My husband and I have used the same mechanic, a guy named Tom, for over 25 years. Every once in a while, he quotes little bits of wisdom. One day, many years ago, we were discussing paperwork. I was talking about filing, and Tom said, “Oh, I just throw it in the box.” My first reaction was…that will never do!
You see, at that time of my life, I was trying to file every last bit of paper into separate file folders, which was difficult to maintain. It did not occur to me (until much later) that there could be an easier way that I could keep up automatically. So, now I ask myself what is the likelihood that I will need this paper again, and what will be the benefit of retaining the information. In short, the amount of time spent organizing needs to be proportionate to the benefit.
Here are some examples:
1. So, you may be wondering what I do that is so different from my old way of filing. I followed Tom’s wisdom and created The Box. This box holds bill stubs and receipts we
must retain for tax purposes. All of the data is maintained in the computer, so this is just supporting paperwork. We pay the bills, and dump the papers into The Box. Every December 31st, I empty The Box, label it by year, and put it in storage. That way, we can continue to use “The Box” for the next year’s receipts. It’s very easy, and we can stay on top of the filing.
2. I recently organized the office of a friend who did not have time to organize it himself. One of the projects was to staple and box up his back-log of checking account statements.
What I did take time for, was to staple each statement and toss the inserts and envelopes. What I did not do, was to make sure each statement was in page order (that would have taken too long). Going forward, he can keep each statement in page order and file them in the front of the box, easy as pie. The benefit (retrieving old financial information) is not something that is needed frequently, so I spent the least amount of time that I could in creating a system that works for the future.
3. I have said this before, but it’s worth mentioning again in this context. Don’t keep paper copies of information that you can find on the internet. You’ll just have to file them, and won’t you automatically go to your computer to find the info anyway? Keep: family recipes, contracts that prove something, receipts for taxes, etc. Don’t keep: generic recipes, old magazines, etc. Don’t file things you don’t need to!
Assignment for the week: try to think of ways to make life easier for yourself. Remember that the amount of time you spend organizing something needs to be proportionate to the benefit you receive. Less paperwork means more fun!
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