Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Dealing With Piles of Paperwork

Can you stand one more organization post? As a followup from my post Desk Organization, I want to address handling all that paperwork that seems to accumulate that needs to be filed or is in our files. Here are some great tips from House Works by Cynthia Townley Ewer. Everything in bold is a direct quote while the rest I summarized. You really should get her book. It's awesome!

1. Do it now. Especially if it can be done in two minutes or less.

2. Put paperwork in its place. Never lay it down somewhere randomly. 

3. Toss the trash. Ditch junk mail and unwanted catalogs as they arrive.

4. Tag it. Use sticky notes for papers that need followup or some type of action.

5. File it fast, file it right. Handle each paper once, not twice. Avoid a "To File" folder.

6. Stay stocked up on mailing supplies. Send out stuff right away that needs to move on (ie: bills, wedding replies, surveys, etc.).

7. Schedule paper-handling chores regularly. Set aside this time on your calendar if you have to in order to get the job done.

8. Create a Chuck-It Bucket. This is a box or file that holds anything that you think you can throw out, but aren't really sure about. Just throw it in and don't worry about it unless you need it. Every six weeks or so, dump the box in the trash. This is a great idea because one of the biggest filing "issues" is not being able to decide what to do with a paper - keep it, toss it, or where do I file it?

9. Buy an electronic labeler. This is a lot faster for labeling new files than printing pretty sheets on your computer, especially if you hate wasting half a page just for one or two labels.

10. Make friends with your files. Organize them to fit your life and your filing style.

Photo Credit: jyoseph

Now, on a personal note, I keep files for bills, taxes, pets, toy warranties and instructions, and family records which include health, education, and adoption (each girl has special info that we've saved), and employment. Also, decorating tear files, gardening ideas, organization tips and ideas, cooking ideas, recipes I want to try, and a few other miscellaneous odds and ends. 

Most of these stay in the file all year long. However, twice a year I go through all the bill files and pull out the paid bills, letters, and contracts from the companies and place them in a large zip lock bag with a label for the time period. These go into a large rubbermaid container for seven years at which time I shred them. If I ever need these for the IRS or something, they are where I can get to them. Actually, I've only had to once or twice for that "something"! 

The reason I move these out of my files is to keep them where they aren't so packed. If your files are so tight that you can't easily get into them (and I mean EASILY!!), you won't want to file because it is too difficult.  

Let me encourage you to set aside some time this week or next to get your files up to speed so that filing is a breeze. An investment of one morning's worth of work will save you hours over the next year. Each January, reassess your files and take a couple of hours to get them back into tip top shape: correctly labeled, purged of the old, back in order.  Perhaps filing will no longer be such a dreaded chore. We can only get organized and hope!


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