Sunday, March 18, 2012

Paper Should Be a Four-Letter Word!

Have you filed your tax return yet? Tax time is a great time to do an archive or purging of your paper files, or to convert piles into files! Whether you have done you taxes yet or not, this will help a lot, unless of course you are already perfectly organized in the paper department!

You can probably get away with three files or sets of files for tax paperwork:

-Permanent or Reference Files
-Yearly Forms
-Supporting Documents and Receipts

You can keep a spot under Finances for the permanent files and yearly forms, but move them to a special "tax box" to work with them at tax time, and to leave them in when tax time is over.

If this seems advanced to you, start with the seven Family Manager departments to create folders for filing things away as they come into your home. That's right, just seven! You should add an eighth for personal legal files, like passports, birth certificates, etc. You should be able to grab those things in case of emergency.

Paper work, like organizing and showering, is something that you can't just do once and be done with forever. It's an ongoing process which you can perfect as time goes by. You need to start somewhere. If you are drowning right now, the best place to start is with what just came in this week, or even today! Start the following habits to plug this stress-producing time leak now:

  1. Don't let junk mail touch a flat surface in your home, or anything that you are undecided about for that matter. If you don't have a shredder, either get one, or create a bin for junk mail with your name and address on it and take it to a local office store to be shredded when you also have another errand there. Go to if you would like to sign up to receive less junk mail in the first place, and consider carefully before “signing up” for things which require your mailing address.
  2. As soon as you receive important papers you need to file at home, resist the urge to fold them in half. Instead, three-fold them to fit in a business envelope to make it easier to file when you get home. Better yet, carry a pocket folder in a situation in which you know you will be receiving paperwork, or even a labeled manila folder so all you have to do is drop it in the cabinet when you get back home.
  3. Have an inbox for incoming papers which is relatively small. Ruthlessly move papers to that box, and go through it when it is full. Have a pocket folder for quarterly receipts in that inbox, and keep all receipts with your card numbers, associated warranties, possibility of returns, or tax deductions. (Keep a separate pocket for any business.)
  4. Use cash as much as possible for non tax-deductible receipts, so that you may simply toss/not accept receipts for those items.
  5. Don't try to get your paperwork “done.” Just try to keep it flowing and train yourself to get papers “home.”

What other paperwork questions do you have?

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