Monday, October 26, 2009

Organizing by Creating an Easy-To-Use Filing System

Not too long ago, my preferred method of organizing my  filing was to create multiple stacks of things.  I had stacks on the kitchen counter, the dining room table, the computer desk, coffee table, you name it. And the stacks were not defined by category; they were equal opportunity stacks, which might include bills, receipts, sale flyers, credit card offers, and pretty much anything else made of paper. Worst of all, when anyone came to visit, I would cram the piles into grocery bags and stash them in my bedroom. Needless to say, tax time was a nightmare, so I finally created a personal system for me that might work for you if nothing else has
 First comes the fun part: shopping for supplies. Look for two file boxes with handles so you can carry them around. My theory is that if I like the boxes and the colorful folders within them, maybe I'll actually use them. The closest I had gotten to actually organizing and filing my stacks was to write "file" or "paid" on the envelopes the bills came in!

You will use one box for papers that you will be keeping forever, or at least for more than just tax purposes. This would include warranties, insurance policies, medical information, etc. Don't try to think of all the categories you'll need. Just create a new folder when you come across something that needs its own category.

The other box is for paid bills, bank statements, deductible receipts, and anything else you'll need to get your hands on at tax time. Do not try to decide under which category to file every piece of financial paper you touch all year long! If you're like me, you will decide you don't have time to do that right now so you will stack it some place to deal with it later. Just divide your box into twelve monthly files and file things by the month in which they occurred or were paid. Believe me, it will take less than an hour to pull out and sort these neatly organized documents in April. Yes, people who use this system will be doing our taxes in April because we are relentless procrastinators!

The real key to this filing system is to put the boxes where you will be anyway. If you have to actually pick up the paper to be filed and trudge to another part of the house with the sole purpose of filing that paper, you won't do it! I keep the boxes right next to my favorite reading chair.

And this is why it is important that the boxes have handles: when company comes over you can pick up your neatly organized files and temporarily store them in your closet! No more trying to remember where you stashed that grocery bag with that rebate offer. Another advantage for people who live in a hurricane zone like I did is that you just pack up your boxes and go rather than wasting valuable time looking for insurance policies, etc.

In summary, the keys to organizing your home filing system are:
  • Make it accessible .(in the area where you sort your mail)
  • Make it portable.
  • Make it easy and enjoyable to use.
One last tip:  don't be tempted to organize by simply stacking your papers on top of your cute new boxes!

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