Organizing is something that may be hard to do.

When things feel out of control it is normal to try and ignore them.

Many of my clients have been putting their heads in the sand and leave mail unopened and unorganized until they see me.  It can be overwhelming when those bills and collection letters come flooding into your mail box.

The first step to getting a handle on things is to tackle organizing that unopened mail with all those bills and collection letters.  For now, it doesn’t matter what is in there. It could be a mixture of opened mail, unopened mail, opened mail in the envelopes or something else entirely different. Before you can file any chapter 7, or chapter 13 bankruptcy, you need to find and organize all your financial information.

Set aside a block of time to begin, even if it is only a twenty or thirty minute window. Gather up all that paper and find a place to begin to sort it. Ideally, you want somewhere where you can leave the project out as you work on it so that you can return to it until it is completed. Have several grocery bags or boxes nearby. You may want one for trash, one for recycling and one for documents that need to be shredded. Clearly label each bag or box.

Use the steps below to start organizing and get as far as you can in your allotted time. When you are ready, set aside another block of time and continue through the steps. Repeat until complete.

Organizing Mail Steps

  1. Open everything. Use a letter opener or some other tool to make it easier. Toss all the envelopes that the bills and statement arrived in into your recycle bag. That extra outside wrapper is not needed.
  2. If you are unable to pay the bills and are planning to file bankruptcy, or you pay your bills online, you can also toss the return envelopes into that same recycle bag.
  3. Sort everything by type –  credit card bills in one pile, medical bills in another pile. Utility bills and ongoing household expenses in another, etc.
  4. Sort each type file by creditor or sender. All PG&E together, all Chase cards together, all hospital bills together and all Aunt Sally’s letters together. Put all Chase collection letters (from agencies and lawyers) with the original Chase bills.
  5. If you have more than one account with a creditor (like two separate Discover card accounts) separate those accounts into different piles.
  6. Organize each creditor pile by date with the most recent on the top.
  7. Finally, place each stack into a file folder and label the folder with the creditor name and the last 4 digits of the account number. In my office we prefer no staples are used because they will only need to be removed before scanning. If you bring us paper, we will scan it and return it to you and staples only slow down the process.
  8. If you’re able it could be useful to scan those documents into electronic PDF files or download them from the creditor’s websites.

Congratulations! Whether you are looking at debt consolidation plans, a bankruptcy or just want to know how much you owe, your bills are now organized and ready to work with.

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Image Credit: Leo Reynolds

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