Paperwork takes routine maintenance – daily, weekly…yearly maintenance. Every day you need to deal with each piece of paper that enters your home through your daily paperwork system. Then you need to go through that paper weekly and move any documents you are keeping to your filing system. At the end of every year, you can finally let documents go shredding the previous year’s statements/policies when the new ones come. Managing paperwork involves continuous upkeep found in a created routine. Here are some tips for establishing a routine for your paperwork:
DAILY MAINTENANCE: Set up a system for daily incoming paperwork.
In order to keep paperwork from taking over, you need to have a daily routine for dealing with incoming paper. We recommend that you designate a place near where your paper enters the home to set up a system of desktop action files. Magazine holders or a filing box and hanging files are great organizing products to set up your desktop action files. Make sure you have a recycle bin and shredder close by so that you can quickly dispose of documents that don’t belong in your action files. Deal with every piece of paper immediately, putting each document into the appropriate action file. Use categories like: To Pay, To Read, To File, Calendar, Coupons, etc. You might also want to include a file or basket to catch mail and papers related to or belonging to a significant other and any dependents or pets in your household.
WEEKLY MAINTENANCE: File paperwork from the action files weekly.
Once a week, process the papers in your action files. Pay any bills that are due, file things that need to be filed, put upcoming events into your calendar and so forth. It helps to set a specific time to do this. Routine is your friend. Usually, there is little that needs to be saved, so make sure the paper you are keeping is worth the space it will take up in your files. Often, we procrastinate filing because the categories are too specific, making it a hassle. Try broad categories—Insurance, manuals, paid bills, car papers. It’s ok if the retrieving part takes a few extra minutes. We rarely retrieve what we file, so make the filing part easy. This will help you to routinely empty out the file in your action files of paper needing to be filed. All your documents can even go in one banker’s box per year, or into one file per month per year. Here is a great blog post on creating a well-organized filing system.
ANNUAL MAINTENANCE: Go through your files every year.
Remember that most documents only need to be kept for a year. Go through your files every year and shred/throw away all the previous year’s paperwork that is no longer needed. Statements can be shredded and policies are no longer needed when new ones come. Vital documents and tax documents are the exception to this. Birth certificates, life insurance, tax documents, and other vital documents should never be discarded. They should be kept forever or until they have been replaced by newer versions. Tax documents should be kept for at least seven years. We are not tax professionals, nor do we give out financial advice, but we do have some resources for you here in this blog post. Consult an accountant or lawyer to make sure you are covered in the event of special circumstances.
When routinely managed in a system, paperwork can be organized. Take extra steps though, to stop paper from coming before it even enters your home. Get off as many junk mail and catalog lists as possible. If you are comfortable, sign up for electronic billing. The less you have to manage the better. What is the easiest or hardest part for you in establishing a routine for your paperwork? Check out our Abundance Declutter Group on Facebook for more.