Paper Progress: Questions to Ask Yourself
The problem we have with paper and other types of information, such as emails or computer files, starts with the fact that we need to decide what to do with each item.
One ream of paper contains 500 decisions, a file storage box holds 6 reams of paper which is a total of 3,000 decisions that have to be made. No wonder paper can be overwhelming. Even the most cluttered garage probably wouldn't hold 3,000 decisions.
But here are some questions to ask that can help you organize paper clutter.
1. Why do you need it?
Do I need it for my taxes? Then file it in your current tax folder.
Is it a vital record? Then keep it safe.
Is it legally required? Then keep it in your archived files.
Do I need it to verify a payment, purchase or a deposit? Keep it until you've verified.
Is it a memento? Limit keepsakes, but protect them if you really want them.
2. How long do you need to keep it?
Refer to why you are keeping it.
Ask your lawyer or accountant.
Refer to appropriate web sites or sources like USA.gov -- Keeping Family and Household Records.
3. Can you find the information somewhere else?
With information easily accessible on the internet and updated almost constantly, there is no reason to keep most of the information we've collected on paper. If you can find the information somewhere else let the paper go.
4. How easy would it be to replace?
If you are not currently using the information and you could easily print out another copy just by logging on to your account or searching the internet, then let it go.
5. What's the worst thing that could happen if you let it go?
If you let yourself spin the worst case tale, you will often find that the consequences of letting something go are not as bad as you fear.
6. If I keep it, how will I find it again?
The ultimate goal of filing paper and information is not for storage but for retrieval. If you can't remember you have the information, it doesn't do you any good. This is also a good place to begin identifying potential file names and categories that you'll easily remember.