BOSTON (CBS) – Spring starts officially tomorrow! But never write off the Snow Fairy until Mother’s Day.

With the nice weather comes a phenomena know as spring-cleaning. It’s in our genes. We look around our homes and want to get rid of the winter clutter. At our house, we’ve been raking the lawn, sweeping the sand off of the driveway and the snow blower has become a rack for the odd mittens.

But what about the financial clutter you have hanging around. Take a look around your house. You finished your taxes but you still haven’t put away the tax stuff.

Your daughter was accepted to Tufts and the information sits on the kitchen counter. Her birth certificate that you needed for her application is in your sock drawer along with her Social Security card because you wanted them to be safe.

According to one study I found, we spend over 40 hours a year searching for our important papers. You put them away in a really safe place. You just can’t remember which safe place!

Spending 40 hours is annoying enough but I would like to add a price tag to your hours. Figure out what your time is worth. If you earn $50,000 a year, your hourly rate would be $25. Then multiple that by 40 or more to come up with the cost of clutter. That would be a $1000.

You need to get organized! Set up a filing system. A filing cabinet is best, but even a crate-a-file or a big binder will do in the beginning. Think about getting a safety deposit box or buy a safe, one rated by Underwriters Laboratories. You want to protect your important papers from a major catastrophe such as a fire, flood, or a robbery.

I have created a worksheet entitled Document Locator, which you can easily download from my website  and print it out for reference. Here you fill in the blank spaces. What document? Where is it filed? Once you have filled out the form, make copies for anyone that might need to help you find your important stuff.

You just may have to protect your important papers from yourself. If something should happen to you, would your family know where to find the important papers that would be needed in an emergency? Or if ever you are told you have one hour to evacuate can you easily grab the kids, your meds, the important papers, the backup computer disk, the dog and leave?

One more thing:  You could also get out your video camera and walk around the house and do a pictorial inventory. If you have valuables such as jewelry or collectibles, you should be itemizing those as well and, of course, keeping them in a safe place. Just remember which safe place. Be sure all of your special valuables are properly insured.

Store important documents in Ziploc bags!


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