Where do you keep the “stuff” of daily life? You know what I’m talking about. The copy of your auto insurance policy for the next six months? The bills that need to be paid? Warranties, manuals, that kind of thing?
I had that stuff all over the house. Some of it was in my desk drawers; some of it was in John’s desk drawers; some of it was in a file cabinet in the closet. Heck, we had tax returns in three different locations.
Well no more.
As part of our Spring Cleaning, we gathered all that “stuff” together and weeded out the old paperwork: old paperwork on cars we no longer own, manuals for printers we’ve gotten rid of, THREE YEARS of old utility bills.
Then, I reorganized it into a new filing cabinet that we got. I have a whole drawer dedicated to the paperwork that matters.
We are using a product called “Freedom Filer” to help keep things organized. They have a completely logical way of looking at files. Basically, everything is color coded and the labels make it very clear what you need to do.
For example, we have all of our tax returns going back to before we got married. I worked for a major tax preparation company during college and the one thing I learned was NEVER THROW AWAY YOUR TAX RETURNS. Yes, I know everyone says you only have to keep them for 7 years or 10 years or whatever. I know that I had clients that were audited back as far as the clients could produce returns – one went back 15 years and the Federales still wanted another year to review.
So I don’t EVER get rid of old tax returns. This system makes it very simple to store and retrieve if necessary. I usually keep a folder called “TAXES” on it. At some point during the year, I can’t find that file so I make another folder called “TAXES” – now I have two. Then if I can’t find either of those, I make a third “TAXES” folder and make a note that somewhere, in all the files, there are THREE folders. This system makes it so much easier.
This year, 2012, is an even year, so things are filed in the EVEN TAX YEAR folder. Everything during the year that needs to be kept for tax purposes can be thrown into this folder. It’s a nice blue tab that looks different than all the other tabs and is easy to both see and get to. No digging through a zillion manila folders looking for “Taxes”.
Next year, when I do my taxes, I’ll pull this folder out and have everything to get my taxes done. then I’ll put my completed return in the drawer and move it to the back of the cabinet. The ODD Tax Year folder will have it’s contents moved to a folder marked TAX YEAR 1 because the year, 2011, ends in 1. Then, I can start gathering everything for it. Easy-peasy, right?
I have one folder near the front of the file called In-Box. This is where all the mail goes – minus ads and catalogs – until I can file it or pay it. It works BEAUTIFULLY!! I used to just pile things up on a corner of my desk. But with a three and half year old and a 1 year old, I’d find writing on things or my mortgage bill in the toy box. Now, I go through the In-Box about once a week when I pay bills and file everything away. You do have to be pretty disciplined, but this system makes it easy to file things away quickly.
Yes, this system is 33 bucks. Yes, that’s 33 bucks just for the labels. But I’ll tell you this: I am enormously happy with this system.
What do you use to keep your paper monster under control?
Quick Disclosure: I am an Amazon.com affiliate. Some photos in this post will take you to Amazon and if you make a purchase, yes, I get paid. However, I only link to products that I have actually used and approve.