Ask me to locate an electronic bill and a quick Command + F will retrieve my archive in an instant. Ask me to find hard-copy medical records or receipts, and that’s a completely different story. If, like me, you’ve mastered a digital filing system but don’t quite know how to organize life’s administrative paperwork, it’s time to declutter your desk.
The digital age might have replaced mounting paper bills with a bursting inbox, but according to Martha Stewart, a filing system is crucial for important documents—something many millennials overlook. Guilty? Here are five simple hacks tidy people swear by for an organized workspace.
- Centralize paperwork: Leaving items scattered around the house or creating multiple filing spots is an easy way to lose track of paperwork. Choose one place to store all important documents, ideally near a computer so you can cross-reference soft and hard copies.
- Reduce receipts: Holding onto important receipts and warranty information might seem like a safe bet, but it can quickly spiral out of control. “One of the things that causes chaos is that people don’t know what they need, so they save everything,” says Julie Morgenstern, author of Organizing From the Inside Out. She suggests making an automatic toss list for unnecessary receipts and storing the rest in an arcadian file by month. Review this at tax time, and toss any papers that aren’t relevant.
- Create a mail sorting area: To prevent paperwork from piling up, add a wastepaper bin to your entryway so that you’re forced to keep or toss mail straight away.
- Sort bills by month, not type: Professional organizer Barry Izsak says it’s a mistake to file bills based on type. Instead, he recommends organizing paperwork by month or scanning the copy to add it to your digital system before recycling the original.
- Use a safe-deposit box: Some important documents should be stored away from the rest of your filing in a safe-deposit box. This includes birth certificates, medical records, and legal documents. Make sure you keep these together and retain copies for quick reference.
This post was originally published on September 13, 2016, and has since been updated.