The last few days of the year is when every single charity that you’ve ever donated to, purchased from, or driven by reaches out to grab a part of your heart and wallet. But they don’t stop there. A whole new cycle starts in the new year. If you have a generous heart, you might keep those charity appeals all throughout the year, trying to find the best place for your contributions. In so many cases, this desire to be generous leads to chaos in the home, as those papers and envelopes create mounds and mounds of paper. But there’s a simple little system that can save you from drowning in donation appeals.
If your counter, desk, or dressers look like this, chances are that the charity appeals are getting in the way of the other paperwork that you really do need to do something with, including bills, insurance papers, and household reminders.
To reduce and contain this mess caused by charity appeals, you need three things:
- A small standing file box. I wasn’t able to find a link to the one I used here, but this small file box would work just as well, if you turned it to the side. Or re-use any similar size box that you already own. The key is to have it large enough for envelopes to fit into (about 9″ wide) but not too deep (about 6″ deep max).
- A-Z index dividers
- An optional tracking sheet. You can download this free customizeable charity tracking sheet here.
Here’s how this works. Set up your new charitable contribution catcher in the place where you normally go through your mail. If you put this in your kitchen, but you normally go through mail while sitting in your favorite chair in the living room, you’ll need to make some sort of adjustment. Since it is easier to change the box’s location than to change your habit, move the charitable contribution catcher box to the living room.
When you receive a charitable contribution request, if you aren’t ready to act on it just yet, then file it in your box under the name of the charity. Do this all throughout the year.
Only keep the most recent appeal. If there is already an appeal from the same organization from earlier in the year, recycle one of them right away. Hate to file? Put them in the front as you go through the mail, and ask the grandkids to file them when they visit. This is a perfect project for little people learning the alphabet and how to count.
Some people prefer to save all the appeals, and then decide who to contribute to at the end of the year, in preparation for tax season. If that’s you, you’ll have everything all neat and ready to review.
If you make some contributions during the year, but then can’t remember whether you’ve already sent money to one organization or another, then you need this cheat sheet. Print it out, keep it in the front of your charitable contribution box, and make a note of the organizations that you like to sponsor, and when you send them money throughout the year. Then you won’t be accidentally giving too much to one, and not enough to another. You’ll also have a handy completed form for your tax files at the end of the year.
If you are reading this and thinking, “Heck, I just do this online,” good for you! You are a step ahead. But there are a lot of people who still like paper, and they look forward to doing good throughout the year by responding to charitable organizations with a written check. The hope is that you can be as generous as you want to be, without it causing you problems and clutter.
I’d love to know if you think this little system will help you declutter your paper piles.