Paperwork can weigh us down, physically and mentally. It can discourage and distract us, keeping us from the important things in life – like having fun and spending time with friends and family! Here are my top 5 tips for filing:
Keep copies of the REALLY important paperwork off-site.
I can’t stress this enough. It’s really important to have copies of your passport, birth certificate, social security card, and wills. We are nothing without these. Keep a copy somewhere other than your home – maybe this is your mom’s, uncle’s, or very close friend’s house. If a disaster were to strike your home, the copies off-site can save you so much time and heartache. Also, the biggest mistake people make is keeping these items in a safety deposit box. If this is you, go get them out of there as soon as possible! If something were to happen to you, it can become a legal and emotional problem when other people need these documents to settle things after you’re gone. Help your loved ones by keeping the documents they would need in a place that would not require a court order for them to gain access.
You don’t need to keep it all.
I think we have a tendency to live in fear – fear that we’re going to need this later, fear that we’re going to miss something. We are fortunate enough to live in an age where the world is at our fingertips and we don’t need to keep every single piece of paper at them either. Here’s a list to get you started on shredding what you don’t really need:
- Credit card/bank/loan statements: If you are receiving these by mail instead of digitally, after you’ve reconciled them and confirmed that everything is in order – shred it. These documents are just for informational and security purposes. Only keep it if you find a discrepancy and need to dispute something with your credit card company.
- Pay Stubs: The point of these is just to inform you of how much you’ve made. Once you’ve made sure that it’s the correct amount, toss it! The only important one to keep is the last one of the year. Keep this to make sure it matches up with your W-2 reported earnings. After you’ve double checked it – shred it.
- Equipment Instruction Manuals: That booklet explaining your microwave or dishwasher – toss it. They take up so much space and I’m almost certain you haven’t looked at it once since you first installed your microwave. You don’t need them because you can find them online on the company website. Any kind of warranty or insurance on the equipment should be kept for as long as the warranty is valid.
- Used checkbooks: Do you have one of those checkbooks with a second carbon copy paper? You don’t need to keep the used checkbook once they’ve all been used. Any checks you’ve issued get scanned when deposited into the bank and records of them can be found on your bank statement, which you’ve already reconciled and tossed if it was correct.
Go as digital as possible.
One of the greatest things about technology is that we now have the ability to store so much with very little physical space required. External hard drives like this one are affordable, have a lot of memory (1 terabyte), and are portable. Scanning documents like receipts, lease contracts, medical records, and employment records allows you to keep them without taking up space, and you can easily find them when you need them (which is rarely) by searching on your computer.
- Extra tip: Make sure you have a consistent naming convention for digital files. For example: “Jiliane – Doctor Visit Summary – 031715” or “Apartment – Lease Contract – 031715” and “Apartment – Renters Insurance – 031715”
Color code and alphabetize.
For your physical filing system, color coding and alphabetizing can save you several minutes (and loads of frustration) when looking for a document. I’m all about being efficient so that I can have time for things that make me happy. This is one way to make sure you use your time wisely.
Keep it hidden.
I don’t know about you, but the mere sight of some things can change my mood. One of these is files. The stuff we keep in files are usually serious things that don’t make us too happy – like bills and wills. Keep your files out of sight, but still easily accessible so that when you need to get into “that zone”, you can. This may mean the filing cabinet that is already included in your desk, inside a chest or ottoman like the picture above, or in your plastic file bin inside your closet. Keeping them out of plain sight can only benefit you, mentally and emotionally!
Don’t let filing get you down! Life is too short! If you get frustrated or overwhelmed any time you try to tackle your paperwork, find a professional organizer near you to help you tackle it. I hope you found these 5 tips helpful. Which one is your favorite? Do you have any tips for filing? Share it in the comments below!