Feeling inundated by the high volume of paper that enters your home each week? If you are like most of us, especially if you have school-aged children, it's possible that your kitchen island, office desk or dining room table might be overrun or entirely lost under heaps of bills, homework and flyers. Keeping track of due dates and reminders is nearly impossible unless you implement a better system to manage your paper clutter.
Complex filing or super beautiful solutions can often end up being disregarded because there are too many steps involved in keeping up with the process. We suggest a simple and easy to use filing system that can be staged on an unused corner of the kitchen counter or in another easily accessible location within your home.
First you will need to purchase (or find within your own stash) a basic, smaller-scale file box or basket. Grab a handful of hanging file folders and labels. Label the folders as follows:
You can get creative and add other folders if there are additional categories of paper that are specific to your family or lifestyle but remember that less is best when implementing a system that will be used consistently over time.
Once established, practice this maintenance routine each week to keep your filing system fresh and tidy:
- Review other documents in the ‘This Week’ folder to pull and throw away anything that is no longer relevant.
- Review the documents in the 'Next Week +' folder and transfer any bills or documents to the 'This Week'
folder if they need to be addressed in the coming week.
2. Once a month, review the contents of the 'To File' folder and transfer the documents that are still considered critical
to your more permanent filing system. Throw away any documents that are no longer considered critical for filing.
3. Once annually, remove all documents from the ‘Taxes’ folder and use them to prepare your tax filings. Once
prepared, transfer these documents to your permanent filing system for safe keeping. In most cases, the IRS
suggests that you keep records relating to previous tax returns for 3 years after the date of filing.
Developing this simple system will take about 20 minutes of your time, but save you a lifetime of stress, confusion and missed obligations if followed correctly.