Day 20 – Paperwork | 31 Days of Decluttering

Hello friends! 

TGIF! Time to go home after a week of hard work... and declutter your paperwork! Yay 😁 But really, it does feel good to get that over and done with. 

So let's take care of all the stacks that should have been sorted out a long time ago, shred what's no longer needed, and file what's still important to keep. Set your timer, get your recycle bin ready, and borrow a shredder if you don't have one. Our motto for the day is: Do not organize what you can toss. Here we go!

The Goal

  • an organized filing system
  • quick and easy access to documents
  • making doing your taxes easier
  • feeling more in control

Guiding Questions

What papers are REALLY important?
Are all my papers well-assorted and accessible?
Which receipts and coupons are outdated and no longer useful?
Are there any important documents missing?
Can I digitalize part of my paperwork?

Working Steps

1. Declutter

Take out all your papers from your folders, your desk, and where ever else you keep them floating about. I'm talking:

contracts (phone, internet, water, electricity etc)
paid bill
pay stubs 
bank or credit card statements 
retirement account statements 
mortgage papers
auto records 
insurance papers (health, house, car etc)
identification papers
school papers
credentials & certificates
letters & cards 

2. Go through your guiding questions

What papers can you toss? Do you have any old insurance policies, expired contracts, or banking information for accounts that you don't even hold any more? Which documents can you scan instead of keeping a physical copy of it?

3. Assess and organize

The ultimate queen of decluttering, Marie Kondo, recommends to "dispose of anything that does not fall into one of three categories: currently in use, needed for a limited period of time, or must be kept indefinitely." 

So basically you need to keep:

1) Papers to keep on file, either permanently or for a certain period of time (identification, mortgage/lease papers, tax information, insurance papers etc)

2) Papers requiring action (bills to be paid, forms to be completed, letters to be replied to, health receipts to claim etc.)

If any of your paperwork doesn't fit either of these categories, you can safely get rid of it!
4. Return

Time to get those keepers put away again. Take this opportunity to create a more efficient organizing system. For example, use multi-colored folders or a file box to organize paperwork based on the action that needs to be taken. 

Or invest is some hanging file dividers and manilla folders to make keeping the papers in order as simple as possible.

Create a folder for each member of your family.

Personally I like to use different ring binders for broad categories such as "Healthcare", "Taxes", "School", "House", "Vehicles" etc, which I label accordingly. Then I create sub categories such as doctor bills, insurance claim forms, EOBs, lab work results, etc which I place into the binder that I had labelled "Healthcare", for instance. Use dividers to create the subsections. 

If immediate filing is a challenge for you another options is to keep a Papers To Be Filed box next to your computer where you store anything that needs to be filed. Leave it to fill up and then file everything in one go!

Consider going digital! With paperless billing becoming the norm, most institutions such as bank or companies offer paperless statements, which don't only reduce paper clutter at home, but are also a more eco-friendly option. Keep paper copies of important papers such as your car title. Scan less important papers such as account statements. Always make backups though!!

5. Donate / Discard

There are only two options for us to handle the don't keep pile today:

Recycle it if it doesn't have any personally identifiable information such as account numbers on it (coupons, business cards, flyers etc).

Shred it if it does have any confidential information on it (credit card statements, insurance papers, old passports etc).

6. Celebrate

Done! Now go and enjoy your Friday night! Throw a party, watch a movie, what ever you prefer :) Tomorrow we'll take a break from all the decluttering so far...