We all have a lot of paper coming into our homes constantly; either from the mail, work paper, children’s paper and other sources. In order to conquer the paper problem that many of us experience in our homes and to reduce clutter we need to have a working filing system where we can find anything in 10 to 15 seconds that is in the filing drawer.
Here are tips on setting up a working filing system which will reduce clutter in your home and in your office:
• Use hanging files. Don't use a manila folder inside the hanging files because they are just something more to purchase, take up more space and they hide the tab behind them. There are a few times where they can be used such as to separate different financial information that is kept in the same folder.
• Organize by categories. Select a color of folder for each category. This keys our mind where to go when we need to find something. Some ideas for categories are:
Action: This is for events or things that have to be done within the month.
Remove/replace: This is for items that is constantly changing like health care information that changes yearly or policies that are sent out twice a year or it is a good place to file telephone lists of association and club members.
Permanent: This category is for things that we will keep “forever” such as warrantees of appliances and other items in our homes. Or for certificates and family histories.
Resource: This is the fun section. We keep things we want to refer back to. Before filing anything do consider if you need to keep it or can you find the information some other way with a minimum of effort and expense.
Taxes: Label a folder for each year you pay taxes. Keep tax records as a general rule for seven years. Go to IRS.gov for complete information.
• When setting up the folders put the tabs in front of the files so they don't get hidden by other folders.
• In the action files have a tab labeled Bills to Pay. If you get a paper bill immediately put it in this file. Plan on paying your bills once or twice a month on the same day. When that day comes, take the bill out and pay it.
Mark the date paid, clip paid bills together, and move them to the back of the file. Or, make another file that says Bills Paid. Utility bills can be thrown away after paying, but most people are uncomfortable with this, so I suggest keeping bills for one to three months. If they are used for tax purposes, move them to the tax folders. Rotate them to the recycle bin when you pay your bills again. You do not need to save most paid bills because you can prove two ways that you paid it - by canceled check, or credit card, or the next bill that will reflect your payment.
The biggest tip for cutting down the paper coming into your home is to get off junk mail lists. There are several companies that do this for you. Google to find out what one you want to use. Some have a fee others are free.
Pay bills online. This cuts down on paper work, time and money (stamps and for some bills envelopes). Set up bill paying through your financial institution and go in monthly and pay the bills you want to pay. Your institution will notify you when they have sent payment. Make a folder in your email and send this information to the folder. You have a record if you ever need it.
Many people don’t file because they are afraid they won’t be able to find it again, but with the right system that won’t ever happen again. I use the Freedom Filer system and it has saved me a lot of time, worry and money. A good filing system helps reduce clutter in our homes and offices.
Marilyn is a professional organizer who works with women and seniors in clearing clutter and providing organizing tips. Clearing clutter helps those she works with to have less stress in their lives and feel more joy in living.
Marilyn invites you to visit her website marilynbohn.com where you can find organizing solutions. You will find fun stories and free organizing tips in her blogs, articles and videos.