I look forward to decluttering as much as I would look forward to delousing, which is not at all. But having started the ball rolling last year by cleaning out my unmanageable file cabinet in the garage, I decided that as part of my 2015 resolution, I should pick another clean-up project so that I could pat myself on the back and feel smug.
Ha! Fat chance that I could find a reasonable task that easily!
Here were some ideas that I explored: Take on the attic? Noooo, maybe next year. Kids’ toys? No, I’d rather go to the dentist. Clean out my husband’s clothes and get him to part with some of his tattered favorites? Couldn’t stop laughing at this one.
Trying not to give up hope, I opened a bottle of red wine and after sipping a glass with some seriously dark chocolate as an additional treat, I spent time exploring my options. Finally, I decided to continue with last year’s “theme” and add a few manageable bells and whistles to what I had worked on last year.
The task I decided to attempt was to go through all the paperwork that had been added to the filing cabinet this year, clean out what I could, and then find ways to reduce the amount of paper that I collected in the coming year.
When the day came…
I cleared a large area in our family room and brought in the folders that needed to be reviewed. Unlike last year, they were actually manageable. Then I gathered all the other things that I thought I would need. This included the shredder, my laptop, and my secret weapon…my son. (I bribed him with promises of candy and money if he would scan documents and shred and recycle as needed.)
Like last year, I went folder by folder and separated the documents. I also thought about whether I needed paper copies of statements for an account as I went through its folder. In a few cases, the answer was a resounding “yes,” while in most cases I realized I had never looked back at the statements. I just wanted to be sure that I could get them if I needed them.
So while my son scanned and shredded documents as necessary, I logged in to my Finovera account (Finovera is a free personal financial management tool) and added my bills and financial accounts for automatic download of statements. Finovera supports most popular national providers and many regional providers. The advantage here is that now my statements will get downloaded automatically and will be in the same place as where I am storing my other important documents. Along with many other nifty features, I’ll get automatic reminders when a new statement is available or a bill is due.
I then logged in to each of the sites that I had added to my Finovera account and set them up for e-bill delivery only. A big win for the trees and great brownie points with my kids who are always nagging me to be “green” so there is a world left for them to enjoy.
Finally, I logged in to my bank and checked which bills were set up for auto-pay and found that we were still paying some of the utilities manually. I changed them and other bills (like the mortgage) to auto-pay. Goodbye late fees! I did choose to not make some of my bills auto-pay (like my credit card bill) as I’d like to see the bill amount and then pay it. Finovera is useful here, too, as it sends me a reminder when a new statement is available. I then log in and can review the statement and use their “one-click” access to log in to my credit card or bank site and pay the bill.
Paper clutter gone!
Compared to last year’s project, this project took a lot less time, especially with my son helping. By late Saturday afternoon, we were done! As promised, I took my son to the local grocery store and let him spend a few bucks for a sugar fix. While he was busy exploring the candy aisle, I bought a container of mixed olives, a bottle of wine, some crusty bread, cheese, and a variety of salads. On the way out of the grocery store, we rented a family movie. Finally, we headed home to put our feet up and enjoy a good meal and movie!
It was such an amazing feeling to know I’d managed to make my kids happy by using less paper, my husband happy as he’d have less bills to look at, and me happy as I’d have less to clean next January. Cheers to a happier, greener new year for all!
Preeti Ray is a 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.