When planning to organize an entire home, keepsakes and photos are typically the last category. These items are the most sentimental and slowest to organize. Photos in particular take time as they bring back memories of life’s most cherished moments. To make photo organizing manageable, break the project down into basic organizing steps.
Gather all photos together into a work area that can be dedicated to photo organizing for a long period of time. For digital photos, keep a notebook record of all the devices, websites, disks, drives, and apps you have photos stored to. Digital photos will be gathered in the organizing step.
Sort photos by date. When dealing with a large quantity of photos, you may want to sort by decade to start. Each decade can then be sorted further into years and then months. If you prefer to keep photos organized by events or holidays, you will still want to keep them chronological, but consider adding extra labels to the organizing to flag these events. For digital photos this should be relatively easy as they can be sorted by the date the photo was taken or stored.
The challenge of sorting digital photos is the multiple locations they are stored. Refer to your notes on where you have photos stored and sort photos one location at a time. Physical photos will take some time. Have some photo boxes, shoe boxes, or small bins on hand for sorting.
Choosing which photos to purge will be challenging. Some people will keep just good photos that represent events. Most people will take time to closely look at each photo and may not want to reduce any. The easiest photos to get rid of are duplicate photos. You may also consider reducing photos that are poor quality or blurry. With digital photos, it is easy to take many photos of the same pose. Try your best to select one or two of the best photos to keep.
Organize photos in a way they can be viewed the easiest. For physical photos, they should be neatly organized chronologically with tabs to note dates (years and months) and events. Photo boxes or bins work well for physical organization.
Digital photos should be stored in a common place, chronologically. Consider cloud-based storage for a central location for all digital photos. Understand this will take time to move files from all locations into a central location. You may also consider digitizing your physical photos and storing with the digital photos. Back up your photos to an external hard drive or other non-cloud-based storage method.
Break the Project Down
Organizing photos is not a weekend organizing project. It is a process that will take months or years to complete. Breaking the project down into small pieces will make it easier and more enjoyable. Keep your eye on the goal of having all your photos organized, easy to retrieve, and easy to share with others.
Unmanaged paperwork around your home and office can be quite stressful. Searching for important documents may seem hopeless. Interest charges and late fees can pile up quickly on misplaced bills. Deadlines are easily overlooked. Getting on top of your papers and developing a good paper management system will reduce your stress.
Choose a Convenient Location
Where you manage your paperwork should be convenient. Going to a secluded area of your home may not encourage you to manage your paperwork. If it is not an area you enjoy being in, you won’t go there.
The workspace should have ample surface area, basic office supplies (envelopes, pens, address label), computer and printer, paper recycle bin and paper shredder.
Remove the Unnecessary, Immediately
Sort your mail as soon as it comes in with a recycle bin and shredder within in arm’s reach. Junk mail should be recycled immediately. Refer to the document retention guideline for guidance on what documents to keep and for how long.
Do Initial Sorting
Create a temporary, simple filing system for the initial sorting of your paperwork. This file system could include files labeled:
File – for files to be filed
Pay – for bills to be paid
To Do – for items that require attention within the next month
Read – for documents that will required your dedicated attention
Regularly go through and Pay, Sort and File
Set up a weekly time to go through the temporary files. Coordinate your bill paying with your pay dates. File papers from the ‘file’ file. Review your ‘to do’ file for items needing attention within the next week. Take some time read through the files from your ‘read’ file.
Choose Physical or Electronic Files
Decide if you prefer physical or electronic files. It’s nearly impossible to completely do one or the other, but designating one or the other as your filing system will help to manage your paperwork.
It is important to always be aware of what papers, documents and receipts enter your home. Receipts can be sent via email or not retained at all. Be selective of what documents are collected at trade shows, conventions and seminars. Only accept the documents that are relevant to you. Be mindful of the mailing lists, marketing emails and promotional lists you sign up for.
Once your paperwork system is set up, plan to set aside time every week to maintain and manage your paperwork. Staying on top of your system will reduce stress and ensure you keep on top of your work and bills.
If setting up a paperwork management system is overwhelming for you, a professional organizer can help. Contact Jayme with Top Shelf Home Organizing for a consultation to see how we can help.
Are your filing drawers overflowing? Do you have several stacks of paper documents with no idea as to which you need and which belong in the trash? Are you overly concerned that the IRS will come knocking at your door and you won’t have something you need? Your stress is over. This checklist on how long to keep all your financial and other important documents will help guide you!
Documents to Keep Forever
- Income tax returns
- CPA audit reports
- Deeds, mortgages and bills of sale
- Legal documents (wills, living wills, power of attorney designation, medical and burial instructions, beneficiary documents)
- Vital records (birth, death, marriage, divorce, adoption)
- Investment trade confirmations and statements that indicate buying and selling, retirement and pension records, year-end statement for investments
- Trust documents
- Receipts for warranties
- Automobile titles
- Current insurance policies
- Medical records
- Education records
- Important correspondence
- Property records (keep until sale of property)
- Car records (keep until sale of car)
- Insurance policies (keep for life of policy)
Documents to Keep for 7 Years
The IRS may go back 7 years to audit your tax returns for errors or incorrectly claimed deductions – so it’s important that you keep all tax-related documents for that length of time.
- Bank records
- W-2 and 1099 forms
- Receipts for tax purposes
- Personnel and payroll records
- Cancelled checks
- Disability records
- Unemployment benefit records
- Settled accident claims
- Mortgages, deeds, leases on sold property
- Records on sold stocks and bonds
Documents to Keep for 1 Year
It’s rare that anyone is going to want to see an electric bill or credit card statement dating back more than a year. But you may choose to keep the following NON-TAX-RELATED papers:
- Checkbook ledgers
- Paycheck stubs (keep until reconciled with W-2)
- Monthly financial statements
- Monthly mortgage statements
- Credit card statements
- Utility records
- Medical bills (in case of insurance disputes)
Documents to Keep Less Than 1 Year
There are always those papers that don’t fit into any of these categories. Retain these records according to the following guidelines:
- Credit card receipts (keep until reconciled on your credit card statement)
- ATM and deposit slips (keep until reconciled on your bank statement)
- Bills (keep until the payment verified on the next bill)
Now, it’s time to simplify!
Now that you know the guidelines on how long to keep all of your documents, it’s time to get organized. Start cleaning out those file cabinets or sorting through those paper stacks that are taking up space and causing you stress.
*NOTE: This checklist is a guideline. Please be sure to consult your accountant and/or the IRS for the most up-to-date rules.
If you don’t have the time to get your business and personal documents organized, Top Shelf Home Organizing would love to help. Call Jayme: 262-373-9416.