The Easiest Way to Organize Papers

You get home at the end of the day and before you come inside, you stop to check the mail.

You come in, you set things down. You might forget about it for awhile. But at some point, you sort through it and find yourself a bit stressed.

Sure, identifying and recycling the junk mail is easy enough. But what about that financial statement? That insurance notification? Do you keep this invoice?

You just want these papers out of your face sooner rather than later, but you’re hesitant to just toss things because you fear losing something important. 

Maybe you place them somewhere like on top of your filing cabinet thinking you’ll file them “later,” when you have the time and energy to decipher your filing system. But that pile’s been growing for some time now - and eventually you’ll stuff it away somewhere in your filing cabinet wherever you can make some space. 

The biggest challenge for organizing papers is keeping every paper out of a fear of needing it someday.

Eventually, you might find yourself with a full filing cabinet as well. You know you need to make room for new papers, but again, you’re anxious about getting rid of something important.

Does this sound like a familiar scenario? It is for many of my clients, and I’ve been in that situation as well. Not only does this add stress to your day, it’s only a matter of time before things backfire. People end up with so much paper that they wouldn’t be able to find it if they needed it anyway. 

The only reason why you would need to organize papers, is for you to be able to retrieve them. 

Here are some strategies for managing paper so you’re only keeping what you’ll need to retrieve.

Be Honest about What Papers You’ll Actually Retrieve

So many people store away items that they’d never actually think to find in a filing cabinet. Articles, travel brochures, and other things that they’d either forget about or would just find online. Is there a Youtube video of that exercise your physical therapist recommended? Cut down on the volume by being honest about this and focus on storing the essentials that need to be kept as hard copies. 

Use a Cheat Sheet to File Papers

I provide my clients with a cheat sheet that helps them determine which papers are important to keep. Having something like this handy near your filing system (there are many free ones online) can make it easier to avoid the temptation of storing everything. 

Consult with Professionals on What Papers You Need

I always advise clients to speak to their accountant, financial advisor, lawyer, etc. These professionals know exactly what your specific needs are in terms of important financial, tax, and legal paperwork - the real heavy hitters that you don’t want to mess up. I would advise taking notes, and adding them to your cheat sheet if needed. 

Schedule an Annual Purge for Papers You No Longer Need

There are certain types of papers that can be purged after a certain amount of time. This information is also useful on a cheat sheet. I always make a note to set aside an hour or two around tax season - when I’m in my files more often, anyway - so I can shred expired papers. 

The biggest thing you can do to organize your papers efficiently is to shift the way you think about it. By focusing on retrieval, you'll dramatically decrease the volume of papers you'll need to keep - and will be able to find them in a matter of seconds when needed. 

With Love & Gratitude,

Anna Brunelle