Ask any organizer and the main thing people have trouble with organizing is paper. I was told in the 80′s that we were becoming a paperless society. Really? I have personally seen one doctor’s office that is paperless and I felt like I was on the Starship Enterprise. So zen, so clean, so efficient. I wanted to work there.
But for most of us that’s a long way off, so in the meantime I’ve developed a 5 Step Process for cutting down the paperwork you have to deal with on a daily basis. Here’s the plan:
- Stop the bleeding – Most paper comes in through mail so go to www.dmachoice.org and sign in to opt out. This will clear your name from most mailing lists. Opt for on-line statements from your bank, and investment companies. You can check them, delete them or file them on your computer. If you’re comfortable with it, also receive and pay your bills online. If you have more magazines than you can read, let the subscriptions run out. Check the upper right corner of the mailing label to see when yours runs out. Donate old magazines to your library, local school or doctor’s office.
- Clear the backlog – This is easier said than done but set aside the time, bring all your old papers into one room that has either a clear table top or floor space to spread out. If you’re not sure what to keep, ask an accountant or lawyer. Most people save papers “just in case” of an audit. So keep all your tax-related papers together in one envelope or box marked with the year. Don’t keep these papers in your active filing system. You’ll need a recycle bag, a shredder and probably 4-12 hours depending on the quantity. The decision is simple: keep? or toss? If you keep it, put like things together and create file names on post-it’s as you go.
- Set up a basic file system – If you don’t have one or if yours is not working, try the Freedom Filer System: https://freedomfiler.com/AffiliateClickThrough.cfm?cid=10990
I believe a 2-drawer file cabinet is a must for most families. Ask your accountant what you need to save for taxes and create line-item folders. These make it easy to tally up a category each year. Most people need these files: Charitable Contributions, Medical records & expenses, Insurance, Home, Car, Bank, Credit Cards, Business Expenses, Investments, School Information. Start general and if a file is too big, get more specific.
- Handle your mail daily – Now that you’ve cleared the backlog and set up a file system handling the mail should be easier. Open it up and decide, is it a to do? to read? or to file? If not, recycle or shred it. Then move your 3 piles to where you will take care of them.
- Make recycling easy – No one wants a big blue trash can in their entrance way, so make it nice and easy to recyle your unwanted mail. Get a wicker basket or an attractive bin and put it near the front door. When you finish the newspaper, it goes in. When you identify “junk mail” that goes in too. Just make sure any personal info gets shredded first so have a shredder in your home office area too.
The idea with paper is not where to keep it, but rather how to keep it flowing so that it gets handled or filed.