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Paperwork! It’s Folder Time

If you’ve made it this far in the paper management process, it’s time to start filing into broader categories. You’ve touched a lot of paper throughout this project so you should have a good grasp on what your major divisions will be, but here are my starting


· Money

· Medical

· Insurance

· Banking & Investments

· Misc.

Start with a file box/crate and hanging folders for each broad category. Because we’re still trying to reduce decision fatigue, pick a stack of paper about 6-8 inches deep and file into these major categories. The Miscellaneous folder is just temporary storage, but the others will form the basis of your filing system.

You may still find reading material, memorabilia, or one-of-a-kind documents. You may also discover paper to toss or shred. Handle these documents now – and repeat this process until you’ve accomplished your goal for the day!

We want to create a system that allows you to find things and file things easily. Each of the major categories will have its own set of subcategories. Remember that this system is for file storage so don’t file documents if you need to take action on them or if you’re waiting for more information. These items go in your Action Items folder or your Working & Waiting folder.

Once you’ve accumulated enough in a hanging file folder to merit greater division, it’s time to take a break. When you come back, it will be time to create your first set of subcategories.

Let’s start with Money!

The Money subcategory will be divided into Money In and Money Out – and you will probably need two hanging file folders. If you want subcategories here, feel free to create them now.

Money In includes pay stubs, payments made to you for goods or services, and any income that needs a paper trail. So, rebate checks, cash gifts (under the taxable amount), and other odd bits really don’t have to be “saved” for future reference. Once you have year-end statements and or sales totals for tax purposes, the individual pieces can be shredded, thrown away or archived with taxes.

Money Out is where things get interesting. We tend to keep more than we need, or we keep it longer than we need in these categories. The question becomes “Do I need this for tax purposes? repair/return possibilities? or to maintain a timeline when something was completed or purchased?”

Some possible Money Out subcategories are utility bills, medical bills, loan payments, credit card statements, and home improvements/repairs. If you buy art or other collectibles, you must decide if certificates of authenticity are safe enough here or if they need to be filed with one-of-a-kind documents. Medical payments can be filed here if your medical needs are average check-ups and minor boo-boos. If there are major health events Medical should be its own major subcategory.

If there’s an online record of your payments over time (utilities, loan payments, etc.) you can probably shred those statements instead of filing them. If the current statement is accurate and you’ve paid it in full, you can shred it instead of saving it. If you MUST keep them, keep only the previous year and the current year for active filing.

Paper receipts for tax-related items or large purchases were covered in more detail in Paperwork! Bits & Pieces, but any other unfiled receipts will find their home in a Money MIsc. file in “Money Out.”

Next time, next category: Medical!

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