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Get a handle on your paper piles!

Updated: Oct 29, 2020

Paper is one of the easiest things in a home that can pile up if you are not careful. It’s hard to deal with all of those old tax records, saved birthday cards, instruction manuals to kitchen appliances, and all the other documents that seem to crop up every time you turn around. Why is it that there always seems to be more paper when you just got a handle on things? I'll let you in on a little secret:

Paper doesn’t create piles on its own. It has to be carried, ignored, laid on a table, or placed on top of other papers.

In order to get started on managing your paper clutter, you have to start at the source. Let's work together to create a system of dealing with paper as soon as it enters your home.

One of the leading causes of paper piles is the mail. Let's admit it, we’ve all taken a look at the mail, tossed it on a table or desk, and said “I'll deal with it later” only to come back to a daunting task that was left alone for too long. The best way to deal with this:

Create physical and digital matching files in your computer that have these five titles:

  • To Pay

  • To Call/Follow Up

  • To Do

  • To Buy Someday

  • File

You’ll want to grab some manila folders, post-its, a cardboard box, and some sharpies. Write your five categories on some Post-its and place them on your manila folders. You will also want to write “Shred” on your cardboard box for any documents you want to dispose of safely. Set a timer for thirty minutes and get ready to sort!

Don’t push yourself to sort through your paper for long stretches of time. If you lose the momentum, take a small break before starting up again!

But what does each category mean?

To Pay: This is for all of your bills, credit card statements, and other things that require money. You can put them in your “To Pay” folder as a reminder to write a check or you can set up a recurring payment with your bank if you’d prefer.

To Call/Followup: This is for all of your reminders that need to be scheduled or followed up on. Break out your calendar and write in the important details before placing the mail into your folder. You don’t want to forget to go to your doctor’s appointment!

To Buy Someday: This one’s fun! This is for all of those magazines and advertisements that look (oh, so) tempting. Instead of breaking out the credit card right away, save these documents to this file. If you find you still want what's in the folder after some time, then it's probably not just an impulse buy. This folder is also great for storing gift ideas for the holidays!

To File: This one might sound boring, but it is a very crucial step! This category includes all of your important documentation, tax returns, receipts, car titles, etc. Be sure to actually file these documents away and not just make a new pile!

Now that you have your different categories and manila folders for each, go through each piece of mail you get and place them in the appropriate folder. Once you pick up a piece of mail, remember the O.H.I.O method (Only Handle It Once)! Once you have a document in your hand, you must decide where it is going to go right then and there. This will help you from setting it aside to “figure out later”. Anything that doesn’t fit in your categories or that you don't want/need goes to the recycling and anything that has confidential information on it goes into your “Shred” box.

Once you’ve caught up with your current paper piles, you can use this sorting system for every day’s mail to stay on top of it. You can even create a digital version of the system for your Emails! If you keep up with the sorting and don’t allow yourself to ignore paper piles, you should never have trouble with your mail again!

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