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Many years ago I was left with the task of cleaning out my parents home of 55 years. It was stuffed from top to bottom with everything and anything you could imagine.
My father was an accountant and paper was his life. Back then, they didn’t have digital ways to keep track of paper; it was all done with paper and pen.
I remember vividly the day I was going to tackle his office. I knew I would be drowning in a sea of paper and files. How on earth would I manage to go through it all? What would be kept and what would I discard?
To my surprise, my father had many tax returns that belonged to other people. I don’t know if folks just never came and got their records or if they somehow got lost in the shuffle.
As I was going through them and calling their rightful owners, I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of paper that was inside this small office.
Eventually, I got through it all. I cleared over ten filing cabinets, several desk drawers and boxes upon boxes of paperwork.
It also taught me a valuable lesson about paperwork – keep it to a minimum and use the simplest of storage solutions.
Read: Straightforward Filing Strategies That Will Slay The Paper Dragon
Simple Paper Storage Solutions
When it comes to creating the perfect storage solution for your family, everyone will be different. Some of us like to file by categories while others alphabetically and others well, we can’t really figure out their system at all, but somehow it works. The information I’m sharing with you today is my system. The storage solutions that work for me and my family. Feel free to change it up any way you want so it works for you.
Invest in a good file cabinet. It doesn’t matter if it’s lateral or vertical, two drawers or four as long as you purchase one, preferably with a lock. You need to find a space in your home that is easily accessible to any member of the family that will need to use it (mom and dad, mom and mom, etc.).
It does no good to put the file cabinet in the attic, which is not easy to access, but rather somewhere that makes filing paperwork easy and straightforward. Find the best location in your home and keep it there.
My file cabinet is in my office where I spend most of my work day.
Read: Good Money Habit #4 – File Your Paperwork
Create An Estate Plan File At Home
I’ve had a will and trust since I got divorced 25 years ago. At the time, my daughter was a minor but since that time I’ve had my will revised several times to reflect the changes in our lives. For example, I added new provisions for my grandson after he was born.
In my home, I have a designated file cabinet with a dedicated file drawer which holds all my essential paperwork relating to my estate plan including my will, trust, durable power of attorney, health care proxy, and living will. All originals are on file with my attorney ensuring they are protected against fire, theft or flood.
In that cabinet, all my other legal and financial paperwork is there as well including checking accounts, insurance, 401 information, passwords, anything that Carrie would need to access in the event I fell seriously ill or died. Because it’s all organized and she knows where to find it, I’m saving her the trouble, hassle and time looking around for what she needs.
That’s a real gift you can give your loved one by creating a space where they can find what they need in the event of an emergency or the unexpected.
Read: What’s Stopping You From Creating A Will?
People who lack organization can really suffer in this area. What they’re left with is overdue bills, late fees and shut off notices.
Having a designated area in your home, like a home office to sort and pay bills, file and shred paperwork can be very helpful. But if you don’t have an area like that you can create a mini portable office.
Find a cute basket or other system and include all the essentials you’ll need like: a calculator, pens, markers, paperclips, envelopes, stamps, checkbook, register, return address labels, file folders, and a stapler.
Pick how many days a month you want to pay bills. Will it be once a month, twice or weekly? Decide and schedule it into your planner. Then commit to paying the bills on those days only.
Use a basket or the envelope system I created to help people just starting out and place all bills into the proper holder. After paying bills shred what needs to be destroyed and file the rest.
Read: How To Manage Your Bills So You’re Never Late Again
Here’s where you utilize that file cabinet mentioned earlier. Use one drawer for current paperwork and another drawer for archived items like old tax returns.
You’ll want to invest in a hanging file folder system and manila folders to break down categories. File paperwork every time you pay bills. Have a “to-be-filed” bin on your desk to keep track of your filing.
Repeat after me: ‘You can’t keep everything.’
As much as we would love to keep every single, solitary piece of artwork our children ever created, it’s impossible.
So what do you keep and what do you toss. I recommend waiting to make that decision until the end of the school year.
When my daughter was growing up, I kept a bin in her room. She would put all her graded school work and artwork into the bin and at the end of the school year we would go through it, and she would choose a few of her favorite pieces. The rest would go to the trash.
Of course notices, permission slips, and lunch menus would be dealt with immediately before being thrown out.
Using these strategies for simple but effective paper storage will have your home organized, neat and you’ll always know where the important documents are located!
What are you waiting for? Get your paper organized!