Resolved to ‘get organized?’ If so, you are not alone. In fact, January is National Organization Month! With tax season right around the corner, now is definitely the best time to get your paperwork in order. The best way to get organized is simply to purge what you don’t need any more. Paper is the number one thing that Americans say prevents them from being organized at work and home, so that is a great place to start.
Consider these questions when you are unsure whether to toss or save a document:
• Is the information relevant to my life, personal interests or job?
• Has the information become outdated?
• How easy would it be to replace this information later?
• What is the worst thing that could happen if I got rid of it?
The last question can be a complicated issue. There are some documents that you must keep forever, like income tax returns and related receipts, stock records, and retirement or pension records. You should check with your accountant or attorney before pitching out any important legal, business or financial paperwork. It’s also a good idea to reference Business Retention Guidelines for specific guidelines on how long to hang on to certain documents. Remember, in many states, once your trash is left out for collection in an area accessible to the public it is considered public property. To protect yourself against identity theft be sure to dispose of your important records properly. Any piece of paper that contains account numbers, your social security number or other sensitive information should be shredded before being thrown away. A shredder such as the Swingline™ Stack-and-Shred™ 60X Hands Free Shredder can be your best friend.
Now that you’ve reduced the amount of paper you have, the next step is to organize what is left. Here’s three tips:
• Separate the most important documents, such as birth certificates or insurance policies and store them in a safe place that it out of the way
• Hole punch and store other less vital documents in binders or file folders and clearly label the contents
• Consider going digital – scan documents and save them to your computer. This is very effective but you need a system in place to back up the files.
Junk mail, bills, memos, reports, receipts … the paper trail is virtually endless. The best thing you can do is keep up with everything as it comes in. Maintain the routine of deciding whether to pitch or keep items at least once a week, and you will successfully prevent clutter. Happy Organizing!