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A Roadmap for Keeping Papers Organized and Current
While many people have no problem determining where to put the milk, canned goods and everyday dishes in their kitchens, when it comes to organizing all of the paper generated on a daily basis, confusion often sets in. Here is a simple roadmap for keeping your various papers organized and current.
- A filing system is a must. Every person needs a system to store papers that need to be referenced now or in the future. It doesn't have to be anything elaborate, but it should consist of a filing cabinet or filing box, hanging file folders and manila file folders.
- Your categories should be tailored to you. While many people will have similar filing categories, such as Retirement, Travel and Membership Records, others will have categories that are unique to their interests and hobbies. For instance, I have a file folder in my filing system marked Photography and another marked Scrapbooking. Make file folder categories based on your personal needs.
- Don't over-categorize. You should start with some very broad categories, like Financial, Home, Medical and Legal. Use hanging file folders for your main categories. Only when those main categories begin getting full (over 20 papers, for instance), should you begin to sub-categorize. For instance, you may break your Medical category down into one for each member of your household (e.g. Emily, Cameron, Sue and Jack). If you do this, use manila file folders for your sub-categories and file these manila folders inside your main category hanging file folder.
- Use a pre-made filing system. If you have no idea how to categorize, a pre-made filing system may be the best solution for you. I recommend fileWISE: http://www.getorganizednow.com/filewise.html
- File each day. As you acquire papers that need to be filed, file them immediately. Don't put them on the dining room table. Don't toss them in a pile for later. Basically, don't put them down. Walk on over to your filing system, and get them inside.
- Be ruthless about recycling. Most of the papers that people keep are never, ever looked at again. That's why it's important for you to be ruthless about recycling-- getting rid of those papers that no longer serve any use to you or your family. Weed out incoming papers you don't need on a daily basis, and weed out your entire filing system on a monthly or quarterly basis at minimum.
- Keep a To Do file. If you get a sheet of paper that you're keeping because something must be done, like an appointment must be made or you have to call about an insurance claim, then you can temporarily store that paper in a To Do file until that action is completed. You should look at your To Do file each day, and handle the actions for at least 3 papers in that file. Once the action is completed, the paper could be filed in your regular filing system immediately, or better yet, tossed if you no longer need it. If you have a lot of To Do's, you might consider using a Tickler System which is described in my book, Finally Organized, Finally Free:
- Clear the bulletin board and fridge. In general, bulletin boards and refrigerator surfaces are catch-alls for papers people have no idea where to store. If you keep one or two papers in these places, such as your daughter's music lessons schedule or your grocery list, that's OK. But if these surfaces are overflowing with phone numbers, medication schedules, coupons, recipes, photos, artwork, calendars and more, most of those papers are likely not serving their purpose, getting hidden behind other papers, just taking up space and making these surfaces very messy.
- Get rid of those scraps. There is absolutely no reason to have scraps of paper everywhere. Transfer all of your notes, addresses, phone numbers, appointments, etc. to your calendar and/or planning system. The Easy Organizer is also perfect for getting all of the information in your life organized into one place: http://www.getorganizednow.com/ezorganizer.html
- Forget the 'I may need it someday' syndrome. Yes, there may be that one sheet of paper eventually that you wished you had kept, but it is a very rare circumstance that you won't be able to acquire the information you needed from another source. Obviously keep at least 7 years worth of legal, tax and financial documents and any active warranties. But avoid keeping heaps of paper consisting of travel brochures, articles you enjoy, recipes you may make and so on. Your best bet with these types of papers is to date each 3 months from today in the upper right corner. When you're weeding out your filing system, if it's past the date you marked on the paper, recycle that paper. If you haven't looked at it up until now, you probably never will.
by Maria Gracia - Get Organized Now!
Want to get organized? Get your FREE Get Organized Now! Idea-Pak, filled with tips and ideas to help you organize your home, your office and your life, at the Get Organized Now! Web site http://www.getorganizednow.com