Monday, October 27, 2014

Paperwork and Filing

I have spent the weekend getting caught up on a huge backlog of paperwork and filing.  I have a love/hate relationship with filing.  There's nothing I like better than a well-organized file cabinet, with clearly labeled file folders and papers neatly organized in chronological order within its file.  It is so easy to find what you are looking for when it is where it should be!  And that is the main function of files - making it easy find the exact piece of paper you are looking for,  making it easy to access information.

And yet, so often, I tend to procrastinate on the actual filing.  I set things aside to file later.  And then, before I know it, there's a growing pile of papers needing my attention.  It stacks up on the desk, or the coffee table, or the dining table.  It gets moved to the top of the filing cabinet.  One stack becomes two stacks.  And then, finally, it gets to the point that I take an entire weekend, or at least, several hours, to sort through and file.

I have two 2-drawer letter sized file cabinets at home, stacked one on top of the other; each is 18 inches deep.  One would think that that was plenty of file space.  And yet, all four drawers are full!  Especially around this time of the year, when they are holding almost a full year's worth of papers.

So, I am going to quote my friend who sent me such helpful comments and suggestions in her email in response to my complaint about a lack of storage space: 

"For example...If the file cabinet is full you clearly have too much paper. What paperwork has experience taught you need and use - regularly? Do you have papers in your active file system, excluding legal documents, formal credentials, tax related receipts and active warranties that have not been looked at or required since 1/1/2014? Is the information available on-line from a vendor? Does your electronic bank data identify date, vendor, payment? Can it easily be printed?

What are you willing to release to archive [tax, house maintenance/repair] records, items with potential for dispute? What are you willing to purge? Do you have info on a car you no longer own? Items no longer on warranty? Items no longer active? Promos for flooring now installed and enjoyed?"

I admit I keep too much paper!  I am afraid to toss anything away!  What if I need it later?

We are urged to toss (recycle) the obvious junk mail as soon as we collect the mail from the mail box, but I admit to not doing that;  I bring everything inside the house.  We are urged to have a designated spot for incoming mail, but I tend to just dump it on the nearest available surface - desk, dining table, coffee table, sofa, etc.  We are supposed to have a designated day to process paperwork, but I struggle with implementing routines.  And so, the mail tends to sit, until later in the day, or week, or couple of weeks!  I am usually pretty good about tossing the grocery ads, etc., and I pull out the bills to be paid.  But going through other mail and filing tends to be put off.  It's kind of low priority.  And then it stacks up and gets overwhelming.

So, this past weekend was when I sat down to sort through a box of papers.  About half of it got tossed (recycled).  The rest was filed.  In order to file them, I had to make room in the file cabinets.  Which meant going through some of the file folders and purging them.  I took my friend's questions about what was in the file cabinet and decided I didn't need to keep the file pertaining to a former pet (adoption papers, vet records, etc.); ditto the maintenance records for the old car; and some installation manuals for items such as kitchen cabinets and sink and ceiling fan.

I've more files to clean out, but I made enough room for what needed to be filed and am caught up on the backlog, for now.  It is my intention to go through one or two file folders, each week, and eliminate what is not needed from them.

Anyone else struggling with keeping up with paperwork and filing?  Do you retain too much paper? 

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