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Blog: Paper Doll, Tackling The Stacks And Piles
What's In Your Wallet (That Shouldn't Be)?

No, you haven't accidentally stumbled upon a Capital One commercial.

Paper Doll was recently working with a client to help him organize his financial information. When we ran into an obstacle, I said "Oh, well, let's start with the cards in your wallet. Where's your wallet?" After a few moments of that deer-in-the-headlights look clients often have, a smile came to his face. "It's in the truck!" and off he sprinted to get it. He was one of three clients that week whose wallets were in located in unlocked vehicles in driveways or unlocked garages. Yikes!

Paper Doll Wallet Organizing Rule #1: Keep your wallet under lock and key!

Unless you are in the third grade and the only things in your wallet are your class picture and a stick of Juicy Fruit gum, your wallet should be adequately protected. You should keep it in your pocket or purse/bag, and that bag should be within your reach and eyeline at all times. Otherwise, it should be kept out of sight and locked away in a locker at school, a filing cabinet or drawer at work, in a locked car or trunk, preferably in a closed garage (and hidden from view) when motoring, or in a safe place at home.

Not to make you paranoid, but my dear Paper Mommy once had $100 stolen from her wallet AT A FUNERAL! Better safe than sorry.

Paper Doll
Wallet Organizing Rule #2:
Jettison the Junk, Save Your Sanity (and Scuttle Sciatica)!

The security of your actual wallet, aside, let's talk about the safety of carrying your overfed wallet on your person. For those of you who are fans of Seinfeld, you may recall George Costanza's wallet, so overstuffed that it did him bodily harm.

Think that's just a sitcom trope? Nope! The New England Journal of Medicine (back in 1966) and The New York Times have reported on the back-pain and sciatica dangers of people (usually men) carrying overstuffed wallets in their back pockets.

But there are other excellent reasons not to carry clutter around with you. Yes, your wallet is a subset of "your stuff", and in the great George Carlin tradition, you "gotta have a place for your stuff".

However, as we should all know by a now, a cluttered home or office contributes to lost time (spent searching for missing items and redoing work), lost money (everything from lost opportunities to actual lost cash to the lost dollar value of your time when you hold up the Express Lane to dump everything out of your pockets and bags to find your thirty-five cents-off coupon for eggs...only to learn that it expired in 1982!), damaged reputations, increased stress and decreased productivity. Well, a wallet cluttered with unnecessary papers and other items yields the same obstacles.

Here are a few things to remember about your wallet:

  • It's not a photo album.
  • It's not an address book or a client database.
  • It's not a diary or scrapbook.
  • It's not a calendar or appointment book.
  • It's not an archaeological dig-site in progress...yet!
The purpose of your wallet to provide you with a mobile storage device for containing money, simulated money, and things that identify or protect you in order to prevent you having to expend exorbitant amounts of money.

The wisest thing to do is find a clean kitchen table or desk and pull everything out of your wallet. The following things do NOT go back in:
  1. Your Social Security Card -- As we discussed previously, your Social Security card is the Willy Wonka Golden Ticket for identity thieves. Keep yours safely at home in your VIP folder, in your fireproof safe or in your safe deposit box. Don't carry it around along with your gym membership card and your coupon for 50% your next In-and-Out Burger.
  2. Your Voter Registration Card -- Unless it's a primary day (in your community) or Election Day, you are wasting valuable space in your wallet and risking losing this card. It's safer and wiser to keep this in your VIP (Very Important Paper) folder at home until you need it. If you're carrying it around 24/7/365 because you're afraid you'll forget to put it back in your wallet for the few days you'll need it, just enter a note on your calendar, in your Blackberry/iPhone/PDA or your tickler file. Don't schlep what you don't need now because you're afraid you'll forget it later!
  3. A zillion photos of your loved ones -- If your moment of zen comes from opening your wallet and looking lovingly upon a photo of your beloved, your kids or your pet, far be it from Paper Doll to harsh your mellow (or whatever the kids are saying these days). But limit it to one or two photos, and for safety's sake, DO NOT LIST YOUR CHILDREN'S NAMES ON THE REVERSE OF THEIR PICTURES. If someone purloined your wallet, he'd not only have your name and address, but enough information to gain access to your kids at school or camp!
  4. Your ATM passcode -- Duh! Think having it in your wallet but NOT right next to your ATM card is going to fool anybody? Think again.
  5. Any other passwords or passcodes for entering office buildings, safety gates or computer files. If someone has your wallet and your passcodes, they can effectively become you long enough to wreak havoc on your life. Not scared? Then do not pass go and do not collect $200; go back and read the posts on identity theft (here, and here, in particular).
  6. Medicare or Insurance Card -- IF it includes your Social Security Number -- For more on medical identity theft, skip back to the posts here and here.
  7. Love letters -- OK, well, one love letter is acceptable, if it's the kind of thing you're likely to remember you have and will actually take out to read for comfort, encouragement or even to pass the time of day if trapped in an elevator.
  8. Receipts -- the ones for cash purchases (which can be tossed immediately, unless you're constructing a spending map or creating a budget), for credit card purchases or ATM withdrawals or deposits from prior to today (which should have been removed from your wallet nightly and filed away in advance of checking them against your credit card or bank statements)
  9. Pounds of Loose change -- more than a dollar's worth. Seriously, change is heavy (and dirty). Keep a piggy bank at home and empty most of your change from your wallet every day. Keep a few of each type of coin (to prevent getting back so much change from a dollar that you'll dislocate your shoulder trying to carry your bag), but keep the rest out of your wallet.
  10. Spare keys -- Again, if a bad guy has your wallet, he knows where you live and probably which car is yours. Do you really want to help him break into your house or steal your sweet ride?
  11. Video rental cards -- Seriously, in this age of DVRs and Netflix, do you really still rent from Blockbuster and Hollywood Video? (Are the stores in your town even still in business?)
  12. Rewards Cards -- If you don't regularly use a club or rewards card, why carry it daily? Get a little credit card holder with sleeves and pop the cards in. They're no good for identification purposes, so it's safe to keep the little holder in your trunk; otherwise, store it somewhere easy to grab if you are planning a visit to a specific store. Better yet, check out the One Club Card that lets you create your own all-in-one rewards/club card (including bar codes) for free.
  13. Other People's Business Cards -- If you think you'll be dialing the number often, program it into your cell phone; otherwise, the card goes to your home or office for inclusion in your card file or database. (Do you really think you'll remember that the business card for the dentist you met on a plane to Albuquerque three years ago is squished between your almost-full SuperSandwich Card and last week's grocery list?)
  14. Appointment cards -- The little business-card size reminders to get your hair cut, your teeth cleaned, your insides probed and your outsides molded actually remind you of very little when buried in your wallet. When you're pulling the receipts out nightly, also grab these cards and mark the dates and times on your calendar.
  15. Condoms -- OK, lest you think that Paper Doll is arguing against personal responsibility, let's be clear. A thinly-wrapped latex protective device is not at its safest, mechanical integrity-speaking, shmushed between layers of credit cards and then sat-upon (or knocked around in a likely-overstuffed bag) for months or years on end. If you're a teenager and it's purely for show, have at it; if you're a grown-up and it's for go, let's just say that if you're aiming for personal responsibility, actually BE RESPONSIBLE and find a safer storage location.
  16. Clutter/Trash -- You know what I mean. Gum wrappers (hopefully without used, discarded gum. To Do lists. Grocery lists. Addresses or phone numbers without names. Expired coupons. Expired credit cards. Movie ticket stubs. Concert ticket stubs. Ballgame ticket stubs. Pay stubs. Book titles. Movie titles. Floozies! Toss them out!

Paper Doll Wallet Organizing Rule #3:
Maintain the essentials (and ONLY the essentials)!

Tune in next week, when we talk about what SHOULD be in your wallet, as well as how you can prepare now to protect yourself in case your wallet is stolen.

Until then:
  • Find your wallet!
  • Remove the clutter and send it on its way.
  • Store your wallet somewhere safe.
See you next Tuesday--and remember to bring your wallet!

posted on: 7/15/2008 10:30:00 AM by Julie Bestry
category: Paper

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Paper Doll, Tackling The Stacks And Piles

by Julie Bestry

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Julie Bestry, President of Best Results Organizing in Chattanooga, TN, is a Certified Professional Organizer®, speaker and author. Julie helps overwhelmed individuals and businesses save time and money, reduce stress and increase productivity through new organizational skills and systems.

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