I promised more organizing papers in the last post, so let’s get right to it. Papers enter our home through a variety of channels, we’ve already discussed mail, but there is also school papers, kids artwork, work papers, receipts, event memorabilia, reference papers, (warranties files) and coupons.
I’ve read so many different articles and books that tackle papers in so many ways. I’ve been kind of stuck on how to best to begin, because, to quote Mary Poppins, “Well begun is half done.” So here are the choices: (One starts you slowly, the other tackles it all at once, but they all end in "Sort!".)
1.Only tackle “the pile”. Everyone has a pile. It’s where you dump papers that “you’ll get to later”. (Mine lived on the corner of my desk like a fast-growing stalagmite on the floor of a cave.) Sort the pile. (see below)
2. Gather ALL papers from all over the house in bin/laundry basket. I mean, every. little. scrap - receipts, kids art, birthday cards, EVERYTHING. Don’t forget to look under the couch and in the car. Sort.
Trash - papers on events that have already happened, advertising flyers, junk mail, etc. (Open any envelopes to make sure you’re not throwing away something important.) After removing any identifying information, put these papers in a recycling bin.(Note: "Identifying information does not mean your name and address. That is easily found by anyone looking. BUT, if you have account numbers on your papers, that should be shredded.)
Bills - File any that are on autopay. Create a stack for bills that still need to be paid. (Going paperless for bills is always an option.)
Action Papers - These, like bills, need some sort of attention, a signature, a follow-up phone call, an event to be added to the calendar, etc.
Receipts - keep any that you might need for a return. File anything needed for tax purposes (Each January create a new file folder entitled “2023 Tax Papers” (or whatever the new year is). Any receipts linked with an item that has a warranty/user guide should be stapled to the warranty and filed. If feasible, make a copy of the receipt. A copy won't fade over time like a receipt can.(Create a “Warranty” file, if you haven’t already.) All other receipts should only be kept until the bank or credit card statements agree. Legal disclaimer alert! I’m not telling you what papers to keep or get rid of, that is completely up to you. If you question whether or not to keep any legal or tax papers, please consult you accountant or lawyer. I'm not a high-tech person, but others have found that scanning receipts and keeping them on One Note or similar apps is helpful.
School papers - These should be reviewed daily. Act on tasks immediately (lunch forms, permission slips, book order forms). Add any events on the family calendar. If you want to keep some of their school work, have a file for each child and drop only significant papers in their file. Cull this file at the end of the semester.
Kids artwork - Keep only the best, putting the date and child’s name on the back. Really try to limit these. Think about what you want keep as a representative of their work throughout their growing years. There are frames that not only display a child’s artwork, but store up to 50 more pieces so you can rotate them. They can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/dynamicFRAMES®-Lil-Davinci-Kids-Frames/dp/B004FDG5GQ/ref=asc_df_B004FDG5GQ/? I would recommend culling artwork twice a year, perhaps January and after the school year. You may want to do this alone, or with your child. I’ll leave that up to you. You know your child best. Will this be a helpful or hurtful for them to participate in culling their papers. Some parents have opted to make a Shutterfly-type book of artwork and tossing the originals.
Event memorabilia - These can be anything from playbills and ticket stubs to birthday cards. Much of these items are kept just as mementoes. If you really think you need a piece of paper to remind you that you had a birthday, or saw a movie or a play, then keep it or take a picture of it to remind you of that event. I really want to encourage you to lighten the paper load in your life, though. Keep the memory and walk away from the clutter and move toward a life with a lighter load.”
Magazines (and other reading material) If you notice a pattern of magazines/newspapers building up before you can read them, consider cancelling your subscription, keeping in mind the periodical section of your local library may be a good substitute. Not every subscription you start needs to be continued until Jesus returns. It’s okay to stop paper clutter before it comes into your home. For the reading material you still plan on reading, place this in a basket near the chair where you read (living room, bedroom, bathroom, whatever, just put it in a basket in your reading area.) Maybe you only want to pull out one article and recycle the rest. Start a file in that basket for individual articles. Cull your magazines at least twice a year. (Contact your local school, they may want old magazines for various projects.) Usually six months of a weekly magazine and twelve months of a monthly magazine is more than enough. Ultimately it’s up to you and how much space this is taking. Consider an e-subscription, if possible.
Filing : Active and Archive files - There are files that you use on a weekly or monthly basis (Active) and there are files that you may not touch for years (Archive) but you still need to keep them, like Tax/Legal/Financial papers. The Active files (Insurance, bills, current-year tax papers,, etc. should be in your work area so you can access them with ease. Archived files can be located in an out-of-the-way place. There is no need to have all your files at your fingertips. My archived files are in the basement and my active files are in the family room desk.
I have a file on each family member, also. It’s helpful to be able to drop items in there that you might want to keep or reference. You can always cull it out later.
Until next time, keep up the good work, my faithful readers. You can do this!
Laura ~ your organizing girlfriend