Do you feel disorganized at home, with stacks of bills and financial records cluttering your space? Does paperwork build up faster than you can purge it? Conquering paper clutter can be intimidating, but several proven approaches make the job easier.
Your paper overload did not set-in overnight, it took a while to accumulate all those documents and owners’ manuals. Thankfully, you can have an immediate impact on domestic disorder by purging items you simply don’t need. Just as you delete useless files from your computer, it is important to recognize paper goods that aren’t doing anything but getting in your way.
Birth certificates, marriage licenses, and original mortgage papers are clearly not targets for destruction. In fact, they should be kept forever. But what about bank statements, credit-card records, and the copies of your insurance policies that arrive in the mail each year? These are revolving documents that become worthless once the new versions replace them – keep the latest copies and ditch the rest.
Owners’ manuals kept “just in case” often reflect household goods you no longer own. Unless the parts- list for your 1987 coffee-maker is good reading to you, there is no reason to keep it around. Working through your backlog of paperwork is like a trip down memory lane, but it also sets you up for a clutter-free future.
Set the Stage for Success
Staying organized is not such a daunting task once you’ve cleared the path of useless paper clutter. The key is establishing a system that helps you manage the flow of household documents. Customize your own approach, taking cues from office environments, which excel at paper-handling.
Some type of home filing system is essential, so each piece of incoming paper has a designated landing zone. Whether it is a desktop in/out box, or a full-sized filing cabinet, use it to its fullest advantage. Color-coding file folders, for example, is a great way to access your documents quickly. And when you drop your bank statement into its designated spot, don’t forget to pull-out last month’s copy for the recycling bin.
Frequently accessed folders should be kept close at hand, but important documents you hardly ever look at might be tucked away in less conspicuous places. How about removing them from your home entirely, and stashing them in your safe deposit box? Now you are talking.
Stay on Top of It
You’ve purged the mother lode and established some guidelines, so all that’s left is to remain true to your ambition. Avoid future paper clutter by staying ahead of the flow. Deal with bills as they come in, rather than letting them pile-up. Scan documents, or save pictures of them to have ready-access without the paper copies. Buy a paper-shredder to dispose of sensitive documents. And to keep yourself honest, designate a specific time each week for shredding.
Whenever possible, take paper out of the equation entirely. Go paperless at your bank, and request online notifications from your broker and insurance agent. And if you have problems with paper clutter generated within your home, use a dry erase board to eliminate sticky notes and to-do list clutter.
Don’t be afraid to dive-in. With a little planning and diligence, household paper clutter can be managed efficiently, while still giving you easy access to the documents you need.
photo credit: Kris Krug