Goodbye Paper Piles

June 21, 2011 | Comments Off on Goodbye Paper Piles

Years ago they said that we would soon become a paperless society. I would say that we are far from that. Paper piles are a constant problem in many households. It can be overwhelming to think about all the paper that accumulates in our homes. It is a constant battle that can easily overtake every flat surface of our homes. Follow these tips to get and keep your paper flow under control.

1. Categorize your old paperwork.

Anything that is over a year old should fit into the categories: tax files, memorabilia, and important documents. Anything that doesn’t fit one of these can probably be shredded and recycled. More recent documents should be placed in TO DO, TO READ or TO FILE piles and then should be dealt with accordingly.

2. Purge what you don’t need.

Most items in your file cabinet can be shredded after one year. Pay stubs can be shredded once you check them against your W-2s, and credit card statements typically are not needed after a year either. Investment statements can be shredded once your summary statement comes. If you make purchases or trades, however, make sure you keep this paperwork. Check with your tax advisor, but generally tax documents should be kept for seven years. Major purchase documents and home purchase documents should be kept as long as you own the product.

3. Reassess your current file headings.

Can any be combined or deleted? Do any need to be broken down into sub-headings? They should be no more than two inches thick. Start your files with nouns. Rather than labeling the file ‘house insurance,’ call it ‘insurance, house.’ This will help you keep like things together.

4. File, don’t pile.

Instead of putting items in a TO FILE tray, which tends to pile up, file them right away. If you absolutely cannot file items immediately, set aside time on a weekly basis to file all the items in your tray. Do not let it pile up so you dread having to put the papers where they belong.

5. Establish a place just for paperwork.

This is not a place to let paperwork pile up, but rather a place to store them so you know where it all is when you are ready to do your daily sort. For some people keeping it out in the open where others can see it, helps keep them on top of going through the pile daily. If you would rather keep it out of the site of guests, be sure that you don’t fall into the ‘out of site, out of mind’ mentality.

6. Keep a step file organizer on your desk.

Keep your desk clear of paper clutter and set up a small filing system instead. The files in it should be labeled: to do, to file, to read, etc. Reference files for family members, associates, or employees can also be made. Anything delegated to them, mail for them, etc. can be placed in their file and they’ll know where to look for it or you can easily find it and give it to them yourself.

7. Create a bill-paying center.

Your center should include a calculator, pens, your checkbook, stamps, envelopes, address labels, and a bill- paying organizer where you record your payments and store bills. Keep these items where you pay your bills. They can even be stored in a shoebox or plastic storage container and tucked away in a closet or cabinet until you need it.

8. Deal with papers as you receive them.

Don’t let mail or returned schoolwork pile up and clutter your table or desk. Sort the items that enter your house daily. Everything should fit into one of the following categories: trash, to do, to file, to read, and to delegate.

9. Toss unnecessary mail immediately.

Open your mail over a recycling container. Pull out all unnecessary papers and advertisements from bills and junk mail and get rid of them right away. Anything with personal information on it that you don’t need should be shredded. As soon as you are done sorting through the mail, take care of your shred pile or delegate it to someone else.

10. Cut down on junk mail.

Go to the Direct Marketing Association website and register to remove your name from direct mail lists. If you don’t order from catalogues that you receive, call or write to that company and request that you be taken off their mailing list.

11. Go paperless.

Sign up to receive your statements online. Most websites will store multiple months worth of statements for you to go back and review as necessary. You can also set up auto pay for many of your bills either directly through the company website or through your bank or credit union’s website.

12. Use a master list.

Get rid of the small slips of paper and sticky notes. These can easily be lost or hard to locate when you need them. Keep master lists for contact information, shopping listd, books you would like to read, to do lists, etc. You can store these lists on your computer or keep them in a notebook if you prefer a physical copy. (Or better yet, use our Easy Organizer for this very purpose!)



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