So, your incoming papers have now made it from your entrance basket or depository, past junk mail recycle, to your two subdivisions, “time-sensitive action” (bills, replies required, etc., which obviously need to be dealt with ASAP) and “file or process“, which can be further slotted as you like into categories like kids’ papers/HW, other business, and whatnot.
Now comes the tricky part: where to file what. I borrowed most of this material from others online, so I don’t take credit, I just offer these general guidelines. Bottom line is, whatever makes the most sense to you is the way to go.
- Frequent Access Docs: Bills, statements from banks and companies you’re doing business with,etc. should be filed in front for easy access. Monthly, you should sort and archive any older than one year. (See archive. Or put it off, and see what happens!)
- On-hand Archive Docs: important current papers such as insurance policies and benefit documents should go toward the back, but still accessible. Make sure your file folders are labeled clearly and specifically.
- Archive: File these docs into file boxes for storage: closed bank account records, old credit reports, 10-year-old taxes, etc. (There are differing views on how long to keep old tax docs. Some say 7 years, some 5, and so on. Being OCD, I tend to go with the longer time. Secretly, I save them all! I know it’s neurotic, but the IRS makes me nervous.) You can also archive misc. older non-essential personal stuff you want to keep.
- Purge: This is my personal favorite, but the hardest to do. It consists of useless papers like user guides to long-gone gadgets, former employer paperwork, etc. But it also involves important docs older than certain periods of time, bound for the shredder, which I will cover in my next post (or whenever I get around to it).
I should mention, separate and apart from all the above, your original vital records, such as official birth certificate, social security card, passports, diplomas, will, living will, advance directives, beneficiary designations, deeds, titles, and so on, should be secured in a fire-resistant safe box (locked, with the key accessible), located near your emergency kit and to-go bag. You can file copies of these in your on-hand archive docs, or scan them to your e-files.
Well, I’ve put myself to sleep, and if I’ve done the same for you, you’re welcome! (I can type in my sleep.) And if any of this helps you cope, all the better. I know it’s dry and boring as hell, so you can rest assured I’ll get off it pretty soon, and write about some other earth-shattering, mind-blowing stuff.
Here is a cat (not mine, but related) filed on a shelf.