1-2-3 Paper Management for Busy People – Part 3 of 4

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Step 3: Purge and Rotate Archives

Click here if you missed Step 1: Sort Incoming Paper Before You Sit Down! or Step 2: Process and Archive, which describe the first two of the only three times I ever deal with any paperwork that comes into my house:

1st time) I capture paperwork into an appropriate action folder immediately as it comes into the house (from the mail, the printer, or something I carried home).
2nd time) I file paper into its final destination file after I have done any required activities with it, like bill paying.

The 3rd and final time paperwork is handled at my house is when it gets purged! YEA!

I remember back to the years when my file space would start to burst at the seams and I would laboriously comb through all of my files to find items to purge so I could create space. But since I’ve been using the 1-2-3 system for the past decade my file space volume has been constant, as each year I purge the contents of a single folder to make room for the incoming documents.

Right now is tax season (2016). Over January and February the W2s and 1099s and 1098s accumulated rapidly. Like all incoming paper, I plopped them all in the “To File” folder, straight from the mailbox without even opening them. Each time I did my filing, I would open them and put them in the “Tax Year 2016” file. Since, during that time I started also needing a “Tax year 2017” file(for expense and donation receipts pertaining to this year), I created one — and then was vigilant to ensure that the documents I need for my current tax return preparations end up in the 2016 tax folder.

The “To File” folder also has started to contain banks statements and other documents that pertain to this, new year. So now is a natural time to rotate my archive files, setting myself up for the new year, and purging the paper that no longer needs to be retained (i.e., the stuff in the “Destroy 12/2016” file).

Here’s how I do the rotation:Brewster-NY-Professional-Organizer-Archive-File-Rotation

  • Move the “One-Year,” “Three-Year,” and “Seven-Year” files that I have been using for the past year from the active file tote bag to the file storage box under the dining room bench.
  • Transfer from the file storage box to the active file tote bag the next “One-Year” and “Three-Year” files (this year those are the ones labeled “Destroy 12/2018” and “Destroy 12/2020”).
  • Pull out of the file storage box the file holding documents that can now be purged, i.e., the “Destroy 12/2016” folder. Empty the contents of this folder into a container for the purge process.
  • Relabel the now-empty archive file to serve as this year’s Seven-Year File (i.e., “Destroy 12/2024”) and place it into the active file tote bag.

Since I do my own shredding, I take the opportunity of feeding the shredder to flip through the papers one last time. It is an easy process because I always file new papers in the back of a file; thus, there is a natural sorting of the 7-year-old banking records, 3-year-old credit card records, and last year’s “keep for a little while” stuff. Instead of shredding, I could move an item into the following year’s destruction file, if I still am not sure I’m ready. (I’ve never felt the need to do this, but it is an option.)



And that’s it!

With the exception of the 0.1% of the time that I actually need to use the paperwork that I retain, I deal with it only three times: when it came into my house, when I did any necessary tasks associated with it, and when I purge it. What a wonderful difference this system has made!



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