A simple filing system is simply a way to handle the papers entering your home. A simple filing system is for papers you need to act on—it is an action file. The filing cabinet you may have is more of an archive for keeping papers you need to refer to.
Each piece of paper that enters your home other than junk mail will require an action. You may need to pay it, read it, do it, or file it. Get a small file box that can sit on your desk, or other place where you open your mail since much of the paperwork that enters your home comes courtesy of the post office. Try to find a file box and folders you like because you are more likely to use what appeals to you. Label the file folders:
• To Do—invitations and information on upcoming events you may want to take part in
• To Pay—bills to be paid
• To Read—information you want to read—later. This would include flyers, and magazines that you want to have time to read in peace. I like to use a larger plastic file envelope or even a basket or tote for this category so I can grab it and take it with me to places I will be waiting.
• To File—materials I will need for future reference
• In addition I label 12 folders with the months of the year and put receipts into the file. Keep the current month’s file in the front and move last month’s file to the rear of this section of your file box. Purge the contents of each file of unneeded receipts monthly. Store any needed receipts in a manila envelope at the end of six months or the year labeled: e.g., Receipts—January through June 2013.
• If you have others who are bringing papers into the house, label a file with each of their names. If they are missing an important piece of paper, refer them to the file. Go through your children’s files with them weekly and allow them to keep some treasured papers in their own separate accordion file. You cannot keep every paper they bring home or create in their life time. The accordion file will also need to be purged from time to time.
One additional piece of equipment that is useful is a cross cut shredder. Any papers you are discarding that contain personal information and all credit card offers should be put through the shredder or torn into very tiny pieces.
A major time saver at tax time are tax files set up the beginning of each year with any papers you will need for taxes next year going directly into the files. For example, label them 2013 Tax File—Income; 2013 Tax File—Taxes; 2013 Tax File—Charitable; and so on. You will save yourself the hunt and sort stages of tax preparation. I always add papers to the front of the file so the most current papers are in the front. An exception to papers stored in my desk top file box, these files go in the front of my top filing cabinet drawer.
Label, label, label. Purge, purge, purge. Do not keep papers you do not need. It makes it more difficult to find the papers you do need.
I like to keep the receipts for large purchases stapled to the first page inside the front cover. I try to keep owner’s manuals with or near large purchases for easy reference.
Today is Wednesday, Desk Day. Ever Wednesday, spend 30 minutes paying bills, bringing personal and family business current, and filing.
Our area of focus is the kitchen—are there papers on the table, counters, or the top of the fridge? Get them out of the kitchen and into a file box.
How are you doing in decluttering your kitchen? Reserve the front 2/3 of your counters as work space for preparing food. Find other places for anything that is taking up that space in your kitchen so you actually have a place to prepare food. Make your kitchen user friendly.