Financial Spring Cleaning: Organizing Your Stuff

BOSTON (CBS) – Today is the first day of spring! Although most things in my garden are still brown, with the extra daylight I can feel spring.

And those extra hours of daylight work wonders on our minds and bodies.

Some of us can’t wait for the flowers and baseball season and for some there occurs a phenomenon known as spring-cleaning. We look around our homes and want to get rid of the winter clutter. We want to organize our stuff! We begin to channel Martha Stewart.

But what about the financial clutter you have hanging around. You finished your taxes but you still haven’t put away the tax stuff. You have several months of bank and credit card statements waiting for your attention. And there is the day camp applications for the kids that needs finishing.

According to one study I found, we spend over 40 hours plus a year searching for our important stuff; paperwork, glasses, phone and keys. 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 those 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 $1,000.

You need to get organized! Find a place to put your keys when you come home. Set up a filing system for your paperwork.

A filing cabinet is best, but they are large and hard to move around so 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.

If something should happen to you, would your family know where to find the important papers? Or if ever you are told you have one hour to evacuate can you easily grab the kids, your meds, the important papers, the computer, the dog and leave?

Create an ICE file. In Case of Emergency. Let your family know where it is and when it is needed it can easily be accessed.

One more thing:  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. Which document? Where is it filed? Once you have filled you out the form make copies for anyone that might need to help you find your important stuff.

Create a pictorial inventory of your stuff and keep it on your computer as well as on a memory stick. 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. Stuff with value should have an appraisal. Be sure all of your special valuables are properly insured.

When storing important documents in your basement put them in Ziploc bags!

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You can hear Dee Lee’s expert financial advice on WBZ NewsRadio 1030 each weekday at 1:55 p.m., 3:55 p.m., and 7:55 p.m.

Subscribe to Dee’s Money Matters newsletter here.

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