With a little bit of planning, you can get your paperwork in order without too much angst.
Here are 4 tips to help you:
1. Make room for new materials by going through your filing cabinets (or wherever you keep your files). Shred taxes and the back-up documentation older than 7 years, old bills, old insurance policies, old bank statements, or anything old that has personal identifiable information on it. Recycle old newspaper and magazine articles, defunct travel brochures, etc.
2. Review your filing system to determine if the way you have your files set up works well for you. If not, for example, change the names of the files, or change the placement of the files.
3. Set up new files for the New Year if you have not done so yet, labeling them with meaningful names, so they are easily retrievable.
4. Check to see if your township is holding a free shred event. Many towns do so right after tax season to help their residents dispose of their paperwork that has personal identifiable information on it.
Since organizing is an ongoing process, files will have to be tweaked and paperwork will have to be shredded or recycled periodically. Remember, you can also get a lot of information on-line. However, if you follow these few steps, your system will be in order for the rest of 2013, and paperwork that has to be filed will have a home.
Now is the time to Go from Bedlam to Brilliance!
In my work organizing finances and paper for aging adults and people with chronic illnesses and disabilities, certain problems tend to recur. Among them are:
Here are five different web sites I have found useful in addressing these issues:
Better World Books (http://www.betterworldbooks.com/)
Several years ago, I helped close out an estate that included nearly one thousand books. They were heavily concentrated in engineering subjects, and varied in age from 15 to 100 years old. The owner was emphatic that they not simply be recycled or buried in a landfill, and that they should benefit people in need if at all possible. Better World Books provided the way to grant these wishes. This organization is a huge on-line used book store. They accept any size donations of books, and try first to sell them through the web site. Proceeds are used to fund literacy programs around the world, but, even more important to my client, books not sold through the web site are actually shipped to third-world countries that can use them. Only when these two alternatives are exhausted are the books recycled—and never sent to a landfill. Better World’s staff was extremely helpful, and taught me how to inventory and package the books. Better still, they sent a tractor trailer to the site to pick the books up and transport them to the Better World facility, all at no charge to my client or me.
Care Calendar (http://carecalendar.org/)
In the site owners’ own words, “Care Calendar is a web based system to organize meals and other help for families during a time of illness or life changing event, such as the birth of a baby or death of a family member. “ It allows a family, group of friends, or organization to coordinate care for an individual in need by posting and responding to assignments such as meals, visits, rides and errands. Currently, I am using Care Calendar to coordinate care for a frail elderly woman living in her working daughter’s home. I posted the mother’s needs on the web site, and friends and family members have responded to fill every assignment. Care Calendar greatly reduces the need for phone calls and follow-ups, as the site forwards me and the care recipient a list of upcoming assignments and volunteers on a daily basis. The service is offered free of charge, and donations are invited.
Get Human (http://gethuman.com/)
Did you know you can talk to a live human being at Amazon or Ebay? Get Human enabled me to do just that. The site provides free direct-dial contact numbers for over 8,000 businesses, along with other direct contact avenues such as call-backs, live chat and email.
It’s Deductible (http://turbotax.intuit.com/personal-taxes/itsdeductible/)
How do you know how much to deduct as a charitable contribution on your taxes when you give away a mountain of things? It’s Deductible, a free online service from the makers of TurboTax software, combs the internet for actual selling prices of commonly-sold items. The site allows the user to create lists of items donated, by charity, by date, and then provides the fair market value for the item. Where prices aren’t available, guidelines on establishing the FMV are provided. At tax time, the lists can be printed out or imported into TurboTax. I have been using this service for myself and for my clients for nearly ten years, and have yet to be challenged by the IRS.
Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare (http://www.medicare.gov/default.aspx, then select Resource Locator/Nursing Home Compare)
Three years ago, this free service quickly allowed me to find nearby nursing homes and compare them on a host of relevant features when my father suddenly became too ill for me to care for him in my home. I found a wealth of excellent advice that enabled me to make a rapid decision with confidence. A similar comparison feature is available for Home Health Care in the same Resource Locator menu.
Did I mention that all of the above sites do what they do for free? If you or someone you care for is facing worsening illness, down-sizing or simple frustration contacting businesses, give one of these sites a try. I’m confident they’ll help you as they’ve helped me and my clients.