The following is a guest post about paper organization from regular contributor, Morgan from Morganize with Me.
I often wonder why I still have so much paper lying around! I find myself shuffling school papers, monthly bills, receipts, letters, you name it, even though I’ve tried to go digital wherever possible. And, what’s made me further realize how much of a struggle this is, and not only for myself, is seeing many of my clients struggle with their own paper piles.
Processing, organizing, and filing paper is something we all still have to deal with in some form or another. And, it can be confusing and overwhelming to know which statements, receipts, documents, and/or bills you need to keep (file / save) or toss (recycle / shred).
As I’ve worked to streamline our personal finances and also helped my clients to get their paperwork and files organized, I’ve come up with some general tips and a checklist. (You can get a copy of your own PDF Organizing Paper checklist below.) This guide will help you in knowing what you should keep and what you should toss.
Step One: Create a System
Where does your mail go when you get home? Where do you put things that need to be recycled, shredded, or filed? Where do you put outgoing mail and/or packages? Where do your bills go that are pending payment? Where do you put receipts that you need to verify against your bank statement?
Setting up a command center or a communication station, whatever you want to call it, is a great first step. When you know where to put things and when you have a way to process things, you’ll be setting up a successful paper organization system.
Step Two: Commit to Keeping or Tossing
Most papers can be divided into four categories: one month, three years, seven years, and forever.
Please note: this information has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal, or accounting advice.
- Keep for One Month: deposit/ATM slips, receipts (non-deductible items), and reconciled bank statements.
- Keep for Three Years: mortgage statements, paycheck stubs, expired insurance records, banking (checking/savings) ledgers.
- Keep for Seven Years: state/federal tax returns, annual mortgage interest statements, charitable contributions, banking (checking/savings) ledgers.
- Keep Forever: automobile titles, contracts, mortgages/property agreements, passports, birth certificates, marriage/divorce papers, active insurance policies, receipts from major purchases (for insurance purposes) wills, educational records, medical records, pension/retirement plans, investment statements.
Step Three: Choose a “Paper” Day
On a weekly or a bi-weekly basis, make it a habit to address your paper piles, or what are hopefully now your organized piles!
If you commit to going through your papers: paying your bills, filing things away, and even shredding things, on a regular schedule, your paper piles will remain manageable. Tidy files equal tidy finances!
Try taking these three steps to help you with your paper organization. Make it a goal to tidy both your files and your finances. And, whenever possible opt for digital paper options as this will automatically make your paper piles shrink.
Morgan is the energetic and motivated, but also realistic girl, behind Morganize with Me. She is a chaos-calmer, list-lover, and exercise-enthusiast! Her mission is to share tried and true techniques that she hopes will encourage her readers and clients as they focus on their health and homes. Join one of her Challenges and be sure to check out her Shop full of fabulous organizing printables!