More pro tips to help organize your family’s papers
By Aimee Heckel
Paper, left unorganized, can be a serious time suck. In fact, the average American spends eight months of their lives dealing with junk mail, according to Richard Swenson, author of “Margins: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Americans.”
She offered four tips to get you started. Today, we dive deeper into paper organization with more tips from Monahan. After you create a plan and sort your papers, Monahan recommends the next steps.
1. Treasure what counts. In other words, prioritize your papers. Keep what your family and business really needs. Consider your industry’s guidelines, including medical, legal and environmental concerns.
Check your state’s regulations for what documents you need to keep, too. Monahan recommends checking with your attorney, CPA and bookkeeper, as well as the Internal Revenue Service laws, the ARMA International’s Records Retention Guidelines
2. Ask important questions. When deciding which papers to keep, ask yourself:
- Does it contain vital information?
- Can it be replicated if needed again?
- Am I required to keep it legally? If so, for how long?
- What’s the worst that could happen if I let it go?
Monahan also recommends keeping these things in mind:
- Unexpected life events, such as death, divorce, identity theft, an audit or accidents, may lead you to need quick access to important documents.
- You need three years of tax returns to buy or refinance a home. You also will need mortgage paperwork, bank statements, credit card statements and more.
- Nonprofits must keep almost all financial and administrative documents forever.
3. Establish a home and system for active papers, memorabilia and archives, Monahan recommends.
For active papers, Major Mom recommends the C-3 System — sort of like a communication and command center for your family. C-3 stands for:
- Command: This is the home for mail and incoming papers; make decisions about those papers at this point.
- Control: When you decide to keep something, you must control and manage it here. These papers are current and active.
- Communication: This is the family calendar and mailboxes.
For archives and memorabilia, Major Mom recommends dedicating a special space for files. When filing, consider how you’d look for it again in the future, and set it up so it’s easy to find that way. Name your files in ways that make sense to you.
4. Plan your container strategy and put everything away. This is the final step in organizing papers. Organize files either alphabetically, by category or chronologically.
Monahan recommends these hanging files at Office Depot — 18 for $14.99. Save money by using these Office Depot coupons, paired with Cash Back from ShopAtHome.com. Read more articles about Office Depot here.
On your desktop, use stacking trays, binders, decorative boxes and shallow trays.
Consider using different types of labels or colors to help further identify files.
5. Now, start new habits. Stop the unwanted junk mail and catalogs at www.donotmail.org. Reduce paper by signing up for electronic statements and automatic bill pay. Sort mail before it comes in the house, and immediately recycle all junk. Read magazines online, or keep only the current issue.
Reduce what papers you do get and keep by scanning them directly to the cloud, using the Neat Connect.
“Once the deluge of stuff and papers slow down or stops, you will have a good chance at winning the battle against clutter,” Monahan says.
Save money on other purchases for your family with these babies and kids coupons.
Other articles you might also enjoy: