My name is Nicole and I have a problem with paper clutter organization. They say the first step to solving a problem is acknowledging that you have one…
Before our latest vacation we had a bit of a paper clutter catastrophe. An important document went missing and couldn’t be found anywhere despite E and I turning the house upside down.
This extremely stressful experience is making us re-evaluate what documents we keep and which ones we toss. I find the idea of organizing all of the accumulated paper clutter super daunting, but we’ve come up with a few guiding principles as we attempt to get started on Mission Paper Clutter Organization.
Principle One: carve out some time to tackle a bit of the clutter each day
Honestly, I have no desire to spend any significant amount of time on paper clutter organization. It’s boring, uninspiring and overwhelming. If I decide to take an entire afternoon to do the job I’ll just get overwhelmed and quit before I even start.
I like to do the paper review in workable chunks. I take a small amount of time – 20 or 30 minutes to review the paperwork until I’m done with a particular folder or type of document. It’s helpful to combine the review with something more enjoyable like a latte and listening to a podcast. This helps time pass quickly.
Principle Two: What do you need to keep and what can you throw away?
When sorting through all of the documents keep in mind the items you need to keep and those you can throw away. We keep anything that we can’t find online or that we prefer to have as a reference.
Also be sure to save any legal, medical or school related documents since these are difficult to replace.
Principle Three: organize the documents you keep
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For this part you need some supplies. I like to use the following:
Start by putting like documents together. For example, put all of your health insurance information in one pile, your charitable donation receipts in another pile and your child’s school related documents in a third pile etc. Once you have the piles, put the documents in chronological order.
Now that the documents are in order, use the hole puncher and place the documents in the binders separated by the colourful dividers. Label the dividers and the binders so the information is easy to access. If you have any oddly shaped documents you can either put them in the dividers with pockets or a page protector.
I use the page protectors and pockets for papers like user manuals, receipts for big purchases and other documents that are difficult to punch holes in.
Principle Four: shred all documents that contain sensitive information
Be sure to shred any documents that you no longer need that contain sensitive information including your address, birthday, social insurance number, health information, insurance information, job information etc. In my opinion, it’s better to be safe than sorry and over shred rather than forget to properly throw something out.
Principle Five: tackle paper clutter organization as a team
When you’ve got a family you can no longer just take care of yourself but you need to consider all family members.
When E and I started Mission Paper Clutter Organization, we did it as a team. I helped organize some of his documents in binders and he helped me determine what I should throw away. Together, we figured out all of the shared information including home stuff, charitable donations, tax information. R’s documents are another area we worked on together.
I also find it easier to do this type of stuff with someone else (or at least with the knowledge that someone else will be doing it too) rather than on my own.
Principle Six: be proud of your accomplishments no matter how small
Everyone needs encouragement. When faced with a daunting task I like to celebrate my little victories. If I clean out one file folder I’m proud of my self for getting that one folder done.
By only celebrating the end game, I’ll never get there so I’m proud of the little steps too. This is something small but it’s helpful to pat yourself on the back for completing any and all forms of paper clutter organization.
Principle Seven: figure out a system for incoming documents
Ok, here’s where I need help. I still have no system for dealing with my incoming paper. I’ve listened to podcasts, read articles but still can’t find the right system for me.
How do you organize your incoming documents to avoid paper overload? Please let me know in the comments!