BOSTON (CBS) – The first official day of spring is Friday! It still looks like winter around here but our days are longer, the sun is more intense so we know that spring will eventually get here.

When the spring weather arrives it 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. You finished your taxes but you still haven’t put away the tax stuff. Your oldest heads off to college in the fall and 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 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! Set up a filing system. 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 you were ever told you had 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 it out, make copies for anyone that might need access to this information should something happen to you.

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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