The tax man cometh, and cometh soon! Do you know where your tax records are?
Chances are, they're swimming in a stack of paper ... somewhere.
Rafts of paper flood into the average home each day. The mailbox discharges letters and bills and bank statements. Briefcases explode with professional journals, pay stubs and calendars. School backpacks unload children's artwork, meeting notices and sports schedules.
Paper clutter costs money, time and stress. A missing permission slip derails the entire family on the way out the door. Hide-and-seek bills lead to late payment fees. Lose the roster, and it's back to the Yellow Pages each time you need to contact the soccer car pool.
Without a plan for paper management, a household can drown in a rising tide of paper. Take back your time with these simple tips to pull the plug on paper clutter.
Efficient paper management is easy as ABC: action, basic and classic file systems.
Working together, these three file locations help you sort paperwork at the source, allow you to to find documents easily, and help you maintain and retrieve important papers in the future.
An ABC household filing system includes:
Where to place your ABC files? Set up an action file on a desktop or in a location near the phone to make it easy to drop incoming mail, permission slips and invitations into folders for later action. A simple tabletop file with hanging file folders works well.
Basic files should be accessible when and where you do routine paperwork chores: bill-paying, handling correspondence, or preparing tax returns.
Classic files can be located in a more remote location, such as an attic or closet storage area. They're the place you'll store records like copies of completed tax returns, prior years' health records, warranties and receipts for safekeeping, but should not need to be consulted often.
At the bottom of paper pile-ups is deferred decision-making. It's fun to flip through the day's mail at the kitchen table, but if it's left there to molder, it'll have to be sorted again later. Chances are, important items will go missing when the table is swept clear for dinner.
Instead, decide what to do with each piece of paper the first time you handle it. Ask, "Will this item need to be paid, answered, filed?", then drop the paper into the appropriate folder of an Action File. An immediate sort-and-stow operation heads off paper clutter at the source.
Make quick work of daily paper management with an Action File.
Using a small tabletop file, add hanging folders labeled "To Pay", "To Do", and "To File". Include separate folders for each family member, and for religious, sport or school activities.
Each day, sort and drop incoming paperwork into the appropriate file. Bills go to "To Pay", while medical insurance papers are addressed "To File". When it's time to handle weekly deskwork, you'll find it all in the Action File!
Try these ideas to manage different types of paper pile-ups in the home: