I received an interesting call from a client recently. She has a child with special needs, and because of the numerous doctor appointments and therapies, there is a lot of paperwork floating around her home. Throughout the conversation I began thinking more and more about how paper piles can affect everyone, not just those who are dealing with the medical system.
Below I have listed 3 quick tips on how to help you tackle the paper clutter in your home or office! There are some affiliate links included in this post – I only list what I personally use or love at no added cost to you!
Form an Easy To Use Filing System
Learning from experience, having a good filing set-up is very important. I live in Israel, where you not only need to keep many documents given to you but you need to hold onto them for a long period of time. So I had to adapt pretty quickly in terms of keeping documents secure and organized.
Creating a filing system can look different for everyone depending on needs, space, organizational systems you prefer, etc. I personally love to use some type of spreadsheet (like google docs) or accordion folders.
If you are schlepping from place to place, whether it be to the doctor, band, or your child’s school an accordion folder is the way to go. It’s a functional way to organize your papers.
What do I mean by functional? With accordion folders you can customize the way you wish to categorize your papers – by years, months, or by doctor, bank account, etc. Then when the time comes to go to a meeting or an appointment you simply bring your accordion folder with you, quickly glance at the labels and hand over whichever piece of paper is needed.
Obviously, shoving all of your documents into a bag or purse will cause more mess and thus more stress! Avoid this by taking the first step and getting important papers in order.
Store What You Need
You could very well be drowning in paper but how many of those papers do you really need? The key thing here is to minimize the chaos. Many times when I visit a clients home, the papers are strewn all over their house. On the kitchen table, in the living room, dining room, and yes, sometimes even the bathroom! This makes organization difficult but also causes a lot of stress for my client because they do not know where everything is located.
I’ll admit, I’m not perfect and even I have some trouble putting my papers away immediately. But I do have two designated spots where I keep my papers that are waiting to be filed; on my desk and on top of my filing cabinet. This ensures that my papers are more or less in one place thus nothing can get misplaced and I am reminded every time I see papers starting to pile up that I need to file them.
I want you to go through your home and try to collect all the loose papers. Create two piles – you can even have two boxes to place everything in while sorting. One pile (or box) is for keeping and filing the other box is for recycling or shredding.
While going through the paper piles see what you REALLY need and throw away what is no longer relevant. For many documents, the lifespan of them are around 7 years. Once they are 7 years old it’s safe to throw them away. Again, this all depends on what you are trying to store and organize. Medical documents can differ from banking statements which differ from education documents. Use your discretion.
Another point I want to make is that around 50% of what you have can be scanned. For example, if you just went through a home renovation, you want to remember how much you spent on certain items and what type of tile you used. Keeping the paper isn’t necessary but storing the information is. Nix the paper and go digital!
I personally use camscanner, which is a really easy to use app where you take a picture of the document and it scans it straight to your phone.
Invest in a Good Safe or Filing Cabinet
I cannot stress enough the importance of investing in a fire and waterproof safe to store documents that are hard to replace and impossible to replace.
Not too long ago in Israel, a horrible fire broke out in a community that destroyed nearly every home. It was devastating and sudden.
For items like birth certificates, passports, marriage license, etc they need more protection than a simple, flimsy lock to keep them safe. Once you purchase a fire and waterproof safe, you do so once and then can be at ease that your documents are properly stored and safe.
For regular storage I recommend getting a filing cabinet with hanging storage. I find that this works best for me and I can customize it endlessly so I can find everything easily and storing papers is a breeze.
Again, organization and how it is done varies from person to person. Still want to learn more about organizing papers and the different methods that can be used? I go into further detail on how to tackle paper piles in my 7 day challenge The Paper Purge. Hope to see you during the challenge!