When working to find a way to solve paper clutter, it might be easier to break it down a bit and focus on each area one at a time. This article on how to organize bills and paperwork at home is a big name but it will give you the easiest approach. Paying bills and budgeting are an important part of your home office organization plan and one that, once mastered, will streamline paper on autopilot.
Are you feeling overwhelmed and frustrated by the piles of papers piling up around your home?
You’re not alone. In fact, a lot of people feel bogged down by the number of bills and paperwork they have to deal with every day. Disorganization can cause stress, as said on mayoclinic.org “…when working couples gave tours of their homes, women who used more words describing clutter and disorganization also tended to show levels of the stress hormone cortisol, suggesting chronic stress.”
Today my goal is to remove as much clutter causing stress as I can with tips to help you get organized and take control of your finances once and for all.
Imagine being able to sit down at your desk and know exactly where everything is – no more frantically searching through piles scattered all over your home for that one bill you need to pay.
With these helpful tips, you can set up a system that fits your home and your style so it is easy to keep paper where it belongs.
How to Organize Bills and Paperwork at Home
Before we dive into the practical part of organizing let’s first talk a bit about you.
Today’s topic is quite a personal one and that means you will want to create a system that makes sense to you and how you think. One that you know you can keep up with and one that you feel will actually keep you organized from now on.
In order to do that you will need to ask yourself a few questions.
First, do you prefer paper or digital?
If you prefer paper then you will need to set up files in your home or office in order to accommodate them. You can use a drawer in your desk, a filing cabinet, or a portable filing system.
If you prefer digital you will then need to set up files on your computer. You can use an online platform such as QuickBooks or an online filing system such as DropBox.
Second, what is our organizing personality?
What I mean by that is, what style inspires you to keep up with an organized setup? Inspiration leads to motivation and that is what is needed to keep your home organized and put away.
There are two main ways to organize an area in your home.
- Practical Organizing – This is simple and easy to do. An opened container to toss items into quickly, for example. Practical means 1-2 steps and you can quickly put your things all the way away.
- Aesthetic Organizing – This is more about the look of the setup. Matching organizers, pretty baskets, and themed labels. It’s the look of your setup that motivates you to put an item all the way away.
Now we can dive into the steps that will get your bills and paperwork organized.
Step #1. Determine what needs to be kept and for how long.
Generally, documents such as tax returns, medical records, and bank statements should be kept for at least three years or longer. Let’s go over quickly a few of the most common papers a typical family has in their home.
How many years of tax documents should you keep?
The IRS recommends that you keep all tax documents for at least three years. This includes any documentation that may be used to support your deductions, such as receipts, invoices, mileage records, or canceled checks.
How long should you keep medical records?
Most experts recommend that you keep medical records for at least seven years. This gives you a buffer in case you need to file an insurance claim or appeal a denied claim.
How long should you keep bank statements?
You should keep bank statements for at least one year, but preferably for two years. This will give you a record in case there are any discrepancies on your account.
Luckily most banking institutions have statements filed for you electronically, eliminating a large amount of paper clutter in many homes.
Step #2. Set up a system for your tax papers.
I like to keep a file in our home office for the current year’s taxes along with the previous years. This saves a lot of time as I often find myself needing a receipt or bill from last year.
Step #3. Create a system for storing documents.
What files do you need for home documents?
The files that you choose to have all depend on your family and your time of life. If you are a parent of young children you may have files for holding school papers. If you are an empty nester you may have files for estate planning.
Here is a general list to refer to when setting up your own home filing system.
- Misc income
- Credit cards
- Personal loans
- Student loans
Family member Files:
- Student loans
- Birth/Adoption papers
- Social Security cards
- Owner’s manual
- Home inventory (for insurance purposes)
Start out with just a short set of files. As you use them you can add in additional ones along the way. Less is more when it comes to setting up a filing system. It is much easier to put papers away when you have a smaller selection to choose from.
Step #4. Set up a place to toss receipts.
Receipts are one of those things that we don’t want to always keep but we know we should. Partner that with the fact that these tiny little papers can migrate all over your home, purse, and even your car and you have a clutter project that needs your attention.
By setting up a monthly receipt system you will stop this clutter source from ever causing you headaches or stress again.
DIY Simple Receipt System
- Use a small accordion organizer that has 12-13 pockets.
- Label each pocket a month.
- Put all receipts that you have in each month’s pocket.
By having receipts sorted out by year you will find it much easier to find any when you need them.
- At the end of the year, you can put all the receipts in a large and labeled envelope.
Clutter Free Habit: Put a basket labeled “receipts” out where you can easily toss in any as you find them. At the end of each month bundle them all up and put them in your receipt organizer.
Step #5. Stay organized by regularly decluttering.
Let’s face it. Setting up files is not enough to fix your clutter struggle. You need to get into the habit of using it daily. To help, schedule some time every month to go through any documents that are lying out and put them all the way away.
- File any papers, bills, or receipts where they belong.
- Shred any papers or documents you no longer need.
- Give any papers to family members that no longer live at home.
You can set up a shortcut to keep these loose papers contained so they do not clutter up your home. You can use a basket, lid from a box, or baking pan and toss in papers as you come across them.
Place this container where you tend to drop papers.
- On the kitchen counter.
- On your desk.
- On an end table in your family room.
- In your entryway.
Step #6. Keep track of bills and payments.
One of the reasons many people look for ways on how to organize bills and paperwork at home is to streamline their budget so they can save money.
Having a set day where you do your bills and household budget each week is a great way to streamline your finances. You can start out weekly and work from there. Knowing your bills and budget will get all of your attention for 1 hour each Friday, you will remove a huge source of stress in your life.
Another way is to create a spreadsheet of your bills and payments. This will help you stay on top of due dates and avoid late fees.
Step #7. Set up automated bill payments.
If you can, set up automatic bill payments for your recurring bills. This will save you time and money in the long run. It will also cut way down on papers that you need to have filed away.
To set up automatic bill payments, you will need to have the following:
- The name of the company you are paying.
- Your account number with them.
- The date you want the payment to be processed.
- The amount you want to pay.
Most companies offer this option on their websites or over the phone. If not, you can always set up a direct debit from your checking account.
Step #8. Get rid of unwanted junk mail.
If you’re like most people, your mailbox is full of unwanted junk mail. This is not only an eyesore, but it’s also a huge source of paper clutter in your home.
Luckily, there are a few easy ways to get rid of junk mail and keep it from coming back.
The first thing you can do is contact the company and ask to be removed from their mailing list. Most companies are more than happy to do this.
If you don’t want to contact the company, you can also try one of these methods:
- Use a permanent marker to write “RETURN TO SENDER” on the envelope.
- Put the envelope in your mailbox with the flag up. The postal worker will eventually get the message and stop delivering that particular piece of mail.
Step #9. Keep track of important documents.
There are certain documents that you should always keep track of, such as birth certificates, vaccination cards, social security cards, passports, and wills.
One way to keep track of these important documents is to create a folder for each one. Label the folders and place them in a safe spot, such as a fire-proof box or filing cabinet.
Another way to keep track of these documents is to scan them and store them electronically. This way, you can access them anytime, anywhere.
No matter how you choose to keep track of your important documents, make sure that they are in a safe place where you can easily find them.
Step #10. Have a system for incoming and outgoing mail.
If you want to stay organized, it’s important to have a system for dealing with your incoming and outgoing mail.
One way to do this is to set a designated spot for your mail. This can be a basket, box, or even a tray. As soon as the mail comes in, toss it in your container. Be sure to set aside time every few days to look through the mail to ensure you do not miss anything that is time stamped or urgent.
I like to use a weekly planning basket for this. Each day any papers that come into my home are put into this basket. Every Sunday I will take my basket to the kitchen table and go through each paper taking any action that is needed.
By having this basket and routine set up I can relax knowing that every paper is being dealt with in a timely manner.
Another way to deal with your mail is to open it as soon as it comes in and deal with it right away. This way, you won’t have a pile of unopened mail sitting around.
No matter what system you choose, make sure that you stick to it so that your mail doesn’t start to pile up again.
Taking the time to organize your bills and paperwork at home, will save a lot of time and stress in the long run. By following these simple steps, you can make sure that your important documents are safe and easy to find, that your mailbox is free from unwanted junk mail, and that your bills are paid in full and on time.
Now that you have steps on how to organize bills and paperwork at home you can get started streamlining this part of your life for good.