So, yesterday I wrote about getting yourself out of the paperwork pile up, and today I thought I would talk about dealing with the inflow of paperwork to prevent a catastrophic paperwork pile up!
First of all, everyone is different! The way that you deal with cleaning, picking up, paperwork, filing, and just about everything else in your life is probably different that the way that anyone else does. So, if you don’t like my way, that is fine, but keep searching and trying different things until you find something that works for you.
There are basically 3 ways that paperwork is generated in my house – The mail, the business, and the people. There are things that are kept and things that are tossed in each, however, the things that are tossed almost never get immediately tossed. So, here is my protocol for each!
The mail – First you should know that my husband and I have always had separate bank accounts and he has certain bills that he pays, and I have certain bills that I pay. It works for us – but if you have joint accounts you can us this system too, you just need to tailor it to your needs. I get the mail, and on the way back to the house I thumb threw it. Basically there are 5 different things that come in the mail – junk, bills, coupons, cards and letters, and purchases. If the junk is addressed to the household or to me I pitch it right away. Next, anything for my husband goes in his mail sorter, cards and letters for me or the kids are opened quickly, purchases are opened quickly, bills for me are opened and put into a tray on my desk and coupons go into a basket in my kitchen. Once bills are paid all of the stubs go into a tray on my desk that is cleaned out/filed monthly. Cards and letters are kept in a friends and family file and I generally go through this file annually (sometimes more often), Coupons are dealt with on coupon day which is either Sunday or Monday, and purchases are put away.
Business Paperwork – The majority of paperwork for my business is generated at my desk, so I have 3 bins that are set up on my desk. They are labeled – Immediate, Ongoing, and File. The immediate file is for bills that need to be paid, orders that I need to fill, and other household items that need to be dealt with quickly. The ongoing file is for ideas that I am currently working on and for things that I use regularly like inventory sheets and mailing labels. File is for all household bill stubs, all delivery confirmations, business receipts, business bill stubs, and anything else that needs to be filed. The immediate file is looked at everyday and sometimes several times a day. The Ongoing file is also looked at daily. The filing bin is emptied at least monthly or sooner if it is full.
The people paperwork – This is any paperwork that is brought into the house by any member of this family. The majority of this is school papers, but quite often there are receipts and other bits of paper that contain information. I have a designated place in the kitchen where all people generated paperwork goes, and I try to empty it out daily, but lots of times it is a week before it is emptied. Really it just depends on how much time I have. Basically anything that needs to be filed, (mainly receipts) ends up in the bin on my desk. The bits of paper that contain important information are usually stuck to the fridge (I need a better system for this!!). It is the school papers that are the biggest problem! I have a file in our filing cabinet for each child and a new one is made each year. I try to weed out stuff before it goes into this file, but sometimes everything is a master piece and mom must go through it when no one is home! I do try to limit the amount of things that I keep, but the most important thing is that I try to date things as they come home. However, quite a few times I just know the year because of the file I have put it in. I am sure I have kept too much, and I am reminded of this when my mother or mother-in-law shows up with yet another box of treasures that they kept!
There is one paperwork issue that I have left out – magazines, catalogs, and phone books. Of all the paperwork issues in my house, this is the one that irritates me the most. I currently only get one magazine, and I let each of the kids get one magazine. I look at my magazine and then it goes straight to the recycle bin. If there is something I want to keep from the magazine, I cut it out and put it into a binder immediately! I do the same thing with catalogs that I get and we only keep one phone book. However, everyone else in this house keeps their magazines. I HATE IT!! My husband has years, and years of magazines in his building. I am convinced that he will NEVER look at any of them, although he swears that they all contain wonderful articles that he is going to refer back to. I ask him if he has ever done this in the past – his response is always once or twice. I have NEVER witnessed one of these monumental events. Yes, it is a pet peeve of mine!
Personally I have two binders in my house where I keep article clippings – one is for recipes and one is for everything else. I will be splitting the second binder soon and have a 3rd binder that is only for gardening. So, if I see an article that contains useful information – I put it in the binder behind a relevant tab, so that I can actually find it when I am looking for it. I have been putting stuff in these same binders for about 15 years, and let me tell you the 3 binders take up significantly less space than 15 years worth of magazines. I keep these binders on the bookshelf.
This post is long enough – I will talk about how I have files set up in my filing cabinet another day – for now, I am off to purge some magazines! (I promise the kids won’t miss them!)