Paperwork 101: Put Your Paper in Its Place

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The number one organizing and decluttering issue I hear about  is PAPERWORK.

Oh my word, that whole paperless society prediction never materialized now did it? It's positively everywhere. My kids' schools have made valiant efforts to go paperless and what has happened instead is that now we get emails AND paperwork announcing the same stuff. (For the record, I'm not picking on their lovely schools.  I've seen this happen with businesses, churches, volunteer offices etc..)

It's like we can't quite trust that if something is sent electronically that it's enough. We need to see the paper copy too. Because that's more real or safe or something. I get it. We're all in this boat together. Because paperwork is a pretty massive topic I've decided to write a blog post series on how to deal with different aspects of paperwork. Today's installment is about...

Where to keep your papers!

Yup, we're starting with the absolute basics, friends. Simple, simple, simple.

Many people who feel overwhelmed by their papers feel that way because paper is on every flat surface (and floors in some cases) in every room of their homes. It's no wonder that those people feel tension! Let's do something about that, shall we?

1. Collect all your current paperwork into one space. Period.

 (We're talking papers that have come into your life in the last few years. Old tax records, medical files etc. are what I call archives and we'll deal with them in a later installment.)

So what that means is that all those other little paperwork systems that you thought were going to work but never really did take off (don't feel bad, it's part of the process) need to be collected into one of those two areas.

Overflowing in boxes, baskets, door hanging pockets, accordion files (I loathe those things), bankers boxes, cubbies, bags, backpacks, all that.

Anything that has paper in it and a fine coating of dust on top.

I know that may sound a little extreme but it is imperative that you collect it all so you can get an idea of how much you need to declutter, what to declutter and how you will eventually organize it. Collect, collect, collect.

Ideally, bring it to an area that you can use as a sorting station for a few days (or weeks) without having to shove it all back in some boxes because you need that space for another reason. Like eating dinner.

2. Look at how paper flows in your house. Where does the bulk of it come from? Mail? Work? School? Your kids? Who does it belong to?

You will always find that you have only a handful of broad categories here.

For instance, you may get the bulk of the papers from the mail (dang those catalogs!), your volunteer work and your kids' school papers.

(You may be one of those lucky career people who does most of their work at work and papers don't come home with you. If you work from home or telecommute I have a post coming up for you guys. We are only talking about household paperwork in this post.)

Some days you bring in the mail and other days your spouse does. The mail doesn't really have a home and it gets processed in the dining room, the living room or it just gets stacked in with some other papers and often gets dumped in a bin during one of those "quick cleanup" sessions.

Yup. Been there. Done that. Looks great in the short term but that's how permission slips, checks and car tag bills go AWOL. Pretty costly mistakes.

Your volunteer work is scattered between your purse and two work bags and your kids' school work is everywhere.

We're gonna fix that. Until then, just start observing where the paper comes from, who handles it and where it lands. Meanwhile, collect those piles and stashes and start gathering them up.

You might even start to see some lovely flat surfaces and if you have to find something, you'll just need to go to that ONE area to find it. AMEN.

You can read about how to set up a paperwork system by clicking here.

That's progress, Friends. Well done!! 

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Heart paper photo by Alex