Are you overwhelmed by paper? Then, you're bound to appreciate this one-time guest column by Peggy Thayer, founder of MyVitalFiles, a company that helps people get organized with a "ready-made" home filing system.
Tip #1: Move from “overwhelmed” to “organized.”
Most people who are struggling to gain control over their personal paperwork say getting started is the biggest problem. It’s no wonder. The paperwork that households deal with today is staggering. Adults in the U.S. each receive an average of 41 pounds of unsolicited junk mail alone per year. Add personal mail, a growing tidal wave of emails, and all the important documents you need to keep - and the task of managing day-to-day paperwork can easily become a nightmare.
A common reaction to a growing pile of paperwork is procrastination or "I’ll-do-it-later-itis." But avoidance only makes the problem worse - resulting in frustration and discouragement. Eventually a time comes when you need an important document – fast – and procrastination is quickly replaced by panic.
The best place to start from is where you are now.
Remember the old adage: “Never bite off more than you can chew.” Taking small steps each day will get your paperwork organized while keeping overwhelming feelings at bay.
Start with what comes in the mail today, then the next day, and so on. Get used to the filing system you are using one day at a time. For the time being, ignore the box, file drawer, or paper pile where you have been putting things "to-do." Once you become comfortable (and consistent) with the system you are using, you can start chipping away at the rest of the pile. In fact, you may even get excited about doing it.
Tip #2: Debunk the myth of One-Touch Filing.
Some very compulsive person came up with the idea that the most efficient way to deal with mail and paperwork is to only handle a document once. In other words, when you receive a bill in the mail, you open it and pay it right then so you don't have to touch it again. Who can do that??
At least for us, that would mean dumping all the mail in a box and setting aside several hours to toss, file, or pay. The potential problem is the box may get so full we would be too intimidated to tackle it.
We suggest that you approach the paperwork process with moderation and compromise by following these steps:
1. When the mail is delivered, recycle or throw away anything that is clearly junk or unsolicited mail – without opening it.
2. Open everything else, and sort it into 3 stacks:
§ Bills to be paid.
§ Papers to file.
§ Things to read.
3. Set an appointment with yourself to eliminate those stacks once a week.
The trick is to learn new habits bit by bit.
Tip #3: Be prepared for an emergency.
What would (or could) you take with you if your house was burning or emergency personnel ordered you to evacuate your home immediately? After getting loved ones and pets to safety, what if you had just one more minute to grab something that would save countless hours and headaches – often when you need it most?
Do you have your most essential paperwork and documents organized and located somewhere that’s easily accessible in an emergency? Some of these “Vital Files” include:
· Birth, marriage and other certificates.
· Important receipts and warranties.
· Insurance papers.
· Trusts, wills and deeds.
· Vehicle titles.
Having all these papers in one place is important. Having them in a portable container that is easy to “grab and go” is also crucial. But the peace of mind gained from having them organized so you or a family member can quickly find the right document at a critical time is a priceless gift to yourself and others.
Thanks, Peggy! MyVitalFiles is an excellent system for parents who want a quick, easy, and simplified approach to managing paperwork. MVF allows you to deal with the paperwork without having to create a workable system yourself. It's already done for you! Check it out at MyVitalFiles.com.
I'm pretty good about filing, although I would like to place the most important files in a fire-safe box. The problem I have now is that we have SO many files, my file drawer isn't big enough to hold all of them anymore!
I appreciate the tip about taking those important files if the house is burnin' down. When that question comes up I always think of pictures and sentimental stuff, but I don't think I've ever considered those important personal and business documents. Oops! Thanks for reminding me!
Hey I found your blog and LOVE it. I bought Raising Baby Green a few weeks ago and have really liked it so far. I'm due in late September.
This post reminds me of my 2008 resolution to open my mail every day. Ay!
Thanks for these great tips - I was just thinking this morning how mountains of paper are taking over my life. This looks like a great solution!