Tackling Those Pesky Papers
Updated: Mar 24, 2019
Papers are the pesky gnats of organization. There's a bunch of them and they seem to be everywhere just nagging us to deal with them. Paper organization doesn't need to be a big headache. You just need a system in place so there aren't loose leafs around the house in so many different places that we forget what's important and what is junk mail.
Have an Intake Spot
Having an "intake spot" means having a specific place to put mail or papers that you cannot deal with or "process" right away. The best intake spot is one that actually has a compartment for papers and is not just a designated spot on a counter, because a vague location makes it difficult to stick to a system. I, personally, prefer a hanging mail area on the wall that also has a ledge for my phone and hooks for keys so that all of these items have a home when they are not in my purse and will not end up on the counter where they just take up space.
Process your Papers
Once you have a designated intake spot, make a habit out of processing papers daily. What I mean by processing is that you take each piece of paper and ask, "What is this?", "What is the very next step I have to take to deal with this?". Sort your papers into an "Action" pile and a "File" pile. When going through your "Action" pile, consider how quickly you can accomplish the action. If it is a quick phone call or email, handle it right then and there. If it is something a little more involved, make sure you add it to your "to do" list so it does not slip through the cracks. You may want to add a due date next to the item on your list if it is a bill to pay or even a thank you note to a relative so that you keep the sense of urgency fresh on your mind.
Create a Simple and Reliable Home Filing System
There's no need to over-complicate a home filing system, just make sure you have the main categories that make sense for your lifestyle. The following is one example:
1.) Home - this section is for the deed or lease, the home owner's or renter's insurance, property tax information from previous years (keep the most recent in the Tax folder), plans for home improvement projects
2.) Taxes - keep everything you will need for the upcoming tax season in this folder such as the most recent property taxes on home and vehicles, donation receipts, W2s, student loan interest forms...etc. Since you are only required to keep the last 3 years worth of tax information, I usually just store the last few years in a box in my closet and keep only the upcoming tax season records in the filing cabinet.
3.) Vehicles - car insurance, receipts and information on work that has been done on the car, any speeding tickets, and I would recommend a short spreadsheet or list of dates of regular preventative maintenance done on the car (oil, tires, filter...), so you can easily keep track of when the car needs maintenance next.
4.) Medical - Medical, dental, vision insurance, any paperwork for procedures performed or preventative care visits, vaccinations. I created three different folders, one for each person in my household.
5.) Pets - Pet adoption records, vet visits, vaccinations.
6.) Reference - items that you reference often or every once in a while can go here. Examples include your most recent resume and a master list of addresses of all your family and friends.
7.) Manuals - I keep manuals for electronics or anything that I feel I may need to reference at some point. Once I feel that I no longer need the manual, I will get rid of it as this category can take up space fast.
Remember to go through your filing cabinet at least once a year to get rid of old paperwork and manuals so that you are not sifting through needless papers to get to the important stuff.
By adding a little structure to your paper organization you can make sure that you always stay on top of the pile before it becomes a daunting mass that is taking up space and stressing you. As long as you have an easy-to-use and convenient system that works for your lifestyle, it is simple to stay on top of the incoming mail and other paper gnats that fly your way.