Is paper taking over your home? Do you groan each time you check the mail? Are the contents of your children’s backpack waiting to take over your dining table? Help is available to control paper, and it may be simpler than you think.
1. Create a command center.
Create a regular place where all paper is kept. Mail is sorted here. Backpacks are emptied here. Receipts are deposited here. To make it a great command center, you’ll need a shredder, trash can, and at least a temporary filing system. In just a few seconds, you’ll be able to sort paper into the shredder, the trash, or an action or archive file.
2. Store digitally.
Keep digital copies of what you can. Storing things on a computer takes up less space in your home, so when possible, store items digitally. I’ve tossed out my recipe box in favor of storing recipes online. The things I need are easier to find and they don’t take up additional counter space.
3. Toss right away.
Throw out paper that isn’t needed right away. Whether you recycle it, shred it, or trash it, throw out unnecessary forms, receipts, and letters right away. The command center comes in handy for this. Instead of moving piles of junk paper around, you’ll throw it away and forget it.
4. Have a filing system in place.
Take the time to create a filing system that works for you. I have a set of temporary files, and a set of archived files. When paper comes into my command center, I can right away choose whether it’s something that should be trashed, archived, or requires action on my part. It’s filed accordingly.
5. Use a shredder.
Before I had a shredder in my command center, I always ended up with a stack of papers to remember to shred later. Often that stack would get moved around and piled up with other papers, forcing me to re-sort. Having a shredder available is a huge time-saver. Just shred it and be done.
6. Go paperless.
If possible, go paperless with as much of life as you can. More and more companies offer paperless billing options. Even schools are beginning to communicate through email and webpages more frequently. Take advantage of paperless options wherever available and you’ll have less coming into your home.
7. Set a time/date to file and clean files.
Depending on the size of your household and how much paper you receive, you’ll need to have a set time each week to file. I do mini-filing daily when I sort the mail and after school papers. Then weekly, I go through my action and archive folders in my command center and take care of those papers. Doing this regularly has gotten me into the habit of taking care of paper daily, and it’s made all the difference.
8. Teach the kids.
Teaching your children how to file their own items will save you time. My children are already learning how to evaluate the paper that they bring into our home. They can make decisions on whether those papers need an action for me, need to be archived, or can be thrown out.
9. Put it on the calendar.
Just like anything else you schedule, filing needs to be written as part of your daily plan. This is to help remind you that it’s an important part of your day. After awhile your routine will become…well, routine. But for now, writing it down in your daily planner will help keep you honest about keeping up with the influx of paper.
10. Multitask your sorting.
Sorting paper can be a great chore to multitask with. I love going through files while I watch TV. It’s a great way to get something done and not feel guilty about spending time catching up on your favorite shows.