Take control of the paper in your life now. Start anywhere on this list. Ready? Set? Go.
1. Prevent paper from crossing your threshold. Put a paper shredder by the entry point for mail, and grind up junk mail before it works its way onto counters or desks. Cancel newspapers and magazines that you no longer have time to read, and pitch catalogs into recycling. You’ll not only save yourself the trouble of weeding through a tall stack of unwanted paper, you may prevent yourself from buying material items you really don’t need or want.
2. Stop printing out emails. You will be far more efficient if you spend 15 minutes a week managing the folders in your email accounts, and select messages to file in separated folders. Examples include “Online Purchases”, “Travel” “Family Issues, ” etc.
3. Color Code Filing System. Purchase two boxes of multicolored hanging file folders and create a meaningful color coding system that will work for you. In my office, I use the following colors: Purple for legal files, Green for Financial Assets, Red for Debts, yellow for Medical, Blue for Home. What colors will work in your system?
4. Sometimes filing by pile is okay. I serve on a Board of Directors, I run a business, and I’m a single mom. There are times when the information is flowing in way faster than I can manage it. I have baskets for my main responsibilities, and if the paper is winning, I sort into the baskets. That way, when I need to find an essential item, I can go to the basket. And when I have time, I pull everything out of the basket and file it properly.
5. Notebooks for some files, folders for others. A few years ago, I discovered that I prefer to keep certain types of information filed in binders instead of in file folders. I purchase large packages of plastic sheet protectors, and use them in binders for recipes, instruction manuals, and classes that I teach.
6. Tickler Files. I frequent Goodwill and Salvation Army, often scoring vertical metal filing systems. I use them for files that are live, client files, bills that need to be paid. Having things visible on my desk keeps me on top of my many responsibilities.
7. Bulletin Board. Whenever I purchase tickets to a show or sporting event, they go on the large bulletin board in my office. Likewise, if I send in a rebate, if I purchase an item online, or if there is an important tax bill that needs to be paid, I put it on the board. It has become my essential filing zone, and it is the first place I look when I need to find something important.
8. Centralize the chaos. Have paper in every room in your house? Spend 20 minutes walking from room to room and get it all in one place, even if you are accustomed to paying bills in one room, filing papers in another, reading articles in a third. The dilution is making you crazy, so concentrate it all in one location, preferably not your cozy snuggle hang-out. Clear a desk and make it be the spot where paper gets managed. Let the dining table once again be a place for eating and the kitchen counter be a place for flowers and fruit bowls.
9. Designate a particular day of the week or time of day for processing paperwork. Filing Friday! Tackle the Piles Tuesday! Motivated to Pay Bills Monday! Whatever will work. If you are a morning person, make the coffee then force yourself to confront a pile of paper, rewarding yourself with time on Facebook if that is what you’d rather be doing. Or take care of the mail immediately upon entering the house with it in your hands.
10. Hire a Professional Organizer. You hire someone to clean your home, to manage your landscaping. Why not hire a professional to help get your files under control? Often, having a person who isn’t connected emotionally or financially to the paper in your home can be a great way to become more objective as you sort through the material. Call me, Sarah, at edit organizing today to find out how I can help you!
Want to learn more? Consider taking a class with me through Tamalpais Adult Education. I offer courses on how to get Organized After a Life Change, In the Office, For Busy Parents, and Emergency Preparedness. Check it out at www.marinlearn.com