Quick-Start Solutions: Simple Rescue Strategy for Rooms That Are Buried in Paperwork

Sick and tired of unorganized…*things*? Feeling overwhelmed at the thought of getting tackling that nondescript pile of stuff? I’m here to help. This exercise will help you move one non-painful, very manageable, highly productive step toward getting organized.

Problem: Help! My living room/dining room/bedroom/office/kitchen/the doghouse is overflowing with papers that are of questionable importance!

Solution: Go grab some empty file folders. If you don’t have any lying around the house, run to your nearest office supply store/drug store/grocery store…or scroll to the bottom to see some cool folders Amazon can have on your doorstep within 1 to 2 days…depending on your shipping preferences [note: affiliate links included].

If you don’t have folders right this second, you can still separate the papers into piles, but label the piles CAREFULLY, and clip the papers in each pile together using a paperclip or binder clip. Now. We’re ready to begin:

1. SET A GOAL, and determine how much paperwork you would like to clean up in your current session. Be realistic. If you know you only have the energy to work on the task for 30 minutes, set a timer for 30 minutes. If you can work for a full hour…POWER HOURRR! Let’s Go!

2. Create categories,  and label each folder according to the types of papers you have. If you can’t think of categories, try starting with these: Health, Home, Work, Finance, Bills, Leisure. Some of you may need to add a category for School. If you have kids, each child should have his or her own folder…but for starters, you can keep them all in one folder. For now. You WILL have to go back and separate everything out, though. So it’s best to just make a folder for each child if you have a massive amount of paperwork coming in from school, hobbies, etc.

3. Pick up one piece of paper. Determine which category the paper best fits. Example, if you pick up a car insurance bill, file it in the “bills” folder. If you can’t decide within 30 second, set the paper aside, and revisit it at the end. 

4. Repeat process until you can see the table/desk/floor/interior of the oven (yes, I’ve seen this before) or wherever your unruly papers have been landing. Advanced tip: (file your papers in chronological order as you add them to the folders; doing this now will save time when you need to access these papers later…and you WILL need to access your papers later: either to use them, to file them more permanently, OR to throw them away).
5. When finished, store the folders in a standing file box or file cabinet so you can access them later.
***If you still have remaining papers to clean up, don’t worry. Pull out your calendar, and schedule another time WITHIN THE NEXT 7 DAYS to continue the task. Write it down as an “appointment!” Keep repeating these “appointments” until all papers have been cleaned up and appropriately filed.
Maintenance: Set aside a general basket, bin, or letter tray to collect paperwork throughout the week. Choose one designated day each week to clear out the basket and file paperwork in its rightful folder. Eventually, the papers should go into a permanent file cabinet or drawer. But I will discuss that in a future post in the interest of keeping it simple and just focusing on quick cleanup strategies for now.
Recommended Supplies:

 

 

Want more? For exclusive offers, limited offer freebies, and insider discounts, join my email list!

How to Tame Your Junk Mail

Despite the tremendous technological advances mankind has achieved, most of us still have a steady stream of “junk mail” that enters our home. Junk mail is one of the most common obstacles that separates households from becoming organized. Some people allow their mail to accumulate on a desk or table that is typically located near the front door, where the mail makes its entrance. Others simply stash unwanted mail into a large bin or trash bag with the intent to sort and declutter by eventually shredding the excess paper.

The following suggestions will help you avoid the massive pileup that often results after weeks, months, and after especially years of an unaddressed influx of mail.

1. Go Paperless – Unless you require paper copies of bills and statements, paperless is the way to go. Virtually all financial institutions and utility providers offer–and even prefer–e-statements, which can be accessed online or received through email, depending on the issuer.

2. Create a System – Most homes need a system by which mail can be quickly and easily divided AS SOON AS IT ENTERS THE HOUSEHOLD. I recommend using a hanging mail sorter like the one below. One tray should be labeled “IMMEDIATE” for mail that requires immediate attention. The second tray should be labeled “NON-URGENT” for mail that requires action within the next several weeks or months (i.e. renewing a magazine subscription). I also highly recommend placing a basket or small bin labeled “RECYCLING” directly under the mail sorter.  This is where junk mail should go as soon as it enters the home.

Hanging mail sorter example (Amazon affiliate link):

3. Schedule time for upkeep – You will need to schedule time to address your junk mail organizational system. Otherwise it will overflow. I recommend setting aside an hour weekly to (1) address any lingering urgent mail, (2) move non-urgent items that are approaching their deadline to the urgent box, and (3) empty the recycling bin (and prepare it for curbside pickup if offered in your community). The weekly hour of mail decluttering can be scheduled concurrently with another activity, for example, if you are a person who enjoys watching television or listening to podcasts. It may also be easier to tackle a task like mail intake as an end-of-day cleanup activity before going to bed. Although I am recommending an hour, most households that address their mail weekly will likely need far less time to complete this task.

4. Deal with currently overflowing junk mail bags and bins – Many of us already have a stash of junk mail we “intended to go through and shred.” Over time, looking at that pile can become overwhelming. While the best approach is to simply go through and shred all the unwanted mail at once, many people may feel they simply do not have the energy. If this is the case, I would advise dividing the backlogged mail and setting goals (i.e. sorting and shredding 1/4 of the pile Monday, another 1/4 Friday, and so on until it’s gone). The important elements in this less intensive, “incremental” approach to decluttering mail are 1) setting clear goals and a realistic, but productive timeline and 2) being diligent in execution. If you set a productive timeline and stick to it, your pile of junk mail will be gone in seemingly no time, and your only related weekly task will be basic upkeep of your new system.

The key to both overcoming and avoiding junk mail clutter is to work at it strategically and consistently over time.