Jumpstart January For An Organized Year

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Face it: it's January. Dreary weather is matched only by the dreariness of a house stripped of holiday decorations.

Children slog through the great dull stretch between New Year's Day and Spring Break, no longer distracted from their schoolwork by the excitements of the holiday season.

December's crowded calendar gives way to January's social slump. Video rentals soar as comfy sweats replace dress clothes on Saturday nights.

Take heart! There's another side to January!

The freshness of a new, un-scribbled calendar. The clean lines of household furniture, freed from December's tinsel, trash and clutter. The sweet silence of a second cup of coffee after the children mount the school bus. The delicious feeling of energy to spare, energy released, but not expended, by December's holiday frenzy.

Tap that energy to get organized in the new year!

In January, we look forward and we look back. January's two faces provide a natural opportunity to accomplish several crucial organizational tasks. Give in to January's offerings, and you'll bear organizational fruit the whole year long.

Update The Address Book

Look backward: a piled-up heap of Christmas cards, letters and photos. Look forward: a treasure trove of information about loved ones, friends, and neighbors old and new.
Reassess the way you keep this important information. Still scribbling and scrawling in a battered old address book? Perhaps this is the year that you invest in a shiny new planner or build a computerized address book for the first time.

Computer pros may move up to a more powerful, more versatile contact manager, the better to keep in touch with those they love. Another option: create a household notebook or family organizer using our free printable calendars, checklists and forms.

Schedule an address book update. Sit down with planner, computer, and that big box of holiday greetings. You may read to your heart's content, but you must make note of new addresses.
Star any names whose holiday cards that were returned because of an incorrect address. During the year to come, be on the lookout for a new address. Friends are too important to lose for want of an address!

Double-check telephone numbers. Make a note of new FAX numbers. E-mail addresses make it easy to keep in touch with far-flung friends --- so note them in your address book, too.

Keep in Touch

Don't stop there! These are people you love. Christmas cards contain lots of valuable information. You'll never again bumble and stumble over the telephone, desperately trying to remember what an old school friend named her newest baby, if you add a line for "Children:" listing names and birth dates of those precious little ones.

Make special note of those who've lost family members in the last year. Erasing the "Mr. and . . ." part of an address is a sad chore, but a misaddressed card from an out-of-touch friend can create a small but intense freshet of grief for the newly bereaved.

You've looked back. Now, look forward. Begin a list of "Letters to Send", sparked by those cards or letters that move you to respond as you read. Writing just one letter a week for the next year, you can treat over 50 of your friends and family to a special gift --- an unexpected letter from you, written at leisure and just because you want to! Schedule weekly letter-writing to tighten the ties that bind you to loved ones.

While you're polishing your address book, think about the last five times you looked up phone numbers in the phone book. Pizza delivery, a child's school, a volunteer co-worker? Add just those five listings to your address book to save time and energy in the coming year.

Fan through the phone book, while you're at it, and add any scrawled or circled numbers you find: if they're in the address book, they'll survive extinction when new phone directories replace the old in the spring!

Paper Pile-Up

Address book buffed? Turn to files and paperwork. [Mind you, I'm making an assumption here: that you're not preparing your tax return in January. If you are, what are you doing reading this? You're already organized!] For most of us, a bit of preparation in January will save hours of April agony.

First, look backward. As you file this month's phone bill, scoop up and sort last year's receipts.

Clump them together with a big paperclip, and if you're really motivated, place them in a brand-new file folder, marked 2013 Receipts.

Come tax time, you'll be grateful for this bit of sorting.

Look forward: is this the year you'll use computer tax preparation software? Purchase the advance editions now, send in the cards, and you'll spare yourself a frantic April 14 search for the state tax add-on to your program.

Is this is the year you begin managing your money by computer? January 1 is such a nice, round date. Resolve that you'll set up your bank accounts this month, when your bank statements arrive. Somehow, starting to use Quicken or MS Money isn't quite so significant in June or October --- and no month has free time like January.

When those bank statements arrive? Take the time to sort them, by year, placing last year's checks in your "Taxes" file, and creating a new place for this year's checks to live.

One last January paper tip: open your checkbook. Write the new year in the date line of your next 20 checks. By the time you come to the end of your pre-dated checks, you'll have made the transition to the new year.

Look forward and make life easier. Look backward and avoid old mistakes. January has two faces --- and both will help you Get Organized for the New Year!