If you’re like most people, paper is a problem at your house. It probably seems to multiply on it’s own – stacks of mail, catalogs, kids art, bills, and more just showing up on counters, coffee tables … really, any flat surface with spare space. Don’t worry if it seems hopelessly bad, because there is a way out of your paper nightmare. Work this week’s challenge, step by step, especially focusing on the maintenance plan at the end. This is the system I’d offer as your professional organizer. It works.
This may be the most important week of the entire challenge for you. Once you solve your paper problem, all other home organizing problems are easier to resolve and often avoided all together. This process is simple but powerful.
1 – GATHER ALL THE PAPER
Go around the house and gather all of the piles of paper. Look in the kitchen, office, dining table, living room coffee tables, and your bedroom. Do you have a table near your front or back door acting as a catch-all for your mail? Do you have an inbox (that you abandoned) overflowing with unmanaged paper?
Find a large area to work, like your kitchen table or the middle of your living room floor. You are going to need space to spread out. You may need something like a box or laundry basket to contain all the paper items.
2 – SORT THROUGH EVERY PAPER ITEM
Sort piece by piece – choose one of these things to do with each paper item.
Do you really need this? Let it go.
Group similar items together –
Make separate piles of each type of paper: bills, school papers, mothers day cards, catalogs, invitations, calendars, flyers, coupons, and more
3 – MAKE A LIST
Look around at your various piles and create a written list of the types of papers you’ve accumulated (give each pile a name). Try to move on immediately to the next step and get through as much as possible right now. But, if you need to take a break, then use binder clips, paper clips or manila folders to keep your papers sorted until you’ve gotten through them all.
4 – MANAGE ONE PILE AT A TIME
Start with the easiest pile and handle the papers. Do what you need to do with them. You’ll find that most paper clutter is procrastinated decisions. This step may take a while, but it will be worth it to FINALLY be caught up. Here are some common piles you might encounter (check off your list as you go)-
Baby/ Graduation Announcements: Just throw out old announcements. Just do it. If it is recent, decide if you’re going to send a gift. Don’t feel guilt if you don’t want to. Just decide, right now, then free yourself of the clutter.
Bills: Pay the bills you can, then use a calendar to plan out a schedule to pay your bills if necessary. Keep the unpaid bills bundled together.
Calendars: Sports, gym, pool, school, church …. they all give us calendars. Consolidate! Whatever you use as your main calendar, put the important dates from individual calendars into it, then discard.
Cards: Birthday cards, mother’s day cards? Do you keep all the cards you receive? I’m not going to tell you whether that is wrong or right, but I will help you discover boundaries. If you have a treasure box that is holding important cards, file away your new cards. If your method of keeping them involves piles scattered around your home, let them go. Letting the cards go doesn’t mean you didn’t appreciate them or that you don’t love the giver, but you are putting your need of an uncluttered home above the need to keep the card.
Catalogs: It goes without saying, cancel the catalog if you don’t want it. But sometimes you like catalogs, so: Make a decision. Are you going to order from this? If so, order what you need right now. If not, recycle now. Don’t let piles of catalogs, which are really just procrastinated decisions, lay around as clutter. Trust me, if you don’t want something right now, you’ll get a new catalog by the time you do, and maybe before then.
Coupons: If you are a couponer, then you need to organize your supplies separately. If you clip the occasional coupon on something specific, then mark it on your shopping list (with a reminder to use the coupon) then keep the coupon in your purse for when you’re out to shop.
Invitations: If the event is in the future, RSVP and put it your calendar, write in your shopping list to buy a card and/or present.
School Papers: If these are papers you currently need, organize them into binders or folders. If they’re past school papers (yours or your kids), scan what you think may be needed in the future, then recycle the rest. Will you really ever look at this again, or will you just search online?
* Stuff to file/ scan: Sometimes paper ends up hanging around that really needs to be filed or scanned. You are just procrastinating it. Handle it now.
* Everything else: Take the time, right now during this week of the challenge, to get caught up with your paper. That means truly going through all of these piles and handling them.
5 – DEVELOP A PAPER PLAN FOR THE FUTURE
You can group all of these little tasks and save so much time in your week, not to mention the frazzle of keeping up with everything!
Wishing you lots of awesome organizing this week!
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