If you’ve got paper issues, I’ve got solutions.
First and foremost I have to tell you what to expect when you are getting your home paperwork organized in a way that makes sense to you, because the process of getting papers organized can get confusing and overwhelming.
Your paper comes into your space from many different sources: you may be printing it from a computer, or receiving it in the mail from insurance companies, from banking institutions, from advertising solicitors, from stores, from charitable organizations, from medical professionals, from employers, from friends and family, from health providers, from schools and universities, from magazines, from product instructions, and so on. Whether you are the one bringing it into the home or someone else is sending it to you, all that paper adds up to major work!
Although it can take months of “neglecting” the paper – tossing or stashing papers out of your way – before the disorganization causes you distress, it’s really when your important documents get mixed up or lost that the disorganization begins to make you panic, grate on your nerves and cause you to promise yourself (AGAIN) that you ARE going to get the papers all cleaned out and organized.
Ahhhhhhh, that means, no more panic attacks when you can’t find what you need when you’re in a rush to put your hands on it.
You can get your paperwork set up into a streamlined, orderly system that you can actually maintain VERY easily (yes, you!). It will take some patience, some decision making, and a lot of space to spread out your papers so you can organize it properly and efficiently. And, it doesn’t have to be as hard as you are making it out to be. You’re getting stuck, that’s all. I’m going to help you get through this monster of a job, and you can be proud of yourself and celebrate later.
I’ll try to prevent the process from getting too, too messy, so you don’t lose motivation. But, please remember it’s going to get a little bit messy, and maybe a lot, and just know that when it gets “messy” you’re on the right track. I’ll help you create order out of the chaos, so stick with me!
When you’re done you can expect these types of results:
- Knowing where to store a paper until you need it.
- Knowing which papers belong in a permanent file (possibly FOREVER), and which ones to keep on hand for a shorter period of time (instead of FOREVER).
- Knowing at a glance what you need to tend do, and putting your hands on the paper you’ll need to accomplish the task…quickly!
- Knowing you’ve got your papers under control and can send someone else to your system to retrieve an item for you.
- Knowing you’ll be productive when you sit down to process any type of paperwork.
The first phase of the organizing process is below.
Step 1: designate a work area where you can spread out your paperwork and sort.
Go scout out the space in your home that gets the least amount of traffic so your organizing project isn’t disruptive to every day life and others won’t disrupt your papers during this organizing process.
A sofa, a guest bed, or a huge open floor space will work well.
If you don’t have a large, clear space to work from, then clear out an area of EVERYTHING that is in the way. You may need extra containers to get the stuff out of the way so you can work on your papers. Do whatever is necessary to make room to sort and organize your paperwork. Okay? Seriously, a big clear space is that important for your success.
Depending on how much paperwork you own, or how many years of papers you have in your home, OR how much of other people’s paperwork you are handing (like a child, or an elderly parent, or a business), you may need a heck of a lot of space. Find a very generous amount of space to work in.
The second step is to dedicate boundaries of how to sort paper. You’ll do more than one round of sorting. The first and easiest sort I am recommending for you to do is to think in terms of BROAD main categories of paperwork you have. For example, if you have a business, then that will be its own category. Think of the first category (for example) of papers that you would want organized together into its very own file cabinet drawer. Keep reading for more detailed examples of broad categories.
For each different person’s paperwork that you have, they will have their own category. (No worries, I’ll show you how to group the immediate family’s paperwork into a system after we sort everyone into their own category.)
It’s important for you to know that if you are super busy and will be working on this project for several days, or even several weeks, then breaking down your paperwork into broad categories will be the easiest way to tackle the project, in the long run. You can work as fast as you can and get this done! If you are coming and going, this method will be the least confusing when you begin to tackle your paper organizing system again.
For every main category, I want you to grab a box and label the outside with the person’s name, the business name, or the household’s name.
Once you have sorting containers/boxes, then you can begin to bring your stacks of paperwork into the room. Try your best not to rush. Pick up one piece of paper at a time and place it into one of the boxes.
IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHICH CATEGORY TO SORT A PIECE OF PAPER INTO, THEN DO NOT SORT IT. SIMPLY PLACE THESE PAPERS INTO THEIR OWN “Don’t Know What To Do With It” Pile.
Here are some examples you can follow. But, trust your own instincts about what category a paper goes into! If it doesn’t match mine, that’s totally okay! Okay?
My main categories are:
Parent’s Paperwork: any papers that belong to a parent you are caring for, or that is deceased.
Lawn Care Service: any papers related to lawn care business
Organizing Business: any papers related to organizing business
Receipts: do not worry about sorting the receipts yet, because it can take a long time. However, if you pick up a receipt and you can tell immediately that it belongs into another category, like a business receipt, then go ahead and toss it into the business box.
Advertisements or Junk Mail: all “junk” mail, “junk” magazines, advertising and coupons can go into this box. I’ll show you how to reduce the amount of junk mail you receive in a future blog post.
To-Do Box: any papers besides bills that you come across and it reminds you that you need to take care of something, then put it in this box. Like, maybe you need to call a company to cancel a policy, or mail a greeting card, or send a copy of something, or ____.
Household or Personal Bills: utilities, credit card statements, loan statements (if you use personal checking or credit for business expenses, then you can track which expenses belong to your business whenever you are tracking your business income/expenses each month)
Melody’s Personal – if it’s only in my name: any papers about myself, like memorabilia; medical results; career documents, resume, certificates, degrees, transcripts; birth certificate, social security card, passport, copies of license; bank or investment statements; life insurance documents; vehicle titles; property deeds
Significant Other’s Personal: items related to just your significant other
Child’s Personal (artwork and non-super-important papers): anything related to the child – memorabilia, artwork, etc. If you are scared to put in really important items, like birth certificate, immunization records, medical records, etc., then make a separate container for the child’s Proof of Identification documents.
Financial/Property Documents: these are not bills, and instead the documents you received when you opened a financial account, like checking/savings account info; new credit card agreements, new investment documents; mortgage documents; vehicle loan agreements; loan agreements; university loan agreements; etc.
You can place your monthly/quarterly/annual financial statements here. HOWEVER, if it is a bill, invoice or statement that shows you need to make a payment, then place it with the bills.
Home Address #1: if you were to sale or lease this home, what paperwork would you need to pass on to the new tenant/owner for the sale/lease? rental lease agreement, past utility bills, property tax documents, deeds, home warranties, appliance manuals, remodel or home improvement project papers/receipts/invoices, house plans, paint colors, etc.
Home Address #2: same as above
SPECIAL NOTE: You will have papers that you don’t know what to do with. For now, they will have their own box labeled “Don’t know what to do with it…yet!”
Okay! This is a really BIG step forward. Find your least disruptive area to use as your organizing workspace, and gather containers you can tape a label onto (paper and sharpies work well for labeling).
Engage your happy attitude about sorting papers. It’s exciting to know that this will FINALLY BE DONE. You’ve got this!
Once you have the broad categories sorted, then tackle one box at a time to sort, lable and create files.
Place your high priority to-do items on a desk or cabinet, in your sight.
Use a file cabinet to store permanent records, and use a front section of a file cabinet OR a desk file drawer to place paperwork you deal with daily or weekly, so it’s right there at your fingertips.
If you need or want help organizing paper, then contact me! We can meet by FaceTime or Skype video for a few hours at a time to get your paperwork organized. I’ll guide you through the process. I’ve done this so many times with other people that I can do it in my sleep.
Until we speak…take care and keep me posted on your progress using the comment section or contact page.