I try very hard to stay on top of it all. I make a concerted effort to take care of the little things so they do not turn into big ones. Simple tasks like washing clothes every other day and tracking receipts keep them from piling up around my ears. Unfortunately, sometimes events happen and the best laid plans fall by the wayside.
Take my friend, Hammond, for example. We have been friends our whole adult lives. He has always been organized and well prepared, which might explain his sunny disposition and positive outlook on life. Quickly, it all came crashing down around him. Hammond is employed full time in an industry that is commission-pay only. Because his pay can vary greatly he has to be viligent when it comes to his finances. His mother became very sick and within six weeks had passed away. The responsibility of taking care of his elderly father fell to him. He did such a good job taking care of everything and everyone that his own world came crashing down around him. I called to check on him and I could hear the defeat in his voice "I'm looking around my house and it looks like a nightmare. Clothes and bills are scattered everywhere. The plants are dead and the kitchen smells weird. Or maybe it's the clothes that smell weird. I don't even know where to start." I offered to help and he agreed. I had one ground rule. I would not wash his personal laundry. We've been friends forever but I draw the line at socks and skivvies.
Bright and early the next morning I showed up with some strong coffee and we got started. We needed to prioritize and we needed to multitask. I suggested he handle the bills while I tackled the house. He took a clothes basket (it was the easiest to grab) and started putting papers in it. The poor guy was pulling mail out of his car, off of the counters, dresser, refrigerator and the floor. He needed a large work space so the dining room table became the desk for the day. Sorting quickly, he eliminated the sales papers, catalogs (they were outdated by now) and other junk mail. He had been so busy helping his dad, he literally had several months worth of bills to sort through. I suggested this method: One by one, go through each bill. There is no need to open them just yet. Simply, sort through them and organize by type. Type X credit card in one pile, Type Y credit card in another, and so on. He ended up with multiple stacks including cable, utilities, and the like. Next, Hammond went through each individual stack looking for the most recent bill, tossing the rest. As a side note, he also found a rebate check and a birthday card with money in it. Now the stack was whittled down to a manageable pile. He took each one and assessed the damage. Some required a simple payment. Others required a phone call in which he explained the hardship and reason for the delay. In a few cases, the creditors deleted late fees and were very understanding. This sounds really simple and it was for the most part. However, it did take some time and patience on his part.
While Hammond tackled the money, I worked on the house. As the linens washed, I sprayed fabric freshener on the mattress, curtains, and sofa. I multitasked by spraying the tub cleaner and while it worked it's magic, I went on to something else. You can get a lot done in those 15 minutes you are waiting. Can you say 'vacuum'? I tossed out the dead plants and knocked the dust off the furniture. With the exception of the tub, there was no deep cleaning going on. The goal was only to get Hammond back on track, not get everything to a high shine. I removed all the science projects living in the refrigerator. Most of the containers got tossed out too. They were awful and we were scared of them. I wiped down the shelves and straightened up the kitchen a little.
Next, we decided to divide and conquer. While he did some grocery shopping (he knew better than I did what he wanted to buy), I dropped off the dry cleaning We were pretty much home free at this point.
At some point we have all been knocked off course by one thing or another. The best anyone can do is recognize that it happened and try getting back on track as fast as possible. Assess what matters most and begin there. It could easily take a day or more to get caught up but at the end of the day, you will be right back on track.