I’m always amazed at how many piles of papers I seem to have laying around. Admittedly, some of them are historic. Papers created during an earlier time. A time when all (or most business) happened on paper. Or sometimes I have papers because I forgot to select an option for electronic delivery. Now I have an option to scan older documents or manage them physically until I can purge.
For example, when I set up my new electricity provider in 2020, I never selected electronic statements only. I’m still puzzled why electronic statements weren’t the default option. Producing and mailing paper statements all comes with a cost easily avoided. Even switching to electronic statements was not as easy as I would have liked. I first had to create an account on the My Account portal, different from the account I created to set up a pre-authorized payment. All unnecessarily complicated, but that’s a topic for a future blog post.
Consequently, I have paper statements. Normally I would’ve shredded them instantly except the service provider only maintains them for two years electronically. Since I need to retain some of them for longer than two years, I now have the option of scanning them and junking up my computer, plus spending time on that. Or spend time organizing them physically.
My other challenge is having everything set up so I can only touch everything once. Otherwise I end up resorting and reshuffling all the papers, moving them from one place to another. It’s all very inefficient. I first start by setting up bags or boxes for SHRED, RECYCLING, and TRASH. I also like to have some file folders, pens, and labels ready to go.
Going through the piles is fairly fast to make a determination. Honestly, by the time I work up the motivation for these types of tasks, some documents are too old to be valuable. This makes some of the work easier. The challenging part, however, is figuring out where to store the papers I’m going to keep. Or if I need to scan them, which can be a time consuming task. Sometimes when I store physical papers (e.g., tax receipts when I used to be a small business owner), I include a destruction date right on the folder or envelope. This makes is easier to purge in the future, but still requires effort in the setup.