My inner writer is primarily a story teller and I cannot usually be counted on for a list of tips about how to clear paper clutter. But, I am also a teacher and lately in the Sick of Being Stuck program, my students are up to their eyeballs in paper and begging for tips. That usually means that lots of you are too, so today we’re going to try something different. Here are the first 9 clutter clearing tips for those who have bags, boxes, and stacks of paper stashed in the closets, spare bedrooms, dining rooms and on counter tops all about this fine planet of ours:
1. Getting Things Done (GTD) – Itís a book that will help you create a system for organizing your life that is both customizable and easy to implement. If you donít have a system that you use to manage your life (time, paper, contacts, projects, etc.), I recommend this one. Itís been a miracle for me. You can get the book from any well-stocked book seller or borrow it from the library, and you can learn more about it and other GTD stuff online at www.davidco.com. I also learned a great deal about how to make GTD work for me from the fine folks at www.43folders.com.
2. Centralize Your Paperwork – If the paper is spread out in different rooms, go ahead and collect it in one central location. This may feel overwhelming but I promise, it helps to keep you from well-intentioned wandering off. (This doesn’t feel good so I’m going to check on those paper in the kitchen. Oh, that’s hard too. I wonder how the papers in the dining room are doing… and on and on.)
Just make a massive pile, go to it, and dig in. Recycle absolutely everything you can stand to part with. Shred what needs to be, and start to do something with the ones you need to do something with. When you need a break, walk away and then come back. Go to work and then come back. Eat dinner, play a game with the kids, kiss your valentine, and then find a few minutes to come back and do more. Keep coming back. It will work. Keep pushing that pile until itís gone. For some it might take a few hours, for others days, or even a few weeks. Donít worry, just dig in.
Oh, and if you don’t know what to do with a particular piece of paper, set it aside and find someone to ask. Not knowing is a terrible excuse for staying stuck.
3. Financial Papers – Usually, as Iíve learned from my charming lot of paper stashers, the financial papers are mixed in with all of the other papers. That means you can’t balance your checkbook, file your taxes, or make decisions about your retirement account. If thatís your situation, consider starting a money box or bag to capture all of the financial papers as you proceed through the master pile. Some people even sort by the year, or type of financial papers, as they go through that first pass to make it easier to take action on them once the initial process is complete. Do whatever makes sense for you.