Deep Clean Week 14: The Paperwork Pile Up

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Welcome to the final week of the Deep Clean Project. This week’s task should not be too difficult unless you are like me and tend to let the papers pile up. Yes, I procrastinate.

I saved this one for last, on purpose. I find it satisfying to have a small project with a nice payoff. Yes, I look for the little dopamine kicks wherever I can find them.

Today, we’re going to work on getting rid of the existing paper and take a step toward preventing future pile-ups. (More will always show up, but we can reduce the overall amount.)

This week’s project requires either a shredder or a large trash bag for papers eventually destined for the shredder, your smartphone, and your computer if you prefer to work from that for some online tasks.

You will also need some patience.

Do a lap around your home and gather all of the paperwork wherever it accumulates and bring it to your work station.

If you have older children, now would be a good time to have them go through their book bags and/or desks to get rid of the papers they no longer need. If you have young children, I wouldn’t tackle both on this round unless your own pile is pretty small. Maybe wait for the rinse and repeat, or attack it piecemeal over the next few weeks.

Now that you have your pile. Take a quick look at each item. Is it a bill? Has it been paid? If it is a recurring bill, note the due date with a reminder in your calendar. Personally, I like to set my reminders five days prior to the due date, but that is just me. Look over the bill, does it offer the option to sign up for email reminders instead? If so, do that now. If the bill has not been paid, put it in a to be paid pile and set a reminder in your calendar.

Once I put our bills in the calendar and made specific dates to deal with them a habit, budgeting became a much simpler process, even with our household’s mix of traditional salary and other less predictable income.

Is it a paper that needs to be filed? File it now if you have a filing cabinet or document box or set it neatly aside if that’s on the to-be-purchased list.

If it’s a receipt for business purposes. Note it now in a spreadsheet and put it in an envelope labeled with the calendar month the purchase was made. You or your accountant will thank me around tax time. Let’s stop that mad rush and unorganized pile habit now.

Is it just trash with no personal information? Get rid of it, otherwise shred it or put it in the to be shred pile.

If it is a magazine that you mean to read and never do, go ahead and cancel the subscription. Some magazines let you do so online. If yours doesn’t and you have to call a customer service number during business hours, put a reminder in your phone with both the phone number and your account number in the reminder. It’ll save you time and make it easier to not ignore the reminder.

Junk mail? Get rid of it. Think about your habits, how can you make getting rid of junk mail a habit without it landing in a pile to be dealt with again? When you bring in the mail, resist the urge to put down the pile without removing the trash first. Maybe this means putting a small wastebasket close to the door you use or resisting the urge to get the mail when you first return from work and don’t have the mental bandwidth to deal with it. Perhaps it needs focused attention. Go inside, get settled, then make going out and retrieving the mail a specific trip, so it doesn’t get mixed into the shuffle.

Are you ready to tackle that pile? I am.

Do you need to Rinse and Repeat? Speaking for myself, we’ve got six kids, of course, we do. We live in a rinse and repeat cycle. (Some stages of life are just messier than others. They do pass, you aren’t doing anything wrong.) If you sign up for the rinse and repeat, you’ll start over at the beginning next Saturday at 8 Eastern. d

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