It’s easy to become overrun by paper — it arrives in the mail, comes home with kids, and lives with us as memorabilia we don’t know what to do with. Paper piles can become a serious source of stress when we can’t find what we need and don’t know what we have. Here are some resources for managing your paper documents, especially the ones needed for taxes.
Are piles of paper scattered throughout your home? I call that system, “file by pile.” It can actually work, but you must schedule time regularly to go through the pile(s). If you have trouble getting started, set a timer for 15 minutes. Here’s a free, 30 minute class to try if procrastination is getting the better of you.
What papers to keep, and for how long? Here’s what the IRS has to say regarding tax documents. And here’s more thorough guidance on different types of documents. If you don’t have one, purchase a decent shredder. Wirecutter recommends several for home shredding. At the very least, try to control what comes in.
Where should paper go? Junk mail is easy: toss it in the recycle bin. Not-needed papers with sensitive info should be shredded. For what you keep, I suggest a filing system. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Get started in seven steps or through color coding (not required). And, if you are challenged by ADHD, try this, although these suggestions apply to everyone.
Going paperless is a way to simplify, but it’s not necessarily simple. You can get started by following these steps. Additionally, don’t save documents, in files or digitally, that you don’t need. You can toss receipts for things you won’t need proof of purchase for, paid utility bills, or ATM/bank statements after reconciling.
When you’re going through your paper piles, humor really matters. A reliable source of it is The Onion. I’ve often wondered how they do it. Well, as you might imagine, even they have a system which – like dealing with paper – begins with overwhelm and funnels it all down to the stuff worth keeping.