How to Conquer Your Paper Piles

Regardless of whether you have a job that creates paper clutter, such as teaching or any file-related office work, or the paper just accumulates in your home, sometimes you might get the feeling you can't beat the paper coming in. When you haven't got a clue what's inside those piles or you even start getting into trouble for lost bills and letters, it's time to attack the paper clutter.

Steps

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    Arrange one large sorting area. It could be your desk, though you might have to remove everything from its surface. It could also be your bed or dinner table, or even the kitchen counters if they are clean.
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    Put all the paper in one place. If you are sure the piles are already sorted, you can keep them separate. Otherwise don't bother and put them all in one big pile.
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    Take one paper after the other, breathe deeply and remind yourself to relax if you get tense or anxious. Decide if it requires action, has to be filed or can be thrown away.
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    If it can be trashed, create a trash pile or bin and add other papers to it as they come along.
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    If it requires action, put it in an action pile and stick a post-it on it with the required action or any prerequisite steps.
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    If it should be filed, file it, unless there's no folder that has this category in it yet. In that case, choose a category for the paper, write it on a post-it and put both on your sorting surface.
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    Add papers to the existing piles. When you have sorted everything, have a look at the piles that are too big to go into one folder. Can you break them up into sub-categories?
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    Check if your filing system is still up-to-date. Think about retrieval. What will you be looking for and where? Is it all in a sensible place? Don't skimp on folders and indices. Buy new ones if necessary. It's too frustrating to look for the "car"-files in all folders because you can't remember where you added it to.
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    Create Folders for the categories that are still missing from your system. Write indices.
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    File, breathe, celebrate!
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    Create a system to tackle new incoming paper.

Tips

  • Have good music ready if you can concentrate like that. Sorting paper can much more fun that way.
  • Try to make it fun in whichever way you can. Reward yourself. Get someone else to do his paper clutter at the same time, whatever works.
  • If you are a visual person, make sure the filing system looks attractive. Buy new, or even white, folders and beautiful indices. Write beautifully or print the backs of the folders. You could even get stick-on pictures for the folder backs. Instant office art!

Things You'll Need

  • Post-its
  • A large surface, like a desk
  • Folders and indices for the folders

Article Info

Categories: Home Organization & Recycling | Clutter Busting