My Mom always had piles of bills to pay and paperwork to file. So, naturally so did I when I grew up. At some point it gets out of control, important things get lost and I had to come up with a better way to get it all organized. The good part is that technology has gotten so easy these days that there are millions of tools to help you get organized.
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Where to start
There are obvious records that you have to keep for X amount of years but you don’t have to keep a printed copy of everything. You can store those items on the cloud or if you must have paper copies then in the attic or garage. Here is the strategy that works for me to keep the paperwork clutter at bay.
- Get out those boxes of paperwork and get rid of everything you don’t need. I had old power, cable, water bills that there was no reason to keep. Recycle them! You do not need year’s worth of bills, you won’t need them again for anything. Keep only the must have papers, taxes, paperwork related to taxes, closing papers for your house…etc. There is usually not very many things you have to keep.
- If you’re comfortable with having your paperwork online then use your printer scanner or get a paperwork specific scanner to scan in everything and file it on your computer or the cloud (I’m working on this). It is so freeing to have no extra stuff lying around and instant access to everything you need in an organized way. And all you have to do is push print if you need a copy.
- Get one file box or fire safe box that stays in your home. Put the important stuff in there. Birth certificates, social security cards, marriage license, last year’s taxes, passports, current year’s pay stubs(many of these are online as well these days). You get the idea. Have one central and accessible file box for things that you will actually need throughout the year and store it somewhere easy to get to.
- Have one file box dedicated to the transition paperwork that needs to be long-term filed. I just put everything in there and every quarter I bring down the long-term boxes and file them all away in there so I have a fresh start for each quarter.
- Get one small organizer for your kitchen or office (if you have one) to keep current paperwork that you need to use within the month.
- Go paperless on everything you can! I mean everything! There is no reason to waste paper in a world where you have instant access online to every statement. Utilities, banking, health insurance, just about every statement that comes in the mail can be neatly organized online and it only takes a few minutes to set up an account. I promise all the same details will be there and it will look the same it will just be on your computer screen.
- Check the mail daily. Go through it the same day and recycle what is not needed (yes that means the extra envelopes and everything, no one mails in payments anymore.) File what you kept in your small organizer or in your quarterly to be filed long term box or in your important stuff box.
- Check email daily. Set up folders in your email to organize anything you need to keep and delete what is not needed. Also, be sure to unsubscribe to anything you don’t use or only use once in awhile, you can always sign up again and usually get a good coupon or deal when you do.
- Make a master list of all your online accounts. Include username or account number and password. That way when you need to log in you’ll have everything you need. You can do this on actual paper or online. Be sure to take a picture or send a copy to your phone too so you have it on the go.
I know this can seem like a daunting task at first, but it will be well worth it. Getting rid of clutter really calms you and make you feel in control. Clutter can be a huge cause of stress and it really makes for a better life when you can rid yourself of it. Plus being organized and knowing where to find everything will save you a lot of time!
So get to it! Share your paperwork tips below and enjoy being paperwork clutter free!