It started so innocently. I’d come home from shopping, and I’d throw a receipt in my “inbox.” I needed the receipt to start the price book that I was determined to start this year. And then I’d get some mail that needed to be dealt with…later. So into the inbox it went. The problem was, nothing ever came out of the inbox. Pretty soon, my inbox was so cluttered, I moved it to a file box. And the file box started to pile up. School stuff? Into the file box. And that end of the school year stuff adds up quickly!

paper clutter

Well, this weekend I did something about it. I finally finished setting up a new filing system, and I filed EVERYTHING! But most of the stuff in the box ended up going into the recycling bin. It’s funny how those important papers didn’t seem so important after they’d been sitting in the box for a few months.

It took me all day Saturday to clean that one room, but I learned a few lessons about paper clutter.

1. Set Up a Good Filing System.

Everyone’s filing system is going to look different. Unfortunately, I never seemed to figure out a good system on my own. I must have failed filing 101 at some point in my life. I balked at spending money for someone to do it for me, until Angelsong, one of my readers who’s taught me a lot, mentioned that she had a good experience with My Oh-So-Organized Filing System by Maria Garcia.

Granted, you could easily make this kind of filing system yourself, but I’ve tried and failed many times. For those like me, who are paralyzed by trying to start a filing system, it’s worth the money to buy something ready made. Trust me. If you’ve seen my desk throughout the years, you’d know that for whatever reason, I can’t figure out a filing system on my own. Frugality, yes. Filing, no.

So I set the system up, and now I have a place for everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING.

2. Make Decisions on Your Paper Clutter Right Away.

When you get the mail, deal with it. Don’t put it in a “to be filed” folder. Just file it. If it’s a bill, put it in the “to be paid” folder. Or better yet, pay it right away. If it’s junk, toss it into the reycling bin immediately.

It’s much easier to make decisions right away, when you have a place to file the papers right away. You know the saying:

A place for everything, and everything in it’s place.

It’s true. If you have a place for everything, it’s much easier to keep an area organized.

So much of my clutter was due to stuff that I couldn’t make a decision on. It just piled up. And eventually it all ended up being recycled. If I had done that in the first place, I would have saved myself a Saturday afternoon!

3. Periodically Go Through Your Files.

There’s no use having a “To Do” folder, if you never look at it and do the things in the folder. The same with a “Shred” folder. If you never get to the shredding, your papers will pile up, and the task of shredding will seem impossible.

Schedule a day once a week to deal with your files. Look through them and see if there’s anything immediate that needs attention. Shred the things that need to be shredded. Pay your bills.

Once a month go through files that are used frequently (finances, menus, to do lists, etc) and purge anything that you don’t need. And once a year go through ALL your files. If you do this regularly, paperwork will never get the better of you again!

Do you have a good filing system? Or are you a natural piler, like me?

Photo by orphanjones.