Monday, December 9th, 2019

Wrestling the Paper Tiger: A Self-purging filing system

By Jasmine Beierle on Feb 01 2010 • Filed under How-To

Papers, Papers, Papers! What to do with them? Managing the paper flow coming into the household is a hot topic that drives many of us looking for solutions. Who doesn’t want a quick and painless resolution for managing the paper flow for your household bills and vital documents?

While I am an advocate of using what you have in the home as opposed to going out and wasting hard earned cash on new items, here are a few supplies that you will need in getting started.

Self-purging Filing System Supplies

  • 3 letter trays
  • 2 three-ring binders (1 ½” or 2” thickness, depending on the amount of bills coming into the household)
  • 1 package of 12 pre-labeled monthly index tabs
  • 1 package of 10 or 12 blank index tabs
  • 2 packages of 25 clear sheet protectors
  • 1 package of file folder labels
  • 1 three-hole punch

Setting up your Self-purging System:

Step 1: Label each of the letter trays with the following:

IN BOX, ACTIVE and TO BE FILED

    Step 2: Label one of the binders HOUSEHOLD EXPENSES.

    Insert the 12 monthly index tabs.

    Step 3: Label the other binder VITAL DOCUMENTS.

      Insert the blank index tabs and clear sheet protectors.

        Note: You can use the following system with hanging file folders instead of binders if you wish. You should always choose a method that works best for you, so don't be afraid to alter it to fit your needs.

        Using your Self-purging Filing System

        Place all incoming papers such as mail, school documents and flyers into your IN BOX. To speed up the sorting process, open all letters, tossing envelopes and any junk mail not needed, prior to placing them into your IN BOX.

        Your ACTIVE letter tray is exactly that and will contain all paperwork that requires attention at a later date such as bills to be paid or documents to be reviewed.

        To stay on top of managing your paper flow, you should be scheduling at least 10 to 30 minutes every three days to address the papers in the first two letter trays.

        Your TO BE FILED letter tray should really only be used if you do not have the time to file your paper work right away. In that case you should schedule time to file your paper work at least once a week.

        Once you have paid a bill, reviewed a bank statement or cross-referenced your credit card statements, three-hole punch it and file it under the corresponding month in your HOUSEHOLD EXPENSES binder.

        File all remaining documents into your VITAL DOCUMENTS binder under the related tab. Label your tabs accordingly. Some of the categories might include: Automotive, Finances, Birth Certificates, Education Records, Health Records, Marriage Certificate, Wills, Memberships, and Warranties. For example: Financial papers such as budgets, insurance and investments should be kept under the “Finances” tab. Use the sheet protectors to file documents that should not be three-hole punched such as birth or marriage certificates.

        Complete this process every month until you reach the end of the year and when you get to the month you originally started in, toss the old bills and insert the new ones. Now you have a self-purging system and never need to squander time sorting through mountains of paper piles again.

        Deciding what to keep

        Now that you have all the tools needed to get sorted, it’s time to decide what papers to keep and toss.

        The rule of thumb is only keep your household bills, bank statements and credit card statements for one year. This rule only applies to your personal household expenses that have not been used for tax write-offs. Bills used for tax write-offs should be filed with your income tax returns and kept for seven years.

        I would recommend keeping all Income tax documents separate from these binders. Purchase a plastic filing box with a lid to store your income tax papers in, as they need to be kept longer and cardboard boxes tend to get damaged.

        While most households have a variety of documents coming in that may not fit into either of these binders, you need to decide if it’s worth keeping. If you are unsure of what to keep or toss, here are a few questions — recommended by professional organizers everywhere — to help you decide.

        1. Do I need it?

        2. Is the information useful and recent?

        3. How complicated is it to find again?

        4. Are there tax or legal reasons to keep this?

        5. What is the worst thing that could happen if I pitch it?

        Good luck. I hope this Self-purging Filing System simplifies the paper management process and eliminates the piles of papers, papers, papers for you!


        3 Comments

        1. This looks like a great system, I’ll definitely be trying it. Thank you so much, Jasmine!

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