photo credit: Artform Canada via photopin cc

photo credit: Artform Canada via photopin cc

Following is a guest post by Preeti Ray, Senior Product Manager at Finovera Inc. Finovera is a free service that automatically downloads bills and statements from your financial providers and organizes and stores all of your important papers safely and securely in your own personal online filing cabinet.

One of my goals at the start of this year was to tackle the chaos that had invaded our home file cabinets and clear paper clutter. So one Saturday morning, I finally took a deep breath and went in.

Trying to make sense of the utter clutter and chaos of so much paper was pretty overwhelming. I thought I’d begin with a “small” task first. Yeah, right! I opened up a filing cabinet that I had been using diligently for the last 5 years thinking that purging and organizing it should be a pretty manageable task. It contained many well-marked folders with names like PGE, Utilities, 401, Bank of America, and Kids School.

Though the folders were well-organized, they were bulging with papers. Looking at these fat folders, I kept thinking, “Do I really need all this paper?” and “If I need something in here, how in the world will I find it?” which brings me to the point of my initial rambling.

Most of the paper we collect we don’t really need and the ones we do need, we can probably just keep in electronic form. Mind you, there are some exceptions like birth certificates and social security cards which should really be stored in a safe deposit box anyway.

I decided to create two piles – papers to save and papers to shred. Papers that I did not need or ones that I could get copies of online went into the shred pile while the papers that had to be kept went into the save pile.

I realized I could discard all the old utility bills, bank statements, phone bills and even the brokerage statements. Most companies save these documents online for quite a long time. Phone companies and other utilities keep them for a year to 18 months, credit card companies archive statements for five to seven years, and most brokerage houses keep statements on file for 10 years! Check with your bank, credit card provider or brokerage to find out how long they keep your records. In many cases, you will find that they have electronic versions of all that paper you are holding on to.

As the hours progressed, I found that the shred pile grew while the pile containing important papers remained quite small. Out went the old bills, mortgage statements, refinance papers (I kept the pay-off statements from banks), papers from old jobs, etc.

Then, using Finovera, I turned all of my important documents into digital form, and was able to almost completely clear my file cabinets! Finovera is a free online tool that lets you quickly upload all your important documents into your own personal digital file cabinet. And it’s easy to use. You scan your documents and then store and organize them online where they will still be safe and secure even if there is a natural disaster, fire or burglary. More importantly, you can access and download them anytime from anywhere, even from your phone.

After clearing through all this clutter of paper, I got down to the serious job of shredding!

I feel a whole lot better knowing that my important paperwork is organized and accessible, not only to me but also to my husband. Now in an emergency we both have access to this information. And I was able to start the year with less paper weight and clutter.