1. I established an inbox and outbox. The inbox is on the desk. The outbox is next to the front door so we can check it on the way out (we forget sometimes!).
2. Once a week (currently Thursdays), I go through the inbox. I know the popular maxim to only handle pieces of paper once, but I find that there are some that just need time to figure out what to do. So I may look at it, ponder, and put it back in the inbox.
3. Because I'm doing it weekly, my inbox only takes an hour or two to get through. There are usually a few bills to pay and file. Three checkbooks to balance once a month. There are appointments and phone calls to make.
4. However, in February, I clean out last year's files, so that takes a few hours longer.
a. I remove all of last year's bills from our 2-drawer filing cabinet (but leave any documents in the file that pertain to more than a calendar year).
b. I put it all in envelopes, labeling them with the year and the number of envelopes. I've found that the times we've needed a paper from an old year, it was not too hard to find the stack from the file. Therefore, I don't separate and label each individual file. Most of the time, information we need is on our tax papers.
c. Then I stick the envelopes in filing boxes in a closet. I keep 7 years, which is the minimum the IRS wants for an audit. I shred older years. Today I shredded 2003, and found my summer paystubs that solved the mystery of what year it was that I worked at the Amish museum.
d. Two files are permanent: our major home renovation with plans, receipts, permits; the list and paperwork of our former tenants.
e. Then I say to myself, "self, what treat would please you, as a reward for all this hard, adult work?"
5. In March (it happened this week), I organize all our receipts and deductions that were accumulating in the file over the previous year for tax purposes - another hour or so of work. Then my husband takes it from there.
What I did in my inbox this week:
A. entered children's dentist appointments in online calendar - recycled card
B. opened mail - recycled envelopes and junk mail, set bills in inbox
C. entered automatic payments for phone and electric in checkbook register - deleted notification emails
D. renewed car registration online, filed paperwork
E. made half-hearted inquiries into preschools for Ben
F. wrote a check for a charitable donation - mailed it
G. filed statement for retirement account
How do you handle the flow of paper/mail/filing in your house?