They say that if you leave piles of papers long enough, the piles will become outdated and you can
throw the whole thing away.
But what a problematic way of handling this problem! The secret to minizing
pileup is to establish a plan for dealing with
each category of paper–everything from newspapers, catalogs, and magazines to mail, notes, lists, and
receits. This know-how is particularly important for families with kids coming home from their first days
of school with piles of papers that need to be kept around for the school year.
Here are some helpful tips for
making decisions about paper as it enters your home, and how to organize it:
Start by making a first pass. Gather in one place all the piles
of papers that are strewn throughout
your home or office. Do a quick sort of papers. Put into boxes everything except
your most important papers–generally project-related, financial, or papers with a
deadline. In the second pass, you can begin to begin to make decisions about each
piece of paper. Meanwhile, you know where all your unfiled papers are.
Turn piles into files. First step: Take a sample pile and make a list of the types
of papers you find. This will help you figure out what type of files you may need
Sort day-to-day papers into ACTION FILES: bills to pay, receipts to enter, papers to photocopy,
data for reports, items to file or discuss with your boss or spouse, or papers to forward to
another department or family member. Create labeled folders for these action files, and store
them upright ina stepped desktop organizer.
Establish a home for unpaid bills.
Create an action file for your desktop or a folder for a filing cabinet drawer. Or file all bills
and receipts in an expandable file with pockets for each month so you can pay bills and do your
Sort before filing. Use hanging files in an empty cardboard file storage box or a rolling file
cart to sort papers into filing categories such as insurance, taxeds, and receipts. Attach a sticky
note to the top of each hanging folder to indentify the category–these are your sorting folders.
Once you’ve sorted all your papers, transfer the papers from each category into an existing folder
in your filing cabinet or, if necessary, add a file tab to your sorting folder and file the folder
Avoid labeling files and folders as “Miscellaneous.” If the information isn’t important enough to have
its own label, it either belongs in another folder or it’s not important enough to save.
Adapted from The One-Minute Organizer, by Donna Smallin (Storey Books, 2004). Copyright (c) 2004 by Donna Marie Smallin. Reprinted by permission of Storey Publishing.
Adapted from The One-Minute Organizer, by Donna Smallin (Storey Books, 2004).