5 Ways to Take Control of your Chaos

5 Ways to Take Control of your Chaos

taking control of your chaos | organized CHAOS onlineThis was me. Until about an hour ago.

I was sitting in the same clothes I slept in, my hair was on top of my head (okay, it still is), my house was a mess, I have things to do more than I have time in a day and I was literally frozen in place.

This happens more than I care to admit.

My “thing” when I feel overwhelmed is to look in one direction toward something I need to complete and say, “Okay.” I’ll turn around and see another project and say it again… “Okay.” This will happen about 20 more times and it accomplishes nothing.

Have you ever felt this way?

It seems that September is the month that kicks us into a speed of about 500 miles an hour and it doesn’t stop until January. The chores, holidays, events and activities start coming in a lightning speed and unless you’re on your game, this will send you into a cell with padded walls.

Let’s control our chaos.

But how?

Get up and do something. It doesn’t have to be something huge. Your goal is to look for something that will provide a sense of accomplishment. It has a starting point and an ending point in a short amount of time.


notepadJust start writing. Unload what’s on your mind. This doesn’t have to be in order, all under the same topic or even written well. The goal is to get that clutter out of your head and on paper. You can go back and sort it out later.


shower-organizationWhether it’s your shower, the bottom of your closet, the silverware drawer or the spice cabinet. Tackle a small space that, everytime you go back to it, you feel a sense of accomplishment. Once you get started on your small space, you’ll get the drive to do other things. Tip: Set a timer. Don’t let this take you all day. It’s a small space and should take a small amount of time. If it feels like it’s too in depth, move on to something else. For now, at least.


creating-a-scheduleI’ve been talking to so many people who have all their days filled with sports, activities, club meetings, organization and travel. It gets so nuts. Start jotting it down in a calendar and make a schedule. Once you know when things are happening, your brain will start to sort it out, too. Place your important dates where they belong and back track a week or two and set yourself a reminder that your important date is approaching. This way, you aren’t caught off guard.


laundryAt my house, the laundry is the one thing I never keep up with. It is typically washed and dried but then it’s stacked up on the table in my laundry room neatly folded in half to avoid wrinkles…until my husband or son goes to look for the worlds smallest item within the stack. Then it topples. Taking the time to hang, fold and put away laundry is almost impossible. The funny thing is: Once I do it, I feel so much better. For you… find a chore that is nagging at you. What has a starting point and ending point and will make you feel better once accomplished? Do that thing.


fall-wreathIf the inside is just too much right now, go outside. How about adding a festive wreath or swapping out your summer flowers for something more fall-like (or whatever season you wish)? There’s a definite sense of pride when you drive up to your home and you see colorful flowers and decor. Everything feels so tidy and put together. Just don’t invite anyone in.

Are you rolling your eyes right now? Just like working out, you’ll feel better afterwards.

tawsha connell

How To Set Up an Easy System for Paying Your Bills, and Keep You Organized for Tax Season!

How To Set Up an Easy System for Paying Your Bills, and Keep You Organized for Tax Season!

How To Set Up an Easy System for Paying Your Bills, and Keep You Organized for Tax Season!

There is nothing fancy about this bill paying system, and nothing here is etched in stone. You can customize this whole process to fit your needs, but the one thing that I really recommend is that you designate one place to store all your bill paying supplies. I like to keep mine in the cabinet over my desk  because I can close the door on it, and I’m not reminded that I owe people money the whole time I’m working my ass off to make some of it.

Because this is a long post, I know it looks like a lot of trouble to go to just to pay your bills. A lot of that is due to my inability to condense words. I tend to over-explain things, and I apologize for that. Because I get wordy, these steps look like they take way more time than they actually do. Once you get everything set up, the actual bill paying process is slick as snot!

If you use a bill paying service to pay your bills, this system probably won’t be of interest to you. For those of you who only have a couple of bills to pay each month, (in which case, I HATE YOU!), you too may not be interested. These instructions are written for those of you who are currently, or would like to, pay your bills online. If your preferred bill paying method is paying by check or using money orders, just adjust the processes below to fit your needs. Once you get yourself all set up, bill paying won’t seem like such a pain in the ass, and you’ll start feeling so organized you won’t be able to stand yourself!

check-markSupplies You’ll Need

For your convenience, we’ve linked the below numbered supply items to products available in our Amazon store.

How To Set Up an Easy System for Paying Your Bills, and Keep You Organized for Tax Season!

oneMagazine File

This is where you’ll store your statements, payment confirmations, and ‘stage’ your bills to be paid.


This will be your inbox – the “holding pen” for all your mail. Make sure it’s wide enough to hold envelopes, magazines, etc., otherwise it’ll start to overflow and you’ll end up with a hot mess. If you like to open your mail as you get it, just be sure it makes it’s way back to your inbox.

threeDay-Timer (or similar planner)

This will be the brains for your record keeping. I used an old one I had laying around. Find one with pockets. You can order the “starter set” which will come with calendar, paper, dividers, etc. etc. I use a 5-1/2″ x 8-1/2″ size, but they come in smaller and larger sizes.

fourLined Note Pages

You’ll use these for recording your payments. You can set up your own columns and headings, or you can download the template below. Just make sure the pages fit your book size.

Printable Bill Paying Page: How to Set Up a Bill Paying Systems to Keep You Organized for Tax Prep[paiddownloads id=”35″]

fiveExpanding File with Monthly Dividers

How To Set Up an Easy System for Paying Your Bills, and Keep You Organized for Tax Season!This file will eventually hold all your ATM and credit card receipts, and copies of written checks (If you use the checks with copies). For now, just put your file inside your inbox. As you clean out your purse or empty your pockets, dump all your receipts into your inbox. You’ll use your file to organize them later.

Other Stuff You’ll Need: Envelopes, stamps, paper clips, different colored highlighters, binder pockets, spiral notebook

The whole idea here is to have everything you need in one place. Grab, Pay, Put Away, Done.

Okay, belly up to your computer and lets get your accounts set up.

check-markOnline Accounts and Home Page


If you don’t already have a “Home Page” or “Start Page” set up on your computer, I would recommend it. A “Home Page” is the first page you see after you click your browser (i.e. Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, etc). You can choose any page to be your home page. The default settings on your computer may have your homepage come up as just the Google search bar. But why not have  your computer open to a page that’s customized to your daily use?

How To Set Up an Easy System for Paying Your Bills, and Keep You Organized for Tax Season!

I use Netvibes for my home page. It’s easy to set up, and provides the tools for me to set up easy access to pages and sites I visit frequently. You can add “widgets” to show your local weather forecast, your horoscope, local news, your Facebook and Twitter feed, etc. etc. It’s one-stop shopping with everything you use most frequently in one place. I’m sure there’s a lot more customization options, so if you’re interested, read through the Netvibes User Guide to add more to your page. For right now, all we need to do is get you set up to pay your bills. So, just create your account, click the + button on the top left, and add the “Bookmarks” widget to your page.


You’ll need to set up online access to your bank account so that you’re able to check the activity in your checking account in the future. If you’re not sure how to set this up, just type in the name of your bank and there should be instructions on their site how to create a secure login and password for your account. If not, just give them a call and they’ll get you hooked up.


If you haven’t been paying your bills online, you’ll need to create a secure access for each of your bills. Credit card companies, etc will usually list the link to their website somewhere on your monthly statement. When you set up each account, you’ll be creating a login and password for each. You’ll need a place to keep track of those, a reminder of when each bill is due, and a record of when you’ve paid them. So let’s get your record keeping system set up…

check-markRecord Keeping System

How To Set Up an Easy System for Paying Your Bills, and Keep You Organized for Tax Season!


How To Set Up an Easy System for Paying Your Bills, and Keep You Organized for Tax Season!

Sorry, Hackers…fake login in and password. As if!

  1. Using the lined pages you bought, draw your own customized columns and titles, or use the printable template above (formatted for books using 5-1/2″ x 8-1/2″ pages). Enter the name of the Credit Card | Utility Company bill you’ll be paying next to “Account Name”. Use a separate page for each bill.
  2. Enter the date the bill is due each month
  3. Enter the login and password that you created for each account
  4. Put your pages in your Day-Timer in the order of bills due the 1st of the month through the 31st.

CONGRATULATIONS! You’re done with the set up, and you’re ready to pay some bills!

check-markBill Paying

Clear off your desk or work area, get a cup of coffee (or a stiff drink), and get comfy. Get out your magazine file, your inbox, your spiral notebook, your favorite pen, your calculator, and your Day-Timer. Let’s do this!


How To Set Up an Easy System for Paying Your Bills, and Keep You Organized for Tax Season!

  1. Open up your bills and paper clip the payment envelope to the top of each statement.
  2. Write the due date on a Post-It note and stick it to the front of the statement. Do this for each bill. (You’ll do this each month, paper clipping the most current statement on top of the last month’s paid statement, as you prepare your bills to pay).
  3. Put your stack of paperclipped statements in your magazine file in order of due dates – due from the 1st to the 31st of the month.
  4. Take all the ATM and credit card receipts from your inbox and sort into month. File them in your expanding file folder according to month. (As you’re filing, write notes on receipts while the purchase is still fresh in your mind, which will help you at tax time)

Every time you sit down to pay your bills, whether you do it every week, or twice a month, first clean out your inbox. ‘Staging’ your bills by paperclipping the most current statement (with it’s envelope) on top of the previous month’s paid statement, and filing your receipts will keep you organized and efficient!


  • Log in to your online bank account. Make sure that the bills you last paid have cleared your bank account. Check off the payments that have cleared on their account page in your Day-Timer.

glassesIf there’s no check mark, it hasn’t cleared your bank. Potential problem?

  • Get out your notebook. Write the bank’s balance on your page. Then subtract the payments you’ve made that haven’t yet cleared. Subtract any upcoming known expenses (groceries, entertainment, etc). This is the balance that you now have available.
  • Open your homepage in another window so you’ll have access to all your bookmarked accounts. As you pay each bill, repeat this process:

checkOnce you’ve paid, print a payment receipt. If you pay this bill by check, write the check #, payment amount and date on the current statement. If the bill is paid by automatic deduction, write the date on the statement as if you paid it.

checkWrite the date paid, payment amount, etc on the account page in your Day-Timer


checkChoose a highlighter color for the current month, and highlight the date paid. (Use a different color every month. This visual really helps me. I can quickly scan through my payment book to see what hasn’t yet been paid for the month).

How To Set Up an Easy System for Paying Your Bills, and Keep You Organized for Tax Season!

glassesIf a bill isn’t highlighted in the current month’s color, you may have missed paying it.

checkRemove paperclipped envelope from that account’s statement. Staple the current statement with the printed payment receipt on top to the previously paid statement. Reattach your “due” Post-It to the top of the payment receipt.

glassesA good visual reminder: Anything paperclipped is DUE, anything stapled is PAID.

checkFile the stapled account in the back of your magazine file. (This keeps your bills organized by due dates).


checkIn your notebook, subtract this payment from your balance. Don’t forget to subtract any automatic payments from your balance.


Why I Like This System…

Stress-Free Tax Preparation

  • When it’s time to do your taxes at the end of the year, you’ve got all your statements and payment information together. You just grab them from your magazine folder and put them in your tax prep folder.
  • Your ATM receipts for gas, business expenses, etc. with your notes on them, are already filed by month. You just put your expanding folder into your tax prep folder.

Peace of Mind

  • All the built in “visual” reminders help you keep on top of any potential problems such as missed payments or checks that haven’t cleared. This saves you money by avoiding unnecessary overdraft bank charges and late payment fees.
  • Keeping a running balance as you record your payments, keeps you aware of your available bank balance allowing you to adjust and budget as you go.

I Feel Efficient and Organized

  • All your bills and bill-paying supplies are kept in one place, so you’re not wasting time rounding up your bills.
  • Having an organized, efficient system in place, I don’t hate the whole bill paying process like I used to.
  • With everything being so tidy and organized, I can get my bills paid quickly, then move on to doing the things I enjoy.

Everyone is different and each of our minds work in different ways. After trying a bunch of bill paying methods, this is the one that has worked best for me. Just like they tell you when you attend a seminar, ‘if you only take away one idea you can use from this, it will be worth your time’. I so hope you found at least one helpful idea!

Patti signature

How To Write a To-Do List When You’re ADD with OCD

How To Write a To-Do List When You’re ADD with OCD

things on my list

I’m organized, but in kind of a chaotic way. My mind would be a psychologist’s dream. If they could get their hands on me, I’m sure I could provide them a very early retirement.

I very rarely am completely relaxed. It’s not like I’m this raving maniac (at least not all the time), but I’m a huge multi-tasker. While I’m working at one thing, my mind is thinking ahead to the next…or next ten things that need to be done. That, in itself, wouldn’t be a big problem except that I’m also pretty OCD. Picky, picky, picky. I try, believe me, to loosen up, but I just get all weird when things aren’t done thoroughly, aren’t finished, don’t look nice or are sloppily done. I make my husband crazy. Hell, I make myself crazy! So when I’m going to travel or I’m planning an event, there’s a lot of prep work involved. I’ve learned to lasso my warp-speed brain by making lists. I’m a BIG list maker!

If you see any of my tendencies in yourself, maybe my process will help you. For example, we’re leaving to go camping for three days. We have a travel trailer and although we leave a lot of personal items in the trailer, there’s still food, sports and entertainment stuff that needs to be brought along on each trip. Since it’s Africa-hot here in the Pacific Northwest, I need to arrange to have my plants watered while we’re gone, tidy my house (and clean out the refer) and empty all the trash so we don’t come home to dead plants and a rancid-smelling house. When I get to where we’re going, I want to do nothing, so I like to do as much prep work before we go as I can. Here’s how I go about it.

Step One – Grab a Notepad and Mind Puke

A few days before you’re leaving, just start writing. What keeps popping in your head that you’re afraid you’re going to forget? Write it down. Don’t try to put anything in any particular order, just add things as they come to you. There’s always something last-minute to buy, chores to do before you leave, and things you don’t want to forget to take. Keep it out where you can walk by and add things as you remember them. This process helps me get all the stuff out of my head that is banging around making me think I have more to do than I have time for.

Mind puke list | organizedCHAOSonline

Step Two – File and Sort

Now that you’ve got everything written down, establish some type of secret code to start organizing your list, i.e. On my list above, I put a box around the meals we’re having and randomly listed the items I needed for the meals. Last night when my list was finished, I went back and circled the items that I needed to buy.This is the sorting and organizing process. Don’t judge me! It may sound like a lot of work, but it really doesn’t take any time at all, and I rarely forget anything…as opposed to my hubby who throws a bunch of stuff in a Wal-Mart bag and calls it good.

Step Three – Divide and Conquer

Now all that chaos suddenly becomes organized. Start a new page and start with the first heading ‘To Buy’. List all the circled items from your mind puke list. Your grocery list is done. Next write the heading ‘Errands’. Scan your MP list for all the things that you have to leave home to do. Write them under your ‘Errands’ section. The third heading is ‘To Do’. Scan you MP list for any chores you need to get done before you go. Write them under your ‘To Do’ section.

Purged list | organizedCHAOSonline

Step Four – Packing List

The only things remaining on your MP list that haven’t been cleaned up is ‘To Bring’. Make a heading on a new page and transfer those items from your MP. Now you’ve got yourself a legible packing list.

Packing list | organizedCHAOSonline

Step Five – Schedule

I’ve found my biggest problem is that I try to do too many things into a short amount of time and start feeling frazzled because I run out of time. I’ve learned that if I tell myself I have an hour to finish a group of things, I can focus and accomplish them. I schedule things in groups of like items. My schedule below keeps me in certain areas and I’m not as likely to get distracted.

Schedule | organizedCHAOSonline

Before you deem me completely certifiable, it’s interesting that my brother, my sister, and my daughter (Tawsha, the other half of Organized CHAOS Online), have similar organizing processes and we find it completely normal. Not all minds work alike, but if you struggle with disorganization, ADD or OCD, hopefully some of what I’ve shared will be helpful to you. Do you make lists?

Patti signature

Organized Lists and Notes

Organized Lists and Notes


We are list people. Always have been and always will be.

The thing that has changed is how we write our lists. Post-It notes are a staple in our offices but something we’ve started using (and obsessing over) are two programs that, after using for a short amount of time, will draw you into obsession as well.


Evernote is a program both accessible via phone app and online. They sync with each other (no matter where you enter your information) and provide a TON of options for keeping track. You can copy and paste things you found online, upload images, create folders for certain subjects and add notes within that folder, search by keywords (you have put in for each subject) and about 100 more options.

What do we use Evernote for?

  • Late-night thoughts (to clear our mind)
  • Passwords
  • Links to articles we want to read
  • Images to reference


Thanks to Paulina at Pretty Pink Posh, who was raving about this amazing program, we’re back on the Wunderlist bandwagon. This app/online program is the ultimate list-holder and we’re so happy to be back. Wunderlist is simply: Lists. You name your list and start adding to it. You can star an item, set notifications and edit like crazy.

What do we use Wunderlist for?

  • Grocery Lists
  • Blog ideas
  • Daily to-do items
  • Shopping List
  • Wish Lists

Our goal is to share things that are QUICK, CHEAP and EASY. Evernote and Wunderlist are all of those things.

QUICK: You write down your note once and it’s available wherever you view your note (online, phone, iPad, etc)


EASY: If you  know how to type, you’re in luck.

tawsha connell