Organize pesky papers

CHICOPEE, Mass. (Mass Appeal) – According to the National Association of Professional Organizers, we spend one year of our lives looking for lost items: documents, keys and tools are the big ones. Rick Woods, Professional Organizer from The Functional Organizer, showed us how to get our taxes and papers organized.

6 Steps To Getting Your Paper Piles Under Control

  • Step 1: Divide your paper into 3 piles: Keep, Recycle, and Shred.
    Work each piece of paper on your table or desk area until all your paper has been processed. Remember to only make three decisions/piles: Keep, Recycle or Shred. Once this step has been completed you should have only three piles in front of you.
  • Step 2: Lets work the Shred Pile first.
    You’ll need a shredder for this exercise. If you have an extreme amount of paper that needs to be shredded, then you may want to hire a shredding service? It’s usually about $50 per standard file box of paper. If you are shredding the paper yourself, continue feeding the paper into the shredder until the whole pile is gone.
  • Step 3: Now it’s time to work the Recycle pile.
    Grab a big tall brown paper lawn bag and use that as your recycling bag. Label the bag “Recycle” with a black sharpie. If you don’t fill up the bag with your pile, leave it close by, so you can continue to fill it during future sessions, until it’s about three-quarters full. At that point, empty it into your outdoor recycling container. Now you should only have one pile remaining. Onto Step 4.
  • Step 4: We saved the Keep Pile for last, because this pile needs to be worked into two more piles: Current and Archive.
    Once you have worked all the paper in the whole Keep pile, you should have two piles on your desk or table: Current and Archive. The Current pile will consist of relevant information like bills to be paid, future appointments and meetings, newer coupons and circulars, and other important current paper. The Archive pile will consist of paper you don’t need to access on a regular basis, like insurance documents, real estate paperwork, Healthcare benefits, Auto history, Investments like 401k, Taxes, etc.
  • Step 5: What do we do with the Archive pile?
    File it into a standard metal office file or any file of your choosing, which does not need to be accessed on a daily basis. Create a file folder for each subject and label it clearly with a marker or labeler.
  • Step 6: What do we do with the Current pile?
    Create a Ticker Filing System to file daily paper. You will need 45 folders for this system: 31 for the days of the week, 12 for the months of the year and 2 for recent paid bills and current tax year. You will also need a portable file holder.

Following these 6 bite-sized processing steps will help you tackle your daily paper with ease.

How To Create An Easy Tax File System

Portable File Caddy or Standard Filing Drawer
Red Hanging Files (Qty 10)
Green Hanging File (Qty 1)
A pen for labeling or use a Labeler

Label each Red Hanging File Tab with a pen or labeler, “Taxes 20XX” for last 7 years and next 3 years.

Keep last 7 years of Taxes for your records. All Tax records will be in this file system. When the current tax return is accepted and approved, the oldest tax file can be shredded. Please consult your tax advisor as some states have rules concerning tax archives.

When current tax return is complete, accepted and approved, move that file to back of file system.

The green hanging file acts as a divider only. It divides the past tax seasons with the future and current tax seasons. It can be used to store these instructions.

Start filing any donation receipts and tax documents immediately, so they will be there when you file your taxes the following year. This system works 365 days, so when you drop off a donation or make a charity contribution, this receipt should be filed in the current years tax file.

As you start receiving your W-2’s, 1099’s, real estate tax stubs, computer tax program or financial advisor contact information, file those documents as well. Now, when it comes time to prepare you taxes, you’ll be ready to begin, with all your tax records and history in one place.

How To Create An Easy Bill Paying System

Portable File Caddy or Standard Filing Drawer
Blue Hanging Files (Qty 12)
Yellow Hanging Files (Qty 12)
Green Hanging File (Qty 1)
A pen for labeling or use a Labeler

Check book, pen, stamps, highlighter, 8 ½ x 11 paper, paper clips, sticky notes and envelope slicer

Label each Blue Hanging File tab with pen or labeler JAN, FEB, MAR…for all 12 months of the year.

Label each Yellow Hanging File tab with pen or labeler JAN PAID, FEB PAID, MAR PAID…for all 12 months of the year.

Make current month your first month in front of file system. As you receive bills in the mail, slice envelope, open bill, highlight due date and amount due or balance. Then place it in the appropriate monthly blue hanging file.

If you receive some e-bills, write down name of bill, due date, and amount due or balance. Then place it in the appropriate monthly blue hanging file as a reminder to pay bill online. Spare 8 ½ x 11 paper is stored in the green hanging file in back of system.

As each bill gets paid for current month, move it to the monthly yellow hanging file as “PAID”.

Once all bills for the current month have been paid, move both folders to the back of the file system.

At the start of each new month, review the contents in the yellow hanging file marked “PAID”. If last years bills have all been confirmed then you can shred them. Please consult your tax advisor for their professional opinion.

theft or take advantage of shredding events at your local shopping center or big box stationary store.

How Long Should I Keep It?
(Always Consult with Financial Advisor)

ATM Slips
Catalogs & Magazines
Most Bills (upon paid verification)

Credit Card Statements & some Bills (upon paid verification)
Dividend Payment Records
Pay Stubs (upon W-2 verification)

6 Years
Tax Records (Consult with Financial Advisor)
Investment Sales Records

Life of Policy
Insurance (Life, Home, Auto)

Life of Vehicle
Auto repair records

Life of Home/Property
Home Improvement records
Mortgage or Loan Discharge
Property Bill of Purchase

Health Records
Vital Records & Documents
Birth Certificates
Medical Records
Wills, Trusts, Estate Plans

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