Last week we gathered together all the papers needed to fill out the tax organizer we received from our tax accountant for filing our Income taxes. You know the property tax receipts, the charitable giving receipts, the tax documents that come in the mail, etc. All of it pretty well categorized and easily accessible. Then it happened….I needed one receipt from a purchase two years ago that I hoped was in the supporting documents from that year-but it wasn’t.
The Search Begins
Being somewhat organized I first searched Quicken. If it had been charged, it would have shown up there – but it didn’t. Not in the receipt file either and that got me thinking (and fuming) about all the places I tend to keep “important papers.” How about you; do you keep papers “just in case” or “to read later?” Take a look around, how many different places do you have for those papers? Often, we tend to hold onto papers just in case we might need them later. I don’t believe we will ever be totally paperless but I am sure if you took a look at the papers you are saving – you may find some that can go.
What to Look For
Only you know where you have been “storing” paper so look around and check for:
- Warranty and Instruction manuals (still own it? Is the manual online?)
- Recipes you will never try (If you haven’t made them this year, what are the odds?)
- Helpful articles (health, organizational, inspirational, etc.)
- Bill receipts (the last year or more is available online – once it’s paid let it go)
- Tax records and supporting documentation from 2012 or earlier (CPA told me keep for 7 years)
- Kids’ artwork (can’t save it all be selective)
- Coupons – be serious will you use them?
- Junk Mail and Flyers (immediately into the recycle or shred)
Once you get rid of the backlog of papers you no longer need, you will want to focus on what to do with the important papers. Any system should follow the KISS philosophy of Keep it Super Simple. The first step is to consolidate those papers into categories. Some possible categories might be: taxes, reference, memorabilia, long term storage (birth certs, SS cards, titles, etc.) and of course your “might want this later” pile too. You’ll need to do the same thing with your digital files. Set up folders with specific names so there is no question what belongs in each folder. What can be scanned and kept rather than physically kept?
Look at all the places that you keep paper and try to decide the fewest number of possible places to store them. Just because you have a file cabinet, doesn’t mean it needs to be full. All the important (difficult to replace) papers need to be in one place – just in case you need them in a hurry. So, spend some time purging and grouping and then next month we will discuss how to retrieve this info you are saving.
As for me, I am still searching for that receipt – stay tuned.