Paper Management – Part 1: Reduce the Influx

The influx of paper into our homes on a daily basis can be overwhelming. We get more mail in a single day than our grandparents got in an entire year! If you hold on to even half of it, you have the makings of a serious paper crisis on your hands.

And paper comes to us in even more ways than through the mail. There are the papers you bring home from the doctor’s office, from your church, from meetings, or school. There are ads you pick up and receipts you bring home. There are magazines and promotion material and business cards. If you live anywhere long enough, these items can really pile up.

How can we control this avalanche of paper?

  1. Mail – reduce your junk mail     
  • http://www.directmail.com/mail_preference/
  • https://thedma.org/resources/consumer-resources/ – started in 1917, the Direct Marketing Association has made it possible to opt-out of mailing lists through its Mail Preference Service
  • www.Catalogchoice.org – a free service that sends merchants your catalog opt-out request on your behalf
  • www.optoutprescreen.com – to keep your name off prescreened lists which will cut down on credit card offers
  • https://www.charitynavigator.org/ – will help you evaluate charities and when combined with Direct Marketing Association can help you opt out of getting some of the donation solicitations 

We enjoy some of the mail that comes in like letters and cards and perhaps some of those catalogs. But enjoy them and then let them move on. Of course, some cards and letters you may wish to keep, so place them in your memorabilia box but don’t keep them all. I have seen clients with trunks and dressers filled with old cards, many of them with no special notes but just a signature.

Some bills will come in and those you must deal with but consider paying on line and after paying a bill, decide if you really need to keep the bill.

   2. Items you pick up and bring home – do you really need it and what do you plan to do with it?

  • Recipes – I strongly suggest that if you bring a recipe home, you try it out within a week to see if it is worth filing away
  • Coupons – know yourself – are these coupons you will really use and how do you plan to keep up with them? – each time you look through your coupons, discard any that have expired
  • Special interest material – if you are collecting information on interests like health, home decorating, landscaping, or vacations – plan a special place to store them and at least once a year look through what you have saved and purge the ones you no longer need
  • Receipts – know why you have kept them – if it is something you plan to return, keep it with the item – is it for something you will get reimbursed for? A charge you want to keep until you reconcile your charge statement? A business expense? A large purchase for your home? Have a plan for storing those you feel you need to keep and let the rest go.
  • Business cards – let go immediately the ones you no longer want – pull information from others by scanning or entering the information into your phone
  • Magazines – read them within the month and let them go – if you can’t find time to read them, stop getting them
  • Computer print outs – read them and then decide what action needs to happen – then either do the action or let the print out go
Bottom line – a lot of the paper clutter we have lying around is there because we have not taken the time to decide on what to do with it. It is a deferred decision. Don’t let any of this junk paper linger. It will make it so much easier to find the papers that are really important if the unimportant is gone.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Turn Those Piles into Files

You come in from a meeting and you are tired. You bring in the mail but don’t have time to mess with it right now. You are afraid if you file the paper away you will forget it. So, everything gets dumped on the desk or countertop.

Meanwhile, your desk or countertop becomes one big inbox with piles everywhere. Some paper has been there so long that it has actually stuck to the surface or has fallen behind the desk or is so buried that unless there is some trigger to dig for it, it is forgotten. The clutter is overwhelming and slows down your productivity.

See if some of these tips work for you:

  • When you bring in paper, do a quick triage. What is obviously trash or needs shredding? What needs action soon? What do you need to take some time over and ponder? 
  • Have a trash can and shred box nearby and get those papers handled right away
  • Have a landing pad for all items needing action soon
  • Have a basket or bin for magazines or articles you want to read and ponder. When that basket gets full, acknowledge that you have more than you can handle and either set aside some time to read or dispose of some of the material
  • Have a folder or box for ads or upcoming workshops or events that you are considering
This should corral most of the paper but still very little has gone away.
Here comes the hard part:
  • Schedule regular times on your calendar to pay bills or check on bill pay. Then after paying, immediately file or get rid of paid bills
  • Weekly, at a scheduled time, take care of any receipts or invoices that need entering or filing. If possible, scan these items and get rid of the paper
  • Chose a couple of items you want to read and ponder and either look through them now or remove them to another location to read later. After reading them either dispose of them or file them
  • Schedule a time at least monthly to look through ads and coupons you have saved and toss any that have expired or that no longer interest you. Look over any upcoming events and see if some no longer appeal to you or have passed their due date. Dispose of all expired items.
  • Empty the trash can and the shred container
While you may never get your desk completely clear of paper, do realize that paper you keep has a purpose and when that purpose is completed, the paper should go somewhere else besides on your desk.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Keep That Paper Movin, Movin Right Along


I had one client tell me his office was one big inbox with no outbox in sight. What can we do to keep that paper moving right along off our desk and out of our office?

Try this:

  • Immediately trash/recycle/put in the shred box what you don’t need. Be ruthless here. If you don’t need more clothes why keep the clothes catalogue at all? If a fancy vacation is not possible now, let the travel ads go. More will come later.
  • Put all magazines and catalogues you are keeping in a basket near where you read. Each month clear out the old editions.
  • All papers you are now keeping need an action. Look at the papers (and yes, that does mean opening the mail) and decide what the first action you must take with this paper. Paper piles build up because you defer making those decisions on the spot.
  • Have action or desktop files ready. This is where those papers will go. You might label your files “read”, “pay”, “file”, “pending”, or “contact”. What labels you use will depend on what actions are needed for your kept paper.
  • Know that the action referred to in “action files” is not the action of putting the paper into the files. You must schedule a time to pay bills, make contacts, and follow up on pending items. Schedule times on your calendar to do the actions that the folders demand. Don’t let papers live there forever.
  • Set up idea folders for those papers you keep that are not immediate actions. These folders might include vacation ideas, landscaping ideas, party or home decorating ideas. At least yearly, clear out what no longer interests you. These folders can live in a file drawer or in a bookcase.
  • Use project bins. These bins are for ongoing projects. Designate a bin for each big project (daughter’s wedding, book you’re writing, etc.). Some smaller projects can go into folders within a bin. I use folders for business ideas or organizations I attend. With project bins, you pull out what you need to work on and as soon as you are finished or out of time, you sweep it all back into the bin.
  • Keep regular files (insurance, car, medical) updated and cleared out.
Following these habits will help you maintain a clear desk, office, and a clearer mind. Getting rid of the piles of paper that scream “Look at me!” when you are working on something else keeps you from getting distracted.
Let’s keep that paper movin’ right along and to its final destination. No more paper pile ups!

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Paper, Paper, Everywhere!

Paper, paper everywhere! Where does it all come from? How do we make it go away?

We all dream of having that clutter free office and clutter free desk. But somehow that dream often eludes us.

Where does this paper come from? As I look around my office, I see a presentation I am working on, some notes on a potential client, a client folder from a client I worked with today, an itinerary I printed on a trip I am taking this summer, a report from my Feng Shui consultant, information on an event I may want to see this weekend, and my calendar. I have just recently disposed of today’s mail. At other times I have had coupons from a store that sells office supplies, a receipt to enter into QuickBooks, a card to send to a client, a magazine, and menu ideas. Paper continually invades my space.

Fortunately, I do have a plan in place. I have action files and project bins nearby that will allow me to clear my desk before I leave it this evening. The presentation notes and the Feng Shui notes will go into project bins that are held in my cabinet. The itinerary for my trip will to into my pending folder. My notes on the potential client will go into my call folder. My today’s client folder will go into my desk drawer file of current clients. This evening I will discuss the event with my husband and we will decide if we are going to attend. If we decide to attend, the event will be noted on my calendar and then the information will go into my pending file. If we decide not to go, the information will go into the recycling bin. The calendar lives on my file cabinet next to my desk.

Those coupons I was talking about went into my purse. My receipts went into a labeled envelope after being recorded. The card was addressed and laid out on the landing pad to go out in the mail the next day. The magazine was dropped into the magazine holder in the living room. The menu ideas went into a folder in the kitchen.

Yeah! No visible papers in my office. The point of this is that, yes, paper continually comes into my office zone but I do have a plan. Daily maintenance is very important if I don’t want to feel overrun by paper. Clearing the paper and thinking you are done is foolish. That’s sort of like washing the dishes and thinking you are done with that task. It all needs to be done again the next day. But, it’s all in having a plan and a schedule.

For more information on handling paper, come to Diane Quintana and my presentation on From Paper Piles to Files on February 14 (9:30 am) at Finders Keepers (2753 East College Ave., Decatur, GA 30030).

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

 

Maintain a Paper Flow Not a Pile Up


 

Everyone has piles on their work area at some time or other. Usually with me they appear when I have not been managing my time well.

Here are some tips to make your paper flow across your desk without piling up.

  1. Spend as little time as possible getting that paper off your desk. Paper piles up because you defer making decision about it. Instead of laying down the paper and leaving it there, take a few moments right away and ask, “What is the first action I must do with this paper?”
  2. Immediately trash/recycle/put in the shred box what you do not need.
  3. Put the other papers in action files according to that first action. You might label the files “Read”, “Pay”, “File”, “Pending”, or “Contact”.
  4. Record dates on your calendar. Record dates of obligations to others and dates you plan to do the action that the folders demand. Record when you are going to pay those bills, make those calls, or read those papers.
  5. Put all magazines and catalogues in a basket near where you read. Every month clear out old editions.
  6. Use project bins. If you have ongoing projects, designate a bin for each project or a folder within a bin. After you are through working on a project for the day, sweep it back into that bin.

Following these habits will help you maintain a clear desk and a clearer mind. Getting rid of the piles of paper that scream “Look at me!” when you are working on something else can be very distracting.

Let’s keep the paper flowing right across the desk and on to its final destination. No more pile ups!

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer