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If you feel like you could win an award for organization if it wasn’t for the nightmare that is paperwork, you are not alone. The good news is paperwork is easy; it gets organized following the same basic principles you would use to organize anything else.
Start by breaking it down. Pick just one thing to start with. If you have a stack of mail on your nightstand at home, make that alone your project for today.
Next follow the four D’s of effective paper management:
• Do it
• Delay it
• Delegate it
• Dump it
Firstly, decide to do something with the paper right away. If you aren’t filing it immediately, you will do one of the other three things on the list. If you delay that means you need to do something with this paper that you can’t do right now: pick a later time to handle it and set yourself a reminder in your Outlook or phone calendar. If you choose to delegate, that means you immediately pass this paper off to someone else to take care of. The last option is the one that can help you the most. Dump everything you can! Of course there are some things you do need to keep and there is handy list with a timeline at the end of this article to help you in determining if you can throw away that tax return yet. Basically, anything that might be of importance is something you need to keep.
However, knowing what you can get rid of shouldn’t be that hard either. When it comes to deciding to keep papers ask yourself a few questions if you really need a particular document. You’ll be surprised at how much you can throw out. Try not to keep too many things “just in case” when your goal is to get rid of paperwork clutter. Also, don’t forget to shred any documents with sensitive information such as an account or social security number. This information could be used to steal your identity and anything you put in the trash becomes public property.
All of the papers you choose to keep will need a home, so develop a filing system to help you keep everything accessible and in order. There are a million options such as an accordion file, a cabinet with hanging folders, or a plastic storage container with dividers. Once you’ve picked your container decide how best to use it. Consider separating alphabetically or chronologically, whatever will make the most sense to you when you are searching for something. Also, you will want to take care not to duplicate files. Do you want to keep your car information under C for car, V for vehicle or A for automobile?
Technology has made great advancements in allowing us to eliminate the need for paper. Financial management software programs can make your life loads easier when tax season rolls around and you can scan and make a digital copy of any document. However, it is always a good idea to keep paper records as a backup. It is still the standard for important records. So, figuring out how to manage large amounts of information tidily is still half the battle. That's where Wilson Jones® can help.
Our line of versatile organizers can help you keep related things together. One helpful tool is the 21 Pocket Portable File. This durable filer comes with A-Z, monthly, quarterly, numeric and home indexed titles and fits both legal and letter size papers. You can also be super stylish on the go with the Workstyle Mobile Filer, designed to carry neatly organized and sorted documents from place to place and look good too! Finally, check out the Big Mouth® Filer. Vertically oriented and extra wide, it is perfect for unpunched papers and with poly construction it is reinforced against wear and tear.
The time it takes to organize your is well worth avoiding the headache of dealing with lost paperwork and missing information. Do not let piles develop; handle each paper as you receive it to best of your ability. You will feel better when your desk does not look like a tornado blew across it!
Record Retention Guidelines
• Birth, death, marriage and divorce certificates
• Social security cards
• Military discharge papers
• Defined-benefit plan documents (pension plans from current and former employers)
• Estate planning documents (wills, trusts, power of attorney)
• Life insurance policies (permanent life, term life keep until term ends)
Keep for seven years:
• Federal and state tax returns and supporting records including sales receipts, medical bills, property and home improvement papers, W-2s
Special circumstances, keep according to the following timelines:
• Vehicle records as long as you own the vehicle
• Loan documents until loan is paid off
• Savings bonds until cashed in
• Investment purchase confirmations & statements until you sell
• Warranty information until expiration or as long as you own item
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