Are you drowning in paperwork? Do your kitchen counters look like a mailbox! Do you get overwhelmed and anxious just walking into the room and seeing the pile of papers?
Clutter in your home creates chaos in your head!
I’m going to show you how to quickly and easily organize all your paperwork from the junk to your most important documents!
It’s a huge distraction and for some, can make it difficult to focus and get anything accomplished. Unless you’re the type who can turn a blind eye to mess–I can’t!
Being organized makes it easy to find what you need, rids your home of clutter, it saves you time, AND it can even save you money.. No more running out to purchase something because you can’t find the one you already have!
Drowning in Paper?
Every January I go through and organize my home files: bills, receipts, etc. It kills two birds with one stone–gets rid of excess paper and at the same time I gather together things I need for my taxes. Starting off the year with this area of my home organized helps keep things in order for the coming year. Here’s how I do it! Maybe my methods will work for you!
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Tools to Keep Paper from Taking Over Your Home!
Gather your STUFF- bills, receipts, every piece of paper that needs to find a home!
Cross cut shredder –(I like this one)
3″ three-ring Binder –for Manuals, Warranties Etc (I like this one, it has a pocket on the front and you can add a pretty cover)
Duo Binder –( I have one for important papers, another for regular household expenses and a third for medical records/bills)
Scanner (not absolutely necessary, but if you have one . . use it)
Fire Proof Box You want to get one large enough to hold your Important Papers and other valuables)
Bank Safe Deposit Box (another option instead of fireproof box or in addition to)
What to KEEP and What to SHRED
Our lives are full of paper but honestly, we don’t have to keep all of it. Important paperwork should be kept in a safe place, but lots of items can go into the trash!
IMPORTANT PAPERS TO KEEP
Social Security Cards
Divorce Papers, Child Custody Papers etc.
Mortgage and Loan Paperwork
Auto Titles and Loan Paperwork
Last 7 Years Income Tax Returns (personal & business)
Any legal action documentation (loan repayments, lien payments etc)
Life Insurance Policy
Last Will & Testament, Power of Attorney, Living Will etc.
Copies of your Medical Insurance ID cards
Retirement Account information
Along with these items, I also keep a list called ACCOUNT INFORMATION, in this folder as a backup to my “bill/household” file. This has:
Bank Account info: including Name/Address of bank, Account Number, online login and password information
Credit Card info, including the Name of the Company, Account Number, 800 phone number, online login info and password (copy the front and back of the card in case it’s lost or stolen)
Medical-Insurance information, copy of the cards (front and back)
Online login and passwords for anything else that you have that can’t be easily replaced. List the name of the company, the account number, phone number etc. I’ve attached a copy of my Account Information Log for you at the bottom of the post!
All of these items are kept in a Duo binder inside a fireproof box. If your extra organized you can scan each of these items directly onto a USB drive and put it in the fireproof box or safe deposit box! You write on the USB drive with a marker for easy reference.
What & When to Toss (or shred)
INCOME TAX FILES
The general consensus is that you need to keep your last 7 years of Income Tax Returns. Every year when we have our taxes done, I shred the file from 7 years before (i.e. 2016 taxes go in the file, 2009 taxes get shredded ). I would keep business taxes for as long as your accountant feels necessary.
These days most banks have the option for online banking. If you take advantage of online banking, you wont have any physical checks or statements to save. If you don’t subscribe to online statements, you will need to keep 7 years of bank records in the event of an IRS Audit.
Now, some people like to keep the entire year of utility bill statements. If you have had issues with payments being properly credited or plans being changed without your authorization (my cable company is famous for this) you may want to as well. I usually keep one statement until the next one comes in to be sure the payment is credited then shred the prior one. Most companies give you access to your monthly bill online so it really isn’t necessary to hold on to extra paper here. If I make a large purchase on a credit card like electronics, appliances, or have repair work that is guaranteed done on my car etc–I keep the statement that reflects the purchase/payment and either attach it to the item’s owner’s manual or file it (see below).
I like to keep each month’s mortgage payment in a file until I receive the yearly statement from my bank of interest and payments (for tax purposes). I copy that for my files, and provide the original to my accountant at tax time and then shred the year’s worth of statements. Call me crazy but I like to make sure that I am properly credited! And that my property taxes were paid!
Property Tax Forms/Statements
I keep all of them too-if you pay them apart from your mortgage keep your receipt and file it with the mortgage information.
Any loan approval letters specifying terms and dates, payment receipts or anything pertaining to a loan that is active, including student loans, auto loans, personal loans, etc. should go into your bill files. If you have paid off a loan keep a copy of that document in the Important Paper’s file.
If you are tossing something, be sure to shred anything that contains account numbers, social security numbers, etc. You don’t want any personal info to get into the wrong hands.
This is my biggest struggle with organization. I just hate paying bills and anything that has to do with it! Keeping this area of our paperwork organized is essential for my piece of mind. I use a very basic system again using the Duo Binder, and it works. When the bills come in-open them immediately! Read them, note on your calendar when it’s to be paid. Then I put them in a folder (in the binder) labeled “TO BE PAID”.
When each bill is paid I then place it in the corresponding folder in my duo binder accordion file which is broken down into the following categories:
Mortgage and Property Taxes
You can also use a separate USB (not the same as the one for important papers) and set up folders matching the ones in your Duo Binder so it all matches up and scan each bill in monthly. At the end of the year, if you want to keep these records, all you need do is take that USB, write the year on it and put it in your fireproof box and start a new one. It just depends on what you’re comfortable with.
Most product manuals can be found online, which means you really don’t have to save them. HOWEVER if you need to look something up you will need: the brand name of the item; Model #; Serial #; and the receipt with date of purchase in the case of a warranty covered issue. I usually remove the first page of the manual (with the image of the item) and record the model and serial number on it and attach the receipt, along with any warranty information . Then I place it in a sheet protector in a large 3 ring binder. I have all of my major appliance, electronic equipment, cell phone or any major purchase information in it’s own sheet protector in a binder like the one above. It’s all in one place and makes it super easy to find what I need, when I need it.
You can even take it a step further and using notebook index pages break it down into areas, or even separate binders: Appliances, Electronics, Tools, Office Equipment, you get the idea. Depending on how many things you have, you may require more than one binder!
A Note About Mail
Piles of mail on the counters and kitchen table can make a person crazy! You need a place to corral it until you put it where it needs to go. I suggest a basket or an IN/OUT type file in your “Command Center” (more on that next post). I also suggest that you go through you mail as soon as you bring it in the box
Toss the junk mail Immediately
Open bills and file in the “to be paid” folder
Open all other mail and put items that need attention in a basket/file marked so you will remember to take care of it!
I hope that some of these ideas will work for you, or that you can take a portion of them and re-work them for yourself. Items that need action are identified, bills are ready for payment. Warranties and manuals are organized and easy to access! All of your important papers organized and in a safe place!
That leaves us with the rest of the house. If you have any questions or suggestions please leave it in the comments below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Next week–“The Command Center”.