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  • Elizabeth Warren

Too Much Paper?

I have started to work with a couple of folks recently who struggle with managing all of the paper in their lives. They cannot part with paper, have piles everywhere, and just don’t know where to start.

We have so much paper in our lives it's no wonder that we get overwhelmed with it all! On any given day, I get multiple pieces of junk mail delivered to my door. I try to pay as many of my bills online as possible however, the majority of them do not have a "go paperless" option.

If you are of a certain age you did not grow up with computers. You likely started your adult life with the need to save all of your bills for years. How on earth would you be able to find out the answers to questions like, “How much are my utilities each year?” Or locating certain receipts or bank statements? This was necessary before computers and it's hard to change years old habits.

There are several categories of paper to consider organizing. I’ve listed them below with some thoughtful questions I often ask my clients and that you can consider for yourself too!

1. Bills.

Ask yourself: can you go paperless and pay any of your bills online? If it is too overwhelming to figure that out a professional can help you (or a Millennial if you happen to have one in your life).

What do you need to keep? I do not keep anything on paper that I can find online, however there is paperwork that you should keep on file. Here is a good simple resource from Suze Orman as a reference:

It is also important that you have a good system in place for passwords. I recommend having them typed up and filed away for easy access and update them periodically. There are also password manager apps and subscriptions available online.

2. Magazines.

Are you able to read all of the subscriptions you receive each month? If your answer is yes then great! Once you have read them consider donating them to an organization that could use them.

If you don’t read them ask yourself, why keep them? Do you read more when your traveling? It's unlikely that you are carrying magazines with you. Perhaps an online subscription and using a tablet would work better for you instead?

3. School Work.

If you have kids at home this can quickly get out of control. I would keep the action related items (like forms) in the place where you pay bills. Other items like artwork are a bit harder to decide how to handle. It can be easy to get sentimental and nostalgic about these items. This makes their artwork hard to get rid of.

You could have a bulletin board in the kitchen where you rotate their work. The kids will love to see their art displayed! Edit the board once a month or so and save the best things from each month in a bin for your child. How fun would it be to look into the bin after a whole year has passed?

If you are not into scrap booking there are businesses who can help you with this! Snapfish is one of these companies. You can literally send them a box of artwork or pictures and they will scan them to create a book for you! This will dramatically decrease clutter. You'll also have a beautiful book that you can keep forever.

4. Committee Work.

If you are a committee member or a chairman on a board, I recommend keeping all of this paperwork separate from your other files. You'll be able to find it easier! I have a tote bag from Grandin Road that holds files so that I can easily bring them to meetings. When your time is up, you can give these files to the next volunteer.

I find that dividing my files into categories is also very helpful for easy access. I have labeled categories such as: Expenses, Research, etc... “Stuff In” people and “Stuff Out” people equally seem to like this idea! See my previous blog post.

5. Junk Mail.

It is helpful to have a designated place for all the mail to land. It is okay for it to land on the kitchen counter as long as you open it every day. I first separate out the junk mail and recycle what I do not want to keep. I then separate out personal correspondence and bills. I keep these in my office until I am ready to pay them. Do you keep coupons and offers? You can put these right in the car or in your purse so you remember to use them when you're shopping!

A note about shredding…it can be overwhelming and time consuming. There are many secure shredding businesses where you can bring your piles and they will do it for you! Most UPS stores have this service.

I hope that these ideas are helpful and the questions thought provoking. If you need any assistance, please give me a call at: 802-324-0392. I’d love to help you!

- Elizabeth 💙

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