Friday, January 3, 2014


Happy 2014!

I hope you had a fabulous Christmas - We did here! We spent days making yummy food, eating yummy food, spending time together playing and visiting and laughing and loving. Even though things were different this year - we used to spend Christmas with my mom - we had a very good holiday.

With the start of the new year, I get particularly antsy about getting things cleaned up and cleared out. I love doing that! I feel such a sense of accomplishment when I am in control of my stuff instead of the other way around.

One of the very first things that really must be done is not the most fun, but so important. It will be time to do the taxes soon (Ugh.) and all the papers from 2013 need to be sorted. I thought I would share how I keep this very icky task from being way ickier.

Before e-anything, there used to be a ton more paper coming into our house. And I used to have this elaborate system for keeping it all straight. Problem was - It was so elaborate, I didn't use it well at all. I had file folders for every category I had paper for - Mortgage, this credit card, that loan, gas bill, groceries, blah, blah, blah....

The plan was to file the papers right away as they came into the house. One tiny problem - filing is a big pain in the neck! Sooooo, I would put them in a little pile to file later. And that pile would grow and grow until I had to spend lots of time filing. 

Another problem popped up when I needed to find something. It seemed easy enough to check the file, but more often than not, it was in that stack and I would have to sift through it to find it. 

This was not really a good plan at all for our family. Some people love filing - Yay for them! - but this was not working for us at all. I don't like filing. There must be a better way!

I found one!

I discovered a new way of getting this junk paper under control years ago in a book that I adored:

The things I learned from this woman (and others like her) changed my life! I read this kind of stuff like crazy and fell in love with organizing. I still love it. There is probably some psychological reason for this, but I don't really care. I just love it.

Basically, the idea is having only 12 file folders. What??!! 

And filing everything together. What??!! 

And then it's done. What??!!

Sign me up please!

Yep. You only need 12 folders. One for each month.

When paper comes into your house, put it in the file for the month that it is at that time, even if it's dated for a different month. Something like this - when I bring in the mail, I open it up and take everything that needs to be saved (receipts, statements, report cards, etc) and stick them in the month that it is at that moment. If I opened them up today, they would go in January.


When I need to find something, I just go to the month. Sometimes I might be a little off if it were a few months prior, but it's not too challenging to look in a few different months if I need to. It is much better than looking through a huge stack of stuff I didn't file. But truly, I rarely have to go back to find something.

And now that e-most anything is an option, we don't even get half the paperwork we use to. And I love that, too! If I can get an e-version of bills, statements, report cards, etc, bring it on. Less paper=more time to do something else.

Which brings us back to the first of the year. When all the files are loaded up, it's time to spend a little time getting them ready for the new year.

And when I say a little time, I mean much less time than my old way of sorting through dozens of files to get what I need for taxes and to start with a clean slate.

Really - It took me less than an hour to get this done.

Here is what a one month file looks like when I pull it out. Mostly receipts from purchases, and a few other things, but no utility statements, or insurance statements, or other things I now get online. 

Work on one month at a time so you can break it up into manageable chunks or take a break if you need to. Sort what is there into just a few piles. Here is how I do it -

trash - papers I don't need anymore and do not have any personal info on them that a creepy identity thief can use.

shred - papers I don't need anymore and do have personal info on them that a creepy identity thief can use.

tax stuff - things I better hang on to if I want to claim them on my taxes.

pay statements - a little clarification here - I get my statements online, and I just file them there online. Hero has pretty much every pay statement he has ever brought home from the time he was 16. I know. It's not how I would do it, but he does, and we do this stuff together. It would not be nice of me to impose my standard on him (it's important for him to keep them), so we have this compromise. He keeps them all in a box. So I sort them out for him. (And it is kind of fun to see how much he used to earn.)

Here are a few tax receipts. Some are obvious - medical expenses, car title stuff, donations, etc. But others I wrote on the top. These were for school. Because we don't have a ton of purchases that would be used for our taxes, taking a second to make a note on them helps a bunch when it comes to sorting them out. 

One little thing I do. When I get to December (last month) I hang on to a few things that might be important for reconciliation, returns, etc. I just pop those back into the December folder and toss them out later (usually December of the current year - I kind of forget about them).

And that is it! Nice empty files to reuse for the coming year. 

Much less icky than the old way.

(These are leaving my house.)

There are lots of terrific ways to get this job done - How do you do it?

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