People will tell you they know their paper is a mess on their table. They assure you they can find whatever they need …..until they can’t!
Paper is magnetic….it attracts more paper! Just look how quickly it multiplies! You keep the papers in piles in front of you because you want to be able to put your hands on it easily when needed or maybe you really don’t know where to put it to be able to retrieve it when needed.
Either way…there is a better way than filing by PILES!
Do you find paper trails all over your home or office? Receipts, bills, random phone numbers on slips of paper…you get my drift! Everybody has a common landing zone they get in the habit of dropping papers/mail and receipts. This landing zone could be your kitchen counter, desk or entryway. I am going to give you a process to stay on top of the clutter from paper.
Once you establish a system it is a dream to maintain! No more Paper Piles!
Step 1: TACKLE THE PILES - gather all the paper from all over your home or office You can decide to work with one pile at a time or gather all the paper from all over the home and start with the top piece of paper in the gathered pile. (Exception: at this time put any children’s school papers and sentimental cards/papers aside for now.)
Step 2: SORT THE PILES AND FILE
Make three Qualifiers….Keep - Toss/Recycle - Shred
(as you handle a piece of paper decide a qualifying step) • Keep - You will need to implement a filing system for these papers (keep reading)
• Toss - Documents that don’t contain personal identification, junk mail, etc.
• Shred - Sensitive Documents that contain personal or financial information that you do not need to keep…. If you are working on a big project to declutter your paper… hold all the papers you collect to be shredded until the end of the declutter project then decide if you can do it or take it to a store for shredding in bulk.
Step 3: ORGANIZE WHAT IS LEFT- actual nitty gritty of paper placement in files!
Keep pile - any papers you have decided you need to take action, file or keep for future reference
• Act - any paper that requires action, a bill to pay, follow up calls, schedule events in your calendar etc. ex. If you have an upcoming event stop and put the date and time in your calendar as you handle the piece paper….now can you discard the piece of paper or decide to scan or file it
• File - it is important to keep any papers you might need within a month close and available
Action file - anything you need to have at your fingertips for the next month ex. receipts,
Bills to be paid, invoices needed, household projects etc. * see below for
suggestions for an action/short term file
Reference file - file anything you do not need to reference often ex: warranties, Investment
You will want a *short term filing system such as a file tote or decorative box to place on your desk or kitchen counter with the action files. This is considered the action files you use daily or monthly.
*SHORT TERM FILING - Create a counter top file system using a decorative tote or box
Keep this system simple - no more than 10 categories
You can have one hanging folder for each family member and anything pertaining to that individual goes in the file. Identify a hanging folder for Bills to Pay, Items to scan or file, Coupons, Receipts, Household projects, and To Do for a few ideas. As mail/paper comes into your life file accordingly instead of placing on a table in a pile.
LONG TERM FILLING - needs a permanent home such as a filing cabinet, storage box, or portable file box. A general list for filing categories for long term filing are:
Personal Records - Insurance Records. Birth Certificates, Death Certificates, Marriage/Divorce, Social Security, Military, ID, Passports, Wills, Education, Life Insurance etc
Household File - Mortgage, Insurance, Home improvements, Manuals, Warranties, Property Tax, etc
Auto Records - Titles, Maintenance, Mileage, Insurance
Financial Records - Tax receipts, Medical receipts, Bank, Payroll receipts, Contracts, Real Estate records, Investment records, Retirement papers, Bankruptcy, Paid off loans, Satisfied liens
Medical Records - Medical Statements, Doctor Dentist Invoices/bills, Immunization records, Insurance claims, Medical records
**** Open your mail by a shredder and use accordingly.
*****Always throw away junk mail in the trash or recycle bin immediately.
*****Open mail and place bills in the short term action file immediately.
Shredders are very inexpensive today. Amazon, Staples and Walmart are good resources to find one for yourself. Staples offers secure shredding of papers and often your community has events for free paper shredding.
MAINTENANCE - going forward with paper!
Designate one place in your home for your short term and long term papers.
Handle the papers coming into your home on a daily and weekly basis.
Open and sort the paper - Act, File, Toss or Shred - at this stage shred papers immediately try not to gather a pile to be shredded later. Place the shredder beside where you handle the paper.
If at all possible scan receipts, get electronic versions of manuals, set up electronic billing.
Handling the paper as soon as it comes into your home is the best remedy to avoid paper clutter!
The key is to accept the limitations of the space/container you have and declutter enough of your "stuff" that the remainder fits comfortably in the space of choice. Most of us are guilty of maxing out the space ..such as a closet...we move the overflow items outside the closet and end up with things with no home, resulting in clutter being out of control in our home! Instead of complaining you have no room for all your "stuff" declutter and only keep what physically fits in the space you have!
The key to successful decluttering is to purge enough "stuff" to only have what fits comfortably in your home!
Have you allowed your home to be a holding space for all your "stuff" instead of a place you live?
Start today...pick the most visible space in your home and declutter that space. It is so much more satisfying to see the results of your efforts as you walk around your home when you start your decluttering at the most visible place... a kitchen counter or the dining room table, wherever you see clutter visually in your home! Organize a drawer is satisfying, but...being able to walk into a room and "see" the table without the clutter is so much more rewarding and motivating to keep going!