Archive for the ‘file folders’ Category

Paper File Maintenance

February 24, 2016

Close Up Of Folder For Household Bills

Over the last several weeks I’ve been talking about paper. We set up action files, files for your file cabinet, and archival files. There should be no more wondering what to do with the paper as it arrives in your home. I hope you’re not thinking that once your files are organized you’re done because you’re not.

A filing system only works if the system is used, updated periodically, and maintained.

You know that when you print a bank statement or an investment statement you look it over, check it to make sure it’s accurate, and then file it. At the end of the year, you can shred everything but the year-end statement. What a relief! No more hanging on to piles and piles of statements.

You also know that you have insurance files which hold the policy statement and the updated information. When the new information arrives remove last years’ update and replace it with the new document. This also serves to reduce the bulk of paper in the insurance file folder.

Your filing system must work for you. A filing system that works enables you to find the documents you need when you want them. No time lost hunting through the files or digging through piles of paper looking for a document.

This is the reason for taking time to label the files and folders in such a way that will spark you to remember that that is where the paper belongs.

This is also why I advocate looking through your files several times a year. Check them to make sure the files are current. If they are not either update them (if that’s what is needed) or remove them (if they are no longer pertinent).

Life is not static and neither are your files. As your life changes and things are added and subtracted your files should reflect these changes.

When you are doing your paperwork set aside some time to maintain your files. Just like any other part of your home if you attend to the files regularly they will stay up to date and organized.

 

Paper Filing

February 17, 2016

Last week I talked about setting up Action Files. These are the files which hold papers with which you will do something. You might file them, read them, respond to them, keep them available for easy reference. Whatever you do with these papers once you take action they leave the Action File holder and go …

That’s just it. Where do they go? Which papers do you keep? Those which you know you are over and done with get rid of right away otherwise they will just add to the pile and you will need to look at them once again. Only to find out that you didn’t need to bother. Will you need to look at them again (reference them)? Are they papers to keep but not to refer to? Will they help you with your taxes? How will you find them, if you need the information?

These are all questions I am asked by my clients.

If you are technologically inclined many papers can be scanned and saved in secure password protected folders in the clouds. These folders will still need to be organized and labeled appropriately so that you don’t waste time searching endless saved files. This will enable you to have access to this information from any computer provided you have the password!

Now, back to the papers.

I often get asked how to organize the files. My advice is to organize them in a way that makes sense to you. Some people like to file alphabetically, some by category, and some like to mix it up. There is no right way to file your papers. The important concept is that you are able to find what you’re looking for when you need it.

Organizing supplies to have on hand:

Manila folders, hanging files, a marker, and plastic tabs and/or a scanner

Label the Hanging file and the manila folder so that you will know exactly where to return the manila folder when you remove it from the file drawer.

Here are some basic categories:

  1. Let’s start with personal papers. I call these Vital Documents. These are papers which serve to prove your identity. You keep them forever. I advise keeping a copy at home in your file cabinet and the original in the bank. For the technologically inclined – scan these documents and keep them together in a folder in the cloud. Label them with something that will prompt you to remember the type documents the folder contains. Keep the original in a safe deposit box at the bank.

Here’s a short list, you may think of others:

Birth Certificate, Passport, Baptismal records, Marriage license, Divorce decree, Citizenship papers, Military records, Social Security numbers

2. Finances:

Keep the year end financial statements for 7 – 10 years in an archival box  (or scanned to the cloud)

    1. Keep the current year in an easy to reference file in your file drawer. You may have more than one file depending on how many accounts you have. Be sure to include any investment accounts, checking and savings, credit card information, any loan information, and retirement accounts. You might file these by category and then alphabetize the folders within the category. Just a thought!

3. Insurance:

    1. Sometimes the insurance is bundled. You may have one policy which covers a multitude of things. Be sure to keep the original policy and then add the updated rider when it comes in each year. Remember to remove and shred the past year’s rider so the file doesn’t contain stale information.

4. House:

  • List any service providers – name and contact informationAlso keep receipts for any expensive furniture or appliances or machinery – like a new HVAC unit.

 

Keep receipts for home improvements and repairs (make a copy of this for your tax file – some may be tax deductible)

  1. Keep an inventory of all your household furnishings and belongings here. (more about this next week)

5. Taxes:

  1. Keep tax returns forever in an archival box. Keep the supporting documents in an archival box for 7 – 10 years.
  2. Keep a folder in an easy to access file drawer labeled with the current year. Put any tax related information into it as it comes into your house. This way when it comes time to doing your taxes you have only to look in the one place.

 

This is just a few categories of files. You will probably have more as you continue sorting through your papers. If, when you were sorting, you created a pending or marinating file please remember to go back and take another look at those papers. As time has passed you may have figured out what your next step with those papers should be.

Let me know how your paper sorting is going and if this was helpful. I hope it was!

 

 

Paper Piles

February 3, 2016

paper pile

Are you buried in paper piles? Do you know what’s in the stacks?

Perhaps you like to see the stack of papers as a reminder of something to take care of? Maybe it’s a group – a category – of papers that you want to have easy access to? Is there anything important or vital lurking in those piles? Could your missing passport, marriage license, social security card be hidden amongst these papers?

Do you lose track of what’s there? Maybe some things slip your mind or bills are left unpaid because they remain hidden in a pile? Does that ever happen to you?

I often hear from clients that they have a hard time knowing what to do with certain financial and legal documents. Which ones do they have to keep? How long should they keep them? Where should they keep them?

Other questions revolve around household receipts, user manuals, and medical receipts.

Since tax season will soon be upon us it’s time to start getting these papers organized so that you can easily get those taxes done and so that going forward you’ll know where to find your important documents, your bills, and your project notes or any other category of papers you may have!

This month I’ll be giving you some strategies and solutions to get on top of this paper work. I’ll tell you about some different ways to file your papers so that you can find what you need when you want it. No more wondering where on earth you put … and spending lots of time hunting through the stacks!

Let’s start by bringing all the paper piles from around your home into one central location. Decide where you want to work on these piles and bring all the piles to that place. If you have a large table or even a card table that you can put up as a sorting spot that would be terrific! This way you can be sure that you are dealing with all the paper. Now, don’t get the idea that you have to tackle all of this at once. We’re going to break it down into small manageable tasks so that you can really take control of the paper as it comes into your home. I’ll also be giving you some tips on how to maintain this sense of order.

Label the piles that you bring to your sorting place. You might label them by the location from which you removed them. For instance if the pile came from the kitchen label it ‘kitchen’. That might trigger you to remember what’s in the stack.

You will want to gather some supplies to this sorting spot. You may need some paper clips, post-it notes, a marking pen, manila file folders (these can be either colorful or plain), hanging files (these can be plain or colorful also), and a notebook binder or two. As time goes along you may decide you want other supplies but let’s start with these.

Knowing where to put papers you want to keep so that you can find them at a moment’s notice will give you a wonderful sense of accomplishment and peace of mind!

Stuck at Home?

February 12, 2014

Here we go again. I’m in Atlanta and listening to the news reports of the catastrophic storm that is hitting this area. I’m so thankful that the media has given us ample warning this time and that most everyone has followed their advice to stay off the roads. I’m sure you remember the pictures and stories of just a few weeks ago when so many were trapped on the highways around Atlanta.

So, what to do… I’m at home as are many. Are you wondering how to occupy your time? I have some suggestions.

1. Catch up on your paperwork and filing. Take this day when you have to be at home and really clean your desk. Take everything off and only put back those things which you need. Make a pile of things to follow up on – bills to pay, invitations to respond to, emails to answer, documents to file. Make a folder with anything tax related to tackle when you’re ready to prepare your taxes! Take a little break after you clean your desk. Then go back to it and tackle one section at a time. When you’re finished – celebrate! Treat yourself to something wonderful!

2. If you have children at home get out a board game and play the game with them. You could also involve the children in going through their toys, games, stuffed animals. Help them figure out if there are games with missing (never to be found) pieces that should be tossed. Maybe they have outgrown some of the toys and games. Perhaps there are games or toys which they no longer really want. Put those aside to give to younger cousins or to donate to your church nursery school or another charity you support. You accomplish several things by doing this with your children: you teach them how to cull their belongings and you teach them the benefit of giving to others. 

3. Sort through your winter clothes (and your children’s). Put aside anything that still fits and that you still like but that needs mending. Make a separate pile of clothes that don’t fit, are too old, or that you no longer love. These go to a charity of your choice or if they are really tattered – into the trash.

4. Get out a project you’ve been working on and tackle the next step! I have a few more hours work to do on a needlepoint tapestry I’ve been sewing for the past year and am looking forward to finishing it today!

In other words, put this time that you are housebound to good use. No need to be wondering what to do with this day that you’re stuck at home. I’ve told you what I’ll be doing, I’d love to hear from you how you spent your time.

Paper piles?

January 28, 2014

Paper is everywhere. As much as we want to be paperless it still comes in our homes. What do you do with it? How do you keep from having paper avalanches? How do you stay on top of the things you have to know and do?

These are all questions that have come my way from time to time during the course of a home-office organizing session.

Paper can be managed but you must get in the habit of dealing with it everyday.

Here are a few quick tips:

1. Sort the paper as it comes in your house into the following categories: File, Shred, Recycle, Toss

2. Have a desk top action file holder. Create action files. These could be something like: Bills to pay, Articles to read, Pending or Things to think about, Follow up …

3. Sort the papers to file into your action files

4. Schedule a day every week to go through and work on your action files.

This system works and will help you gain control over the incoming paper. The next step is to have a main filing system that resonates with you. It is critical that you know where to put the documents you need to file and even more critical that you can find them when you need them. For this to happen, your filing system must make sense to you. It can be alphabetical, categorical or a mix. Whatever works for you is how it should be set up.

Once it’s set up – use it. File those papers, don’t pile them!

What To Do At Home When You Can’t Go Out

January 6, 2014

Does this cold weather have you staying home wondering what to do? I have a few suggestions for you which will also help you organize your home.

Take a look in your closet. Are there a few pieces of clothing that are:

1. too small

2. too big

3. in need of repair or alterations

4. haven’t been worn in the past season

5. when you put it on, you decide not to wear it and then put it back in the closet

Take these items out of your closet and make some decisions. Either schedule a day and time in your calendar to have alterations made or put the items in a shopping bag to take to your local Goodwill.

Miscellaneous Drawer

Everyone has a drawer where they put small things that don’t have an immediate home. Empty the drawer and start sorting. Put the small change in a change jar. Put the pens and pencils in a pencil can or drawer. Figure out if the other odds and ends like batteries, rubber bands, golf balls or whatever can be put away. If not, do you need them or want them?

Filing Cabinet

Get out some extra manila files and a pen or a labeler if you have one. Go through your files. Make the 2014 files for your financial documents, investments, and taxes and any others that you switch out from year to year. Remove the 2013 files and put them in a place where you can work on them to get your taxes done ahead of time!

Now go through your other files, one at a time. Determine if there are any files that are obsolete. Shred them, if necessary. As you’re going through your other files – be sure to look at each piece of paper – determine if there are any papers in those files which you don’t need any more. Shred them, too, if need be.

You want to do this every year so that you don’t just accumulate paper. Know what you have in your filing cabinet.

Kitchen

Maybe this is a good time to empty the kitchen drawers, one at a time. Wash them, dry them, and then put the items back where they belong. If you come across something that doesn’t belong, or that you don’t want, or that is broken either find it a home, donate it, or toss it.

Children’s Art and School work

This could be a great time to go through your children’s art work and school work with your children. Weed out the things the two of you decide you want to keep and put them in a memorabilia box. Recycle the others.

There are lots and lots of things to keep you busy, not bored, at home during this cold snap. These are just a few suggestions. I’d love to hear if you take me up on any of these ideas and if it leads to further organizing in your home!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Organized?

December 31, 2013

It’s almost the New Year and time to begin again. Is one of your resolutions to finally get organized? If it is, you’re not alone. Many people say they want to get organized. January is National Get Organized month – a perfect time to start.

How should you begin? The first thing many people do is go shopping for organizing supplies. Now, if you’re organizing a filing system I would say ‘great’! Go ahead and get manila files, hanging folders, a shredder and perhaps extra tabs for the hanging files and a few sharpie pens. You absolutely need those supplies when organizing a paper filing system.

If you’re organizing a closet you might go ahead and get some hangers. However, until you know how many sweaters, t-shirts, or shoes you are keeping (when you begin organizing one of the steps you’ll take is to sort through your belongings to determine if any of those items will be leaving your house to be donated, recycled, trashed, or consigned) you should not buy containers!

Let me say that again… Do NOT buy containers, baskets or bins until you know what you are putting in said containers. Are you thinking, why not? You save yourself time when you wait until you’ve completed the sorting process to buy organizing containers. When you buy them ahead of time you don’t know how many of which size, shape or style container you need. When you sort first you know where you will put the containers and approximately what the containers will hold. When you buy containers before sorting you will almost always have to return some containers and buy others of a different size and shape. So, you have to make a second trip to the store! When you sort first and have a good idea of the space in which you are putting the containers you usually go to the store once thus saving yourself a return trip to the store!

Now where to begin this organizing project? My advice is to start small. Start with a drawer or a small closet. See how much time that takes you. Then decide if there is a bigger organizing project in your house that you want to tackle. It’s important to finish one organizing project before beginning the next.

No matter the scope of the project being more organized in any area will give you satisfaction and hopefully encourage you to tackle another project in your home.

Let me know what you decide to organize and how it turns out!

Take a Break!

January 23, 2013

Are you working hard? Does the list of tasks on your desk or in your mind seem endless? I know I can always find one more thing to add to my ‘to-do’ list. I bet you can, too. Working endlessly without getting up, stretching your legs, and looking at something other than your computer screen can become truly overwhelming – even when you are making your way through your list. I have a few tips to share with you which may help you be even more productive.

1. Straighten up your desk in the evening as your work day is winding down.

2. File completed work that was left out.

3. For work still in progress; decide what your next step will be and make a note of that on the outside of the file. Put the file in a spot designated for work in progress.

4. Make your list of things to do the next day.

5. Prioritze your tasks and then schedule them into your day

6. Now schedule a few 15 to 20 minute breaks

When your next day begins you’ll know what your doing and when. You’ll also be able to anticipate some breaks in your work day. Use that time to stretch your legs, maybe even take a walk. Letting your mind wander can be really refreshing. In fact, you may find that when you return to your desk you are able to focus and get more done efficiently.
Of course, unanticipated taks sometimes pop up but when you have a good working list of priorities you can do a little juggling and take care of the new urgent task as well as the one you have put at the top of your to-do list.

 

 

 

The Benefits of Being Prepared

April 24, 2012

I read an interesting comment from a friend and colleague, Geralin Thomas, last week. She said (and I’m paraphrasing) ‘I’m the person you want to sit next to on an airplane. I always carry extra magazines, snacks, a nail file and …’ She is prepared to wait. There is a huge benefit in this. Geralin won’t be bored and neither will the person sitting next to her.  When I leave my house for the day I always bring extra bottles of water in a small cooler – just in case. Generally I also have a stash of snacks in that cooler in case I don’t have time to stop for lunch. I also have garbage bags – clear, white, and black – for easy identification. Sometimes I need to see, at a glance, which bag holds recycling, which one is for shredding, and which is for donations. The milk crate in the trunk of my car holds the collection of garbage bags and paper towels, wet wipes and an assortment of other items I use for work. I have extra blank files and a labeler in my tote bag in case I need to sort papers and organize files.  Often, when I go out at night I take a sweater – even in the summer! Some people, and I am one, get really chilled in cold restaurants or movie theatres. So, rather than complain, I bring a sweater. I find many benefits to being prepared. Before I leave my house I think through my day trying to anticipate the sorts of things I will need for my work and my personal use. I have a basic check list to ensure I don’t forget any usual items. This helps me feel really in control and organized when I leave the house. So, how do you prepare yourself for the day ahead? Do you make a list of activities and then gather the items you need to bring along? Do you prepare the night before or do you rush around in the early morning?