If I were asked which area my clients find the most daunting, I would definitely say the home office area is at the top of the list. Whether there is a designated room, or a corner in the kitchen, the area where paper clutter accumulates often causes stress. As we are in the midst of tax time, this problem area becomes more evident. Paper accumulates quite rapidly, it is easy to stash, and there can be great apprehension to toss.
Like everything else, you need to come up with a system. Try to toss immediately what you don’t need, and sort and file the important papers. Don’t allow the clutter to build up. This is step #1.
Prior to our home fire, I literally hoarded all types of papers. I kept all paid bills, used duplicate style checkbooks, receipts, magazines, years of pay stubs, and piles of insurance papers (medical, house, and car). I kept everything because I really did not have a clue what I needed to keep and for how long. In addition to not knowing what to keep, I also had an ineffective filing system. If I needed to find something, it was nearly impossible because it was buried in a pile of clutter. After the fire I realized 99% of what I had kept was really not necessary.
Before you can start, you need to purchase (if you don’t already have) a few items including 2 filing containers, hanging file folders (at least 20), small container or basket for unpaid bills, and a paper shredder. The first container needed is some kind of filing drawer, if you don’t have a filing cabinet. These filing containers are rather inexpensive at office supply stores. Second, you need an easily transportable small filing folio that you can quickly grab in case of an emergency. You should instruct your family members on the location of this smaller filing folio, as this will contain the most important of your papers. Suze Orman created an amazing Portfolio that I would definitely recommend. Not only is the portfolio a perfect filing folio for the most important papers, but it also includes much more: http://www.suzeorman.com/igsbase/igstemplate.cfm?SRC=MD002a&SRCN=catalogdetail&ProductID=21&StartRow=1&GnavID=10&SnavID=48&TnavID
Throughout the month of February we are going to work on creating a paper system that works for you. For this first week, I would like to challenge you to simply toss out the paper clutter that you KNOW you don’t need. In addition, purchase the items I mentioned above if you do not already have them in your home. Don’t forget to shred anything that has your personal information. While doing this quick sort I want you to collect all the unpaid bills. Open these immediately and toss out the junk filler and place the bill and return envelope into the bill basket/bin.
Next week we are going to create the files and I will tell you what papers you need to keep and for how long.