May
18

10 Tips for Organizing Your Paperwork

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Swimming in a sea random mail, magazines, photos, receipts, notes, bills, and other paperwork?  Try these tips.

1. Have a special place for special paperwork.

For example, have a box, envelope, file or folder where you put all the bills that still need to be paid.  Have another place where you put stubs of bills that have already been paid.  Have one place for coupons and advertisements, one place for memorable newspaper articles, one place for car records, one place for medical records, etc.  A file cabinet makes this easy and compact.

2. Use charts to help you keep track of bills and expenses.

Make copies of a blank chart that includes the following information:  Across the top list categories like: amount overdue from last month, amount due for this month, total amount due, amount paid, date when you paid it, check number, and the amount still overdue after this payment is made.  Down the side list all the different bills you have.  Across the bottom, write the totals of each column.  Fill in one chart each month or each time you get paid.  This helps put all your bill information in front of you at once, helps you stay mindful of how much money you have to spend, helps you make decisions about where your money needs to go, helps you not forget to pay a bill, and helps to catch billing errors.

3. Use color-coding to organize paperwork and to grab your attention.

Color makes things more memorable, and appealing, as well as easier to recognize, organize and navigate.

4. Use a checkbook register to keep track of money in your account.

And compare your register to your bank statement (preferably on the day the statement arrives, so you’re less likely to forget).  If it is difficult for you to write down each expense as you make it, then make it a routine to keep receipts in your wallet and write them down at the end of each day.

5. Use an address book

…or a rolodex, or a bulletin board, or a business card organizer; to help you keep track of contact information, instead of having countless pieces of paper floating around, with mysterious phone numbers that you don’t recognize any more.

6. Go digital

Use computer software to keep track of finances, addresses, phone numbers, appointments, etc..  For those who are computer savvy, getting their finances organized with financial software, and paying bills online may be easier, quicker, and more interesting than the conventional methods.  E-mailing instead of sending paper letters can also cut down on clutter, and it’s faster.

7. Throw out old newspapers and magazines

Newspapers and magazines are a common source of clutter, and are often found in a variety of places other than your magazine rack (if you have one).  The most important and effective way to manage these bulky materials is to get your trashcan out and use it!  If you find more than two unread back-issues of a particular subscription, or if you find yourself putting a week’s worth of unread newspapers in your recycle bin, don’t send in the renewal notice when it arrives, cancel your subscriptions, and only buy them when you really want to read them.

8. Use shelves and filing cabinets

If you want to keep a specific article for future reference, cut it out and file it in a filing cabinet.  Throw the rest of the magazines and newspapers away, with the possible exception of a few choice issues that you keep.  If you decide to keep a stack of old magazines, don’t just stack them up in the corner, but put them neatly on a shelf.  If you don’t have enough room on your shelves then you either need more shelving, or you have too many things that you are holding on to, and you need to prioritize and decide what you will get rid of.

9. Make a scrapbook of kids’ art.

If your refrigerator or walls are covered in kids’ pictures, then buy an inexpensive scrapbook (or two) and put the older pictures in there.  When you have a new picture to put on the fridge, then take an old one off and add it to the scrapbook.  That way family will have a wonderful scrapbook to look through when they visit, and you won’t have to drown in the chaos of too many pictures every time you’re in the kitchen.  You can also use scrap books for other random, but memorable pieces of paper.  Binders can also be used to create a scrapbook.

10. Use photo albums.

Some people have boxes full of old pictures, half of which are out of focus, with the heads cut off, or with a finger covering the lens.  If this has become clutter for you, then pick a weekend to sit down and pick out which pictures you want to put into a photo album.  Once you’ve decided how to organize them and have put them in the album(s), then the rest can be tossed, or can be used by the kids for art projects.  Another way to condense pictures is to make a collage, frame it, and hang it on the wall.
If these ideas aren’t enough, then ask your friends what they do to keep their paper clutter in check, or look for more ideas in a book on controlling clutter.

Anda Jines MS LCPC offers mental health counseling services in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, in Tinley Park, IL (60477); near Orland Park, Oak Forest, Orland Hills, Palos Heights, Mokena, and Frankfort. Click here for more about Anda Jines MS LCPC.

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