Taxes are due NEXT WEEK! If you’re like me and haven’t already filed, you’re probably feeling the panic start to set in. Have you been avoiding it because your home office is a total disaster and you know it’s going to mean hours of work? Have no fear – I’ve got you covered with my guide to getting yourself organized and ready for the dreaded T-Day.
Create a Workspace If your desk is so covered you’ve forgotten what it even looks like, find a clutter-free space where you can work without being distracted by the mess. Don’t plan on organizing the entire room today, just focus on gathering everything you’ll need to get your taxes filed. You’ll need enough space to spread out and create piles for the different categories (such as W2s, medical expenses, business receipts, etc).
Sort Your Stuff If your office space is like mine, you have your whole life in there, including personal photos, household to-do lists, garden shears (I don’t know how those even got in there…) The home office tends to become more of a catch all and less of an “office”. Anything that isn’t tax related should go into a bin or box for later sorting. Right now, we just care about tax related items. Gather all of your paperwork into a pile on your workspace and you’re ready to start sorting.
Sort Your Paperwork Create two piles for all of your tax-related paperwork: “Need” and “Don’t Need”. Don’t need could be old tax returns, receipts for items you can’t claim as an expense, or any other miscellaneous paperwork you aren’t sure about. Wait to throw out the “don’t need” pile just yet until you can bring it to your account to be sure that you truly don’t need it. Once you get the okay, shred that pile and be done with it.
Sort the Need Pile Create categories for the paperwork such as Medical, Personal Deductions, Business Expenses, etc. Sorting through the paperwork now saves time when you head to your accountant and that in turn saves you money. Now you’re ready to file your taxes! (Queue the sarcastic “yay”).
The next few steps are for continuing the organizing process after you’ve finished your taxes for this year:
Get a Jump on Next Year Start a 2017 Taxes file folder. Using those categories you created in the “Sort Your Need Pile” step, label the different sections of the folder and start sorting any receipts and papers you have already gathered this year. Keep the folder in an easy to access spot and as the year goes on, stick to sorting papers as soon as you bring them home. There’s a great method for keeping your paperwork organized called “OHIO” – Only Handle It Once. The idea is to sort or toss paperwork, receipts, and mail as soon as you bring it into the house. Don’t set them down somewhere to deal with at a later time – deal with it right away and clutter can’t form.
The Final Step Remember that box of non-tax-related items? It’s time to tackle that. Sort through it in the same way you sorted through your paperwork: “need” and “don’t need”. Toss or shred the “don’t need” pile and focus on how you can organize the items you do need. Whether it’s designating one desk drawer for personal items, or putting up a shelf for your children’s photos and artwork, create a space for each item you want to keep.
When you break down organizing into small, easy to handle chunks, it seems a lot less daunting and a lot more doable. Using Tax Day as your deadline can help you get started and stay focused. Once you get start, you may find yourself in a groove and be able to tackle the entire office in one weekend. Don’t get discouraged if it takes a few weeks to get your office where you want it to be. Organizing can be a slow process, go at your own pace and be satisfied in knowing that at least your taxes are done and you’ll never be scrambling last minute again.