But today we are going to talk about a different kind of organizing monster – organizing your paper. This is one of those categories that can’t be helped by general organizing rules, such as “store like with like” or “find a great container.” While those rules can assist, you will likely still find yourself buried in a mountain of paper, bombarded with questions such as “where do I put it?” “how do I find it?” and “when is it safe to throw it away?”
If this sounds like you, then you are at the right place. This month I will be teaching a number of live classes on organizing paper – and the best news? They are FREE! (Click HERE for more information about those classes.) Soon I will have those classes available to you online, but for now, utilize the great information in this post.
Paper – where do I put it?
I’m going to give you one quick tip for knowing where to put your paper. While this is just a temporary solution, it will give you an immediate sense of control when it comes to paper organization. Here it is:
Contain all incoming paper in one central location.
In essence, you are creating a physical inbox for all incoming paper that mimics your email inbox. Why? Because when it comes time to find something, you’ll know exactly where to look! If our email didn’t have an inbox, think of all the time you would spend hunting down your emails when you wanted to go through them. You’d be looking on your desktop, through your Word and Xcel files, browsing on the Internet. What a waste of time, and how frustrating! This sounds silly in the context of email, but think about how we create that situation with paper. When we stash mail, homework, work documents, and other incoming paper in various drawers and piles around the house, it creates the same kind of nightmarish situation we just talked about with email. So pick one location – a drawer, file box, or other container, and train the entire family to put all incoming paper in it.
Paper – How do I find it?
One category of paper that seems to give us the most trouble is the “action paper-“ paper that has an action attached to it. For example, the bill that needs to be paid, the homework that needs to be done, the schedule that you refer to often. Why not create a separate filing system for this action paper? This is what I call an “action system,” and it is easy to make. Place an open-desk top file in a convenient location in your home, and give everyone in the home a file. You can also make extra files for categories such as “bills to pay,” “errands to run,” or “paper to file” or “shred.” Keeping this paper out in the open eliminates the out-of-sight, out-of-mind trap you want to avoid for important papers, so you’ll want to pick an attractive container, such as this beautiful file from The Container Store (click HERE for ordering information)
Paper – When is it safe to throw it away?
A lack of education in this department has created this fear in more than one of my clients, and with good reason – paper can be complicated! There is no easy answer for this dilemma, but there is a very good system you can learn – FreedomFiler. Later this month I will be teaching a FreedomFiler workshop, which is good news for those living in my area. If you have interest in learning about FreedomFiler and you can’t attend this workshop, there are some good options for you. You can click HERE for a link to the FreedomFiler website, where you can learn more about it online. Soon I will be offering remote organizing workshops and informational products that you can access from the convenience of your own home…but if you are ready NOW for more information, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a request for my rates for private consultation.
Organizing your paper isn’t such a mystery…it just takes having some good systems in place. My favorite reminder to my clients is to “work smarter, not harder.” Implement smart systems, and you will be able to effortlessly maintain your paper!