October Habit #25 No More Paper Clutter Sets You Free

Dear FlyLady,

I am a FlyBaby, but I discovered something very important about filing  paper.

100 years ago when this FlyBaby was just a little office larvae, we filed paid bills by vendor name in large file cabinets that were meticulously alphabetized so we could find the pieces of paper if there was a problem. This was long before everything was computerized. One day, this FlyBaby was consulting for a large Internet business. The business’ office manager had multiple 3 foot piles of paper behind her desk that were overwhelming her because she didn’t have time to fly, i mean file.

I knew the computer program she was using for bill paying was very robust and her work very accurate, so I suggested a proposition. Every time she paid bills, put all the paid bills in a folder, wrap with a rubber-band and put the date of the check run on the folder. Then, if she had to retrieve the documents, she just had to use the computer to look up the date it was paid. We wrapped up the piles behind her desk in the same way (took 3 or 4 hours instead of days) and archived everything from previous years. This office manager still sends me Christmas cards (some 10 years later) praising the fact that she is the fastest flier in town and has – NEVER – not been able to find a document using this system.

I adapted this system for my home too. I have private accounting clients, a full-time day job and go to school. I pay bills twice per month. I have 1″ expansion  folders with the name of each month on them where the sides are glued shut. After I pay all the bills, I dump in the folder for the month they were paid. I also dump mail like statements from banks, the 401k and our brokerage account (after I look at them) in there. Then, when tax time comes, I go through the folders to get what I need for our tax prep, and shred or recycle the rest. I also know where all the year-end statements and government tax forms are because as the mail comes in, I stick them in the December folder and I don’t have to wonder where I put them.

I hope this helps other FlyBabies who might be stuck in Alphabet world when converting to a monthly folder could set them free.

Rita Mae


FlyLady here: Our habit for October is taming the paper monster.  Thank you so much for sharing your routine.

Don’t be afraid to start tackling your piles of paper, 15 minutes at a time. Fling your perfectionism, you will never find the perfect system. Just create a filing system that makes sense to you.

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