It’s not quite so cold outside anymore, and the sun has come out from behind the winter clouds—it’s spring! And it’s a great time to help Mom sort through her clutter and help her decide what stays and what can go. Once you have helped her, you can tackle your own home as well. Here are some tips to help you and Mom organize efficiently.
Organize Paper Clutter
Most people tend to keep more documents and papers than they actually need, resulting in a lot of paper clutter around the house. According to the National Association of Professional Organizers, here’s how you can sort through Mom’s paper clutter:
- Mortgage - After you get your 1098 in January, you can throw out all of your mortgage statements from that year.
- Insurance - Once you renew your policies or get a new policy, you can throw out the documents for your old policies.
- Taxes - Keep your tax returns for 3 years.
- Pay stubs - After you get your W2, you can throw away your old pay stubs.
- Retirement - Keep the most recent statement from any retirement plan that you have.
- Investments - After you get your annual statements, you can throw out your quarterly statements. Keep all of your annual statements for 7 years after liquidating the last asset.
- Medical - Keep all of your records and bills for up to a year, and keep anything that details your insurance benefits, claims, payments, or medical and prescription history.
- Birth - Keep all birth certificates.
- Marriage - Keep your marriage license.
- Divorce - Keep your divorce decree and any papers regarding alimony settlements or child support. You can throw out transcripts and letters from attorneys.
Once you have sorted through all of Mom’s important documents, throw out old newspapers, expired coupons, and any other paper clutter that you might find around the house.
Create a Filing System
After going through Mom’s paper clutter, help her create a safe place for her to store the documents that she is keeping. Find an area of the house that is easily accessible and has enough room to fit a small file cabinet. You can put the new filing system in the study, the living room, or in a larger closet on the main floor. Find tips on how to set up the perfect filing system for Mom.
Important! Store the originals of important documents, like birth certificates and her marriage license, in a safety deposit box, but keep copies of those documents in the filing system at home as well. Do not store her will in a safety deposit box, because the box will be sealed after her death.
Clearly Label Everything
While setting up Mom’s new filing system, make sure that you clearly label every folder. Labeling everything will help Mom find her documents, and it will also be beneficial in an emergency, should relatives or an executor need to find their way through Mom’s files. Target, Overstock, and Wayfair all sell affordable filing cabinets. You can find labels and folders at any local office supply store.
There are other types of clutter that you can help Mom label around her house as well. Sort through the pantry and put labels on shelves and on storage containers so that Mom can find ingredients and food items more easily. Sort through Mom’s seasonal clothes. Place items that are currently unused into storage containers, label the containers, and then store them in an attic, a closet, or under the bed.
Organizing doesn’t have to be dull. With a little paint and some creativity, Mom’s new filing system can be decorative and exciting. Explore ways you can spruce up Mom’s new file cabinet. You can find decorative file folders at many stores, like Amazon, Office Depot, and Staples. Purchase colorful storage containers at any home improvement store or at any variety store. Invest in a fun label machine, or use sharpies and create your own unique labels. Remember, clearing out clutter should help you get rid of stress, not cause more of it. If you or Mom start to get overwhelmed, set the task aside for another day.