll Reuben, gave us this valuable tool. At the beginning (or end) of each month, I create a report of my goals for the next 30 days. The goals range from organizing mom's spices to transferring my files to an external hard drive to finishing that novel. I do the same for the next 60 days and 90 days. When the goals have been achieved for that month, I add it to next month's "Accomplishments." No matter how big or small the goal, this goes on my sheet. Whatever keeps me up at night goes on this too. Instead of accumulating random post-it notes or scraps of paper that get lost, I have this one pager that summarizes it all (don't go longer than a page or else it becomes overwhelming). This simple tool can be used for both the corporate world...or getting even your children organized!
6. Idea journal
When I have new ideas for this blog, inspiration I want to use for decorating Audrey's nursery, questions that I need to ask people, books I want to read....anything really, I jot it down in a journal (often in bullet points). Any one that makes you happy and inspired will do. If the idea is important enough, it gets typed up and included in my 30-60-90 report (see above). This really beats having a separate scraps of paper for so-and-so's phone number or what you need to pick up at the grocery store. My notebook is small and portable (fits in my purse), but even a yellow legal pad or standard wire ring notebook that you keep in the same place every day will work!
I was really excited to share about my arsenal of organizational tools. Hope this gets your new year off to an organized, transformative start :)!