I am not a huge fan of things. I prefer experiences, activities, and travel much more. Perhaps this began in my early thirties when I began to embrace minimalism and the idea that less was more. Most of the time it wasn’t very difficult, but occasionally I would struggle with an area, and I would have to get creative.
Most people who work toward minimalism would tell you that personal mementos and family heirlooms were the hardest part, but that wasn’t the case for me. It was paper.
In our society, paper is king. It’s proof or confirmation and provides a reassurance (real or imagined) to people. In my work as a Compliance Officer at a bank, it was all about proof. Documentation for every process and decision was necessary, and you couldn’t have too much of it. So, that carried over to my home life in many ways. Proof of bills paid years ago, receipts for fast food from a year ago…the amount of paper I had was a bit excessive.
Then I decided to go electronic! Oh, the files I could store; it was as if Dr. Seuss had written my jubilation! Emails, the cloud, and drives galore, oh the files I could store! And just like that, I became an electronic hoarder.
In my late thirties, I started my own business – professional organizer. One of the things I realized right away was that I had to get my compulsion to save all that paper – even if it is electronically stored – under control. It’s been 18 months, and I’m still working on it, but here are few things I’ve realized:
- Bills – When you receive a bill (utility, credit card, or the like), previous activity will be noted on it. If you keep bills for proof of payment, the next bill is that proof. If you sign up for the online version most sites store previous bills and payment histories. Keep in mind if you are self-employed and utilities are part of the taxes, you will need to keep those longer.
- Receipts – If you keep paper receipts or electronic ones, you should* only have to keep them until the statement comes in for your bank account or credit card. Check them against the statement, and then you can trash or shred them. *If the receipt is for a large purchase or is part of something you will record on your taxes, consider keeping the receipt longer.
- Bank and credit card statements – Most companies have multiple statements available online. Consider if that is enough for your purposes.
- Email – This is not for long-term storage. It’s going to be hard for some people to follow this bit of advice, but think about it – you are keeping a lot of information in email and that is not secure. Save the ones you need as a pdf and delete the rest.
Want more guidance? Check this out.
Jennifer McCool, the owner of Organize This AR, is also a part-time blogger and volunteer junkie. When asked how she became so organized, she blames her parents! “Both my parents were in the military; I never stood a chance to be anything but organized.” Organize This AR offers professional organizing services for business and non-profit organizations that include policy and procedure development, efficiency assessments, administrative tasks, and office organization. View her website and blog for services and ideas to get organized.
The Twiggs Group is a marketing and social media management company located in Northwest Arkansas. We are passionate about branding and working with fun clients with big dreams. Our team has over 30 years of collective experience in marketing, branding, tourism, design and public relations. We are passionately focused on delighting our clients, and to do that, we do a lot of listening. We listen to your story, pay attention to your core values and take ownership of your dreams. Listening is the first step to understanding, and when we understand what you want to achieve, we can help you make those dreams a reality.