I could spend this post singing the praises of online bill pay and removing yourself from junk mail lists, but I will not. Let's instead focus on dealing with all the stuff that does end up in your mailbox. It can be a lot of paper. I have several tips I hope you find helpful.
First, an admission. I like paper bills. I always want proof in my hot little hand that I paid my bill or bought something new or went to the doctor. It just makes me feel more comfortable to have it available to me when I need it, which is more often than I ever thought. So they ask me with every new paper bill whether I would like to go paperless and I do not. Maybe some day I will change, but not now.
Here's my drill:
- The mail comes.
- I open the junk mail. Any generic "resident" junk goes into the paper recycling bin. IMMEDIATELY.
- Anything from the junk mail that is not generic, such as the form for a pre-approved credit card offer, goes directly into my shredder. IMMEDIATELY.
- Anything that is not junk mail I then open. I pay all my bills online, so I immediately recycle the envelope it came in, the envelope that came with it, and any inserts that I do not want.
- This leaves me with a core of important mail, which I deal with once a week. It sits in a designated holding place until my once-a-week organization of paperwork.
- I immediately recycle the phone book. (I cannot actually believe they still deliver them!)
- The key here is handling this immediately. If you put it off, it can become overwhelming in short order.
How Do I Manage Storage?
- I do NOT have a neat desk scanner, although I supposed I could scan all my paper, but as I have said, I like this stuff as paper.
- I have a small two-drawer file cabinet in my home office. In it I maintain a manila folder for each company to which I regularly make a payment. Each month, I put the most recent statement for each in the front of their folder.
- I keep one years' worth in thia small file cabinet but 5 years' worth in the large five-drawer file cabinet in my closet. Anything older than that goes to the shredder (except tax returns, which I think I will keep forever).
What about Paperwork for Purchases?
- When I purchase something to use in my home (small electronics, household appliances, big ticket items that are not built in), I have a drawer in my 5-year file cabinet that is dedicated to these items. There is, once again, a manila folder for each: Sporting Goods, Audio Visual, Heating/Cooling, and so on. I keep the manual or booklet for each purchase with a copy of the sales receipt stapled to the cover. This is handy for insurance purposes should something ever happen so I can show what I own.
- When I purchase a home improvement, which is what I call anything that impacts the value of my house, I have a separate portable file for those. Each room in my house, along with the yard, has its own folder. Each time I improve something, I add it to these files. New appliances, new flooring, landscaping. Everything. Then, when I go to sell, I have a comprehensive record of everything I have done to the house to increase its value and what it cost.
- One additional step for home improvements: when I paint, I ensure that I get an extra color chip and I ask the paint mixing person for two stickers (the ones that go on top of the can) instead of one. As soon as I get home, I immediately tape the paint chip to a piece if 8.5 x 11 paper, add the sticker, note the brand of paint and its finish, and record the name of the room in the house where the new paint is going. I slide that sheet into a sheet protector and maintain a notebook for all paint colors.
- I also do something similar for water filters and such. I keep a printout of the web site from which I buy my filters, along with the front label from the filter packaging itself, and the name of the filtering system it is for (I have several). That way, when and if I ever sell this house, the next occupant will know what's what. And besides, I can never remember from month to month anyway, so having it so handy in this little binder is great.
I guess that's it for now. More shining examples of my anal retentivity.