Managing the Paper Clutter

I pre-apologize for the longest post of all time. :)

I mentioned yesterday how 2014 is a year of taking my life back from the chaos and getting organized! I started really working towards and organized life in December {of all months….} and I’m really feeling the peace of a less chaotic lifestyle. The first and biggest thing I did was a major purge. I got rid of so much stuff. So much. Things we don’t use, no longer need, had duplicated of, were broken or useless….out the door. It was liberating letting go of so much house weight! We still have a ways to go in getting rid of junk, but the progress we’ve made feels so good! This is coming from a girl with hoarder like tendencies! ;)

One of the biggest challenges in my mission to simplify and organize has been getting the paper under control. The last 2 years have been crazy and I didn’t have a good system in place. I had stacks of paper waiting to be sorted through. This is a dangerous way to live! It’s so easy to miss important deadlines or lose important documents when you just chunk paper to the side until you “can get to it”. I feel like we’re finally in a good place when it comes to the paper monster and I want to share with you how we did it. 

Tips on how to tame and manage the paper beast. Very simple and will save you so much time in the long run! 1) Limit the paper that comes into your home. 

One of the very best things I’ve done in regards to the paper monster is attempting to limit what paper is even coming to our home. We used to get so much junk mail that either added to our huge stack unnecessarily or just got chunked. I spent a little bit of time opting out of certain mailing lists, catalogues, and the pre-screened credit card offers. You can always be added back to the lists later on down the line if you’d like – but there is no reason to receive mail you’re not interested in. Here are a couple of good sources for opting out : DMA Choice and Trusted ID.

Go paperless with your bills if that works well for you. We prefer to have hard copies sent of most of our bills. We just do better with that for some reason. The only bills we have gone paperless on are the reoccurring bills that are the same each month. 

2) Create a mail station and go through your mail every day as soon as you bring it into the house. Have one day a week to catch up on filing, shredding, and balancing the check book. 

Tips on how to tame and manage the paper beast. Very simple and will save you so much time in the long run!

This one has been huge. Instead of throwing the mail onto the counter and going through it later, it gets opened and sorted right then and there. I created a mail station on our counter to help keep everything in check. I bought this file organizer to keep track of paper that is in limbo. There are 4 file categories : “To-Do”, “To File”, “To Shred” and “To Mail”. This is also where I keep our budget binder, the check book, stamps, mailing labels, pens & pencils, and sticky notes. I also have a little box here for loose change or other small items that need to be put away. {As you can see, we’re still rocking the Christmas stamps!}.

Tips on how to tame and manage the paper beast. Very simple and will save you so much time in the long run!

Junk mail gets trashed, recycled or goes to the “To Shred” folder. When we get a new bill, we immediately write a check and put it in a stamped and addressed envelope. I put a sticky note on the envelope with the date the bill needs to go into the mail, and then this goes into our “To Mail” folder. I check the folder every morning before walking out the door. The bill statement goes into the budget binder behind that months tab, and the bill is noted in our payment tracker. I like to keep statements for a year in case I need them to compare. After a year they get shredded.

Tips on how to tame and manage the paper beast. Very simple and will save you so much time in the long run!

Tips on how to tame and manage the paper beast. Very simple and will save you so much time in the long run!

3) Have one “office day” a week. 

Pick one day of the week that will be your “office day”. This is your day to go through your mail center files. Transfer the contents of your “To File” folder into their appropriate files. Shred any sensitive documents that don’t need to be saved and take care of any action items in your “To-Do” folder. This is also the day I check on our bank account {although we do keep an eye on it daily}. Check off checks that have been cashed and make sure you’re in good shape on your budget for the next week. 

4) Create a successful filing system. 

It definitely took me some time, but I organized our files into an easy system that works for us. We’re very visual people, so our hanging files are color coded. Yellow is for anything financial, blue is for our home and auto records, red is for health records, and green is for anything that falls under the miscellaneous category.

I’m pretty specific and have a hanging file folder for pretty much everything. Occasionally I need to divide those files into subcategories and will use a normal file folder inside, but I try to avoid this since it becomes cluttered looking and hard to sort through. {i.e. having a separate file for each car instead of one file called “auto”}.

Very important documents like birth certificates, passports, etc are kept in an accordion file in a fireproof safe. 

Tips on how to tame and manage the paper beast. Very simple and will save you so much time in the long run!

 

5) Have a yearly clean out.

In January I take a little bit of time to go through our files and get rid of anything that is no longer necessary to keep. This keeps us from having to do a huge clean out years down the line. Here is a good source on how long to keep certain records. 

This shouldn’t take you long since you’ve been keeping up with your files throughout the year and only keeping what is necessary. It takes a while to get everything set up initially, but it will save you so much time in the long run! 

 

Hopefully this is more helpful than overwhelming! I know there are a lot of words happening here, but it really is a simple system. The biggest thing is just being proactive and taking care of things while they’re in your hand instead of waiting until you have a huge stack to sort through. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask away! :) I’ll have more info tomorrow on how I stay organized with the other day-to-day stuff {including my home management and budget binders}. 

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