Hello neighbors! And a very happy March to you! It’s my birthday in a few weeks, and every year at this time I focus on refreshing and reorganizing my important paperwork and making sure my budget and finances are in check. It is a great time for this task since it falls right around tax season.
Paperwork doesn’t have to feel like a beast. Once you have systems in place, it gets easier and easier to tame. So, let’s go!
To start, I highly recommend using an accounting software program. It helps with record keeping without the extra paperwork. Next, I highly recommend creating a household budget. This can change your life for the better. If you don’t know where your money is going, and don’t set limits, you will never feel truly settled in this area. After you create your budget, I recommend getting as many of your bills as possible on auto pay. After you get that taken care of, schedule a day each week when you can quickly reconcile everything. The combination of these tips will save you time and stress, and once everything is set, it’s a much easier way of life.
Next, get a weather-resistant file box and some folders. This will eventually house all documents you need access to, including your VIPs (very important papers). Don’t label anything yet, as you must first compete the next step: sorting.
I won’t lie to you. Sorting documents can feel a bit overwhelming, especially if you have neglected it up to this point. But once you get started, you will find sorting goes quicker than you expected. Start by collecting documents from throughout your home, including everything that may have found its way into bags, boxes, and drawers. Choose an area in your home to serve as your sorting station. It may take you some time, so be sure this space is comfortable and out of the way of your day-to-day life. You will also want to have a paper shredder, a garbage bag and a few paper bags available for recycling. A spare room or formal dining room works well. Schedule your sorting sessions so you can dedicate the time needed to make this process go smoothly. And be sure to have snacks, something to drink, and some music or a podcast ready to go.
When you are ready to start, just jump right on in! Start sorting based on category. Here are a few to start with:
Most important documents:
- Social security cards, birth certificates and passports
- Mortgage, rental and home ownership paperwork
- Health and life insurance, health records
- School documents
- Tax paperwork
- Kid’s school and artwork
- Family recipes
- Cards and letters
- Magazine or newspaper articles
Remember: you will need to reduce your paperwork by a pretty significant amount to have a successful, organized and sustainable system. While you are sorting, keep this in mind and only keep what you must. Some documents can become electronic. Children’s artwork can be made into a book through online services like ArtKive (kids love to thumb through their creations), and photos of recipes and articles can be uploaded to the cloud or to a photobook service. I created a recipe photo book for a client that ended up being handed down to her daughter. Her clutter became something that will be treasured for years to come.
Now you are ready to file. Label your folders and place all important documents in the file box I recommend above. Anything else you need to keep but doesn’t hold that “top spot” can be housed in a separate place, like a filing cabinet. Be sure to categorize and label everything! This will make it much easier to maintain and you will be able to easily find where things go.
Another way to ensure your system is built to last is to set a shallow basket or container on your counter. Every time paper comes into your home, only put it in this one place. It is great if you can sort it at that moment. If not, once the basket is full, take it with you as you watch your favorite TV show, sort it and then file. This will guarantee it never gets out of hand again. And that is an amazing feeling.
Inspired to organize your home? Find more of Johnna’s home organization tips in back-issues of Connections online from the past year.