If you struggle with what to keep and what to do with it when it comes to organizing paper in your home, this is for you.
Paper organizing and decluttering are two of the most frequent topics I’m asked about as a professional organizer. Today I’m going to let you in on the two questions to ask yourself when trying to decide if you NEED a piece of paper, tips for filing what you do decide to keep, and how to stop to the influx of junk mail into your home.
According to Statista.com, the world produced 411 million tons of paper in 2016. And I can tell you about 100 million tons of it ended up in my client’s filing cabinets. Let’s chat about what to keep, how to organize and how to stop the paper from coming in.
TWO QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN ORGANIZING PAPER
—What will I use this paper for?
The whole idea behind organizing is to find what we need when need it. And if we do not need the thing we are organizing…why are we keeping it? So when it comes to organizing your paper, ask what you are going to use that piece of paper for in the future. Your taxes? Memorabilia? To fill a filing cabinet?
If you cannot think of a reason you would need the paper at a later date, let it go.
—Can I replace this or print this easily if need be?
Ok. So let’s assume you’ve determined you actually need the paper you are organizing. Great. My next question is do you need the hard copy NOW. Is this something that you could print at a later date? Can you easily access another copy?
If the item is printable from a website and doesn’t require you to spend the day at a government office to replace it, let it go. Think any government document, identification documents, one of a kind documents, you get what I’m throwing down. If it’s irreplaceable or a huge pain in the a$$ to replace, it stays.
5 CATEGORIES FOR ORGANIZING PAPER
- Important Documents – Think those hard to replace government documents we talked about above…birth certificates, death certificates, marriage certificates, divorce decrees, social security cards, passports, etc. Basically, if it would require you to spend all day at a government office or if you couldn’t replace it, keep it and stash it here. If you aren’t sure, do a quick Google search or consult with an attorney/accountant.
- Auto Documents – This is where you keep anything related to your automobiles. Think auto titles, repair information, payoff information, or insurance documents. Remove and replace any expired auto insurance documents. Old, expired policies are useless.
- House Documents – Anything related to your humble abode. Your mortgage documents or rental Agreements. Any documentation of the repairs you’ve made to your property. The payoff information if you complete your loan (I’m totally jealous, by the way). And your insurance documents, which you will remove and replace when you receive a new policy.
- Estate Documents – Not to be morbid, but better safe than sorry, right? In this section, keep your will, living will, power of attorney, and DNRs. I also recommend keeping your banking info, retirement info, and passwords. Anything you, your spouse or your guardian might need to easily access if something were to happen to one or both of you.
- Taxes – I start by suggesting you talk to your tax attorney or accountant to determine the documentation you need to keep for your tax situation and how long. That said, this is the only place I recommend you keep utility bills or credit card statements. Because you may need them for tax preparation purposes. I have yet to hear another reason to keep hard copies of these statements. See question #2 above as to why you don’t need to keep those bills on hand.
CUT DOWN ON JUNK MAIL
In the podcast episode, I talk about places where you can remove your name from mailing lists to cut down on the junk mail you receive. And remember the less you receive, the fewer decisions you have to make about what to do with it.
- Opt-Out Prescreen – For offers related to your social security number like credit card or life insurance offers.
- Direct Marketers Association (DMA) – The DMA sells lists for companies looking to market credit offers, catalogs, magazine offers and other mail offers like donation requests, bank offers, and retail promotions.
- Catalog Choice – Catalog Choice will send opt-out requests to catalogs with your name on the list. You can also search for different catalogs you receive and find out how to remove your name from the mailing list.
- ValPak – If you receive the ValPak coupon envelopes but just end up recycling them (like me), you can opt-out by visiting the link here.
And finally, if you want to reduce your junk mail but don’t have time to remove your name from mailing lists, check out the Paper Karma app. For a small monthly fee, just shoot a picture of the mail you no longer want to receive inside the app. Hit the unsubscribe button. Then Paper Karma will remove your name and notify you about 24 hours later.
(Full Disclosure: I am a Paper Karma Affiliate but I would never promote a product I didn’t believe in).
And let’s not forget this week’s Fall inspired cocktail…
Maple Bourbon Smash
- 1/2 oz Maple Syrup
- 1/2 oz Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice
- 1/4 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
- 4 dashes Angostura Bitters
- 1/2 Orange Wheel
- Sparkling Water chilled
- In a rocks glass, combine the 1/2 oz maple syrup with the 1/2 oz orange juice, 1/4 oz lemon juice and 4 dashes of Angostura bitters.
- Add the orange wheel and lightly muddle.
- Add 2 oz bourbon and stir well. Fill the glass with ice and top with the chilled seltzer.
New episodes of “Cocktails and Containers” are available every week.
You can find past episodes “Cocktails and Containers” here.