Paperwork organizing can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be. Take control of paperwork and deal with it as soon as you walk in the door.
For today’s paper decluttering task, choose paperwork that challenges you most, the stuff you’ve been holding off on for a while and letting pile up. You don’t need to worry about organizing it to perfection today, the goal for the day is declutter – GET RID OF – what has no business in your home. And after today, don’t let it enter your life again.
- Recycle paperwork as soon as you enter the house with it. Go straight to the recycle bin and drop in whatever you don’t need. Toss in that junk mail. Open mail and immediately recycle envelopes and inserts, this way you filter out most paper clutter before it hits a surface.
- Immediately place bills and correspondence on a designated work area, such as you desk or a command center you work at regularly, instead of on the kitchen or living room table. Is the kitchen or living room your work area? Oi vey! Work on creating an alternative paperwork space if your goal is to keep these areas free of paper clutter.
I’m concerned about my name and address going into the recycle bin, so I tear off and shred it. I also have an identity theft protection rubber stamp that I use at my desk, like this one pictured from Solutions.com ~ you can also get it on Amazon. Or simply use a black marker.
If you receive a lot of junk paper, go a step further and have Catalog Choice or Paper Karma get you off mailing lists. You’ll receive less paper mail, which means less clutter to deal with later.
How I handle paperwork at Casa Bella.
Each day I sit at my desk for 15 minutes and file away what little I actually need to keep and shred or recycle the rest. 15 minutes per day works miracles!
I use a cork board on the wall in front of my desk to pin small notes and important reminders. I take down and recycle weekly anything that no longer applies. Here’s an example of a cute DIY cork board from Apartment Therapy, with a link to how to make one yourself.
Get it off the desk, but don’t let bills and important correspondence get out of sight, out of mind. Create a neat place where you can see and access bills daily, such as standing upright in a desktop file folder, or pinned to a cork board on the wall by your work area. Highlight or circle due dates on bills.
It’s a good idea to keep
- Adoption paperwork, birth certificates, marriage license, divorce documents
- Car titles, repair and maintenance receipts.
- Personal identification, social security statements.
- Educational degrees and certifications.
- Home improvement paperwork and receipts.
- Insurance documents for current policies.
- Medical receipts and reports.
- Warranties and manuals you cannot find online.
- Receipts for high value home or office furniture, computers, electronic equipment, household goods, art, anything you may one day want to sell or may need for value reference in the case of a home or renters insurance claim.
- If you’re holding onto department store receipts in case you need to make a return, and the return date is expired, do you still need to keep the receipt? Probably not.
- Tax documents. When the year is up and it does not need to live in my active files, I store tax documents with that years tax return in a closet designated specifically for this kind of storage.
More ways to prevent paper pile up
- Go paperless wherever you can. NOW is the time. Get online and learn how to receive statements, bills and receipts via email. Learn how easy it is to download and store them on your computer as a digital document. If you ever need a paper copy, simply print from your digital storage file. Banks allow you to log onto your account and glance at your statements from years back. So convenient! Consider going paperless with one or two minor bills. If this works for you, do more. A little at a time steadily builds great paperless bill-paying habits.
- Don’t sign up for notices and special offers via paper mail. When ordering online, do not check boxes that allow the business to send you paper mailings. It’s easier to remove yourself from email than mailing lists.
- Download the Stop Junk Mail Kit created by the Bay Area Recycling Outreach Coalition for numbers to call and websites to visit to be removed from Direct Marketing lists, Credit Card offer lists, Sweepstakes, Shopping Flyers, Junk Faxes, Catalogs and more.
We have individual needs to consider when it comes to dealing with paperwork. For this reason, I suggest consulting with your CPA or legal advisor about what you should be keeping vs. recycling. From my own home office and that of clients I have worked with over the years, what I have found is this: we are quite more similar than different. So do not feel alone with your paper clutter. Deal with it at least 15 minutes a day. If you’re not going to hire a professional organizer or personal assistant to come in weekly and do it for you, learning to self-maintain is key. Like good habits, getting organized with paperwork is something that can be learned.
Isabella Guajardo, founder and owner of Bella Organizing, is a San Francisco Bay Area professional organizer offering home organizing, interior redesign, and residential move management services throughout the Greater San Francisco Bay Area. Call (510) 229-7321 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Gift certificates are available.
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