One of the best ways to control paper clutter is by setting up files. I have files for school records, medical records (one for each member of the family), veterinarian, tax receipts, bank statements, etc. There are a lot of intricate and detailed ways to set up files. In fact, there are entire books written on how to file your papers. But what I have found that works best for me is a simple, and quick way to file that doesn't require a lot of time to set it up or to keep up with it.
|Pottery Barn's Porter Lateral File Cabinet|
If I have to spend a lot of time filing, I will not do it. I will instead pile up the papers to wait until I have time to 'file' them. And it won't get done. I have devised a very simple filing system for the bills that I pay each month that requires very little time. I have to disclose that I am an old-fashioned girl and although I pay some of my bills online, I still get a lot of my bills mailed to me that I pay by check. This is how I manage that paperwork:
I have 12 files that I start with each year; one file for each month of the year. When I pay a bill, I write on my portion of the bill the date, the check number and the amount I paid, and then I file it in the appropriate month. That's it. I don't have a separate place for utility bills, and credit card bills and medical bills - that would take me too long. I simply pay everything that comes in that month and file my portion in the month that I paid it. If I pay a bill online, I print the record and file it under the current month. And then I save everything until the end of the year.
At the end of the year, I sit down (it takes me about an hour) and I go through all of the 12 files and put like bills together. For example, all the phone bills together, all the utility bills, Macys, and Visa, etc. etc. I literally sit on the floor of my office and make piles of each category as I go through each month; they are already in order by month so when the pile is done I just staple them together. I only keep the records that I need for tax purposes. If I need the records for tax purposes I transfer them to a separate tax records box for that year. If I don't need the records - my utility bills for example, I throw them out (or shred them if necessary). In January, I start all over again with my newly emptied 12 files. It is a simple way to file, but it works for me.