Day 14: Get Papers & Files in Order

Apartment Therapy January Cure

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Day 14: Monday, January 21
Assignment: Getting your papers and files in order

Today, we deal with files and paperwork! This is one area where clutter not only causes mess and stress, but can actually cost you money and time. Keeping on top of bills and being able to find important documents when you need them reduces the possibility of financial mishaps like late fees and getting a routine set streamlines the paperwork process. So, lets think about this assignment as an investment - putting some time in now will surely save you plenty in the coming year.

In the Eight Step Home Cure, Maxwell describes the goal process simply, "When you sit down to deal with your finances, the goal should be to meet all of your commitments, plan ahead, and keep the minimum amount of paper. This makes it easier to store important documents and and find them when you need them." Today, you'll clean out your files and determine a process and schedule to use moving forward that meets the goal stated above.

Today's Assignment:

• Clear out your files.

Here are Maxwell's suggestions for what to keep and what can go:

Keep
Personal Letters
Tax Returns - Permanently
Credit Card Statements - 7 years
Mortgage Statements - 7 years
Bank Statements - 7 years
Investment Statements - 7 years (keep initial statement for life of investment)
Deductible Business Receipts - 7 years
Deductible Business Bills - 7 years
Insurance polices - 3 years of renewals
Warranties, User Guides - Life of product

Toss
1. Personal or Holiday Cards
2. Utility Bills (unless deductible)
3. Rent Receipts (unless deductible)
4. Nondeductible receipts or bills

• Organize what you are keeping.
Whatever method of file organization you prefer (by month, by type of document/bill, etc.) the two key things to keep in mind is that you should
1. Label all your files clearly and consistently, and
2. Set aside enough room for your files so they are not cramped. You will be less likely to keep up your organization if you have to deal with jamming in new items each week.

• Set up a schedule for dealing with your bills and follow it, saving time inbetween.
Set up a time once per week and deal with all of your important paperwork ONLY in that session. Let your landing strip organization work for you here. You should have set up a place for Important Mail. Each week, when its time to do your paperwork, that Important Mail will have already been gathered together in one place from your daily "landing strip" process. You can topen, read, pay or respond and then file (or toss) everything from the previous week. It likely will not take too long, and when filing becomes part of this process, it will not feel like an "additional" chore, but simply part of your weekly routine.

If you follow your daily "landing strip" process and then stick to this weekly scheduled "paperwork" session, you never need to worry about dealing with bills or paperwork in between your weekly appointments, because you know exactly when you'll be processing through the stack, paying things and getting things filed away. In the end it will save you time, because you always know where everything is and that its been dealt with - take the guesswork out of all of it for yourself!

Of course, much of this paperwork can be avoided by moving bill paying and other financial dealings online - which requires it's own type of organization. Check out Tara's liveblog link for notes on her digital reorganization as well as helpful links on the topic.

Helpful Links:
How to De-clutter Your (Financial) Life in 5 Steps
5 Ways to Stay (Financially) Organized

Liveblogging the January Cure:
Digital Organizing

Questions? Comments? Pictures? Email us about your progress at januarycure@apartmenttherapy.com

January Cure Calendar:
• Download our PDF

Get the Book: Apartment Therapy's The Eight Step Home Cure by Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan

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The January Cure

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