BOSTON (CBS) – Spring officially starts on Wednesday. But I, for one, never write off that Snow Fairy until Mother’s Day.

The spring weather works magic on all of us. Some of us can’t wait for the flowers and baseball and for some there comes a phenomena know as spring-cleaning. We look around our homes and want to get rid of the winter clutter.

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 youngest is going to enter kindergarten in the fall but her paperwork, including her birth certificate and health records, are still sitting on the bureau.

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 $1,000.

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.

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

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. 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 could also get out your camcorder 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.

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


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.

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