In todays blog, I will be teaching you a few ways to handle all that paperwork that seems to pile up. I purposely stretched this project out so that you could prepare for what lies ahead.

DEVELOPING A PLAN
Hopefully, after reading- you will adopt some of these strategies. Once you change your habits, these strategies will become routine for you and your way of dealing with file management will be different.

Since we have already purged most of our files and have them organized by person, it will be easier to set up your system. You will see that organizing by person makes all steps involved simpler and not as time consuming.

TIME TO GET STARTED
Grab the first persons pile.
Divide this pile into like-type piles. If you did some of the primary categories when we purged, these categories should be easy to identify. We will also be identifying our sub-categories as well.

Here are examples of files you would find in each category
* IMPORTANT: birth certificate, Social Security Card, Immunization Record
* SCHOOL: HIGH SCHOOL, MIDDLE SCHOOL, ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
* COLLEGE: INFORMATION, SCHOLARSHIPS, LOANS, MISC FINANCE/ACCOUNTING, HOUSING, SCHEDULES
** INFORMATION: letters from the college
** SCHOLARSHIPS: files pertaining to scholarships
** LOANS: files pertaining to loans
** MISC FINANCE/ACCOUNTING: Financial papers pertaining to items not related to schol/loans
** HOUSING: room assignments
** SCHEDULES: semester schedules
* MEDICAL: Current medical bills
* PAID IN FULL: Any bill that is Paid in Full
* RECEIPTS: Misc Receipts

Once you have identified your categories and sub-categories, you can start printing out your labels. If you do not use a label-maker or a template (i.e. Avery software) please make sure to PRINT CLEARLY WITH A FINE TIP SHARPIE.

Never use a pencil to print labels. Even fading occurs with pen, so I recommend using a fine tip Sharpie to print labels.

Once you have everything in order and sorted-its now time to start labeling and placing in folders. Be sure to use a pocket folder if you have alot of like-type papers.

We are going to be doing some minor tuning to what we have and to make sure that something did not get mis-categorized. This also means that we should be double-checking to see if someone elses stuff is mixed in.

MOVING RIGHT ALONG
Once you have completed filing and labeling for that person, its time to move on to the next person.

Please be aware that I have assumed that the first pile you would grab would be a childs and not your own. For an adult, the categories can be similar-only adding an EMPLOYMENT category.

In this category, you would find: W-2s, employment contracts and the like. I also include tax information under my employment category.

Once all the members of your household have their files organized and filed, its time to move onto the HOUSEHOLD category.

Household sub-categories will include: Utilities, Vehicles, Home, Insurance, Warranties, Instruction Manuals

Again, double check what you have in your piles to make sure you are starting off right.

Once you have all your paperwork labeled and filed, take a break and reward yourself. This process does take time and deserves a reward.

BREAKS OVER
Now that you did all that hard work, you need to develop a routine to keep your file management system straight.

In a previous blog, I suggested that you open your mail near the area you keep your files. You should also keep a recycle bin and a shredder nearby. This will alleviate having your papers scattered throughout your house.

I also suggest filing your papers as soon as your fingers touch them. There is no logic in placing a paper somewhere and then picking it up later to file it away. There is no excuse for not filing now that you have spent this time setting up an easy to use system.

I also shred old utility bills once I receive the current one- as long as I have received the proper crediting for the previous billing cycle. This also helps keeping your files from becoming stagnant.

Choosing one day a week to pay your bills makes filing go a little quicker. If you plan which bills to pay each week, you can also save some time.

MAINTENANCE
I like to go thru my filing cabinet twice a year. If nothing else, it allows me to make sure that there are no unneccesary papers still lingering. This is most helpful when going thru your Household files.

SOME HELPFUL HINTS
* If you no longer own an item, you do not need to keep the Instruction Manual or warranty information.
* If you change insurance carriers or your policy has been renewed, you can shred the previous policy.
* Once you receive your W2 and the amounts match your last paystub of the year, you can shred the paystubs for that year.

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Whether we are at work or maintaining our homes, we need to get a handle on our paperwork. It can quickly get out of control. For some of you, this past week has “undone” some of the purging done….for others-you have started your system and are getting the “kinks” worked out.

Which ever one is the case, we now have to get a more permanent filing system than piles or boxes. Below is a simple list-a starting point for those just getting a filing system in place. I will be going into detail Friday on what to do with these items, so check back to see just how we will turn these piles into an easy to use filing system.

Various manilla folders – Some people like to categorize each person by color. I find that once you run out of that color-that persons files seem to never get around to being filed. I simplify by using the regular folders.

Pocket folders – These folders are great to hold items that tend to be lost in a filing cabinet due to falling out of a file folder. I also like to use them for instruction manuals.

Labels / Label maker – While I do like to see everything wonderful, a label maker is not necessary. If hand printing labels, please print clearly and legibly.

“Rubbermaid” file totes – This is a great start to organizing files. This is also a great way to keep files on hand for your college-student.

File Cabinet – Clearly, if you have alot of files or desire a more permanent storage solution, a file cabinet is the way to go. A good suggestion is to purge your files before you go file cabinet shopping. You may find you do not need as much room as you thought.

Hopefully after Friday, you will think this is the easiest filing system you have ever been introduced to. Bottom line: an easy filing system is one you will use.

I hope that your Saturday was filled with the happiness that only occurs when you open up your space to the present, instead of the past!

For me, that happiness is summed up best while shredding the past right out!

Wow!
Last night I purged a file cabinet drawer! Even though I do go thru my files regularly, I still had loads of files that were not needed. It feels good to have some space to put my CURRENT files!

So, today we will be getting down to business!
You should have a couple of piles….one for each person in your household and a household pile (this will mostly be utility bills)

BEFORE YOU START
Since this project takes some amount of time, I suggest that you read my computer blog for today after you finish reading this blog, and organize your files while you are scanning your computer! This way, you “kill two birds with one stone”.

BACK TO THE TOPIC AT HAND
You have several ways to organize each persons files. If you have 4 file cabinet drawers, you may just want to give each person a file drawer or you may want to use portable file storage. This is totally up to you. What IS important is that the files are easily categorized.

NOTE:
For now, use cardboard pieces or cereal box sides to divide the categories. We will not be totally organizing these sections today. We are just making sure that each subsection is labeled and started. We will be coming back in a couple of weeks to complete this project.

So here are your subsections:

– Important – This is for birth certificate, shot records –anything you will need to find in a hurry.

– Medical – For medical papers

– School – Anything school related

– Receipts & Bills

Repeat this process for each person.

HOUSEHOLD FILE
So you are left with your household file….what to do, what to do? There are so many things that can be placed in this file, it can simply just get out of hand.

These categories an be tricky…Instead of getting specific, we can leave a little more leeway to simplify the system.

Your household categories should be: Utilities, Vehicle, Insurance, Home, Warranties & Instruction Manuals

– Utilites: These files should never be stagnant. Every month, you should shred the prior month once you make sure your last payment was recorded.

– Vehicle: This file should contact information about your vehicles.

– Insurance: This file should contain information regarding the insurance that you have for your household.

– Home: If you are a homeowner, this section should contain all the information that pertains to your home, including repairs. Home purchase and refinance papers really should be kept in a fireproof location.

– Warranties & Instruction Manuals: pretty self explanatory

KEEP IT UP! / ITS ALL ABOUT A ROUTINE!
Now, that you have the system started, it should be easy to maintain. Once you establish a routine for how you DEAL with your paperwork, it will become a habit.

Make sure that you open your mail wherever your filing system is. That way you can choose to recycle, toss, or file every piece of mail that comes into your space.

ARE WE DONE YET????
We will be returning to this project on January 16th. Keep an eye out for some reminders and shopping supplies!

THIS WEEK: Computer week! Keep watching for computer tricks and tips. Something new every day!

So how did last night go? Did you go thru all those papers laying around? Did you make your two piles? I surely hope so….

We will be concentrating on dividing and conquering today!

The simplest and lowest maintenance way to file is to divide your files by person. What this means is that if you have 4 people living in your house, you should have 4 main sections.

This way, you never have to “decide” where to file that receipt for school rings, senior pics….lol

Most sections will have 4 main subsections: important documents, medical, school, receipts and bills. Now before you go labeling folders-and making this project take more thought than needed….theres a small “shortcut” I need to tell you about.

If you get a few boxes (hint: you have 4 family members=4 boxes) and just label each box with your family members’ name – you can do the sorting within subsections later.

Items such as your mortgage/rent, utilities should get their own section apart from these files.

Now, make sure you have some space for spreading out!

If you have a filing cabinet, you may think you are on top of things….however, if you havent purged thru it in a couple of years, NOW IS THE TIME!

Go thru each and every file…

WHY YOU HOLDIN ONTO ALL THAT OLD STUFF?

Many people are confused when it comes to records retention. If you are unsure about receipts, please check the IRS website for retention requirements. I personally choose to keep all tax returns, but it is not necessary.

Cancelled checks may also be shredded (these are listed on your bank statement) so keeping them just takes up important space.

If you have paid off bills in the past (and I hope you have) there is no need to keep an entire file for that old debt. Make a PAID IN FULL file and place the letter received by the company stating you paid that bill off. If you have checked your credit report and its listed as paid in full there (make sure its listed on all 3 credit reports), then you can shred that letter.

Old utility bills also use up valuable space. Once you receive your current bill with your last payment, you can shred the older statements.

Some of us love to save our check stubs! Seriously, why? If you are like someone who will go unmentioned….you may have an entire drawer filled with stubs from your first jobs up to and including your current job. If you save your prior tax returns, this is unnecessary. Once you receive a current W-2, compare it with the last check stub of the year….if it all matches, toss the stubs. If it doesnt match, contact your employer.

NOTE: Older check stubs may include your SSN. If any of your stubs contain personal information, make sure you shred them.

GET TO IT!

Some of you may be thinking….why should I take a Saturday to purge and organize? Why should I be doing this when I could be kicking back waiting for the football game to come on?

Well, unless you are going out – or hosting a party- why CANT you sort while watching the game? If you are worried about the noise from the shredder, only shred during commercials!

Tomorrow we will start on the actual filing system. I promise you that my filing system will make sense to you and is so low maintenance that you will not have a problem figuring out what to do with all of your Lingering Paperwork!

I dont think I have met anyone who likes paperwork (unless you are me!) And, unless its organized, you will dislike it even more.

One of the simplest things you can do to minimize the amount of paper shift, is to change some of the ways we treat our mail. Make sure that when you are going thru your mail, you are in your office space. This way, you can recycle your junk mail-sort thru your bills, and file any important papers.

My biggest help was to unsubscribe/cancel print editions of magazines. Many times you can visit a website, or receive digital magazines via email. This eliminates paper passing thru your home.

I have decided to break this project into 3 days. I will also be running the first part of my computer week series….

Tonight-we will keep it easy. We will just concentrate on what might be laying around your kitchen, living room, dining room and/or bedroom. This includes: magazines, newspapers, sale papers and any mail.

You will also need a box or paper bag to hold papers for recycling. If you have a paper shredder, thats even better.

First tackle any newspapers. This tends to be the quickest pile to go thru. I do not save newspapers unless its for something Historic. If you happen to have something you are saving for Historic purposes, please make sure to store it appropriately.

Any newspaper older than 2 days prior should be placed in the recycle pile. You should also read thru the more current papers as soon as possible, so you dont accumulate more lingering paperwork.

Next up is the magazines. I like to read my magazines during any down time I have. If you read before bedtime, you should place a basket of magazines near this area. Make sure that you go thru this collection once a week to ensure that magazines do not accumulate.

Throw any sale papers that are out of date into your recycle bin. Most sale papers are only good for the week they print.

You should have a pile of various assorted mail. Make sure that you make a decision about where each piece of mail will go. If its junk, then put it in the recycle bin-If its a bill, place it with all your bills-If its something to file, then file it–or make an “To File” file.

Homework: We will be making two piles: “Bills” and “To File”.
Collect all your bills and all the papers you need to file. I will be telling you how to keep organized with these lingerers tomorrow.