Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Paper Trail

Yesterday I met with my client to attack the volume of paper she had stored in her home. During this past two weeks she has done a good job of gathering the assorted piles, bags, and boxes of paper and putting them in the pantry, our staging area.  By doing so she was able to physically see the amount of excess "stuff" that had piled up and was affecting her peace of mind.

I didn't count specifically, but there were at least 15 different bags or boxes that were stuffed with paper. She and I went through and touched every piece.  A huge issue was the volume of unopened statements and bills.  She says she pays her bills over the phone, so there really is no need for a paper statement.  Also, paying by credit card can incur finance charges and possible service charges -- these can be negated by doing bill pay through your checking account.

For statements you need to keep, such as IRA or 401k plan info, as a new statement comes in, throw the old one out (actually, shred it).  Keep an expandable pouch file labeled in categories and drop in the new info as you clear out the old.  If you devote 15 minutes a week to this, you're set, or just keep the file by the trash can.

I taught my client the TRAF method, which I learned nearly 30 years ago: When paper comes in, your first response should be to TRASH it, then ROUTE it, ACT on it, and lastly FILE it.  70% of your mail will fall into the T zone. Another 3-5% will be an R (must set it aside to chat with the spouse, etc.).  You may need to Act on another 10-15% (invitations and bills), and then File the odd flyer or postcard advertising a vendor you'd like to try some time.  Hopefully that added up to 100%!  If it didn't, throw out a little more.

1 comment:

  1. Great advice! The TRAF method would really help in reducing paper trails for me at home. I have actually been doing it in another order, usually just filing the first arrivals, and then routing/acting on it when they arrive more than once. What I usually trash are olders copies, probably a year or so old.

    For credit cards and bill statements, a lot of companies now offer the paperless billing, which I have been enjoying as of late. The only paper trail that it gives me is when I print them every few months for my personal record. At least that way, I can choose to print the important parts of the statement and waste less paper doing so.

    Ruby Badcoe