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Author: Darla DeMorrowDocument Management Filing Home Office Organizing Paper Tips Uncategorized

17 Ways to Go Paperless without Scanning

Photo by ron dyar on Unsplash

I’ve been reading articles about the promise of a paperless office my entire life, and for the most part, those articles have just created more paper.

For the first time in modern history, we now have the tools to go completely paperless. But before you go invest in a new gadget and hunker down to scan all of your paper, you can probably do a lot to reduce the amount of paper in your life.

Turn Off Paper Statements

  • The first thing is to turn off any statements for accounts, especially if you aren’t opening them. Bank statements are usually the prime offender. Call your bank or go online to shut off those statements. Check to be sure the bank’s retention practices will meet your needs, and that you can access statements online if you need to.
  • Then turn off any billing statements, especially if you have them on auto-payment arrangements and can check your account online.
  • Check with your medical offices to see if they can eliminate or reduce your paperwork there, too. Most medical offices have PHRs (personal health records) and can email you copies of office visits, tests and prescriptions.

Turn On Auto-Pay

  • If you have some but not all of your bills on auto-payments, turn those on, too. Many institutions will allow you to set a minimum payment amount each month. You can always pay more, if you choose, by making additional online payments.
  • If you are concerned that you’ll either miss a payment or somehow be out of the loop on your accounts, write up a simple list of accounts being paid automatically (either by hand or using a spreadsheet), and check these online the same day you get your paycheck. This adds one piece of paper to your life, but might be exactly what you need to keep it all straight. 
  • Set up folders in your email program to file e-statements. Folders allow you to organize emails into groups for long-term storage, out of your inbox. Rules allow you to automate routine statements to be filed without you having to be the one to do it. If you need help with learning to use folders (or tags in gmail) and rules, search the internet for “how to set up folders on {my email} service.”

Get Off Mailing Lists

  • Contact https://dmachoice.thedma.org/ and https://www.catalogchoice.org/ to opt in or out of paper mailings. They won’t stop all of the mail, but it will stop much of it.
  • Be generous, but be selective, too. Stay off the “sucker lists,” which are lists of people who are likely to respond and donate to charitable appeals. Charity fund raising is big business. The more organizations you donate to, the higher the chance that data mining companies will identify you as an easy target, selling your information to even more charities. Honor your nature to be generous by donating to fewer causes that are important to you, and that have good ratings from  https://www.guidestar.org/. Be selective to stay off the lists that generate even more charity mail in your mailbox.
  • Opt out of unsolicited credit card offers. Many of these are generated by companies data-mining your credit reports. Reduce these unsolicited offers by contacting each of the three main credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion and Experian), and requesting that they not allow your data to be accessed for the preapproved offers. The toll-free number for all the national credit reporting agencies is 1 888 5OPTOUT (1 888 567 8688).
  • Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the Consumer Credit Reporting Companies are permitted to include your name on lists used by creditors or insurers to make firm offers of credit or insurance that are not initiated by you (“Firm Offers”). The FCRA also provides consumers with the right to opt-out of these offers. If you choose to opt-in or opt-out, you can visit www.optoutprescreen.com to make your request online.” (excerpted from Experian.com)
  • Reduce the amount of credit accounts you have. Stick with one main all-purpose credit card and another one for backup. Reduce the urge to sign up for store credit accounts just to get short term offers. Cancel promotional cards as soon as you fulfill the promotion. The more cards and credit accounts you have, the more mail they will generate. 

Utilize Online Information Sources

  • Recycle most manuals for household items. Chances are you don’t need the manual for small items like toasters and coffee makers. You can access manuals you do need online at https://www.manualslib.com/ and http://www.manualsonline.com/. If you can’t find it there, which is rare, you can usually find a manual for an older product at the manufacturer’s website.
  • Support your school’s, church’s and community’s efforts to go paperless. Learn how to use online forms and payment options like e-checks and Paypal. 

Say No to Paper Offered to You

  • Don’t bring home fliers, brochures and free magazines. These rarely get read, and they rarely have information that you can’t find online.
  • Instead of collecting business cards, scan a card on your phone and enable your settings to send information right into your phone’s Contacts app. ScaBizCards and Evernote both can upload details directly to your contacts app.

Reset your Reading Habits

  • Cancel your newspaper and magazines if you never read them. Continue to get your local news by purchasing a digital subscription, and request a daily email of headlines and topics that interest you.
  • Are you really serious about having less paper in your life? Get an e-reader and learn to use it instead of buying and storing books you’ll need briefly. Sure, you love the feel and smell of actual books, but you can have HUNDREDS of great books and magazines in less space than your unread piles are taking on your cluttered nightstand right now.

If you really want to go paperless, start with these steps to have less paper in your life. You’ll find more space in your home. 

Author: Annie Amoon RichardChallenging Disorganization Clutter Document Management Emergencies Filing Paper Receipts Tips

EZ File Your Paper Piles

Everyone hates to file papers and we all have piles of them on our desks, tables, and any other flat surface around. No one likes to deal with all the papers that we still have even in our modern “paperless” society. Today I offer an easy, simple system that is not overwhelming and will have you binging Netflix in no time. The best part of this solution is that it’s only two steps!!

Even as a professional organizer, my ADHD gets in the way of keeping my attention on sorting papers for any significant length of time.  As everyone knows, dealing with papers is boring. It becomes overwhelming so we give up and give in to the piles. So, out of necessity, I created this quick and easy system for dealing with the paper piles.

Are you ready to change your paper filing system forever?  Here goes. Two steps. Two easy steps.

Step 1: Get 2 containers – boxes, plastic bins, baskets etc. to hold your papers.  They can be pretty or they can be from the liquor store. The look of the container is up to you.

Step 2: Answer one yes or no question for each paper: “Does this paper have anything to do with my money, property, legal identification, or taxes?” If the answer is yes, it goes in box #1. If the answer if no, then it goes into box #2.

That’s it, you’re done filing! Even if you never do anything else with either box, you will be able to find any important paper that you need, when you need it. Most papers that we think we need to keep are rarely, if ever, referenced again. 

If you need to find an important legal document, receipt or tax info you only have to look in Box #1. You don’t need to be distracted by all the non-legal or non-financial papers to find what you need. Your stress level is greatly reduced or even eliminated. If there is ever an emergency, storm, fire, or other need to evacuate quickly, you just have to grab Box #1.

Now, a lot of people would just not feel completely comfortable with this simple system. If you fall into this category, then take the next step. Get a 3-ring binder and some sheet protectors. Place all of the most critical documents – your birth certificates, passports, Social Security cards, marriage and divorce documents, property deeds, college transcripts, etc. and put them into the page protectors in the binder. Keep this binder in or near Box #1 and let all household members know about it and where it is. Believe me, this will save you so much time and stress when you need to locate these documents.

I know that this system works well as I just completed the process of getting both my Real ID and my passport. It was so much easier knowing where all of the documents were and that they were all together.

Now that you paper piles are tackled, grab some ice cream and enjoy your favorite show or activity. Guilt free.  Now you are organized…at least with your papers!

Author: Adriane WeinbergDocument Management Organizing Paper Time Management Tips

The Truth About OHIO

While helping clients organize their papers, they express concern that they’re doing something wrong when handling them more than once. What they’re unknowingly asking about is the OHIO (Only Handle it Once) rule. 

Keep in mind, though, that OHIO is a guideline, not meant to always be applied. The intent is to Only Handle It Once, or as few times as necessary to completion.

Scenario 1 

  • While scanning the mail, you open an invitation with an RSVP to a neighborhood block party. You put the mail pile on the counter to deal with later. One touch.
  • A couple of days later, you notice the invitation in the growing pile of mail and move it to the to-do pile. Second touch.
  • Later, you think your spouse may want to go. You pick it up and put it on his desk. Third touch.
  • After work, he hands it back to RSVP. You put it back on the to-do pile. Fourth touch.
  • Your son is busy at college but maybe he’d like to see his friends. You pick it up to have the details ready, call him but get voicemail. It goes back on the to-do pile. Fifth touch.
  • He calls back. You pick it up again and give him the details. He’ll think about it. The paper goes back on the to-do pile. Sixth touch.
  • He texts back that he’d like to go. You pick up the invitation, RSVP for your family, then recycle it. Seventh touch.

Scenario 2: 

  • You get the invitation, text your husband and son with the details to see if they’d want to go. You put the invitation on the counter. One touch.
  • They both reply, you pick up the invitation, RSVP, note the date and time in the calendar, then recycle the paper. Second touch—and done.

We don’t stop to think about how many times we handle the same papers — and how much time we waste. A lot!

Here’s a favorite productivity tip from David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done. His Two-Minute Rule states that if it takes less than two minutes, do it now. That doesn’t mean two minutes exactly, but just a few minutes to complete quick tasks. Brilliant!

Contact a pro organizer if you want to learn how to get more done in less time.

© 2019 Adriane Weinberg. All rights reserved.

Author: Geri Chark FrankelDigital Apps Document Management Electronic Organizing Home Office Lists Organizing Productivity Project Management Receipts Tips

Quick and Easy Ways to Let Tech Help You

Photo by Oleg Magni on Unsplash

First, let me confess:  I am NOT what you might call an “Early Adopter” when it comes to technology. 

I need to know that an app/program has been around a long time, is secure and is fast and easy to learn and use.

Here are 5 tech tools that meet those requirements. Use them daily to free up mental clutter, to run on time with appointments and projects, and to help you access information quickly.

  1. Alarms on your smartphone: In the morning, as you review your plan/to do list for the day, set an alarm to ring at the point you need to gather yourself in order to leave on time NOT for an appointment time itself. You can add an additional alarm for when you need to be heading out your door.
  2. Calendar app on your smartphone: As you enter an appointment, meeting, occasion, etc., in your calendar, remember to use both alert options as reminders and set them at appropriate intervals.  For example, if the event is a party or birthday, you may want to set the first alert a week before, to allow yourself time to purchase a card and/or gift. The second alert can be for the morning of the event. 
  3. Evernote: Use it to do a brain dump of your things to do; record receipt; store your vital documents, medications list and other medical records, prepare for tax time, file client/business information, tame recipes, organize your clippings from magazines, and journal.  The possibilities are endless. You can keep photos, video, and audio files in it. This program synchs beautifully across your devices so you have this information at your fingertips.
  4. CamScanner (or Scannable): Snap photos of documents, receipts, clippings and other paperwork/labels et. al.  that you can then save as PDF files. You can send these directly into Google Docs, Dropbox, Evernote, a text message and/or an email etc. 
  5. Contacts:  The minute you get a new person’s details, take a moment and set up a contact!  Add key descriptions to help you locate that newbie at a later date. For example, if a friend tells you about the BEST landscaper in the area, after you enter the person’s name and company,  and mobile number and email address, add “Landscaper Recommended by (friend’s name) in the area where you recorded the company’s name. That way you will still be able to get that information should you forget the company’s actual name.  Use Contacts to enter usernames and passwords for accounts. (NOTE: make sure you have a 6-digit lock on your phone, as 4-digit locks are not secure enough.)

You will enjoy the benefits of a calmer daily routine and the ability to access information speedily if you take a little effort to use one or more of these tech tools!

Author: Tiffany BregoviDocument Management Electronic Organizing General Home Office Tax Prep

You Too Can Stay Organized for Tax Season!

It’s that time of year, friends, when one of the only two certain things in life looms large: taxes.

As a kid, April 15 was a holiday in our house. It was the day my accountant mother could breathe again after over 3 long months of helping her clients. I may have learned a thing or two along the way, so I’m happy to share some tips on how to get organized before heading to your accountant’s office, or, if you’re one of those brave souls who tackles the task on your own, before you sit down at the kitchen table amid a sea of paperwork. In either case, the key is starting early… as in January 1 early.

How to Prep to File your Income Taxes

Taxes can get pretty complicated depending on what kind of return you have to file. Do you have a business? Dependents? Itemized deductions? There are already a lot of great sources of information out there about which documents and information you need to gather. Instead, let’s focus on how to move through this year proactively so that when April 2020 rolls around, you won’t be scrambling to find all this documentation.

Start a System

The first thing you should do is have a dedicated folder where you can file any paperwork that you may need come next April.

  • Create folders for:
    • Tax Documents
    • Personal Receipts
  • If you are self-employed, you should create additional folders for:
    • Business Documents
    • Business Receipts

Execute the System

Know which documents you need to keep in each folder and make lists. If you need help with this, your tax preparer should be able to help you create a customized list based on how you file and the specifics of your financial architecture. Otherwise, here’s a great general resource: https://www.rgbrenner.com/resources/what-do-i-bring-to-my-tax-appointment/

Attach these lists to the front of each folder. Cross off items as they go into the folder.
Documents come in all year, so this is a great way to keep yourself informed at a glance. A few notes:

  • Things like property taxes may show up early in the year.
  • Income statements start arriving in the mail or your inbox in January.
  • Some personal receipts worth saving are:
    • Records of cash donations to religious institutions, schools & other charities
    • Records on non-cash charitable donations
    • Unreimbursed job-related expenses (e.g., travel, tools, cell phone charges, uniform cost/cleaning, luggage, services fees, trade journals, meals & entertainment)
    • Job search/moving expenses¹
  • For your business, you’ll want to save receipts for EVERYTHING, such as:
    • Advertising
    • Equipment & supplies
    • Meals & travel
    • Continuing education & professional development
    • Books & research materials
    • Dues & memberships
    • Subscriptions

Maintain the System

Now that you’re filing, try to stay ahead of the record-keeping by doing it monthly. This effort will help both you and your accountant simplify the process come March or April, so you don’t have to scramble to collect all the information and dollar amounts in a last-minute rush.

Pick your poison to start an electronic or written file for keeping records of expenses. I’m a lover of Excel, but some folks prefer Word or even handwritten lists. If you’re in the latter camp, I recommend buying a dedicated ledger book to record line items. Keep separate files for personal and business. Once a month, go through your saved receipts and enter them into your record. Remember to categorize the type of expense for each receipt.

————

As you can see, it’s all about establishing a system that you can easily maintain throughout the year with minimal effort. It’s so easy to get behind with all the personal and professional obligations we balance. If we can stay aligned with the system and find an hour a month to maintain it, then when that April 15 holiday inevitably rolls around again, we can face it head-on with confidence and careful preparation.

¹ https://www.rgbrenner.com/resources/what-do-i-bring-to-my-tax-appointment/

Author: Geri Chark FrankelClutter Document Management General Paper Productivity Tips

What TO DO with old TO DO lists

While working with clients on managing their paperwork and filing systems, and/or time management/productivity we often come across very old (meaning over a year) TO DO lists.To Do lists and what to do with them.

Are YOU haunted by these? Know they are out there lurking to challenge and shame you? I AM!!!

Here are some thoughts to guide you as you contemplate your next move against these demons.

Option #1: Look at them

Pros:

  • They can serve as a reminder about some still very important priorities that may have fallen off your daily and weekly planners. Scheduling the tasks back in your life can get you on track to achieve your goals.
  • They can give you a sense of accomplishment when you note what DID get done.
  • They can give you a GOOD LAUGH at the things you thought were urgent.
  • You can see that the world did not end because you were not able to get to a certain project.

Cons:

  • Viewing what did NOT get done can make you feel frustrated or ashamed or angry.
  • You are using time that might be better spent on doing your top 3 high priority tasks as you know them TODAY.

Option #2 Throw them out

Pros:

  • You avoid any negative emotions that might arise
  • You are able to move on from the past and be in the NOW

Cons:

  • You might miss out on a learning opportunity. Insights you might gain include:
    • That there are simply not enough hours in a day/week/month/year to do what we all yearn to do.
    • Accepting the concept of limits can be liberating.
    • Our to do lists are sometimes not in alignment with our core values and/or abilities.
    • We might be trying to prove something to ourselves and/or others and that might not be a good thing.
    • Perhaps we are avoiding confronting something that could stir up uncomfortable thoughts and feeling.

My recommendation:
Take an hour or two off and, armed with a legal pad or journal, bring those lists to a coffee shop/library or other secret hideaway. Review them in a loving, self-accepting way. Jot down any thoughts that arise.
Then, like you would with the old tub of cream cheese that is festering in the back of the frig, growing green and black molds, TOSS the old to do lists out.
Onward to what calls to you NOW!