November 29, 2010

Taming the Paper Tiger: Part 1

For many the clutter problem begins with paper. Piles of it start appearing in every room of the house. It starts on table tops and expands to include the floor. Junk mail; old newspaper sections or clippings; statements from the gas company, phone company etc;  previous year’s birthday and Christmas cards; store flyers; and much more. There is no system. It is all mixed together.

So what is the problem. Usually the problem comes when you have to find a specific piece of paper or document. You can go crazy looking for it. Which pile did you put it in? It gets worse when during the search you come across your car insurance renewal form….that was due 2 months ago. Oops. Now you have to stop driving your car and reapply for insurance. It all just gives you a headache that won’t go away.

Here are 5 steps to follow to get your paper back in order:

  1. Get help. Invite a friend to work with you. If you have let it get this out of control, you will need someone who will ‘tell it like it is’ while you are making decisions on various papers .
  2. Set up two filing areas. The first is for items that need immediate or imminent action. The second is for things you want to keep so you can refer to them later.
  3. Set up two areas for tossing. The first is for shredding. The second is for immediate trash.
  4. Start by just sorting the piles in one room. Don’t work on anything. Just place each piece of paper  into one of the four new areas you have set up.
  5. Set up categories in your filing area for the various types of paper items you are keeping. For example:  tax papers, household bills, investment information, recipes.

This is the first step to Taming the Paper Tiger. Once you have made it through the whole house you will feel a lightness of spirit that will have make it all worthwhile.

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