More and more people are going paperless at home and really seeing the benefits of less clutter. Are you feeling like you’re buried under an avalanche of paper sometimes? Most of us are right there with you. We’ve all gotten overwhelmed with of the paper that is around us. It seems like the more we talk about going paperless, the more paper it generates!
Here are a few tips to help you with going paperless at home:
1. Declutter…Declutter…Declutter – One of the first things to do to accomplish our mission of going paperless at home is to declutter the unnecessary paper around us. Much of the paper we have, we can eliminate. The first step is to invest in a shredder, preferably a diamond cut shredder that makes confetti out of your paper.
The second thing to do is invest in a safe deposit box, or a fireproof box for your home. These are the first 2 steps to achieving our mission.
The third step is to set aside a time each day to work at reducing the level of paper. In most cases it isn’t going to happen in a day or two, but rather it’s going to be a little bit of time. Start with 15 minutes each day until it is under control.
2. How Long To Keep What? – Some papers need to be kept for a short time, some for a bit longer, and some need to be kept for your entire life. The next few tips will deal with the length of time to keep which papers.
The ‘Forever Papers’ should be kept in the safe deposit box or fireproof box, along with the papers you should keep for 7 years.
In addition, purchase a file cabinet, or dedicate a file drawer or two, to hold the papers that you should keep for up to 3 years.
3. Keep Forever – When going paperless at home mindfull of types of papers that should be kept forever:
Wills, birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, prenuptial agreements, alimony and child-custody agreements, divorce decrees, adoption papers, military records, citizenship papers, passports, health care power of attorney, copies of your IRA or 401K accounts along with copies of the form that names your plan beneficiaries, current insurance policies, employment contracts, deeds, property titles, mortgages, and stock and bond certificates.
4. Keep for at Least 7 Years –
These are the types of papers that should be kept for at least 7 years.
Income tax returns (state and federal) with all supporting documentation. Supporting documentation is all that you use to figure your taxes. Also keep wage/salary records and annual payroll check stubs, canceled checks or bank statements, savings account records, monthly statements including information from banks, brokers, retirement plans, auto titles, guarantees and warranties along with dates and costs of improvements to your home.
5. Keep for Us to 3 Years-
These are the types of papers that should be kept for at least 3 years.
Papers that confirm buying or selling of stocks and bonds, pay stubs, credit card statements if they list tax deductible expenses or charitable gifts, utility and phone bills, ATM receipts/deposit slips, and medical bills.
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Use Your Computer
6. Use the Computer for Filing – When going paperless at home be mindfull of what you are printing
off of your home computer. Many of us print off documents that we could be storing on our computers. Instead of printing off a copy of what you have on the computer, and dealing with paper, backup your files on a 2nd hard drive, a removable drive, or even on the Internet.
Many external hard drives are very affordable and offer a vast amount of storage, and are very reliable. No matter how good computers are, they do fail and so an external hard drive, or even an Internet backup are good insurance against losing your data.
7. Electric Bill Pay - Another way to reduce the amount of paper coming into your home is to sign up for electronic billing. Electronic billing has made going paperless at home a bit easier. Many companies will be very happy to send you an electronic bill only. You will receive your monthly statement via email which will give you a link to view your bill.
In addition to sending you your statement electronically, many companies will also encourage you to pay electronically. This can be by means of an automatic deduction every month or a one-time payment. You not only reduce the amount of paper coming into your home, you reduce the amount of paper going out of your home too.
Many banks now offer free bill pay. You can sign up with your bank to pay your bills automatically each month or use them for a one-time payment, just like with each individual company. This gives you a one stop place to take care of all of your bills.
Shredder and Trash
8. Eliminate the Junk Mail – Contacting the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) and registering with their Mail Preference Service provides an effective way for you to fight the junk mail glut. The DMA does not provide marketers with consumer mailing lists or do consumer mailings. They provide their Mail Preference Service to marketers for the sole purpose of removing consumer’s names and addresses from their prospect mailing lists.
In the offort of going paperless at home avoid getting on even more mailing lists by taking precautions whenever you submit your name and address to anyone. If you’re filling out a form such as a warranty, subscription, raffle, customer info card, credit card application, membership for an organization, etc., add the phrase ‘please do not rent, sell, or trade my name or address’ next to the other information you provide.
Be advised that it is not necessary to fill out a warranty card to benefit from the warranty on your purchase. The warranty card is usually just a way to get consumer info from you.
Repeat these same magic words every time you’re giving a company or organization your name and address over the phone or Internet, such as when ordering a catalog, magazine, or making a purchase. The sales rep will then flag your name in their computer. These are just a couple of the things you can do to reduce the amount of junk mail coming in.
9. Sort Your Mail at the Shredder – When you are opening your mail EACH DAY, do so over the shredder. If it’s not a bill or personal correspondence, or a charitable donation request that you support, shred anything that has your name and address on it. It is important that you shred to protect your identity.
There is so much identity theft going on that could be prevented by shredding anything that has your name and address on it. This includes catalog order forms along with the back cover where your mailing address is.
10. Handle It Once – When paper does come into your home, handle it only once. That means you either shred it, attend to it (pay a bill, answer a letter, etc.) or file it. This way you don’t have a pile of papers to deal with all at once, it’s already taken care of.
If you only pay bills on certain days, have an `immediate’ file set up that you put `bills to be paid’, `correspondence to be answered’, and other categories that mean something to you personally, after all, if it doesn’t work for you, you won’t use it.
11. Cancel the Subscription- Another key to going paperless at home is to manage the paper that comes in. How many magazines come into your home on a weekly basis that you don’t have time to read? Are they stacking up too? If that is the case, it’s time to re-evaluate whether or not you really need to continue to subscribe to those magazines. That includes newspaper subscriptions too. If you have time to read a newspaper then don’t cancel it, but if it piles up alongside the magazines you don’t have time to read, why have it come into the house in the first place. Most newspapers have websites where you can read the newspaper online, saving paper.
By using any or all of the systems above, your mission of going paperless at home can be accomplished. All of the systems in the world won’t do a bit of good if you don’t keep on top of them. By reducing the amount of paper you have to deal with on a daily basis, it is easier to keep up with it. Don’t let your `to be filed’ basket be filled to overflowing. Instead, file each piece as it comes into the house. Then it is no longer a mountain threatening an avalanche when you walk by.
To find out how to get organized and put these strategies to use right away, visit: The Definitive Guide to Home Organization for Busy People today and get your life and home organized and clutter free forever!