what I do

what I do

Monday, December 20, 2010

A time and place for managing papers

The two most important keys to staying organized with paperwork is having a location to keep it, and time to manage it. Without those two factors in place you will potentially end up with mounds of paperwork overwhelming you, late payments and time wasted looking for something you need that you cannot find.

Whether it is a bill that needs to be paid, a receipt or your child's report card, the less places there are to put them, the easier it will be to find them when you need to. If you do not have a home office, you will need to carve out a space in another room; the kitchen, the dining room, a cupboard in a hallway. If space is tight you may need to have a separate place for files and another place where you have the papers that are not yet filed.

Martha Stewart
Martha Stewart
In a previous post I talked about the three places that my papers go (besides the trash). Each piece of paper that comes into the house (or is generated in the house!) goes in one of two boxes or is filed or put away. The exception is something that I put directly into my calendar but that is rare.  I file all my papers in either a file drawer or keep them in a binder. It is crucial that you have files set up for your paperwork or it will have no place to go. I make files for medical, school records, receipts, paid bills, etc. which I will address in a later post. Before they are filed I have two places that they can be. If they are not in the one, they are in the other. Simple. Easy. No lost papers!

I have one place designated for important papers that are time sensitive, and another place for papers that require action but do not have a time deadline. That's it. Two places.

1. The time sensitive box (I call this my bill box). I use an antique looking metal box that I like looking at since it sits on my desk. I like it there because it is in plain view and I cannot forget about it! In this box I put ONLY important papers that have a deadline. I put all my unpaid bills, a check that needs to be cashed, an invitation before it gets put into my calendar, etc. Anything with a deadline. That's it.

This is my bill box - just big enough for the time sensitive papers
Lucas Allen
2. The non-time sensitive box (I call this my to-do box) is a place (the only place) where papers that are without a deadline are kept before they are filed away or taken care of. The reason I insist that this box be short is that it is not a place to store papers but a holding place until they are moved somewhere else (put in a binder, filed in the filing drawer, thrown away after reading, or taken care of).

The perfect size for a to-do box - JUST ONE! These from See Jane Work
James Baigrie
Here is how it works. (Practice with your mail today!) Everything that is not filed, put away in designated places or thrown away should go into one of those two places. If it is a bill to be paid, it goes in your time sensitive box. If it is something you want to look at later or can't file away today, it goes in the non-time sensitive box. That's it. I keep my calendar in my to-do box. I may throw a receipt in there before I can file it, or a photo before I have time to put it where I store my photos, or an application to fill out at my convenience. When I need to find something, I know it is either in one box or the other. If I get a check in the mail, I will put it in the time sensitive box.

Alexandra Rowley

Time management is the other factor here.  Part of the reason why I insist that the to-do box has short sides is that it is not intended to be a place for papers to pile up but rather a holding place until they are moved into where they will ultimately be stored (filing drawer, binder or designated home). My rule of thumb - when the to-do box is full it is time to take care of the papers. Ideally the to-do box should be emptied each week.

Paul Whicheloe
Tip of the day: Schedule in your calendar one day a week consistently to go through your to-do box and to take care of your time sensitive bills and papers.

{All images from Real Simple unless otherwise noted}


Robbie said...

Sounds like a great plan for the new year. Thanks for the tips I can always use them.

pamela said...

How did I ever manage without you Sherri? Always there with the good ideas just when I need a bit of encouragement;) Thanks, and happy holidays xxx