An important goal to have this year is to become more organized, and experts agree it’s best to take baby steps.

Moving slowly into a new way of doing things will increase the chances of success. Setting overly ambitious goals and then failing to live up to them leads to a self-defeating mindset that causes some people to abandon their plans to get organized.

The next step is to make sure you have the tools to stay organized. Most professional organizers are quick to point out that buying things won’t make you organized, but there are some basics that every home office should have, including:

Accounting software: Software like Quicken or QuickBooks makes it easy to categorize your income and expenses, balance a checkbook and download account information directly from the bank.

DropBox or Google Drive for e-filing: Digital files are a great option. DropBox and Google Drive are great systems to manage, organize and save files in a place that is safe and easy to use. It’s also helpful to have your important documents in another place rather than just on a physical hard drive, a paper copy or on a separate laptop. Technology can be fickle, and should your computer or hard drive fail, you’ll lose it all. Paper copies can also be easily misplaced and thrown away during spring cleaning.

Use a calendar: Most calendars offer color-coding options to keep track of different goals or projects. They can be used alone or together with color-coded emails to pack every entry with as much information as possible.

A password manager: LastPass and other similar programs are helpful in keeping your important passwords under lock and key. It’s also helpful with generating a mix of letters, numbers and symbols that no one will be able to hack. All you must do is remember one password to log onto to get to your others. The starter plan for one user is free.  

Remember that banks make mistakes all the time. Relying on their recordkeeping is simply not enough. Protect against erroneous fees by knowing the balance in the accounts and checking and updating your accounting software daily.

The key to staying organized is to do what works. The adage “a cluttered desk leads to a cluttered mind” is true for many. But some may find that having piles of papers on their desk suits them just fine. Much of organization is doing whatever works to keep everything on track, timely and easily accessible.

Judy Heft is the CEO/founder of Judith Heft & Associates, a financial and lifestyle concierge celebrating 26 years in business helping people stay financially organized. She is a certified money coach and the author of “How to Be Smart, Successful and Organized with Your Money.” For more information, visit www.judithheft.com.