Updated: Jan 9, 2020
So we're moving on to Paper clutter. Think about the amount of paper that clutters up the home. If you have children, you can pretty much count on paper clutter in some form or another. Here's the thing...with the technology available to us, there really is no reason to keep all that paper. I would be willing to bet that 90% of the paper in our homes can be recycled or shredded.
I know some people like to keep paper, but unless it's serving a purpose for me, I usually get rid of it. I learned, once I delved into the book, that paper seems to be one exception to the "spark joy" rule. There are just some paper you must keep regardless of the joy factor.
Quote from the book, on page 96..."My basic principle for sorting papers is to throw them all away." Woah! Seriously, throw them all away??? This statement kind of blew my mind. But then I read on, and found she recommends only keeping paper that falls into one of three categories...
Currently in use
Needed for limited time
Must be kept indefinitely
Ok this started to make more sense. So I'm going to give a quick overview of her method, and then I'll talk about my method! If you read my last blog post, you'll know I question some of the methods she talks about.
According to the book, you need to gather all the paper from your home. Which includes all mail, newspapers, school papers, newsletters, invitations etc. This does not include sentimental papers like letters from old friends or certificates from activities etc. Those you will handle with the sentimental lesson. From here you are supposed to, first, sort papers that don't spark joy, then decide what to do with the ones you decided to keep. I guess this is because if it doesn't spark joy, its easier to decide whether to keep it or not? For me, none of the papers spark joy! So , basically just sorting all the papers...OK! The way I see it, is the only paper stuff that sparks joy is the sentimental stuff, right? And we're not supposed to be doing that yet. Can you see my confusion?
So, now you are supposed to divide the papers your keeping into 2 categories...Papers to be saved and Papers to be dealt with. OK. Make a special spot for the papers to be dealt with. These are things like forms to be filled out, newspaper to read, invitations to reply to, etc. Make sure to keep all such papers in one spot only, and not let them spread around the house. This will only cause things to get lost, and forgotten and not dealt with. This part makes sense. All papers requiring attention can be kept here, no need to separate them further.
The goal here, is to keep the "needs attention" box empty. Realistically, it will likely never be empty, but if you make it goal, the amount of stuff in there should always be manageable.
For the papers that must be saved, they are subdivided by frequency of use...? Um, ok, this didn't really make sense to me. Infrequently used papers are things like insurance policies, leases, guarantees, etc. She just places them all in a single clear folder and doesn't worry with categorization. I admit, this blows my mind a bit...ok A LOT! Why not categorize them, or at least put them in separate folders for easier retrieval???
Then the frequently used category consists of outlines from seminars or newspaper clippings...WHAT? This makes absolutely no sense to me. But maybe that's because I don't keep this kind of stuff at all. At least not in paper form.
So yes, I started by gather all the paper. All my "needs attention" papers go in a bin located in the family command center. My kids know to put school papers there if they want me to deal with it. Like permission slips, special notices, announcements, invitations. I also have a big magnetic white board at the command center. Our calendar hangs there so it's easy to add things. But after I have signed the papers and RSVP'd to parties, I also hang up the field trip info, party info, event info etc there so it can be seen by all who needs to. I keep it just in case someone writes it incorrectly on the calendar. And no, my "needs attention" box is never empty, but it's never overflowing either.
Now for, the stuff that needs to be kept...
I use file folders for this stuff. And I have it categorized. I find this helpful for when I do need to find something. No, I don't have to retrieve any of this frequently, but when I do, I don't want to spend time flipping through papers to find what I need. With my way, I can just pull the folder I need. My categories are as follows...
-Mortgage docs (includes contract from purchase, and settlement papers, and papers from the sale of our old house)
-House papers (tax bills, assessment notices, appraisals)
-Vehicle docs (service history, purchase docs and financing)
-Kids 529 info
-Credit info (such as credit reports and info on security breaches I have been caught in)
-Insurance files (Life, Health/Dental, Auto, Home)
-Taxes (7 years worth)
Obviously, you don't have to have the same stuff. This is what I choose to keep. Some people may need to keep more taxes (depending on your line of business). Thinking of taxes, I currently have a folder in the "needs attention" bin where we keep all our tax docs for 2018 as they come in. So they are all in one place when it comes time to file our return.
As for the papers I don't keep. Those include bank statements, credit card statements. The reason being, I can retrieve them online. I don't even get paper statements for my bank accounts or credit cards. I simply log in when the statement is generated and take a look at it to make sure there are no discrepancies. If sometime down the road, I do need a copy of a statement for some reason or another, I can log in and retrieve it, or contact the bank for a copy. Yes, some banks charge fees for this, but if you don't make a habit of it, and you only need one statement, they may not charge you. (I used to work in banking). My monthly mortgage statement, I keep for the current year only. My mortgage company sends a year end statement of history, and that's when I get rid of the monthly statements for that year. I should add that I only keep this mortgage info because the bank our mortgage is with, we don't have any other accounts with, so I am unable to sign up for online banking in order to retrieve copies of these docs. Since that bank is still a little old fashioned, I keep the papers to make it easier if I do need a copy, and so I don't have to call the bank. I hate making phone calls...Haha!
Medicals bills I keep, and attach to the EOB that it's linked to. Then I only keep these are 2 years at most. I keep the current year EOB's and the prior year only. It has happened once where I didn't get a medical bill for an entire year after the service date. Which is why I keep these for the prior year. I honestly don't know all the rules regarding how long this stuff should be kept. But I will probably look into it now for a future blog post.
In the book they talk about materials from seminars or lectures. I don't keep this stuff at all. Most seminars I do are online, so I save lecture materials on my google drive. I very rarely refer back to them. Even on the occasion I do a live in person seminar, I have found that many people will email the materials to you so I again just save to my drive. Some people prefer to keep the paper form, especially if they refer back frequently. But this depends on the type of business and the individual person. If you prefer to keep the paper, then I suggest making a file for Seminar materials. But only do this if you are REALLY going to refer back to them. Another quote from the book, page 101... "It's paradoxical, but I believe that precisely because we hang on to such materials, we fail to put what we learn into practice." This made sense to me!
I also don't keep appliance manuals because they can be located online at the manufacturer's website and in Pdf form.
What about used checkbooks? Do you have a checkbook with duplicate copies? Do you keep it when you've used all the checks and are left with just the duplicates? You don't need to. If you want to, then at least get rid of them once the check has cleared your bank. After the check has cleared there is truly no purpose for the duplicate. For this reason, I don't even spend the extra money for duplicates.
Paystubs/slips...This is one people love to keep. If you opt for direct deposit of your paycheck, then you may get a paystub in paper form but most businesses have moved to paperless. If your company is paperless, resist the urge to print every paystub. I suggest logging in to look at it, but leave it there. If you insist on printing it, then go ahead but I suggest then, getting rid of the year's worth once you have received your W-2 form. So you don't need more than a year's worth at one time.
So that's how I do it! Since, everyone will have different papers items they need to keep based on personal or business circumstances, you will need to tweak things a little. Name your files what you want them to be named and will make sense to you.
For now, happy organizing! Stay tuned for more tips and thoughts on the paper situation!