Getting It Together:
How to Organize Your Paperwork
Paperwork is one of the most dreaded items to organize in the home. Usually, because people tend to let it go for so long and try to tackle it once they just can’t take it anymore. By then, the process takes hours instead of minutes to do.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t have hours in my day to devote to filing. Nor would I want to! Below are a few simple steps to help you tackle that clutter monster. You don’t have to do it all at once.
If all you have is five minutes, dedicate those five minutes to doing what you can and come back to it again later or the next day. Personally, I would recommend giving yourself 25 minutes a day until you have completely eliminated the paper mountain. You’d be surprised with just how much you can get done in 25 minutes!
Step One – Sort
The first thing you want to do is take a stack of papers from your pile and start sorting them out by category. For this, you’ll need a good amount of space to lay them out as your sorting. So either the kitchen table, countertop, or the floor.
One important category to create is an Action pile. These are any papers that require an action to be taken such as a bill that needs to be paid, phone call that needs to be made, application that needs to be filled out, etc.
Step Two – Separate
Now that you have all your papers sorted out into categories, the next thing you want to do is separate the urgent from the non-urgent. Start out by creating two bins or folders. Label one Action Items and the other To File.
Take four manila folders and label each one with the following:
Now take your Action pile and separate them into the different manila folders, based on what day or week of the month they’re due by. Once you have all those into folders, place the folders into your Action Items bin. Set a reminder on your phone or calendar to check this bin each week.
Once you’ve taken the required action on these papers, place them in the To File bin if it’s something that needs to be kept. Once a month, take all these out and file them into a short-term filing cabinet or a long-term cabinet. See more on this below.
Step Three – Short-term and Long-Term Filing
Now that you have your Action papers taken care of, you need to file what’s left. I would recommend setting up a short-term filing system and a long-term filing system. Your short-term filing would be anything you want to keep for a year or so, just in case.
Your long-term filing would be things like tax returns, insurance papers, medical history, etc. For your long-term filing, I would use an actual filing cabinet to store your papers in. Your short-term filing can be stored in an accordion file, with each tab being labeled Jan-Dec.
Set a reminder to go through this once a year. Once you have these two filing systems set up, take the other papers you have left and file them accordingly.
Staying on Top of Your Paper Clutter
As you get more papers coming into the home, rather than just laying the stack somewhere, take 5 minutes to do the following:
- Toss anything that you don’t need (if it has sensitive information, shred it).
- Place anything that will require an action from you into the Action Items bin.
- Place the rest in the To File bin.
Taking 5 minutes a day to go through your incoming papers will keep you from ever having to deal with a mountain of paper clutter again.
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