Kathy Paauw, Helps you declutter your life and get organized



There are only three things you can do with paper: File, Act, or Toss. As you open your mail, keep this in mind and sort it accordingly.


  • Reference items can be placed in a tray labeled TO FILE. 
  • Filing should be done on a daily or weekly basis, depending on the volume of material you accumulate.


  • Items which require action can be placed in your Tickler File System to be acted on later
  • There are two components to a good tickler file system. Part of the system includes an accordion file with tabs for each day of the month (1-31) and each month of the year (Jan-Dec), followed by a tab for Future Years. The other part of your tickler system is made of individual folders labeled for specific and repetitive actions, such as:
    • Pay - a place to put your bills until they are paid
    • Receipts or Expense Reimbursement - a place to store your receipts until you submit them
    • Data Entry - a place to put business cards and other things that need to be entered into your computer
    • Discuss -- a folder to put notes in for weekly meetings with the same person, or if you meet with several people weekly, you may have individual folders with their names on them
    • Write
    • Photocopy
    • Errands -- a folder to hold coupons, shopping lists, claim receipts, etc.
    • Call
    • Calls Expected -- a folder to put notes in for calls you are waiting for

Click here to read more about how to set this up and to view a photo of the accordion part of the customized tickler file system.

Items which do not enhance your life can be immediately tossed! (NOTE: "Toss" means "get it out of here." One form of tossing is to give it to someone else who would find it useful.)

Ask yourself these questions to determine whether to keep or toss something:

  • If I needed it later, could I easily replace it? 
  • By the time I might need this, will it be obsolete? 
  • Do I want/choose to keep this? (Notice that I did not ask if you "should" keep it.)
  • Does anyone else care if I keep this? (Based on how important that person is to you, you may choose to keep something -- such as an ugly family heirloom that does not fit your decor -- because of its value to someone else.)
  • For bills already paid, am I keeping them just because, or is there any benefit to keeping them? Consider the following:
    • If you own your own business, keeping the bill for business expenses will be helpful if you get audited by the IRS and need to prove legitimate expenses.
    • If these are personal bills that are not tax-deductible, identify if there is any benefit to keeping them.
    • You can deduct medical bills if they total a certain percentage of your income for the year. For most people, medical bills are not deductible because the percentage is too low.
    • Mortgage interest is deductible, although you get a year-end statement from the lender which includes the total interest paid for the year, so keeping the monthly bills may not be necessary.
    • Keeping the bill itself will not prove that you paid it. If you pay by check or electronically, you have a paper or electronic trail to prove that you've paid the bill.
    • If you are keeping bills to help you with your budget process, you may benefit from using a software program like Quicken to help track your expenses. Once you enter the data into Quicken, you may not find any benefit to keeping the bills themselves.

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