Not all people are organized, and some are more so than others. Life is busy, life is messy, and life is full of stuff. We all get overwhelmed sometimes, but there are a few things that organizers do that help keep things under control.
In this series, I'll share with you some insider secrets that really work. See if adding one or two of these "tricks" helps you!
A SYSTEM FOR PAPERWORK
One of the biggest complaints I hear from my clients is that they don't have an effective way to manage papers. Papers includes mail, bills, and any and all family paperwork.
You can have the newest filing bins, prettiest binders, and fanciest new labelling machine, but none of these things will work unless you have something that WORKS for you.
One of the MOST important steps that many people skip is identifying WHY their paperwork is a problem. It may be that they misplace their mail (they need a "home"), bills are often overdue (they need a payment system), or that they can't find receipts and important documents (they need a filing system). An organizer can help with all of that.
Here are a couple of ways we keep on top of both our budget and paperwork. In our home, my husband pays the bills and I file them. We have a ledger that we print out every month to help. It lists all our bills for that month and the estimated amount due. As bills are paid, my husband fills in the boxes with the appropriate information. This list sits in the "inbox" in our office, along with incoming bills (not yet paid), and at a glance, both of us can see what bills have been paid and which are still outstanding. Here is a sample template:
After each month, this list goes into a "To Be Filed" box. It has been helpful to us to keep these ledgers, as we use them to set future budgets. Bills that are paid, receipts, and any other papers that we want to save also go in that box. Every six months, I empty this box and file the paid bills in binders. We have a binder that holds every regular monthly bill in chronological order. We keep 18 months of records at a time, and shred anything else. We have never neglected to pay a bill, and have even caught mistakes in getting charged a bill, by using this system.
A lot of people find it more convenient to do everything online, including their banking. There are some great apps out there that help with that. Check out: Mint, YNAB, EveryDollar, PocketGuard, Clarity Money, Goodbudget, and Personal Capital. If you are someone who is consistently late in paying bills, or wants to go paper-free, these are some nice alternatives.
To control our children's paperwork, we also have a box in our office. We first make sure to label each paper with a name and date, be it artwork, a special note, or an accomplished piece of schoolwork, then simply put it in this box. Every six months, I go through this box as well, and sort items into a larger tub in our storage area, one for each child. It is a great way to hold on to special keepsakes without letting them get out of control.
Another way we keep important papers in line is with the standing file in our laundry room. I bought this piece at a garage sale for $10. (There are similar and inexpensive organizing systems ready to use at Hobby Lobby and Menard's that I've seen just this week). I brought it home, painted it, bought label holders, and then bolted it into the wall right behind the door to our garage. It is compact, uses space that serves no other function, and is on the way to the garage, so it is easy to access while walking out the door. Each child has a slot which contains their class lists, contact numbers, important school papers, and athletic schedules. We also keep a folder in a file for our pets, for neighborhood information, the recycling schedule, and also holds folders for the various committees on which we serve.
For more important papers, like passports, social security cards, and a copy of our wills, we have a very small compact file cabinet which we keep in the storage room. It contains items we rarely need, but are critical to keep. We also include vehicle titles, owner's manuals, and receipts for big ticket items.
I have a regular client whom I really adore. She struggles with a LOT of paperwork, in part because of her busy family, and also because of her job. We spent a lot of time during the "corral" process (when we take ALL paperwork and put it in a giant pile, and clear out the entire space where the papers will eventually "live."). talking about what has and has not worked for her in the past. I would give her an idea, then ask how realistic it would be for her to maintain. After exploring a few different options, together we began to implement a program that worked. Not every idea works for every person. Working with an organizer who is knowledgable about different organizing systems is an efficient way to get started. Additionally, it sometimes takes "trying out" a new system to see how realistic it is, which is also why it can be helpful to work with an organizer with whom you can do regular maintenance.
Keep in mind, although these strategies work well for our family, they may not work well for yours. If you are struggling to maintain your sanity in a sea of paperwork, please consider hiring NEST Home LLC. I offer personalized, effective services for people with all sorts of organizational challenges. Mention the word "PAPERWORK PROMO" when contacting me, and you'll receive a 20% discount off your first organizing session.
Make it a great week!