I frequently hear about the challenges regarding filing paperwork when working with my clients. The issue comes down to deciding what to keep when they organize paperwork. This is where the real problem lies. When they are faced with stacks of papers or overflowing file cabinet drawers, the situation becomes very overwhelming. Even when they make best efforts to start sorting the paperwork, the project is quickly abandoned.
One suggestion that I share with my clients is to reverse the process. Instead of immediately working on filing paperwork, take a step back. Create a retention checklist. This entails making a list of those categories of documents that must be kept and defining the length of time to keep them. As needed, specific documents within each category should be included on the list. For example, tax returns might be kept for up to 7 years while receipts for paid utility bills for only 3 months. I encourage my clients to request input from their legal and financial advisors when creating this list.
In the process of creating their checklist, I also suggest that my clients review how their bills are paid and consider converting some to online payments. This will reduce the amount of paper that will collect in the future. I followed this process when working with a client recently. We worked together on creating the checklist and she was then able to use it as a guide to continue sorting papers in between our meetings. As a result, re-organizing her file cabinet and setting up her document archive was completed much faster.
The retention checklist is a ready reference to help facilitate the filing paperwork process. There will probably be additional decisions to be made along the way as it may not cover all types of documents. However, it will make this task much less overwhelming as many of the decisions have already been made.
If you create a retention checklist, be sure to update it as there are changes to the information to kept and length of time to keep it. If you need a tip for making your checklist more effective, I would be happy to share one. Reach out now.