Projects, Appointments, and Bills – Oh, My!
Filing paper blues often start with incoming mail. A good rule of thumb is to trash any unwanted mail as soon as you bring it in the door. That lessens the paper filing pile by at least 50% right from the start.
When you sort your mail, the first step is to make sure you already have a file for bills, invitations, appointments, projects, upcoming events, classes, and coupons.
When your mail has a home/zone to land in immediately, you are ahead of the curve ball when it comes to filing. Let’s examine a few more details that will help you have a home run and prevent mental clutter breakdown.
Be mindful that those who like to stay green can mirror the suggestions listed below on their computer.
Mail Organization – Filing Game Rules
- Designate A Home Plate. Depending on your style or space availability, you will want a combination of a desktop file, magazine holder, filing cabinet, or rolling cart file. The product you choose will house your documents, so make sure it is convenient, attractive, and functional.
- Keep It Strategically Simple. Kiss your stress away with a filing system that is planned out ahead of time using broad categories. General categories allow you to set up sub files that remain in a zone that makes sense. For instance, Insurance can be a broad folder category where you insert files for any insurance documents you maintain (Car, Medical, Dental, Home Owners, etc.) within the hanging folder.
- Game Plan. Set an appointment with yourself to plan out your filing categories. From there, start labeling your hanging folders, followed by the files that will be included in that zone. Once this system is placed, you will want to set a regular time to sort through your papers, so they do not continue to multiply.
- Three Strikes, You’re Out. As you plow through your accumulated paper piles, think about the role that document plays in your game plan. Is it a bill that needs to be paid, an important invitation you need to remember, or a class that peaks your interest? If you touch a piece of paper more than once and think, “I will probably never sign up for/apply for/use this coupon/get this product,” give yourself permission to toss it out. The essential pieces of paper need a home – your filing system. Try to touch the paper only once and make a decision: toss or keep.
- Terms of Contract. The universal question is, “What is the shelf life for my papers?” Well, that depends on your personal situation as it relates to tax records, receipts, and bank statements. The more complicated your holdings and business situation, the longer you will need to hold on to supporting documents:
- Vital documentation such as birth certificates, wills, health care directives, marriage license(s), adoption and divorce contracts should be kept in a safe place forever.
- House documents proving purchase, maintenance, upgrades and improvements should be kept until you sell your house. The same goes for auto records.
- Warranties on equipment with receipts attached should be kept for the duration of the warranty.
- Investment records should be retained for the term of the entity.
Remember: You should ALWAYS check with your personal accountant for paper retention rules. Don’t just go by what your neighbor advises.
- Get On Task. If the idea of setting up a filing system fills you with dread, call Captured Clutter at 678-294-7813 to have an organizing specialist help you get your mail organization on track today!
Hope you found these suggestions helpful as you try to make your home office a productive environment. Let me know if you have suggestions or questions by commenting on this blog.