A lot of people have trouble with organization, so I thought I would share some tips on getting your home organized for the new year. I’ve already touched base on this topic once, and you can find that post here. One thing I didn’t cover in that post: paperwork.
In a busy household, bills, check stubs, homework, ads, etc. can stack up pretty quickly. The best thing to do is create a space specifically for your incoming mail, sale ads, homework, and other necessary pieces of paper, then, as SOON as you check the mail, separate it out. I’m not saying you have to open it now, but you can pretty easily and quickly tell if you even need to open some things. Throw away the things you know you won’t look at, then your mail pile will be less overwhelming when you DO have the time to read it.
Maybe you could have a stackable paper sorter that you keep on the kitchen counter or on a desk, or maybe a hanging sorter on the inside of a pantry door. Whatever the case, you should separate important documents from those you don’t need to deal with as quickly. I would have one section for “Important Documents” (ie. bills, permission slips, check stubs), one for “Miscellaneous Documents” (ie. sale ads, cards and letters), and one for “Outgoing Mail”. This will again make the job less overwhelming when you can focus on what really needs to have your attention. If you will be going somewhere you will be waiting, such as a doctor’s appointment or to pick up kids from school, grab the miscellaneous pile and go through it while you wait.
If you have multiple kids in school, these same organizers can come in handy. Have one tray or section for each child. If they have a permission slip that needs to be signed, have them put it in their spot. Then, once a day or whenever you see it in there, sign your John Hancock and put it back.
Tax Season is a scary time of year for some, especially if you run your own business from home. The risk of being audited rises, and that can be a difficult time. To be prepared, it’s good to have a great organization process in place. I recently read that it is good to keep at least seven years of tax information, and your last pay stub (from each job worked in that year) of the year. After I read this, I went through and re-organized our filing cabinet. We just happened to have seven years of tax information, so that part was easy. I have a hanging folder with each year’s information separated out and clearly labeled in a manila folder. Since 2011 just ended, I got our last pay stubs and put them in a file folder marked for our 2011 return.
Pay stubs are one of those things that no one is really certain about how many you should keep. Some say two months, some six, some a full year. I personally keep a year. I had been just throwing them all into one file folder with no organization at all, but finally went through them and threw out the old ones and organized the rest. I have six file folders, one for Jan/July, Feb/Aug, Mar/Sept, Apr/Oct, May/Nov, and June/Dec. I put the pay stubs in their appropriate folder, vertically on the side of the folder that goes with the month. For example, the stubs we get for January will go on the left side of that folder, and when it comes to July, those will go on the right.
Lastly, 2011 was the year of the coupon. For those of us using paper coupons, the best organization tool is a
Small Accordion File Folder like the pink one up top by Semikolon (Pierre Belvedere). This is small enough to be kept in your purse or in the car, that way you always have the coupons you need. Mine is separated out like this: coupons for specific stores, baby item coupons, grocery coupons, restaurant coupons, then miscellaneous. I always try to go through it at the beginning of each month in order to purge the ones that have expired.
I hope these tips have helped with some of your paper clutter! If you would like tips on a specific room of the house, leave it in the comment section below!