Do you have a ton of paper staring at you in your office or on your kitchen counter? Most of the time this is a big complaint.
Are some of those papers your monthly bills?
Many of us have files we’ve labeled “Telephone”, “Utilities”, “Water/Garbage”, “Cell Phone”, “Credit Cars”… Sound familiar? We’ve set up these folders because that’s how our parents used to do it. So when we moved out of their home we did the same thing. Only, we hate to file them. Do you really need to keep those bills?
Probably not. While what I am going to say may make you feel a bit queasy or uncomfortable, I say it to help you eliminate the paper monster in your life. No, I am not recommending that everyone go paperless, don’t worry. I am recommending, however, that you embrace technology. Create passwords to your utilities, phone, and credit card accounts so you can access your information online at any time. Get comfortable with their websites so you begin to use this valuable resource. You can look up past bills, see recent statements at the touch of a button. If you are reading this blog then you have access to the internet so use it and eliminate the need to keep all those paper bills.
It’s okay if you still want to get your paper statement (or you can request that they be sent to your email in box). The point here is that you don’t need to file or keep those bills. After you pay a bill, shred it. The information is still there online anytime you need it.
So get comfortable and let go (if you haven’t already) – I double dare ya!
I recommend revamping your paper filing system, when you have time. Although this is not a high priority activity, revamping your file systems will help you save time in the long run. Here are a few reasons why you may have been avoiding this:
The drawer is jam packed with paper files and there’s no room.
Once filed, you are not sure you can find it again.
You don’t know what to name the file.
The file cabinet itself is ancient and the drawers do not operate properly.
The first two bulleted points above are usually due to not purging your information on a regular basis. At least once a year or every six months, it is a good idea to go through your file drawers and eliminate those paper files that you have not used in the past 12 months. The exception to this would be any files that contain tax or legal information. There are rules for how long to retain that documentation. Ask your CPA or go to www.irs.gov for suggested guidelines. Once you get in the habit and purge on a regular basis, the time it takes to get through your files will shortened considerably.
While some files may need to be kept, some of the information it holds can be purged or updated. For example, you do not need to keep all the prospectuses for your investment portfolio, or at work, there may be updated forms that replace some that you have in your file drawers.
As we add files to our file cabinet we oftentimes complicate the system by micromanaging the data. Think in terms of broad categories. In other words, keep it simple. The fewer the categories, the more success you will have in retrieving your information. When making the decision where to file papers, put like with like. Each piece of paper does not need its own file.
Lastly, if you file cabinet does not function properly then you are less likely to use it. If your file drawers stick or do not close well, consider purchasing a new file cabinet. Your time is certainly worth more than the cost of aggravation over some square box that holds your papers! Use hanging file folders whenever possible. They are a big help in moving files forward and backward to access the information therein. They also are a replacement, not in addition to, manila files.
It may be the case that you shouldn’t use files at all. You have them but never file things in them. There is more than one way to manage the paper information you wish to keep. Here’s an article with more about the variety of ways to file.
It’s important to back up the data and photos you have on your computer. We all have so much data on our home computers today, especially if you have started scanning paperwork. One of the ways to back up your data is in “the cloud”. Many of my clients are not sure what ‘the Cloud’ is and if it’s a secure place to store their data.
This is a short and simple explanation of backing up to the cloud from The Today Show:
Having back up is part of maintaining the organization of your photos, paperwork and documents. Create your back up plan and start to implement it today. We all hate to lose our data because there is never a good time to lose data! Do you use other cloud services? I’d love to hear about them.
I have found product manuals in the weirdest places when helping my clients. Places like the cabinet under the bathroom sink, mixed in with a stack of recipes, and crumpled in the back of a kitchen drawer. It just goes to show you how frequently we even access this information, right? What if you needed to find a manual right now? Today’s post is about organizing manuals, instruction booklets, and warranties. I know it’s not a top priority on your organizing to-do list, but when you are ready to tackle this project, just come on back to my blog. (There’s always the handy dandy search bar to help you find these posts.)
1. Gather and purge
As you gather your manuals and such, you will likely find many for items you don’t own any longer. Throw those away now. Don’t even waste your time trying to remember who you gave the toaster to so you can give them the booklet…most hand-me-downs don’t come with instructions anyway!
As I mentioned before, we typically do not need to refer to these manuals and warranties after the first time we look at them. They are reference materials. As such, they do not need to take up precious space in your home. Mine are located in an old file drawer we have in the garage. The point is not to have them taking up the space you have for more important things.
3. Containerize and Label
Get hanging file folders and label one for each room in your home. You will probably need 3 more files – Tools, Lawn/Garden, and Laundry. Having a file for each room in the house helps separate the multiples you may own. Take TV’s for example, you may have several TV’s and if you put the right manual in the correct room file, you won’t have to know the make and model when you go searching for it. For example, if you need to look up something about the TV in the family room, you only have to look in the Family Room file.
The easiest way to remember to maintain your manuals is to purge every time you go in the file, whether you are looking something up or adding a new manual to it.
This is an easy project, once you have collected all those manuals, instruction books and warranties. It should take you about an hour to label and file. Now that we’ve talked about how to organize the manuals, instruction booklets, and warranties this brings me to another “soap box” moment.
Are you keeping all those empty boxes that once held the iPad, computer, printer, TV??
Leave me a comment and tellme what you think I would have to say about that!
Last week I discovered a new product that is great for those who have a tendency to pile things. Pilers, you know who you are… if not, I described the 3 types of personalities when it comes to dealing with paper in a blog post. I interviewed the creator of Fishbinz, Lisa DeVeau, of Completely Organized. She confessed that she struggled with piling and had to find a better way. (Necessity is the mother of this invention!) I believe this product is the perfect solution for those who like to stack their papers and projects sky-high!
I haven’t done a Tool Tuesday feature in a while, so here ya go! I helped a client in her home office last week and introduced this product to her. She is a local realtor and although she had been in business for years, she felt that she needed to get “re-booted” in her office. She felt it was cluttered, the work process didn’t flow, and her files were a mess (her words, not mine).
While we worked together for a couple of days on all aspects of her office environment, I want to tell you about the tool we used to revamp her filing system. Based on my clients existing files, personality, and needs I recommended the FreedomFiler®.
FreedomFiler® is best known for being a self-purging file system. This system goes a long way in keeping your files organized and is very user friendly. It uses color coding to categorize odd year versus even year files as well as separating your active and yearly files from your permanent, or archive, files.
The system contains 200+ pre-printed file tab labels with a total of over 400 customizable file tab labels included. There are easy-to-follow instructions and 5 great indexed cards to keep your system on track. You also have the option to purchase other accessories if you need them. This system works for home and work files.
Here are a few reasons why I find this product to be so helpful to certain clients:
easily integrates into your existing file system
streamlines the look of your files, making things easier to read
the even/odd year file sets make getting ready for tax time a breeze
gives you guidelines for when papers should be purged
eliminates the need to make new files each year
FreedomFiler® is a great system and so easy to use. I am an affiliate for FreedomFiler and would be happy to answer any questions you may have. Contact me via the Contact tab or leave a comment here.
When you hear the word “file”, what do you think of? What image pops in your head?
There is actually more than one way to file your papers. The traditional method of file folders and file drawers is only one option. You don’t have to file the way your mother did. Choose what works for you! Here are just two other options:
1. PileSmart® – a Pendaflex® product
Remember the Pilot from my other blog post, Three Personality Types of Paper Mania? Well this is the product for that person. The PileSmart® Organizer features a clear lucite tray that is open on two side. There are 6 plastic dividers, with end and side tabs that are easily seen as you stack things vertically. The dividers are very sturdy so you can lift up a stack by the divider tab and retrieve papers when needed. In addition to allowing you to color code your stacks, the labels on each divider are durable and are “write-and erase”, which means you can use re-use them after a stack is purged. Nifty product, huh? You can get it online at Amazon.
Yes, binders! They are not just for school anymore… You can use binders with dividers to keep categories of paperwork manageable. Don’t relish the thought of hole punching and/or pinched finger accidents? That’s okay; use plastic pockets in the binders. This will enable you to quickly “file” your papers away. Binders can be stored on shelves, in file drawers, or archived in boxes. You can also color code your binder, if that’s what you like to do or purchase colors that match your office décor, looking sleek and orderly on a bookcase or credenza.
These are just two options for filing the papers you keep. Would love to hear how you manage your papers, please leave a comment.