How To Organize Your Unpaid Bills






I’ve had many clients who, though they have ample funds, pay late fees every month due to lost bills. The one folder that I’ve created more than any other is “Bills to Pay.”  Even though more and more bills are paid electronically now, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have a few old-fashioned paper bills that creep in from time to time.

The simple act of gathering all of your bills in one place can feel like a small miracle, but there a few tricks of the trade that will ensure this folder is actually used:

- “Bills to Pay” must be called “Bills to Pay” or “Unpaid Bills.”  “Bills” can mean so many things and are usually a nebulous mix of paid and unpaid.

- “Bills to Pay” must live in one of three places:

- a bag that travels between home and work

- in the place where you pay the bills, such as the desk

- in the place where the bills come in, such as the kitchen (this is where mine is)

- “Bills to Pay” must be in a transparent file such as the one pictured here.  Find them here at Staples.   This cuts out the step of opening the folder to see if there are indeed any unpaid bills.  It’s the small things . . .

The 1 Folder Never Allowed in an Inspired Office

There are many tell tale signs of an Inspired Office: clear desktops, files that are happily used, and beautiful storage.  An Inspired Office never has a “To File” folder.  What a sad waste of a good manila file folder.  It had aspirations and was meant for better things.  There are a few reasons why these exist in the offices of otherwise reasonable professionals:

  • No time to file
  • No interest whatsoever in filing
  • A flawed file system

That was my being tactful. The “To File” folder is, do I dare say it, a lazy excuse not to file.  Strangely, the “To File” folder is usually more than 50% junk.  Peek inside of yours now.  You’ll see.  At least re-label this folder. Perhaps a better name for it is “Things I need to get off my desk because I can’t look at the crap anymore.”

Another funny thing about these folders is that they tend to multiply.  To start one is to find several, perhaps one for every year, with your Professional Organizer during an excavation one day.

Warning: It’s not a system and it never works as it was intended. The “To File” folder is always indicative of a broken filing system.  If you have a place for absolutely every paper that flows into your office, then it should be just as easy to file (or toss), as it is to pile on top of the cabinet.  I compromise with clients every day, but keeping this folder is one deal I never strike.

Are you harboring “To File” piles?  If so, peek inside and get honest with yourself about its contents, and how long it will actually take to file and create files.  Hint: it never takes as long as you think.