The calendar just rolled over to a new year, so it's time to start fresh with some new files. This goes for you whether you're mostly digital, mostly paper, or somewhere in the middle.
If you keep digital files, I recommend downloading pdf copies of the statements as a backup and keeping them in folders on your computer and backed up on a cloud server (I use dropbox, but there are many good options out there.). Now is the time to create new folders labeled with the new year so you'll be ready when this year's downloads are available.
If you keep paper files, now is the time to label some fresh new folders. If you have a file drawer, one good option is to keep two-year's worth of files available at a time so you can just rotate the files for the new year. One set of files will be labeled "odd" for odd years, and the other "even." When the new year rolls around, bring the new year's set of files to the front of the drawer, emptying them out by discarding anything no longer need to store and placing items for long-term storage (Check the IRS website for a reference list.) in an archive file location such as a less-accessible file drawer or a box in a closet, attic, or basement (Use plastic bins if moisture is a problem.).
Another option for paper files is my expanding file system. Each year, I start fresh with a new 19-pocket expanding file. For the first part of the year, while I'm preparing for taxes, I keep last year's file handy. After April 15th, it goes down to my basement on a shelf with 7 others. I store 7 years' worth of files (that's how long to save tax-related info) plus one expanding file for permanent information (tax returns, home repairs, major medical info, etc.). I like this system because it's easy, compact, and never has to be purged. After 7 years, the files get shredded and I can reuse the expanding file.
How will you make a fresh start with files this year?
Looking for an easy way to reduce the dreaded task of filing? Go paperless!
Whenever possible, whether it's utility bills or bank statements, sign up for the paperless option. Don't worry, your statements and account information will all be available to you online, but you'll no longer have to handle and store the paper files.
You'll still be able to reconcile your bank statements and keep track of payments because the statements will come to your email address. If you really feel the need, you can file these digitally in a special email folder. At least that kind of filing takes just a click and doesn't take up any physical space.
Want to streamline things even further? Sign up for automatic payments of recurring bills. You'll be given at least several days' notice about exactly how much will be deducted from your bank account or charged to your credit card, so you have time to transfer the funds as needed. You'll never be late on a payment again!
One of the books I read over the summer was The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson and what I enjoyed most about the book were the descriptions of the new inventions created for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, such as the Ferris Wheel.
The invention that most delighted me was this:
“Visitors also encountered the latest and arguably most important organizational invention of the century, the vertical file, created by Melvil Dewey, inventor of the Dewey Decimal System.”
– Erik Larson, The Devil in the White City
Yes, I’m a nerdy organizer and I get excited about vertical files!
They are so ubiquitous now that we take them for granted, but at the time they must have seemed very modern and efficient. It’s hard to imagine an office today without them. How was paperwork stored before?
Need help with your files? Give me a ring! I have a very simple filing system for my household files: just one accordion file per year plus a small desktop vertical file for action items and frequently-accessed information. Whether we use my system or develop your own custom system, I’d love to help you streamline your paperwork.