I am drowning in paper. It doesn’t seem to matter what method I use, I end up back in this same place of paper on every flat surface. Can you help me slay this paper dragon once and for all?
Dear Dragon Slayer
I hear you. Paper is the nemesis of many a well intentioned individual. It drives me crazy too!
For years I could keep the paper from collecting around the house but my office was another story. I tried system after system, with no long term success.
One day it dawned on me, if I wasn’t keeping up the “system” then it required too many steps. If it’s not simple and easy I won’t follow through. Life is much more interesting than managing my paper.
The following three steps have set me free.
- First keep as little as possible. Be ruthless. Recycle every bit you can. If your concerned about tossing mail with your name on it or there is a back log by the shredder, get a confidential shred bin. It’s worth the peace of mind.
- Is it a receipt, paid invoice or statement? Much of what comes to us in the world of paper falls into this category. Get yourself an accordion file with January through December printed on the tabs. Ask yourself, “What month is this?” The answer tells you where to put the paper. It’s so simple. You now have a whole year to reclaim the paper if you need the information. When the current month comes around again you just do a quick check of what’s in there and in most cases, toss your year old receipts into the recycle (or confidential recycle) bin.
- What’s left is either reference, archive or requires an action. Reference you may want more frequent access to, archive you know you just need to keep. I keep a reference drawer handy to my desk and archive is a 2 drawer lateral file. A label maker and an alphabetical system is as complicated as this gets. If I know I can find the information online, I don’t even bother keeping it in my file drawer.
My office and my house now are virtually paper free. When in doubt, I keep paper by month. I find what I need in a minute or two by asking myself, “when was it I bought that?”. If it wasn’t January like I thought, then maybe it was February. Most of the time I don’t need it, but I have the peace of mind of a simple system if I do.
If you are not as fond of accordions as I am, you are welcome to set up your own monthly files in a drawer, either works just fine.
It’s a great life, simplified.