The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Community News Network

February 7, 2013

How to organize paperwork before tax day

(Continued)

Filing cabinets are available in a variety of styles, sizes and colors, so finding something that fits in your home and matches your decor should be relatively easy. If you truly don't have space for a desk or a filing cabinet, there are plenty of pieces that can do double duty, such as Crate & Barrel's Incognito Compact Office. It looks like an end table but opens to become a desk with a filing drawer.

Only current files should be in your main filing space. Older and permanent documents that need to be kept indefinitely should be stored in plastic filing bins elsewhere in your home. Buy a shredder to dispose of papers containing personal information, and always have extra file folders on hand.

— Consistency matters

Even the best system requires consistent upkeep. Spend time each day putting papers in their proper place instead of allowing them to pile up in the front hall, on the dining room table or on the kitchen counter. You don't need to do actual filing each day, but you do need to open that bank statement and put it with the other items to be filed. Take a few minutes each night to look through your "Needs Action" bin to make sure you're not missing any deadlines.

— Don't try to live up to unattainable standards

Find a system that works for you. It probably won't be the system described in a magazine or one that a friend uses, but it will suit your needs. Real people have "stuff" that is never represented in magazines. What works for a single person won't work for a family of six. And what makes sense for you now will probably be different in five years. If you are one of those people who like to have papers visible, take advantage of vertical space above your filing cabinet or drawers and use a bulletin board or a magnetic board to post important reminders. Just be sure to remove old items regularly. The most important thing is to develop good habits and be consistent.

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