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Paper in all its forms slips into your house and seems to nest and breed there.
Surely the filing pile wasn’t this high yesterday? Why did our refinance produce so many documents? Do we have to keep them all?
To Tame Your Paperwork Mess, You Have To Be Ruthless!
I’ve been an admin in the last three jobs I’ve held. The work involved different skill sets but many of the job requirements and duties were the same. Primary among them was filing.
And because of the need to be professional and organized, it meant that the filing was literally constant. If I pulled a file to work on it, it went back to the file drawer the minute I was done with it.
Not to the side of my desk so I could file several folders at once. Touch it, return it was the mantra to a well-organized office.
Unfortunately, those concepts did not translate 100% to my home life. Some, for sure. My computer is super organized. Everything created goes into its category file and I have ongoing back up 4 different ways (cloud, Time Machine, and 2 external drives.).
When it comes to physical paper and filing, though … well, let’s just say that I’ve been known to bag and hide my tower of unfiled bills and documents and hide them under my desk.
The Kondo Challenge came just in time to save me from any more embarrassment!
Ready to do battle? Gather your paperwork mess in one place.
I have two small file boxes that hold our household files. One is exclusively family history (birth certificates, etc.) files and rarely gets touched so that one could be left alone.
The second file box holds our paid bills (for taxes) and other documents that have to be saved.
That black & white bin in the foreground is holding all the accumulated files from doing 3 refinances in the space of one year!
By the way, Marie Kondo advocates getting rid of virtually all papers. I suspect that Japan has a different tax system than we do in the States because I keep any receipts associated with taxes for 7 years.
As you can see, my dog Bear is determined to help out!
Deal with each category of paperwork separately
With papers, it’s too easy to have things drifting from one category into another. You need clarity on what you’re handling to know what to keep and what to discard.
I tackled the mortgage paperwork first for the simple reason that it was already contained. Envelopes went into a discard pile and all the unneeded documents went into another. With separate mortgage transactions, what was needed was dated proof of the last deed transfer and the signed documents for that transaction. Everything that came before that final close date was irrelevant.
In the photo to the right, the pile on the floor to the left is just file folders and shipping envelopes. On the right are all the mortgage documents I knew I could get rid of. And the single file on top of the glass coffee table is all that I needed to keep and file.
My business files came next.
I keep the usual receipts and legal communications as any other business, but I also frequently print out interesting articles that inspire me, blogging information, technical articles and a variety of other blogging-related things.
The problem is that I had gotten into the habit of printing and putting away these things immediately. You can guess the outcome.
Even though filing things immediately sounds like a smart idea, with these things out of sight also means out of mind. I found dozens of articles that no longer were relevant or training that I’d already surpassed.
It’s not enough to get rid of your paperwork mess, you also have to devise a system to keep from having the same thing happen over and over.
After going through every single document, I was left with a handful of thin files to put back in my desk drawer. And the still-useful articles? Those are residing on my desk in a brightly colored folder labeled 15 Minute Reads. When I take a break from work, I’ll grab an article and my action notebook and read it over a cup of coffee. If the information is useful, I note it and schedule implementing it. Useful or not, once the article is read, it’s tossed.
The last thing to be handled was paid bills and paycheck stubs.
I pull all the bills from the previous year out of the filing cabinet once our taxes are done, so all I really have to do it keep putting things where they belong.
Now that our paperwork is actually in order, it’s time to move on to another kind of paperwork mess.
Digital paperwork mess is becoming as big of a problem as actual paper!
I’ve had a big problem with online organization in the past so when I discovered this method, it was literally like finding a unicorn!
My desktop is set up with categories that are designed for my business and home use. I just created the broad categories I need and then try to have a folder for each frequent task. Sometimes, I’ll have folders inside of folders. A “September fills paid” PDF would be filed in a folder labeled “2017 Bills”. I might then put the “2017 Bills” folder in another folder named “2017 Financials”, along with correspondence from your accountant or tax person, important receipts, etc.
Is this not cool?
You can create this screensaver for free and totally customize it to fit YOUR needs. Use a picture of your kids, or of you and your husband on your last vacation, your favorite cityscape. It’s all up to you.
Here’s a video I put together to show you how it’s done.
Once you’ve created your organized screensaver in a way that makes it easy to keep your digital data organized, it’s a matter of just using it. Drop files into the proper folder at the end of the day and back up your computer. It will make a huge difference!
In the video, I mentioned using free image websites to get photos for your screensavers. My favorites are Pexels.com and Pixabay.com. They have great high-quality photos and if you are using them for your screensaver (and not to sell or in any kind of business), you don’t have to worry about copyright. Don’t forget that you can also use your own personal photos. How neat would it be to use vacation or family photos that you could see every day? Use several and have your screensaver program rotate them!
Decluttering categories throughout the house using the Kondo Method is gratifying in seeing the beauty of your home emerge. But I think that decluttering the paperwork mess in your life gives you something different. Rather than worry about finding a lost bill or document, you now know exactly where it is and can find it easily. It’s great not to have to beat yourself up for sloppy files. It’s not your fault! The sheer accumulation of things that come to our door makes it difficult to keep things streamlined.
Now that all your existing paperwork is decluttered and organized, you need to give each incoming piece of paper (real or digital) a moment to decide if it needs to be dealt with, filed, or go straight to the trash.
Ready to get it done? Take the Kondo Challenge and post your Before and After on the Facebook page.
Be sure to read the other Kondo Challenge posts!
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