Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Office Organization Part 1: Mountains of Paper and Bills

I think I could almost get the hang of this being organized thing if it wasn't for all of the paper that seems to multiply in the house! I honestly let the mailbox fill up day after day because I don't want to deal with organizing all the paper that seems to just show up.

Here's the evidence of how I have been ignoring our paper situation...

That's about 6 months worth of paid bills, bank statements, and junk credit card offers that I just stuffed in that office cubbyhole because I couldn't bring myself to deal with it. If you look closely at the bottom left, there is also a nice sized pile of junk that I needed to shred, helpfully sitting on top of the shredder.

But I steeled myself to make room in the file drawer and empty out that huge pile of stuff. There are plenty of tutorials and guides out there on the internet about how to organize your paper. Even the US government has a guide. I decided to follow the table from the government's guide on how long to keep records, with a few tweaks.

How Long to Keep Documents
DocumentHow Long to Keep It
Bank statements1 year, unless needed to support tax filings
Birth certificates, marriage licenses, divorce decrees, passports, education records, military service recordsForever
ContractsUntil updated
Credit card recordsUntil paid, unless needed to support tax filings
Home purchase and improvement recordsAs long as you own the property
Household inventoryForever; update as needed
Insurance, lifeForever
Insurance, car, home, etc.Until you renew the policy
Investment statementsShred your monthly statements; keep annual statements until you sell the investments
Investment certificatesUntil you cash or sell the item
Loan documentsUntil you sell the item the loan was for
Real estate deedsAs long as you own the property
Receipts for large purchasesUntil you sell or discard the item
Service contracts and warrantiesUntil you sell or discard the item
Social Security cardForever
Social Security statementWhen you receive the new statement, shred the old one
Tax records7 years from the filing date
Vehicle titlesUntil you sell or dispose of the car
WillUntil updated

Luckily we have gone paperless for the majority of our bills, banks, and credit cards. Thank goodness, otherwise the paper would have totally taken over the office by now. So, I don't keep physical copies of bank statements in our filing cabinet since electronic copies are stored by the bank.

Important documents go in our fireproof safe: birth certificates, marriage license, passports, Social Security cards, vehicle titles, home inventory, etc. I also think I will move our back-up portable hard drives to the safe.

In our file drawer, I cleaned out all of the bills and statements over a year old and dumped them in the shred/burn pile and re-arranged everything into a few big labeled sections. I have folders for each year of our taxes. Then a section for everything related to our house (loan, refinance, account numbers for utilities). Then a folder for our latest home and auto insurance policies - they will get shredded each time a new renewal shows up in the mail.Then comes a section for important receipts (fridge, washer/dryer and other large purchases) and a big folder for user manuals. Then one copy of a statement for each of our bank and credit card accounts, just for reference. Then I have legal sized paperwork from our house purchase sitting off to the side. And that's it. I hope to keep the amount of paper that we store pared down to no more than this.

I also set up a paper action station on our kitchen counter, since that is the first place we dump the mail when it comes in the house.

It is now the home for pens and pencils, gift cards and post-it notes and has sorting sections for bills to pay, outgoing mail, paper to file, and then paper that needs to stay out and visible (mostly coupons and our 2012 tax folder so we can add to it as tax statements and W-2s trickle in). Junk mail will go straight into our newspaper recycling box by our fireplace (for non personally identifying junk) or directly into the fireplace to be kindling for the next fire (for credit offers and such).

Incidentally, here is the gigantic pile of paper that needs to be shredded or burned. This doesn't even include the huge bag of envelopes and paper that could just go straight into the recycling bin. I think it will make good kindling for the next time we have a fire in the fireplace...

Linked up to:

Delightful Order's Monthly Organization Challenge

IHeart Organizing's Monthly Organization Challenge
IHeart Organizing

1 comment:

  1. Stumbled upon your blog while,looking for organization ideas. Love your process! Where did you obtain the compartmentalized box?