The number one issue that I hear from clients is what to do with all that paper? They have stacks and stacks and sometimes boxes of it and they simply are paralyzed with fear and don’t know what to do with it. So the paper pile just keeps growing and growing and growing. I think the blame can be placed on our changing technology. Technology has changed but our views of what to do with those papers as not. I still remember back to my parents storing every check they had ever written. Thirty years ago the only proof we paid something was in the cancelled check. So we held onto each and every check……for forever! I am trying to take my business paperless and with the purchase of a scanner this is making the job so much easier. They make all types of scanners. Some come with software that can even read your receipts for you. Others are small and portable in case you travel for business and need to take one with you. Well now we need to catch up to the changes in technology and you can start with these simple steps:
1. Look at what paper you get in the mail. How many of these things can you receive online? How many do you even need to get at all. Not confident that you can get the items online, simply take two minutes and call your bank and ask.
2. Get enrolled in online bill paying. In some instances you can stop even the monthly statement from being mailed to you. But you need to take the few minutes to figure out what can be done online. You need to make the call.
3. Not sure about keeping your bank statements. Call your bank and ask them what their policy is for obtaining copies if you need them. You may be surprised at the nominal fee for pulling your bank records for you. Isn’t it worth a couple of bucks when you need the statements (that will come all neat and organized for you), rather than fishing through piles of papers trying to find them in a moment of panic?
4. What insurance papers should you keep? Once again, I will have my clients call their agents and ask them directly what they should keep. Do you need to keep the 50 page policy or is their one page that is important to keep?
5. Receipts: If you are self employed you will need to keep more than the average person, but do you need to keep all of them? Once again, call your tax preparer and see what they want you to keep. We now scan in all of my receipts that I use on my taxes as the IRS now considers scanned copies as good as the originals.
6. Business cards: Create a system that you input your contacts into your phone or contact book within 24 hours of receiving a business card. Figure out now if you even need them at all.
7. Kids papers: Keep the ones that bring a tear to your eye and get rid of the rest. Keep the ones that are special and make you proud or happy. Keeping everything is a recipe for disaster and creates paper clutter for years to come.
8. Recipes: We all have good intentions of making a new meal or dessert. But in reality we make the same 20 recipes over and over again. Be realistic what recipe clippings you are going to use. Set a goal of using it within a month or recycle it.
9. Take a photo: For many important items like passwords and usernames information I will take a photo of the set of numbers or enter into my smart phone with one of the many apps out there for remembering your passwords. Remember to make sure that the photos on your phone are stored in the cloud.
10. Retirement accounts and investment reports: Once again I tell people to call their investor or agent who helps them with these accounts. Ask your expert how long you need to keep them and if there is an option to receiving them online.
11. Catalogs: Once you order one small item from a company you seem to get their catalogs every week. Take a few minutes and call the company and ask to be taken off of their list. You can usually find their number on the back of the catalog or look for it online.
12. Phone books: Once again, look online for the service to stop getting each different one you get dropped on your steps. There seem to be about 4 that come out on a regular basis. If you do not use a phone book, then there is no need to keep receiving them.
13. Sentimental items: We all receive that card or letter that makes us happy. Create a happy file where you place those items. Then on a day where you need a pick me up, all the happy stuff is in one place for you to look.
14. Magazines: Do you get more than 2 magazines per month? If you do, that is more than you probably have time to read. Stop your subscriptions and if you do want to keep them see if there is an option to read your favorite magazine online on an e-reader.
15. Important Documents: Social Security cards, birth certificates, titles, deeds and appraisals all need to be kept in a safe place. Either have a safety deposit box or have a fire proof/water proof safe where these items are kept. They are not safe mixed in with all of your papers or shoved in a drawer.
When are you going to stop the influx of paper coming into your life? It is up to you to start to make the calls or look online. Challenge yourself to take one item at a time on this list for two weeks. In that time you should be able to reduce the amount of paper that comes into your house by at least half. Who knows, you may even save a couple of trees in the process.
To Joyful, Simplified Living,
MS. Simplicity, also known as Melissa Schmalenberger operates her business as I Did it with MS. Simplicity. She is a Professional Organizer based out of Fargo, ND and her website can be found at http://www.mssimplicity.com/
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