Have you ever felt that you are getting inundated with paperwork at home, and that it's really hard to locate a specific paper record when you need it? Paperwork like utility bills, credit card statements, medical bills, bank statements, etc, just keep piling up, and you might just despair of ever getting the piles of paper into some semblance of order. But it is very doable to keep your paperwork organized, and without spending loads of time on it (once you've got your system set up and caught up on the backlog). Here's how:
Things You'll Need:
A bookshelf for keeping your magazine holders
Boxes for putting away old documents in storage
Markers and pens for labeling
Take your piles of paperwork and start putting them into different smaller piles as makes sense to you. For instance, one pile for Visa bills, another for mortgage statements, one for your medical bills, etc. It is a good idea to do this on the floor as this allows you to spread out and make as many piles as needed. It is also a good idea to start from the bottom of the big pile so that you can sort things in chronological order (makes it easier later to locate that credit card bill from, say, March 2009 if you need it). As you go, staple those statements that have multiple pages so as to keep the pages together. Recycle whatever paperwork you don't need to preserve, shredding it first if it contains sensitive personal information.
Use a separate file folder for each of the category piles. Label accordingly, and put the relevant paperwork in each folder.
Group folders with related topics in magazine holders. (Magazine holders are commonly available at Ikea and office supply stores, and also on amazon.com). For instance, once magazine holder could hold the folders containing paystubs, 401(k) statements and other work benefits paperwork. Another holder can contain credit card statements, with each folder containing the statements from one credit card. You get the idea. Label each magazine holder by its contents. It's a good idea to fix labels rather than writing on the magazine holder itself, so that you can change labels as your organizational strategy evolves.
Arrange the magazine holders on a bookshelf or shelves with the labels clearly showing so that you can easily locate a specific folder when needed.
From now on, keep your incoming paperwork in a single pile until you're ready to sit down and sort it. Every few weeks, take some time on a weekend to sort the new pile into smaller piles by topic as described above, and add them to the respective folders. Recycle / shred whatever papers you don't need. Again, it is important to start at the bottom of the new pile, so that you can more-or-less preserve the chronological order of your paperwork. This process should take no more than 30-45 minutes even if you do it only once every 2 to 3 months.
Every couple of years or so, go through your folders and see if the older paperwork can be discarded (recycled) or put in storage. This will also make sure you always have space in your magazine holders for new paperwork. Older paperwork can be put in boxes (in folders with the same names) and the boxes should be labeled with contents and date, so that you can locate a tax return from even a decade or longer back if you ever need it.