This is how I sort my mail each week.
One of my most asked questions is how to set up an Action File. I decided to create a video so you can see it.
Want more help decluttering papers and the rest of your home? Join the Declutter Group in January or April.
In a recent Weekly Simplicity Tips, I mentioned having “places for books, papers, mail, and stationary supplies.” Tracy wants to know where those places are for you.
For me I have a bookshelf in my closet for health and home books. A shelf in my office is for books I am currently reading. The bedroom has a bookshelf for spiritual and relationship books. The bookshelf in my office has creativity and business books. The big bookshelf is upstairs and holds novels, personal development, hobby & reference books.
For papers: when they come in the house they go to the inbox on my desk. After sorting they either go in the action file for papers to do, reference files or shred/recycle/trash.
Mail goes in the inbox.
Stationary supplies go in a box in my office. Cards are sorted by type ie birthday, sympathy, etc. And I have general note cards in there.
Where do you store things like these?
In the Declutter Group we were talking about paper and what to do if you aren’t at home. You know those plastic or paper Accordion folders like for bills?
Before leaving home I threw a pile of papers that needs sorting in the front pocket. Then I have little labels – to read, to do, to pay, to file and any other project papers I end up with.
Then when I was waiting for kids or when I worked outside the home, I did quick sorts and a lot of time I could do the "to do" papers or pay bills. This really helped my paper piles.
This weekend I wanted to open more space up in my office. The first thing I did was put a bunch of books into the bookshelf in my closet, and other books in a container in the closet.
The second thing I did was combine two file areas – my financial folders and my action file. I realized I didn’t need the monthly folders that only had 1-3 pieces of paper in them each. Instead I created a yearly file for the pay stubs and bank statements.
I also didn’t use most of the tax files. See I input my receipts every couple of weeks and have them in categories on a spreadsheet. So I didn’t need the different tax categories in file folders. Now I have tax to be inputted and tax 2011.
Which left all sorts of room for my action files (to pay, to do, to input, kids school stuff.)
Do you have any file folders you aren’t using?
I loved reading everyone’s questions from the giveaway post. Debbie asked what papers, receipts, bills should she keep and for how long. And then she wanted to know what to do with all those papers.
Bank Rate has a great article on how long you need to keep certain papers:
I use the Freedom Filer System myself for keeping things organized. I’ve been using it about 2 years now and I never have a stack of things to file now, since filing is so easy. It is a self purging system. Your file system is divided by:
Green folders: Monthly files
- receipts you get
- little papers you don’t know what to do with
- bank statements
- paid bills
There are 2 years of files with the current year up front. A binder clip can keep your place. So at the beginning of each month you can empty out the folder which would have papers from 2 years ago – and most can be pitched. It’s a fast way to file and most of these you will never need again.
Blue folders: 2 years worth of tax info
- W2’s, 1009’s etc.
- tax receipts sorted by category if you have a lot of deductions
- tax return
Fool.com has a good list of what you need to keep for taxes: Which tax records to keep. The tax folders are odd year and even year. So once the odd year comes back around you can file all the old papers by year in an archive box in the basement or storage. So right now I have tax files for 2008 and 2009 in the file section and the rest of my tax files are in a box in the basement organized by year.
I keep the monthly files and the taxes in the same file box.
Grey folders: action
- to pay
- open projects
- data entry
This is where most of the mail you go through ends up if it isn’t thrown out. If you regularly do an action that you get papers for – create a folder. Usually these papers are what create piles around the house. I have the action folders on my desk in a lovely white basket with green fabric. It’s about half the size of a regular file box. Some people put these in their top file drawer, but I like to be able to see it. And it makes mail time sorting even faster.
Orange folders: Remove/Replace
- insurance papers
- book club list
- credit card policies
- 401K statement
These are for all those papers you get new documents from time to time. So when the new insurance policy comes in, I can throw out the old one. We get a book club list yearly so I don’t need to keep all the old ones. Credit card policies come in every few months so I get rid of the outdated papers. Same with the new health insurance booklet. I love this folder section. I don’t ever have to worry about, "Should I keep this?" These files fit in one file drawer for me.
Red folders: Permanent
- medical documents
- mortgage papers
- genealogy records
- education papers
These papers fit in one file drawer for me. Titles, marriage license, and important documents like that should go in a safe deposit box or fireproof safe.
optional Purple folders: interests
- health articles
- scrapbook design ideas
- home decorating articles/ideas
If you ever wanted to know what to do with all your articles and clippings, this is where they can go. An alternative if you have lots of papers is to use binders. The easiest way to tell if these need purging is if you run out of space. When you have no more room you either have to purge some folders or get a new cabinet. I suggest going through those folders or binders. I have one file drawer for interests. Since I own my own business I also have a file drawer for my business papers.
Until papers are sorted, they are in my in box which I try to clean out every other day or at least weekly.
If you have lots of papers to go through, read my post: Conquering the Paper Pile Up.
And this post will help you create a tickler file. What to Do with the Daily Papers.
Full Disclosure: I am also a Freedom Filer Affiliate, so purchases through the above link will help support this site.
- Simplifying Not Organizing
- Questions to Help You Simplify Your Life
- Areas to Simplify
- What to Do with all the Papers
- How to Get Things Done When You Are An Emotional Wreck
- How to Get to the End of Your To Do List
- A Question to Help You Make Changes
- Choosing Your Committments
- Laziness Isn't the Problem
- What's Keeping You From Decluttering?
- Uncovering the Creative Areas
- Decluttering the Entryway
- Decluttering Cosmetics
- Piles of Magazine Clippings