(This story was originally published on coloradohomesmag.com)
Today we are going to get your papers in order. What does that include? Every single piece of paper you can find laying around the house, from receipts, manuals, warranties, bills, documents and cards. If it’s paper, we are getting it done today.
To start, take some time to go through your house and collect all the paper you can find. Make sure to check drawers, cabinets and storage. Once you have collected it all, find a comfortable place to sit, preferably a table or desk, and start separating them in smaller piles. For those that work from home on a regular basis, separate your work documents from your personal documents while you are sorting them.
Papers that require action (bills, forms, invitations)
Important documents (birth certificate, wedding certificate, tax paperwork)
Miscellaneous (kids artwork, manuals, tickets)
Feel free to create as many subcategories as you’d like, whatever makes this process easier for you. Once you create smaller piles start going through them and selecting what you want to keep. If possible, I suggest doing this step with a scanner and computer. If you want to keep something but don’t necessarily want the physical item, scanning that paper and organizing the files on your computer is a great way to reduce the physical clutter. I suggest scanning everything you want to keep, even if you are keeping the physical copy as well. In the case of an emergency, you will always have the digital files.
Note: if you choose to scan documents, make sure you create a filing system that is simple and easy to use. I like to name my files YEAR_ITEM_NAME_DESCRIPTION ex: 2019_Card_Fernanda_Christmas
If you are not sure what papers to keep, ask yourself the following questions:
Is it an important document?
Can I get away with a digital copy?
Does it have sentimental value?
Does it bring me joy?
Shred before recycling
Be very careful when discarding documents like tax returns, forms or similar files. Make sure you know the rules and regulations of your state before discarding them. If you feel confident you don’t need a certain document and it contains personal information, don’t just throw them in the recycling bin. Anything that has personal information needs to be shredded, and then recycled.
You might find it difficult to find joy in paper, and for some of you the amount of paper you will have to sort through will be overwhelming, but it is important to look beyond the paper and find joy in the process. If you are struggling to get through this step, think about how you will feel once it’s done. Knowing where all your documents are and having everything in your computer as backup will give you great peace of mind.
Once you are done sorting and scanning everything, it’s time to store what you chose to keep. Make sure your storage solution is easily accessible in case of an emergency. You can use boxes, filing cabinets, hanging folders, whatever works for you. To prevent the creation of new clutter, designate a box for all incoming paper and go through it weekly.
Note: for kids artwork, use the one in, one out method.
This category is a challenging one, and can take a long time to get it done. So don’t worry if you get off track with the series, I will be here when you are ready to move on to the next category.