Paperwork

Organize Your Financial Documents

Even though we are in the Digital Age, paper remains a constant in our lives. While junk emails have replaced junk snail mail (trees happy, inboxes…not so much), one of the major paper generators of all is personal finances. Last summer my husband and I sold and then bought a home—the amount of paper those two transactions took was mind-boggling. We all have bank records, loans, credit cards, and utilities…and that is just the beginning. So much of our money-related information enters our homes as paper! Organizing paperwork can definitely be overwhelming. Let these guidelines help you get your financial documents in order.

Review what documents you have.

Before you can organize your documents, go through them and see what you have. Organize them into categories, such as To File, To Shred, To Read, To Pay, and Needs Action. You may discover unpaid bills, receipts for tax deductions, and all sorts of other paperwork you didn’t realize was in that big stack. If you’re uncertain about what to keep and what to shred, refer to our thorough guide on paper retention.

Read More

Get Started on Your Taxes Now

The IRS has announced that it won’t begin accepting returns until February 12, which is 16 days later than tax season began last year. The deadline to file your 2020 taxes is midnight on April 15, 2021. That’s just around the corner. Don’t hold off any longer—the time to file is now. According to the IRS, 20-25% of Americans wait until the final two weeks before the deadline to prepare their documents and file. The sooner you file, the less likely you will need to file an extension or pay a fine.

Here are seven reasons to get started on your taxes today:

  1. By the end of February most financial institutions have mailed out their respective tax documents. You should have all your documents gathered and organized. If you think you are still missing something (e.g., a document, form, or receipt), call the appropriate person to get that item sent to you right away. Tip: an email with the attached file is much quicker than the U.S. Mail.
  2. If you are waiting for your first or second round of stimulus payments, filing your taxes early is likely the quickest way to secure those funds. Taxpayers who didn’t receive a stimulus payment, or who didn’t receive the full amount they were owed, may claim the missing funds through the Recovery Rebate Credit on their 2020 taxes.
  3. Tax preparation professionals will be busier than ever this tax-filing season. As soon as you have all your documents, submit them to your tax professional. Don’t procrastinate on this; even CPAs have to get extensions if they can’t file your taxes in time.
  4. There is a penalty for not filing your taxes by the deadline. This penalty is harsher and different from the penalty for failure to pay what you owe by the deadline. You should file taxes on time even if you are unable to pay all the taxes you owe by the due date.
  5. Get ahead of the fraudsters! Another advantage of filing early if you expect a refund: It helps ensure that you claim your money before fraudsters have a chance to claim it in your name.
  6. Don’t forget that tax refunds are your money! Why wait any longer than necessary to claim it? You’ll feel much better knowing it’s in your bank account, and not the government’s coffers.
  7. Filing your tax return now and checking that off your to-do list is one more way to lighten your load. No more thinking about taxes for at least another 9 months!
Read More

What to Save and What to Shred: Paper Retention Guidelines

Even with many day-to-day tasks moving online, there will still–and always be–paper. The average American receives almost 50,000 pieces of mail in their lifetime, and 30% of it is junk. No wonder so many of us have piles of paper items that can quickly accumulate if not taken care of. You want to tackle the stacks of paper on your desk, but you’re not quite sure how to start? Our guidelines will help you know what to save, what to recycle, and what to shred.

The Simplify Experts Paper Retention Schedule:

  1. All tax returns are to be kept; receipts need to be kept for the last 7 years of returns only.
  2. Bank statements only have to be kept for 3 years unless a key component in your 7 years of tax receipts.
  3. Financial Brokerage accounts – keep the current year statements. At the end of year, save only year-end and tax related forms. Trade confirmations need to be kept to prove the original price of the stock when purchased until sold. Keep trade confirmations in a labeled manila folder with your tax receipts.
  4. Keep all medical billing statements and prescription receipts for the year should you incur large medical expenses for that year and have enough to claim a tax deduction. If you did not meet the medical claim amount for your income, than shred all medical billing at year-end.
  5. You only need a couple months worth of utilities unless you run a business out of your home and are writing off a portion of those expenses to your business.
  6. If you believe you will be doing a wealth of improvements to your home for the life of your home, keep all home improvement receipts for capital gains tax when you sell the home.
Read More

Professional Organizer’s Guide to Writing Thank You Notes

Everyone loves a thank you note

A Professional Organizer’s Guide to Writing More Thank You Notes

I am a big fan of appreciation and thanking someone warmly for a gift or a kind act. I love receiving handwritten thank you notes (I don’t knock email notes either) because it means someone took the time to let me know they both received the gift and are favorably acknowledging the efforts made on their behalf. A personal piece of correspondence is the best kind of mail to get. It’s a treasure in the sea of junk mail, catalogs, and bills. I especially adore a thank you note that points out something spot-on about the item and/or something special about your relationship with that person – bonus points!

Apparently, I am not alone. An article in the New York Times, “You Should Send That Thank You Note You’ve Been Meaning to Write” from July 20, 2018, agreed that people like getting thank you notes. Seriously, who would not like getting a thank you?

Read More

Declutter Your Desk in Just 5 Minutes

In our recently published book:  Declutter and Thrive: Overcoming 6 Common Disorganization Types to Reveal Your Best You, one of the types we described is The Overburdened Employee –  for whom clutter and disorganization at work is a daily struggle, negatively impacting their career.

Work with a professional organizer to reset your office or desk space. Then use the tasks listed in the infographic below

Read More

Get Control of Your Personal Information – Know What to Shred

Personal information

Personal information security is a hot topic these days. Between news of identity theft, mass data breaches and social media personal data security, the subject is front and center in our minds. We all want out personal information to be safe, whether it is our financial information, medical records, or social media data. Each year, we handle hundreds of documents that entail sensitive information, physical paper, our personal and financial paperwork.

It can be confusing to figure out what documents we need to keep, how long, and what documents we can dispose of, and how. Some individuals are so anxious about identity theft that they do not dispose of any paperwork at all! That results in massive paper piles, making it nearly impossible to find important documents when you need them. These piles can become an overwhelming burden. Paperwork clutter is a common problem, and very tedious and time consuming to tackle.

So, how can we protect our personal information (without getting buried in paper), at least the kind of personal information which commonly arrives in the mail? What to keep? How long? Why? We have some answers for you.

What Personal Information to Keep and How Long

  1. Tax Returns: Keep copies of all your tax returns. Keep the back-up information and
Read More

5 Ways to Make a Rainy February Productive

Plan and be productive

February – the month of the Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day, football jerseys and candy hearts. Around here, it’s also the month when we start wishing for the puddles to dry and spring to arrive. While it is still cold and gray outside, you CAN be productive and get lots done inside. Grab your favorite coffee drink, and let’s get cracking!

Put Away Holiday Decor

If you haven’t done so yet, pack up the rest of the holiday décor and put it away until next year. Return your inflatable Santa to it’s box in the garage, and recycle the sad, dry Christmas wreath. If the gloomy February weather is sapping your energy, you might need an energetic, cheerful organizer to boost your productivity and get the last of that holiday décor put away. We are a phone call away.

Reduce your Partner’s Burden this Valentine’s Day

For Valentine’s Day, think about doing something simple yet thoughtful.

Read More

10 Reasons We Keep So Much Paper

Paperwork on a cluttered desk

It seems that everyone struggles with paper clutter. At the beginning of each year, we encourage clients to go through filing cabinets, recycling or shredding unneeded documents. For some folks though, the paper clutter is deeper than a few old insurance explanation of benefits or old quarterly financial statements.

The following are ten reasons we hang on to so much paper!

  1. Information is powerful. We keep a lot of paper as reference material, so we can find it later when we need it.
  2. For many people, printed copy is easier to read than online. Some folks print reams of documents with the intention to read through every page.
  3. Catalogues are promises of a better future self or home. We often hang on to them for inspiration or potential future purchases.
  4. Magazines can be full of knowledge we’d like to retain. We keep them to read them again, or to hang on to the “knowledge” we’ve gained.
  5. Beautiful photography in magazines may inspire our travel. We may get ideas for home remodeling projects from magazines. Although much of this information is also available online, we may keep the magazine as a physical reminder.
  6. Sometimes, the paper is your work product. You may have copies of projects
Read More

Organize to Protect Your Identity

Paperwork on a cluttered desk

Data breach. Customer information stolen. Identity theft. Those words regularly appear in the news, making you, the consumer, angry. You wonder why companies can’t seem to figure it out–either stop collecting personal information or protect it!

Despite companies’ security efforts, the risk of identity theft isn’t going away. Criminals world-wide seem to be one step ahead. In 2016, over $16 billion was stolen from consumers, around $1,300 per victim.

Read More

Are You Drowning in Paper Piles?

paper piles

Where does all that paper come from?

Paper used to be a rare and precious commodity, but today most families are drowning in it. Mail, such as utility bills, financial statements, medical explanation of benefits, store catalogs, magazines, and election pamphlets are delivered daily. Children’s school work and art projects also create volumes of paper. Work related documents, those can pile up quick. What if you have a small business? Tons of paper. What if you manage multiple properties? More paper.

Much of the paper which enters our homes represents an action item of one kind or another. The action item might be: pay this bill, review this statement, call this company, read this document, save this document for the future, take advantage of this retail offer. You empty the mailbox on your way home from work, and voila everything in the mailbox is more to-dos for you. Great. Just great. As if you didn’t have enough to do already.

Mounds and Mounds of Paper

Even if you don’t receive many magazines or catalogs and you pay your bills on-line, you are still dealing with mounds

Read More