Organizing Papers, Part III
26 Oct 2019
For many of us, managing incoming papers can be a struggle. Late in the day, we might suffer from decision fatigue – we’ve been making decisions all day. So, when we pick up the mail or unpack our purse or bag, maybe the last thing we want to do is make another decision about what to do with all the new incoming stuff. To avoid paper clutter and manage incoming papers, my advice is threefold:
- Limit the papers that come into your home.
- Handle the papers coming in as few times as possible – ideally, once).
- Immediately take care of as much as you can.
Limit the papers that come into your home
It seems like no matter where we go, people try and give us papers – receipts, coupons, event flyers and invitations, meeting agendas and handouts. For many of those things, it’s OK to just say “no” to the people who try and push paper on you.
If you’re someone who likes hard copies, you can accept or print them. Just be sure to regularly go through anything you acquire and discard it as soon as you are done using it or it isn’t relevant anymore. For instance, with receipts and coupons, you can take a picture and store them in an app like Evernote or Receipt Box. Then discard them. Once you add an event to your calendar, take a picture of the invitation if you want, and discard the paper copy.
Handle the papers coming in as few times as possible
I recommend to my clients that they keep a station for processing papers near the entryway. For us Minnesotans, that’s usually the mudroom. A good station has a shredder, garbage can, recycling can and a spot to store papers vertically. Bonus points for magnetized surface and magnets, especially if you like visual reminders of to-do items.
Bring your papers in, and immediately process them. If you have mail as well as papers from work or somewhere else, consolidate them and process them as a batch. Separate papers into recycling, trash, shredding and papers that require action. Put papers that require action, including papers to digitize, into a vertical storage option like a magazine holder or a magnetized surface. Set a goal each day or week to get your number of action-required papers down to zero. If you have something in your temporary storage area, that means that something requires your attention. Don’t let your temporary storage area become a permanent file!
Here are the other posts in the “Organizing Papers” series: