Monday, October 5, 2009

Fun Paper Organizing Stories!

Wondering if you should bother organizing your paperwork? Here are a few true stories…and some tips to keep this from happening to you.
Getting organized could save your house

I was sorting through a (huge) pile of unopened mail on a client’s kitchen counter and found a notice of a lien on their property due to unpaid real estate taxes. The real estate tax bills were also in the unopened pile of mail. Tip: Open your mail.
Found money
I found a check for $13,600 in a box of unopened mail that had been shoved in my client’s basement. I showed it to him and he told me he had been waiting for that check for over a year, had accused the sender of never sending it, and was in the process of taking legal action over it. Tip: Deal with paperwork as it comes in. It can save you time, money, and embarrassment.

1951 was a good year…
So good, that in 2007, I came across a client’s tax returns from that year, and every year in between. You wouldn’t believe how simple the form was back then…and all done in pencil. Tip: You only need to keep personal tax records for seven years.
The desk drawer

In 1994 my uncle took over my grandfather’s company. On his first day there he sat down at my grandfather’s desk and opened the top, right drawer to find invoices dated 1955. Tip: Purge regularly (definitely more often than once every 50 years).

Thursday, October 1, 2009

How to Catch up on Paperwork

We all slack off a little in the summer. I am guilty of it myself. It’s nice outside; we go on vacation and ignore the mail. Yet, it still keeps coming! The most common call I get this time of year is for help in the home office. The papers have piled up all summer and now it’s time to tackle them!
Start with a quick sort
Grab a pile of papers and quickly sort it into four piles: To Do, To Pay, To Read, To File. I know that some organizers urge you to “only handle it once”, but I find this approach to be more effective.
Deal with the paper
First, pay your bills.
Second, do your To Dos. Go through each piece of paper and take action on it. Is there a call to be made? Make it. Is there an address to be entered? Enter it. This is the most time consuming part of the process, so if you are limited on time, you may want to do a quick sort through and pick the most immediate items to do first. However, don’t let the rest of the pile remain for long. Put time in your calendar to tackle it all.
Third, file. This won’t take long if you have a simple and effective filing system (see below).
Finally, prepare your reading. Create a folder for your To Read pile and put it in your bag or car. This way, you can pull them out and read through them whenever you have a few moments to spare.