With tax season here far too many people are currently in a little bit of a panic, because they can’t quite lay their hands on all the paperwork they need to get their finances in order to the point where they can feel comfortable about sending off their annual reporting to Uncle Sam. And no doubt many of them – perhaps you included – are swearing that they will never let this happen again, that from now on their paperwork will be organized.
That is, of course, a fantastic idea. But also one that is easier said than done to achieve. Devising an efficient, yet still relatively simple, way of organizing all the paper in your life isn’t easy. But if you can achieve it you’ll be surprised by what a huge, positive impact it can have on your day to day life. Here are some basic tips to help you get started:
Start Simply, Use Color
The filing system you devise should be as simple as possible. The more complicated you make it, the less likely you are to use it. Many people opt for the old A-Z method, others find it easier to group paperwork by types – mortgage, car, utility bills etc. – and some even prefer to group things by family member. None of these methods could be said to be the one ‘right’ way to do things, and you should pick the one that works best for you.
When it comes to actually purchasing files I suggest you go for color. Not only will this make it easier to zero in on your various categories but it will look a lot nicer as well!
Invest in a Filing Cabinet
You will, of course, need a filing cabinet of some kind. However, many of the options you will find an an office supply store are far from attractive (unless battle gray steel is your thing). The good news is that there are some far nicer options out there that don’t cost a fortune. Check out some of the great options available on Amazon here.
Before You Get to the Filing Cabinet
Paper clutter and disorganization begins long before any of your documents get to your filing system. It begins when you pick up the mail and, lacking time, you dump it all on kitchen table to read later. And never quite get around to it.
That’s why it’s a good idea to set up a system of baskets or trays to organize all of your incoming paperwork right away. Here’s a method to try that works very well and isn’t hard – or expensive – to set up:
A To Do basket: The wire see-through kind works best.
A To Pay basket: Again, wire will work very well.
A To File basket: Use a larger wicker or fabric basket.
A To Read basket: Try an even larger wicker basket with handles.
To make use of these I suggest that you keep the to do and to pay baskets in a prominent place – a desk or perhaps hallway table – while keeping the to file basket next to the filing cabinet until you have a chance to put everything away, which I suggest doing once a week. The to read basket could be placed someplace where you are likely to make use of it in your downtime, in your living room or bedroom perhaps.
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