Everyday we must deal with paper coming into our homes. We bring in the mail full of bills, grocery ads, coupons, and the rare handwritten letter addressed to you. Don’t you love that?
Your kids bring home fundraising information, a field trip permission slip or a handmade card from art class. You have receipts from the grocery store or insurance information from your trip to the dentist.
You may go digital as much as possible to cut down on the flow, but you cannot avoid it altogether. Here is a list of our Top 10 Tips for Organizing Paper.
10. Identify where incoming paper piles up and place an Inbox there
Many times this is the kitchen counter or a table in your entryway. Contain the paper there where it naturally lands.
Tracy recommends an Inbox with a lid, but keep the lid off to ensure the paper goes in the box and not on top of the lid. Use the lid when you have company for a neater look. Here are some boxes from The Container Store.
9. Create a system for incoming paper
Develop a plan for how you handle all the papers coming into your home. Keep it simple. Learn a great, simple system from our radio show, How To Organize Paper So You Can Find What You Need.
8. Get Real. Are you really going to read that?
That’s quite an interesting horticultural magazine article on controlling crabgrass in your mail. Are you really going to save the magazine for that? You have no interest in the other featured article on fern fungus. Besides, you can read all about that on the Internet if you have the time. Recycle, please.
7. Create an Action File
An action file is a temporary, desktop file you keep on hand for papers you need to have access to frequently. It also holds the contents of your Inbox until you have time to permanently file it all elsewhere. This is an essential resource for organizing papers, tickets, bills, birthday cards, etc. No more hunting through stacks of paper to find what you need.
Here is a video tutorial on how to make an Action File for your household.
6. Use broad categories when naming files
Educate yourself on how to name and create files. Broad categories are better in general. You can get stuck on naming files too specifically. This is time consuming and can result in misfiling items. We have a great resource for filing when you sign up for our not-so-boring and not-so-often newsletter. Find out more here.
5. Opt out: Less Mail means less piles
4. Stand Up!
Stand when processing paper, preferably from your new Inbox. File, write a check, put in the recycling bin. Don’t sit in front of the TV with piles everywhere. You are bound to get distracted or interrupted.
3. Ask yourself 3 how questions to process paper
How can I get rid of this paper? Make it your goal to get rid of every paper if possible. How can I get this done on time? Write a check to a bill and put it in the mail or use a Tickler File to remind you to send a card in time for a birthday. How can I find this when I need it? File it in your Action File. We have a printable with these questions that you can download here for FREE.
2. Use END CLTR for backlogged paper piles
END CLTR is our 7-step signature organizing process.
- Empty a drawer full of paper
- Name Piles as you separate into like papers
- Decide where the paper will go – file, trash, recycle
- Contain put the paper where you decided it will go into a file cabinet or an Action File
- Label a file or folder if needed
- Test the locations, maybe you need to move them or re-label
- Revisit by processing paper regularly
Read more about how you can use END CLTR to organize any space, not just paper!
1. Process paper daily
Stay on top of the incoming paper so it doesn’t become overwhelming. Process at the same time everyday like when you’re making your coffee in the morning or when you are cooking dinner.
Do you have some great tips for organizing paper? Do you have a system you use that works for your paper? We would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below!
Everyday for 31 days we will be posting a Top 10 List. It is part of the Nester’s Write 31 Days Challenge.
You can find links to all of our Top 10 Lists here.
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