Do you find that you have stacks of paper collecting around the house? Paper organization can be a tedious process that is easy to put off. Once you have a good system in place it will only take a couple of minutes a day to stay organized.
What you need to start a good filing system
File Storage (Below are different options)
Hanging file folders- I prefer the 5-color folder
Label Maker or Printer
File Folders (depending on the file system you use)
1. Sort Papers
Start by going through your stacks of paper and decide what you need to keep, recycle and shredded. I typically toss a lot more than I keep; I know you are not surprised by that. Deciding what to keep and what can go can be challenging sometimes. I have provided a few resources to help make those decision a little easier. Below is a list of things you can easily toss. If you still have more questions on what to keep and how long, I recommend using this link as a guide from Dave Ramsey.
THE NO-BRAINER TOSS LIST
Records for big purchases you no longer own
Bank statements and utility bills over 1-year-old (after everything has been reconciled and unless needed for taxes)
Monthly Investment account statement when you already have quarterly or yearly statements
Ask yourself as you sort, “What is the likelihood that you will need this paper again?”
This process can take hours to do, depending on how much you have kept. So, give yourself time and breaks throughout this process.
Note about receipts: If you like to save receipts, I recommend getting an app on your phone so you can take a picture of the receipt and categorize the purchase instead of you trying to keep all those little pieces of paper. Ink fades over time on receipts.
2. Establish a filing system
Nex decide where and how you will be storing your files.
I used the Elfa Filing System. I like that the top is open to easily file papers. I need it to be simple or I will let the papers pile up. Next you will want to figure out what main categories you will need. Below is a few that I find to be helpful.
MONEY + TAXES
HOME + AUTO + PETS
For use I use green for taxes. Each year gets a hanging folder. I don't typically use file folds. The hanging folder works well for me. Then for red I have family files, for example, deed, social security cards & birth certificates, pet, auto, etc. I don't have a medical anymore, but I kept one each year I was pregnant to keep track of all the bills that come in.
3. Deal with papers daily
Now it is time to maintain the system that you have put in place. That is addressing the mail & children’s paper that comes in each day. Have a place that is assigned for dropping off mail and kid's papers. Having a home for papers will keep you from losing bills and cluttering the counter.
Tip about Mail: Start with tossing the junk mail, put bills in an area where you will not lose them to pay at a later date, record invitations/events on your calendar immediately (and rsvp promptly), and file paid bills and other papers that come in each day. If you find that you are getting a lot of junk mail.
Check out these sites/apps to help eliminate junk mail and credit card request with:
PaperKarma – This app has you snap a picture of the junk mail and they will have you taken off the mailing list.
TrustediD– Is another company that gets rid of unsolicited magazines and junk mail (for free).
Opt Out Pre Screen- If you’re sick of getting those pre-screened credit offers you can go to OptOutPreScreen to get off that list.
Kids Paper/Artwork: Address your children’s papers from school each day by either signing it or tossing it, depending on what needs to be done. As for the artwork assign a file to each child for those special pieces or a place to display it temporarily. But don’t feel bad if you don’t keep everything they make. They come home with some much artwork. I only keep thing that have a handprint or about a special holiday.
If you apply these tips, you will have a well-functioning filing system and ready for the next tax season.