Paper, Paper and More Paper: Paper Management
Even during this technical age, paper still crosses the threshold of our homes. It may be in the form of mail, advertisements, community updates, newspapers, receipts, school notes, or work documents just to name a few sources. Paper can pile up and quickly become unmanageable. We offer some guidance on how to manage and reduce paper and the clutter that comes with it.
1. Create a daily paper intake system. Keep the system simple so it can be a quick routine, otherwise, the paper will quickly pile up.
2. When creating a paper intake system, first identify the categories of papers that come into your home (Bills, Work, School, Magazines, Receipts, Medical, Insurance). This list is just a starting point and not meant to be all encompassing. Also, keep in mind categories may change or new categories may need to be added over time.
3. Identify a central location, for all members of the household to use. This should be an area where it makes the most sense for papers to land or for action to be taken. Consider the path of entry into the home (garage, front door, back door, etc.) and how the papers come into the home (purse, backpack, shopping bag, work bag, etc.).
4. Identify a routine for paper intake. This may include kids emptying backpacks as soon as they come home from school. Depending on the age of the child, he/she may come home with papers already in a folder. Others, may have to sort through their bag. Remove papers from your purse or wallet at the end of each day. Consider what each member of the household can handle with regard to responsibilities and put a routine in place.
5. Identify a method and process for gathering the paper that works best for each person in the household. It may be a basket or tray, a file drawer with specific file folders, an open file box with separate compartments, a file tray, or a spot on the counter. There’s not a wrong or a right way to do this. It just has to work for your household. Enlist kids in the process as soon as they are ready to take on responsibilities. The sooner you get them on board the easier it will be.
6. Take action, immediately and often. Here are some guidelines on processing different types of papers and other items that pile up:
- Junk Mail: Place in trash or shred immediately
- Bills: Pay now or place in bill organizer to address at least twice per month
- Keepsakes: Place in designated box/area
- Magazines and Newspapers: Keep only the most current, toss old when new comes in
- Action Items (forms, correspondence, invitations): Take immediate action or put in action folder and go through at least 2x per week
- Store returns: Contain in designated area; keep items and receipts together so ready to go
- Other Paper: Review for accuracy then shred, toss, or file. Shred if online access is available or a document contains sensitive information. Toss if the document does not contain sensitive information. File the document if it needs to be maintained for some period of time.
7. Shred papers at home or use a bin to collect items for shredding. Research your local community to see when free shredding days are offered or when companies are hosting a free shredding event.
8. If time constraints do not permit immediate filing as papers come in, create a “to file” area but only place here if you don’t have time right away. File at least weekly! Refer to the chart at the end of the article for suggestions on document retention. Be sure to speak with your accountant for your specific circumstances. This is a guideline at best.
9. Create an active file area for papers that are referenced frequently or that will cycle out on a monthly or periodic basis. These files should be organized so papers can be located and filed quickly.
10. Create an archive file area for papers that are not referenced often but need to be maintained. At least once or twice a year, edit papers from the archive files that are no longer needed. These files most likely require shredding.
If you are unsure where to start, feel overwhelmed, need tools, or just desire help, a professional organizer can create a unique plan to help you get and stay organized.
Contact Us Amy Delaplain is a professional organizer and owner of Project Organize 615 based in Franklin, TN. Project Organize 615 is here to help you on your organization journey. Doing it alone can be stressful. Let us be your partner. Ready to get started? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 615-538-8241. Visit us on our website www.po615.com and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.