Five Tips for Getting Organized in 2020

One of your New Year’s resolutions was to get your desk or office organized, but it’s now February and you’re still staring at piles of paperwork from before the holidays. Don’t despair! With a little effort, you can set yourself up for a smoother, more productive rest of the year with these simple tips.

organized file cabinet graphic


1.    Categorize and Copy

Gather any piles of paperwork, including opened and unopened mail, and any existing filing. Sort your documents into the following categories:

  • Home and property: Mortgage, property deeds, home improvement projects, receipts, property tax information, home insurance policies.
  • Car and transportation: Titles, maintenance records, insurance policies, car loan and payment records, records regarding car rentals.
  • Health: Insurance policies, health insurance benefits records, medical bills, explanations of medical benefits, flexible spending account information, medical receipts.
  • Financial records: Bank statements, tax returns, tax deduction records, charitable donation receipts, loan records, credit card statements
  • Appliances and electronics records: Mobile phone contracts and equipment manuals; sales receipts and warranties for computers, laptops, and tablets; cable and internet plans and bills; wireless router sales receipt and manuals; appliance manuals and warranties.
  • Personal records: Birth certificate, marriage certificate, divorce certificate, custody papers, Social Security information, immunization records, passport, medical directives, life insurance policies, military service records, church or synagogue membership records, wills, funeral plan, burial or cremation instructions. Sub-divide these records by each household member.
  • Wallet: Make copies of your driver’s license, all credit/debit cards (front and back), health insurance card, organ donor card, membership cards for the gym, library, grocery store loyalty programs, warehouse clubs, etc.
  • Pets: Veterinary records and vaccine records.

Special note for vital records: Consider storing your vital records in a fire-proof safe or safety deposit box. Vital records are those which would be considered difficult to replace and may require an original signature. Social Security information, birth certificates, passports, wills, deeds of property, car titles, insurance policies, and agent’s contact information could all be categorized as vital records. Create a master list of these documents for reference to keep in your regular files.

hanging file folders organized by color2.    Color-Code and File

Assign each category of important documents a hanging file color. Add the corresponding number of hanging files to your filing system for the number of document types you have in each category.

Use color or manila folders and create a folder for each individual document within each document type. Place the folders in the appropriate colored hanging file category.

3.    Purge Paperwork

You’re going to come across a lot of documents and records which are no longer needed. Documents stolen from your trash leave you at risk for identity theft. Be sure to dispose of them securely to protect your private information. For a handy records retention list, click here. The file for everything of a non-private nature? File 13, a.k.a. the circular file!

4.    Create a Mail Station

The constant influx of new paperwork created by the mail means even after getting completely organized, you can find yourself buried in paperwork again a week later if you don’t stay on top of your mail. You need to prevent paperwork build-up. You can make this easier to do by creating a mail station. Make a folder for incoming and outgoing mail, mail to file, and bills to be paid. If there are other members of your household, add a colored file folder for each. When mail arrives, file it in the mail station. Go through the mail station once a week.

5.    Find a Home

“A place for everything and everything in its place,” is a popular saying for a good reason: clutter happens when items have no home. Create a home for paper requiring action and put it in a visible location, such as a letter tray. Get a desk organizer to keep other office-related clutter at bay, and keep frequently-used items there for easy access. Also get a drawer organizer for each desk drawer, and keep items pertaining to common tasks together for ease of use.

Tidying orders and relaxes the mind.

-Marie Kondo

Extra Help

In the digital age, we are blessed with a number of apps to help make staying on top of paperwork a bit easier. These apps are available for IOS and Android users.

Google Drive is synced with your Google account and can store documents on it just like any other drive. Google Drive can be accessed from any device. It also allows you to share your files and folders, as well as invite others to collaborate on documents. You can allow other users to view only, edit, or suggest edits on various documents.

Do you have a post-it habit you need to break this year? Your scribbles, lists, and notes can be stored with Google Keep. With a straightforward interface and compatibility across multiple platforms, Google Keep gives you multiple ways to organize and format your notes. Your Google Keep notes, like your Google Docs, can be shared with other users.

using apps to get organized

Zapier is an online automation tool connecting your apps and services. You can connect two or more apps to automate repetitive tasks without having to know code. In essence, Zapier makes your productivity apps even more productive.

Security experts constantly tell us not to use the same password for everything, but remembering an ever-expanding number of login credentials is getting harder and harder. Use LastPass to create a master password for their vault, where you add and manage all the logins you’ve saved to LastPass.