The most time-consuming backlog to sort and organize is paper. When it becomes a problem, it is full of question marks and what-ifs.
The major problems boil down to:
· Documents to retain
· Time-frames for keeping documents
· Security concerns
· Paper vs electronic trust
· Retrieving something valuable or needed
· Fear of mistakes
Let me describe how the problem grows, based on my own thoughts and those I hear from clients.
· Junk mail
I think someone may piece together disjointed clues of my financial life and steal my money, or worse, my identity. Therefore, I need to shred everything or blot out anything personal including barcodes before I toss. (Tossing creates its own questions . . . recycle? Of course, but do I? What out-the-door system do I have for getting rid of paper. . . do I have to tear out the plastic address window? What about paper clips and staples?)
· Promotions and marketing catalogs
Let’s keep our comparative options available. If I need a credit card, I’ll want to compare. The catalogs are important in case I need __________. I do not have a computer or internet, so it is essential that I not lose this information. . . . or . . . I do not want my information on the computer because I do not want people to have access to __________. (News flash: how do you think the marketing became targeted toward you in the first place?)
· Documentation and receipts, usually for taxes
I am right to be afraid of being audited. It is better to be safe than sorry, so I will keep things, just in case. Everything must be filed by categories and I need to do this before January . . . February . . . March . . . April . . . Oh ****! Is it already April 15?
· Personal papers and photos
This documents my journey, and it provides clues to the intricacies of my life. When someone writes my biography, or tells my great-grandchildren about me, this card, recipe, journal entry, _______, will be the link that makes everything fit together.
This is valuable information and I may be able to share it with someone when they think to ask me if I know anything about _________, or if I can find it when they mention a topic, or if I need to prove something.
· Odd pieces of paper or greeting cards
This is good and one day I may need to wrap a small package and this will be just perfect. Oh shoot, I meant to send this birthday card to ________ and it is still here. I will send it next year and just keep it out to remember.
For some of you, what I have described is normal and acceptable. However, for others, you are hoping for something different, and you are wanting to challenge your thinking and actions.
Spend three hours in paper therapy on Saturday, January 27, 2018. Bring your unedited stack or box of paper (please no more than one box) to my Paper Management Workshop and learn what to keep, why to keep it, and how to retrieve it. After this workshop you will have a basic intuitive filing system, including three types of files, a framework for challenging your unhelpful thoughts and questions, and a CPA’s guide to paper retention.
Register here. Limit: 6 participants. Couples are welcome to participate together under one registration if sorting the same papers.