Friday, August 26, 2011

NEST: Filing.

I despise junk mail. I can't stand sorting through old paperwork. But, we have a little bit of a filing situation happening in our basement. And, a little bit in our mail basket. Sometimes I avoid going down to my husband's work area in the basement just because I don't want to look at our filing crates. Yes, it's plural. We have two large crates full of paperwork. We just keep stuffing papers into them. As I said, it's a little bit of a problem.

I decided to nip it in the bud, though. If you have a similar problem, perhaps we can work through it together. Rather than continuing to add to the mayhem, I chose to address the present flow of paperwork first, before delving into our crates. I'm developing a new system. This system is partly based on what I've read so far in Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider. She recommends creating a household management notebook, which I am using to help get this mess under control.
Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living

New System (step by step)
1. Remove our names from credit card offer mailing lists. You can quickly and easily opt-out by following this link.
2. Sign up for e-statements whenever possible. Everything from bank statements to credit card bills to coupons can be received via email. And, it is actually more secure (and eco-friendly) to pay bills electronically.
3. All current receipts go into a plastic pocket in my household management binder. At the end of the month, only the most important receipts will be kept (large purchases, electronics, plants).
4. Mail is checked and sorted daily--mail that needs attention goes into the binder, mail that needs to be recycled is, coupons go into a coupon section of the binder, confidential information is shredded.
5. If something needs to be filed, it can go into the mail basket by our front door. At the end of the week, papers are filed.

Dealing with the Old Stuff
Once the current paperwork is kept under control, I can address the folders of old paperwork. Most of the papers in our basement should be discarded. We have manuals for appliances we no longer own, pay-stubs from well before we were married, and travel itineraries from years ago. Denver has an annual shred-a-thon each May. We'll box up our old paperwork until then and drop it off to be shredded, although we do own a shredder. We have so much to be shredded that it would probably burn out the motor! If you have the space for a simple shredder, it is a great way to protect yourself from identity theft and to keep up with your shredding needs. I'll base my decisions about what to keep and what to toss on an article I found in Consumer Reports.

The following documents should be kept for...
A year or less: credit card bills, bank records, current year tax records, insurance policies, receipts
Until they no longer apply: warranties, investment confirmations, loan documents, savings bonds, vehicle records
For seven years: tax returns
Permanent paperwork: estate planning, life insurance policies, pension plan

Happy purging and remember to recycle!

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