Conquer Your Paperwork

Guest post by Coutney Seaman.

With so many electronic tools out there, why do we still have so much paper clutter in our homes? Paper clutter isn’t just for pack rats anymore. I bet you have days where you need to find certain paperwork and can’t. Our lives are busy and things don’t always get put where they belong. Maybe you’re like me and have kids who like to color on every paper in sight? I’ll help you get that paper clutter organized and keep important documents from being ruined. What would you think if I told you that you can dig yourself out from all that paper clutter in just one afternoon? You can!!! First you need to hunt and gather your paperwork. Paper has a tendency to scatter, so be sure to look all around the house, the car, your purse, your mailbox, etc. Next, you will need to sort the paper into these piles: junk mail, magazines, lists, bills, and personal correspondence. Do not worry about opening your mail right now. There will be time for that later. Build your momentum by just sorting it right now. After sorting your paperwork, recycle your junk mail without even opening it! If it is addressed to you “or current resident” then it qualifies as junk mail. Any company that can’t take the time to write you personally isn’t worth yours. For your magazine pile, invest in a nice magazine rack or pretty basket. Replace the old magazine with the new monthly issue. If there are articles in the past issues that you think you may read again, tear them out and file them in a folder for pleasure reading either before bed or while in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. This is also a great place to keep those Internet articles that you’ve printed out to read.

As for receipts, ask yourself three questions about each receipt and take action accordingly. Is this purchase something I might return? If so, check the date to make sure the return expiration hasn’t passed. Clip that receipt to your errand day to-do list, or put it in an envelope clearly marked with the “do date” to take with you. Is this purchase potentially tax-deductible? If it’s a grocery or gas receipt, you’re probably not going to be able to exchange or return your purchase. But don’t toss that receipt just yet! Some purchases might be completely or partially tax deductible, such as gas or food bought on a business trip. Any receipts for purchases that might be tax deductible should go in your tax file for the month. Is there any sensitive information on this receipt? Shredding and recycling all receipts that contain your name, partial credit card number, and signature are smart moves to prevent identity theft. Though some of your lists may look like junk, but before you go throwing them away only to make a new list later, try this. Gather all the shopping lists, reminders (think: sticky notes), and reminders on chalkboards or wipe off boards from around the house. Make two lists: one master to-do list for the week and one shopping list to go with it. Schedule in any errands and shopping you’re prepared to handle on your personal agenda. Delegate any that you don’t have time for to other members of the household, and duly note this on the household calendar. Purchase a bright red folder for your current bills and put that folder in the area where you do your weekly accounting. Once bills are paid, you need only keep them until the payment shows up on the next one — unless you’re claiming a partial tax deduction for it. In that case, the bill should be filed with the rest of your monthly tax data for the period it covered. Don’t keep your bills indefinitely; you only need to keep financial records for seven years. Now is the time you get to sit back, prop your feet up, and enjoy any cards, letters, and fan mail you’ve received from people or organizations that know you personally. You may appreciate a postcard or note so much that you really want to keep it for a while — and that’s fine as long as (you guessed it…) you already have a specific space in mind for it. By now you’ve probably cleared off a bulletin board or shelf where you can display a very special greeting card. See how organized you are already?! If you thought that was easy enough, subscribe to homemakerhero.com so that you don’t miss the “get organized” launch this March! See you there! Guest post by Courtney Seaman of homemakerhero.com. In preparation for your spring cleaning, she will be doing a “get organized” series at her site. Photos & Products: Crate and Barrel

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