Paper Management – Part 2: Filing

Try as hard as we can, we still have a lot of paper that comes into our homes. If we are not vigilant, it will stack up on our counters, tables, and desks. It will add clutter to our lives and it will be hard to locate that paper that is really important (I know my license renewal paperwork is in here somewhere).

Having a filing system that works for you is key to keeping those surfaces uncluttered.

Let’s start with setting up a desktop file or action file. This is where most of the current incoming paperwork will probably land. The concept is that each piece of paper requires an action even if that action is to throw it away. Your files will separate the papers by the action required. Likely file headings are “Pay”, ” Do”, “Contact”, “Pending”, “Read”, “File”. If you take all the paper that has come in this week, it should fit into one of the files. If you have something that does not fit there, ask yourself, “What action is necessary?” and make another file. The goal is to have no loose papers on any surfaces.

I usually have some projects that I am working on. These generate paper. I may have some research, a draft, or ideas for the projects. I use project bins for this type of paper. When I am working on the project, I pull out the papers and when my work time is up, I shove the papers back into the bin.

Then there are the other bits of paper we might keep that don’t fit into those categories. I have envelopes in my desk drawer for receipts that I need to keep. I have a plastic envelope in the kitchen for coupons I might use. I have files near my cookbooks for recipes. I have some files in my bookcase for special interests (exercise, landscaping, decorating).

I also have a file where I store all house related information, warranties and directions for household items.

Then we also have our permanent basic files where we keep our financial papers, insurance, vital records, medical records, tax papers and so forth. We also have files for archival papers such as past taxes, old property sales, bank records, military paperwork, or any paperwork that we rarely need but want to find if necessary. Archival files do not have to be handy so they can be stored in the top of a closet or in the attic.

The purpose of files is to keep paper from stacking up and to make paperwork easy to locate. The files should be easy to use and access or you will find yourself laying down that paper “just for now.”

Start with your most recent stacks of paper and see what action you need to take. Soon you will enjoy your open spaces on your surfaces that were once covered in paper.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Organizing the Office Using the Zone Plan


It is the beginning of a new year and January is Get Organized Month. I would love for my whole house to be magically clean and organized. However, the reality is that I am the one that has to make that magic happen and it would be crazy to think that I could do it all at once. That is why for years I have been maintaining my home using a Zone Plan. This plan has me touching everything in my home at least once a year. (http://timespaceorg.com/services/) 


The first zone I work on each year is my office. In the past year files have gotten overfull, project bins are hanging around even after projects are completed. New items have come into my office and it is now feeling a bit crowded. Now is the time to follow the program and work my plan on the office.


1. What is bothering me in this zone?

  • Clutter and unfiled papers
  • Projects not in bins
  • Files too full
  • Too much laying around and screaming “DO ME”
2. How do I want my office to look and feel?
  • Look clean and uncluttered
  • Look and feel welcoming
  • Have empty spaces to allow for growth
  • Feel productive
3. What do I need to do to make this vison come true?
  • Sort and label all loose papers
  • Clear out all desk drawers and desk surface
  • Purge files and put into a project bin all I will need for taxes
  • Shred and archive papers
  • Declutter and organize bookshelves and the storage credenza
  • Set up bins for current projects and purge old projects
  • Deep clean room
4. Schedule times to do each task
  • Pull out calendar and see what times are available for work
  • Schedule reasonable times for each task and dates/times to work
  • Write on calendar the dates and times 
By the end of the month, I will call whatever has been accomplished “good enough” and move on to the next zone. The office is now ready for regular maintenance until the next year. I always reward myself by buying a fresh flower for my 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

Organizing the Office Zone

For years I have been maintaining my home using a Zone Plan. This plan has me touching everything in my home at least once a year. When I work in my designated zone each month, I declutter and get rid of anything I no longer need or love.


The first zone I work on each year is my office. After a year, files are way too stuffed. Project bins are still hanging around even if the project has been completed. Some new items have been added and not enough stuff has gone away. So now is the time to look open-eyed at the office and work my plan.

  1. What is bothering me in this zone?
  • Clutter
  • Too much on the desk top
  • Files too full
  • Too much  paper lying around screaming  “do me”
     2. How do I want my office to look and feel?
  • Uncluttered
  • Clean
  • Welcoming
  • I want to feel productive and happy
  • I want empty space to allow for growth
     3. What do I need to do to meet this vision?
  • Clear our all desk drawers and the desk top
  • Purge files and remove what is now archival to another place
  • Clean out bins of completed projects and ready the bins for new material
  • Clear all surfaces – leave out only what I need and love
  • Declutter and organize bookshelves and the storage credenza
  • Deep clean room
      4. Schedule times to do each task.
  • Pull out calendar and see what times are available to work on zone
  • Write on calendar what tasks I plan to do on available dates – not only date but also time of day
By the end of the month, I will say “good enough”. Daily and weekly maintenance are scheduled but I won’t have to visit this zone again until next January. I reward myself with fresh flowers on my desk and make my plan for the next month in a new zone!


Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Dream Folders

While helping clients declutter and organize paperwork, I often come across brochures, newspaper clippings, or magazine articles on various topics. These papers accumulate on desktops or counter tops and don’t seem to have any real “home.” Most of these have been read but are papers the client still wants to keep. The clients just don’t quite know where to put them. So they lay about, “just for now.”

I suggest that these papers are organized by topics and then stored in dream folders/notebooks or topic folders/notebooks. Some topics I often see on counters are: financial advice, home decorating ideas, landscaping ideas, vacation ideas, health/exercise topics, and recipes. If there are a lot of recipes, I suggest making folders or notebook dividers for each category (i.e. appetizers, soups, main dishes, etc.) Sometimes the clients are researching on bigger projects like a daughter’s wedding or a retirement home. A better solution to bigger projects are project bins with internal folders.

The idea of the folders is to keep the paper clutter corralled and off the desk/counter top surfaces and to organize the paper so that it can easily be reviewed. I keep my folders on a shelf in a bookcase. They can also be kept in a file drawer or box. At least once a year, skim through these dream folders. Then you can note what still interests you while tossing the rest. you may even find that you have implemented some of the ideas and now no longer need the original inspiration.

So, gather up your papers and make your dream folders. Enjoy those dreams and make them happen.

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

Project Bins

It seems I am always working on multiple projects. Currently I am working on three presentations, updating my web page, and updating my social media. I also continuously snag ideas for future blogs, future workshops, future newsletters, and future presentations. My business plan is also an ongoing project.

I also belong to several organizations where I am actively working on projects.

A couple of years ago, after continual frustration with the stacks of paper that were sitting around on and beside my desk due to these multiple active projects, I came across the idea of project bins.

I currently have two project bins. One bin is for projects concerning my business, Time Space Organization. The other bin is for any committee work. When I was writing my book, From Vision to Victory, I had a third project bin dedicated just to the writing process.

Each project is in a labeled folder or notebook. When I am working on that project, I grab my bin and pull out what I need. When my project time is finished, I slide everything back into that folder or notebook and drop it back into the bin. The bins sit behind closed doors in the cabinet that faces my desk. I do not have to look at the project material except when I have it out for work. I find that this keeps my mind clear for whatever I am working on currently. These bins have greatly reduced my stress because the projects are not always in my face yelling at me.

This month I am organizing in my office zone and I will review these bins. I will get rid of any material that is no longer relevant and just generally tidy up the folders. I am very pleased with this simple way of organizing all of my projects and keeping them hidden away until I need them.

Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer

Office Zone Organization

It’s a new year for organizing. I always like to start my home organization projects in my office. This month I will touch everything in my office and make decisions about what stays in this office, what goes away, what stays but is stored elsewhere in  my home.

Over the past year, my office has gotten overcrowded and cluttered. I have materials I have brought in from conferences and workshops, new organizing books, files for new clients and contacts, business receipts, and more. Now is the logical time to organize and clear out areas to make room for new growth and to give me room to breathe and flourish.

First, I check in with my vision of my office. Over this past year, I have lightened up the feeling. My walls are now a pale yellow. A blue Pete the Cat picture hangs on my wall. I want my office to feel light and welcoming.

I look at where papers tend to stack up. My project bins are overflowing. I need to assess what is still valid, let some projects go, file some as complete, and organize what is current. My business paperwork for last year should now get bundled and set aside for tax purposes. My client files are updated, with non-active files put in an archival location. My contact files are also updated.

I update my vision board and clear the clutter from my shelves. If I don’t love looking at something, or if I no longer need something – out it goes.

By the end of the month, I will reward myself with fresh flowers on my desk. The office is now ready for just regular maintenance for another year.

 
Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer