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 tax time because your home office is a total disaster? Have no fear – I’ve got you covered with my guide to getting yourself organized and ready for the dreaded T-Day.
If your desk is so covered in clutter you’ve forgotten what it even looks like, find a clear 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 W2’s, medical expenses, business receipts, etc).
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 sometimes acts as more of a catch all than a dedicated 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 tax-related paperwork into a pile and you’re ready to start sorting.
Create two piles for all of your 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 until you can bring it to your accountant to be sure that you truly don’t need it. Once you get the okay, shred that pile and be done with it.
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.
Start a ‘2019 Taxes’ accordion folder. Using those categories you created in Step 3, 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, shred, or toss items 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.
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’s much more manageable. Using Tax Day as your deadline can help you get started and stay focused. Once you do 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 you’re setting yourself up to never be scrambling last minute again.