Updated: Sep 18
Hey folks! Are you searching for answers about how to manage your papers? We have a few ideas on home organization of paperwork we'd like to share.
Some steps we will recommend are things you can do right now; others will take minimal planning.
Although, all of the ideas we mention here take some effort they will also afford you with more time and energy for your retirement years ahead.
It is my experience that one of the most common problems facing seniors today is management of paperwork.
Retirees are burdened with junk mail trash and a seemingly unending stream of important papers coming in the door.
Beautiful furniture is disappearing under stacks of neglected papers. No! We can not let this be.
What is this paperwork seniors have in large amounts? Mail; bank statements; tax, legal, and medical documents; magazines; newspapers; letters; cards; notes; photos; and children's' art work.
This is all important stuff and many people do not know how to keep it organized. Stacks turn into larger stacks and soon the amount of paperwork that has accumulated is overwhelming and stressful.
In this blog, I will offer you EASY actionable steps to manage your papers and eliminate excessive paper trash. I want you to have a retirement that is enjoyable, and I think creating systems to help you manage paperwork is one way to reduce stress in your life.
So let's begin. First, we will address the business side of paperwork. Later, we will comment on the mementos or sentimental papers.
Please, continue on with me.
Step One- Receive Important Information Electronically
The EASIEST step when it comes to managing the business side of your paperwork: request to receive your bank statements electronically.
You can either call your bank, write an email, or visit your online banking home page to make this happen.
Don't worry, if you need to access your bank statements for any reason later on, you can view them from your online banking home page and in most cases print a copy.
This one step will save you time and will reduce the amount of paper trash you have to manage in your home.
Step Two - Take Immediate Action With Your Mail
The SECOND EASIEST step to managing your papers is: throw out junk mail immediately.
Take a moment to enjoy their whimsy and set them in the receptacle bin, right away. You will be happy you did.
The same goes for all of your mail coming. Deal with it as soon as you can.
If you cannot tell what the mail is from the envelope, first open the mail and then toss what you do not need, including the envelope.
Step Three - Create A Home For Your Papers
Keep a 9 x 12 short basket by your front door for papers that you will need immediately (or wherever the mail comes into the house) and make it a habit to do your secretarial work before setting down that days stack of mail.
This basket will become the home for papers that you need to do something within a short period of time. That is why it is positioned near a door; the idea is to make grabbing necessary paperwork (say for example to take to a doctors appointment) an easy task.
Papers that come in the door and need to be saved indefinitely can be taken to a designated place like a filing cabinet or an accordion file folder. Your choice is based on the complexity of your paperwork situation.
We recommend one upright file box per family unit with an additional file box if necessary. The boxes are lightweight and portable, unlike heavy metal filing cabinets.
Step Four - Reduce The Amount Of Papers You Keep
Here is the hard part: You can not keep it all. There is no need and as it is now the papers are a burden, let most of it go and you will feel lighter.
So, what do you keep?
There are only THREE categories of papers that you need to KEEP.
papers you need immediately
papers you need for a short time
papers you need forever
This is the simple criteria we use when assisting a resident with decluttering their papers. The important aspect is "need", anything that is not needed for business is categorized as sentimental which we will address shortly.
You may have noticed that home organization's fundamental principle is prioritization.
Of course we prioritize our needs - including family and connection.
We also prioritize what we need to do.
We believe your senior years are meant for next to nothing but enjoyment.
That is why we suggest doing a complete overhaul of your paperwork sooner rather than later.
We want you to get back to joy and whatever it is that makes life good for you.
Step Six - Mementos and Sentimental Papers
I have taken to keeping these papers in a lovely, smaller horizontal box with a lid on my chest of drawers. As I receive them, I open cards and toss the envelope. If I need the address I take a photo of it with my phone. Then I take the card, or photo, or letter and tuck it into the lovely box.
About once a year I sort this box into photo albums, or a larger horizontal box I keep on a shelf. I aim to keep only the amount that fits into these containers I have chosen. If the amount starts to overwhelm, I do not buy another box. Instead, I go through the papers again and prioritize by keeping the one that make me happiest.
The process of reviewing and enjoying these sentimental items every year (you can pick a date that has meaning for you, or New Years Eve) is cathartic. You actually spend time enjoying them and it becomes easier to let them go eventually, because you are satisfied by what they have brought to your life.
Here is an example of the size boxes I recommend, but honestly I use an old box that a swimsuit was delivered in - its white, 7" x 5" and has a fold over lid. I also save boxes like this to pass along to my clients, its a personal touch I learned from Marie Kondo. I recently found a great one when I received headphones as a gift, the box is a perfect mementos size - 9" x 9", black, and a great lid. P.S. I-phone boxes work great in your vanity drawers as jewelry or cosmetic separators!
I imagine that was enough tips to keep you busy for some time if you decide to organize your papers on your own! If you realize that the task is more than you're willing to do on your own, give us a call. We love transforming homes into Zen like retreats and we have plenty of experience organizing seniors' paperwork.
Before you take off, let me know if these tips were helpful or if you knew them already.
Feel free to share this blog to your page for reference. We would love if you showed your friends, too!
Brittany C. Smith