Are you drowning in paper clutter? Or feeling overwhelmed not knowing how to deal with everything? Here are some tips on how to rescue your home and your sanity from the piles of paper that surround you.
Have one place
Have one place to put all your papers (one area and one area only), until you have time to deal with them. For us, it’s a small wicker basket that I keep inside a cabinet. Everything goes in there. Bills, magazines, receipts, notes, etc. Or you could purchase one of those three tiered desk filing systems and set it up like this:
- One tier as an inbox - When you’ve just received mail or magazines or brochures and you don’t have time to sort them, this is where they go.
- One tier as an “Action” box – Bills to be paid, reports to be reviewed, and other papers to be acted upon go here.
- One tier as a “Reference” box – This is where the papers that you need to keep on hand for reference for ongoing projects are kept.
Try Evernote or a notebook
If you’re anything like me, you may jot down quick notes or ideas on random pieces of paper that you find close to you. You’ve most likely misplaced those “important” pieces of paper countless occasions because you never had a specific place to put them. For example, I currently have this week’s menu written on a piece of junk mail (I’m keepin’ it real) that will most likely be recycled before I have a chance to make the first meal because it looks like junk mail rather than something important. But, if I had taken the time to write the menu in a proper notebook, I would probably still have that menu to reference. Instead I’m stuck trying to remember what I decided to make, costing me more time.
If you’re into going digital, I’ve heard great things about Evernote. It’s a free program that allows you to save your ideas, things you like, things you hear and things you see. The neat thing about Evernote is that you can search your notes by keywords or tags to find the things you need when you need them. Evernote even works with nearly every computer, phone and mobile device out there.
If possible, set up all your bills/investment reports/etc to be delivered to you electronically. Obviously, if you have things set up this way you won’t be receiving papers to deal with!
Use a Binder for Manuals
Nowadays, many product manuals are available online, but for those that aren’t, consider keeping them all in one binder for easy reference. Take a look at this post for more details on this system.
Try the scanning and shredding method
If you have a bit of time and a scanner, you may want to consider scanning the documents that you need to keep on hand then storing them on some sort of hard drive. I recommend keeping 3 copies; one on your computer, one on a backup drive, and one in cyberspace (ex: Carbonite.com or Dropbox). Once you’re sure that all pages have been scanned and stored properly, shred the papers.
Since most people don’t have time to devote to paper organization as soon as something lands in their hands, here are some suggestions to help you get things sorted out in a quick manner once you do have the time:
- Pull out all of the reading material – Pull out the catalogues, magazines, newspapers and brochures. Read and recycle what you can since these can take up a lot of room.
- Go through the things that need action – Take out all the bills, invitations, permission slips and any other papers that need you to take action. Hunker down once a week or once a month to get them done.
- File and shred as you go – pretty self-explanatory!
Here are some examples of filing systems that may work for you:
- How I Get Away With Filing only Once a Year
- What’s your filing system?
- My Filing System
- Create an Efficient Home Filing System
- Color Code your Filing Cabinet
- Paper Clutter Action Station
How long to keep important papers
It would be nice to do away with every single paper, but that’s just not practical. There are some papers that you must keep on hand for tax and other purposes. Here are a couple of websites that will help you determine how long to keep particular documents:
- Canada Revenue Agency – Keeping Records
- Mrs. January – How Long to Hold On To Financial Records in Canada
I hope this post will help to get your paper clutter under control! This is still a work in progress at our house, but I hope to get a better handle of things this week during my file/shred sessions for the Get Organized in January event!
Did I miss any great tips? Care to share what works for you?