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January is a time to get organized

Bonnie Simmerman, Community Voices • Jan 5, 2020 at 5:00 AM

When I was in sixth grade I had a language textbook that had a picture on one of the chapter headings that fascinated me.

It was of a young lady sitting at a desk that was covered with various papers which were scattered here and there, but she was organizing them into different piles. I imagined that lady was me and I could have such a job some day. Many years later I became a librarian and I did have to organize and arrange many kinds of material.

I have always liked putting things in order. When January rolls around there are many things that need to be organized and put in proper places. The Christmas decorations need to be carefully stored away for another year. The Christmas dishes need to be put far back in the cabinet. Aside from these tasks, all the paperwork from the past year needs to be taken care of.

Every January when I take out all the paperwork from the previous year, I feel like I am that lady in the picture. Receipts, bank statements with canceled checks, credit card statements, insurance papers, savings material — all are important as tax time approaches and you need to know where they all are. All of these together in one place become a picture of the year past.

You could ask yourself as you sort through all of these, “Did we eat out that many times?” Or you might ask, “Did we buy that many groceries last year?” Or perhaps you need to ask, “Did I give enough to charity?” What about a rainy day? You might wonder, “Did I save enough each month?” You might also wonder if you spent enough on fun stuff. All of the paperwork, when it is organized, will give a clear picture of where our money went.

Keeping household records is important. Knowing which ones to keep and which ones to shred is also important. Some are necessary for filing our income tax forms. Some of these should be kept for five years while others can be destroyed sooner. The important thing to remember is to have them organized so you can get to them easily.

While sorting through a year’s worth of statements, receipts, etc., you may run across sentimental items that you would want to keep forever. Wedding announcements, graduation programs for your grandchildren, newspaper articles about your family and friends that you had clipped, special invitations to family events — all of these tell the year’s story as well. Be sure they are kept in a safe place. Your grandchildren will enjoy reading them in years to come.

After the January organizing is complete, it might be a good time to really take inventory of where our money goes. Are we saving enough for the future? Are we eating healthy food? Are we spending too much on entertainment? Are we giving enough to our church and other needy charities? Is my gas bill too high and how can I cut it down? Do I need to look for a better healthcare provider? Do I have enough insurance?

Now would be a good time to think about these questions and see what ways our budgets could be improved. While doing this, it would be good to stop and give thanks for all that we do have and are able to share with others. Even if our budget is slim, we have much more than many people in other parts of the world.

Bonnie Simmerman can be reached at [email protected]

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