If you are making an effort to reduce clutter in your home, organizing files and financial paperwork is essential. Paperwork can definitely lead to clutter, and it can be challenging to organize because you don't want to make the mistake of throwing out something important. With a little planning, and a few important supplies, you can definitely develop a system for organizing files and financial paperwork.
Tips for Organizing Files and Financial Paperwork
Prepare your system
All of your files and financial paperwork should have a place where it belongs. You may need to buy a few supplies – here's what I recommend:
Organize mail as it comes in
So much paper comes through the mail, which means that you need to deal with it or let it pile up. I recommend dealing with it immediately. Throw out junk mail, shred unsolicited credit card offers, put magazines away, and put bills in your bill book (see this post for instructions). I also have a small bin where I keep coupons that come in the mail, and I regularly go throw it to make sure that they haven't expired.
If you have paperwork that needs to be filed, it's okay to keep it separate, as long as you have a regular schedule for filing.
So many financial providers now offer electronic statements. I recommend opting in to as many electronic statements that are available to you. That way, you won't have to worry about keeping track of the paperwork. Just remember to review the statements, even if you don't print them, so that you can look for accidental or unauthorized charges. I also opt in to digital receipts where possible, so that I don't have to deal with paper receipts.
Keep important paperwork separate
There are some paperwork items that you'll want to keep separate, including social security cards, passports, titles and deeds, wills, and birth certificates. I recommend getting a safe for these items, so that they stay security and so you'll always know where they are.
I also suggest that you write down all of the information for everything that you keep in your wallet, and put that in the safe. That way, if your wallet is stolen, you'll know exactly who you need to call. You should also make another list of essential accounts, including life insurance, just in case of an emergency. Make sure that a trusted friend or close relative has the combination for the safe.
Know how long you need to keep stuff
You need to keep paperwork for taxes, but you don't have to keep everything forever. This article has some good information about how long you'll want to keep your paperwork.
I recommend using the file folders in a filing cabinet for any paper files. Make sure that the folders are clearly labeled so that you know exactly what is in each one. Here are some examples of folders you may need:
- One per financial account
- One per child
- One per job
- One for each year of taxes
For home maintenance documents, I use a house maintenance binder.
Scan and save
There are some pieces of paper that you'll want digitized – for example, kids' annual physicals. I take photos with my phone and turn those documents into PDFs (I use GeniusScan for my iPhone). That makes it easier to email to camps and other summer activities whenever I need to. I do the same with our insurance cards and my daughter's allergy plan.
There are some types of paperwork that don't do well in folders, such as owner's manuals for appliances. For those, I recommend using an empty drawer or a plastic bin.
What is your process for organizing files and financial paperwork?
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