In my house, paper breeds. Despite the attempts I've made to recycle, throw out, file and pile, the paper still grows. While I continue to work on my system, here are 10 tips that can help you take control of the paper in your life:
Put an End to Junk Mail
If you have lots of junk mail, consider signing up for services with the Direct Marketing Association or 41pounds.org and they will help decrease the volume of junk mail you receive.
Sort Through Your Mail as Soon as You Bring it Home
Set up a mail checking station and keep a letter opener and recycle bin handy. Open and check your mail. Dump anything that is going to recycling right away. If you pay your bills online or have an automatic bill payment set up, recycle the envelopes for those bills. When you're done going through the mail put all the bills to be paid in a "Bills To Pay" file. For items related to business, put them in a "Business Mail" file to take care of when during your working hours. For the rest, either take action on the rest of the mail, or create a basket or bin to take action later. You may want to schedule a regular time to handle this mail.
Revamp Your Filing System
Create a simple filing system for yourself, and only keep items that are necessary. Develop a system to box up papers at the end of each year or after you've filed your taxes, so they don't overrun your office.
Corral Those Magazine Articles
If you must save an article, clip and store them in a 3-ring binder in individual page protectors. Label the binders by topic or use large binders with subject dividers. Alternatively, you can also scan the articles so you'll have an electronic copy, or better yet, see if the article is available online, then save it to Pinterest or use Pocket. Many magazines offer an online subscription to complement subscriptions to their publications. Remember to recycle the magazines when you're done with them!
Save Cherished Children's Art Projects
It's so hard to choose what to keep and what to throw away. A friend of mine takes pictures of her kids with their creations to preserve the memories of the treasures. After a period of time, the projects and pictures are discarded. For pictures, you could scan them.
Save Those Trees
If you use your printer a lot, consider having a tray where you can save one-sided copies that aren't used. They make great note paper, drawing paper for the kids, or you can use the blank side through the printer again for printing drafts of documents.
Touch Paper Only Once
Spend a few minutes every day going through new paperwork. As much as possible, do what needs to be done with it, then file, recycle or shred it. If you can't work on something right now, write down what needs to be done on a post-it note and put it on that sheet to remind you immediately what needs to be done. Keep a file on or near your desk for these items that must be taken care of. If there's a deadline for it, be sure to add a reminder to your calendar.
Record Events on The Calendar
For invitations, event notices, appointment reminders, practice schedules, and everything else that goes on a calendar, add them to your calendar right away and recycle or file the paper. If I receive an invitation, I tack it to a bulletin board so I can grab it on the way to the event.
If you haven't done so by now, it's time to go paperless – set up all your bank and billing statements to be delivered electronically, download banking transactions into a program like Quicken, Quickbooks, YNAB, Wave Accounting, or Freshbooks.
Keep Track of Those Business Receipts
For anything that is tax deductible, create a file to manage all of those transactions. Any time you receive a receipt for a charitable deduction or other deductible transactions, you can easily keep these papers in a file that will be ready for you to go through at tax time. To simplify your receipt organization, you can easily label 12 envelopes with the month and year, and place your receipts in its respective envelope. Keep these envelopes in a file so they are all in the same place when you're ready to record your expenses (hopefully that task would be done by the time you file your receipts). A fancier way to store your envelopes would be in a Organize receipts for tax deductionscalendar-based file system like File-It.
For more help with getting organized, Julie Morgenstern has a book called "Organizing from the Inside Out". Another great online resource for organizing in bite-sized chunks is Flylady. She has a website and a Yahoo Group that sends you reminders to help you in "baby steps" to get control of your clutter, paper or otherwise!
Please share your organizational tips with us!
Photo Credit: EvelynGiggles via Flickr