Have you ever felt overcome by the simple object called paper? Ever looked around and saw tons of it piled high? Whether it is newspapers, unopened mail, paid and unpaid bills—paper can truly become a nuisance in your home that you wish would pick itself up and go away; except if you find money. Ah yes, the question – what’s in that mail and what is hiding in those piles that require action or could add to your income?
You see several years ago I hated mail and the act of opening it. I became comfortable with creating piles of paper then constantly saying, “I’ll get to that…”. I finally stopped procrastinating and began to open mail that had been sitting for weeks. Believe it or not I actually found two checks that totaled $500. That’s right—I made money from just taking time to open the mail. Plus, just the act of eliminating the clutter helped me think clearer, which ultimately generated more ideas, peace and happiness.
I know I’m not alone in my story so here’s a few tips to keep paper from taking over your home and life:
1. Open and process any paper or mail that comes into your home daily. This means walk in and begin opening the mail, start shredding, begin tossing or filing immediately. Don’t start a pile that needs to be reviewed weekly, but organize your mail now!
2. Purchase a quality shredder. Identity theft has made it necessary to properly discard important information that can be personal or identifiable. It’s important to have a quality shredder on hand to destroy information and avoid being a victim.
3. Create a beautiful place to store your bills, away from your bedroom. I love keeping bills that I need to pay in a gorgeous and eye catching box so it’s not a dreadful act when it’s time to sit down and send those funds.
4. Use the Evernote app to take pictures of documents for quick reference, then shred the paper copy. This can work great for receipts, invoices you’ve paid or warranty product information. What I love about this app is you can search on text in pictures, including hand-written notes. That means you’ll never be stuck thumbing through hundreds of photos trying to find that product key for a software download or that tiny receipt if you need to return a purchase that breaks. I especially love using it for Goodwill donation receipts. You can photo the receipt and keep the overall list of items donated electronically. This avoids keeping the information in a filing cabinet or kitchen junk drawer. Now for those of you afraid of the cloud and are concerned if something happens to all your electronically stored information, you can always save photos to a jump drive or a backup hard drive. (Keep in mind file naming convention is key). In the end, there’s tons of paperwork we all keep that we will never in life reference again, so the act of even saving it to a cloud is a simple peace of mind that it’s somewhere searchable.
5. Keep and file away only the hard copy documents you are required to keep, but always maintain a time limit. Besides following IRS guidelines on required documentation for tax purposes (which in some cases can be fulfilled electronically), the act of keeping paid bills is generally not needed. I have a small 6-drawer cabinet from Ikea where I’ve determined, once a drawer is filled I’ll start shredding the oldest item to always maintain one drawer of paper. This may be too risky for you if you’re determined to keep various documents for multiple years, but ultimately much of this information is available online in the payment history. Again, make your own evaluation and determine what works best for you.
6. Invest in a fire and waterproof safe for extremely important records such as a marriage license, birth certificate, or if you keep large sums of cash on hand. I highly recommend SentrySafe given their long-standing product and support.
Love to hear how you’ve organized your mail or if you’ve purchased an organizing tool. Comment below!