Sunday, March 1, 2009

Buried under an avalanche of paper?

Have you ever sat at the desk in your home office and thought: If those stacks of paper were to topple over right now I might be buried under them, discovered only when I failed to show up for work on Monday? Or worse yet, you couldn't possibly imagine using your dining table for actual dining because of the piles of paper to be opened/recycled/shredded/filed?

I feel your pain. Really I do. Even I who am inordinately organized, sometimes let a stack of paper get out of control. My stack might be smaller and occur less frequently, but take heart in the fact that it happens to everyone. The good news is that I have a few tips for managing the paper avalanche:

  • Mail management: It all starts here. Open every piece of mail shortly after it comes through your front door. Have a recycling bin nearby and toss that paper right away. Keep a small paper shredder at home, too, and shred credit card offers and anything with financial information on it. Sort the remaining items into piles. The mail piles I recommend you start with are magazines and catalogs, do now (bills to pay, invitations to accept or decline, etc.), file, review later.

  • Consider cutting down on the paper that comes into your home by using online bill pay for as many things as you can. Tired of junk mail? The Federal Trade Commission has great information about how to stop unsolicited mail, telemarketing, and emails.

  • When you create your filing system (hanging folders, binders, whatever works!), use very specific categories. Trust me, it will be less overwhelming to file papers on a regular basis and it will be easier to find things later if you start specific. Rather than just *medical, break it down into *dentist, *doctor, *optometrist, *podiatrist. Then, put those files in alphabetical order.

  • File new paperwork in front, so you just have to open up the folder and drop it in. Easy peasy.

  • Avoid using paperclips to contain papers and instead use stapes or alligator clips. It's frustrating to try to drop something in the front of the folder and have it catch on the paper already there, so you end up awkwardly jamming it in the folder. Not so easy peasy.

  • File paperwork on a regular basis and the stacks will stay small and never reach the daunting, avoidance-inducing stage. Do it every Sunday morning as you drink a cup of coffee, or the first day of the month when you sit down to pay your bills. I promise a tremendous feeling of satisfaction when you have put that last piece of paper in its new folder home.

    1. I agree that a paper shredder is a great way to reduce “pile-age” around the home. My biggest dilemma was finding a paper shredder that was well designed and inconspicuous. In reviewing my options, it seemed that most paper shredders are designed to be the main feature in the room. I finally found the Ativa CX10W at Office Depot. If Apple designed a paper shredder it would look very similar to this one, and it was only $100. I’ve been a happy shredder ever since.

    2. Andrew, that's a beauty of a suggestion. Though it's making my Ativa feel like the PC-designed stepsister...