One of the toughest areas for most people to stay organized is managing the constant deluge of paperwork that comes our way! The bills, junk mail, school fliers, forms that need to be completed- the stream is almost endless. Too often all of that paperwork ends up in piles all over the kitchen counter, the dining room table and any other available surface, because we don’t make the time to sort through it, or just aren’t sure what to keep around and what to recycle or toss in the trash. So today in our “How to Organize Your Life” series, we are going to talk about how to organize paperwork!
Establish Containers to Organize Paperwork
Before we can start sorting through the piles of paper- we need to have a system of containers in place- to store what we need, where we will need to access it.
The Paperwork Inbox
There needs to be one temporary holding place for all of the incoming paperwork- a place to dump the mail when you walk into the house, a place for kids to put their school fliers and other paperwork that they want for you to look at- so it helps to put a basket on the counter to store it all. That way you know you have ONE place to go to- and do all of your sorting.
Quick- Access Files
Perhaps somewhere in your home you have a filing cabinet where you keep all of your “important papers”…. your tax returns, pay stubs, insurance info- etc. This is NOT that place! What you need- is a set of quick-access folders to file the papers that you will need to use on a regular basis- and these folders should “live” where you are going to use them the most often. In my case- they are right on the kitchen counter in my “command center”. Here are the folders that are I keep close and handy:
- “Bills to Pay” Folder– get a bill in the mail- I just stick it in this folder until the 10th or 25th of the month when I pay the bills
- “Tickler” Folder– any flyer or reminder that I need to keep around, I stick in here. I go through this folder weekly.
- Kids Team Info– team rosters, parents names and cell#s
- Kids Website Info– all of those papers that come home from school with kids access info to homework websites
- Monthly To Do List– if I think of a project that I'd like to get to- I add it to my list here. Once a month I review the list to see what I am ready to tackle for the month ahead
Wall Command Center
There are some papers that I like to have in front of me- displayed right where I can see them- and that's why we've hung this magnetic chalkboard system on our kitchen wall. I have created “zones” on this board to contain paperwork for:
- school lunch menu
- school calendar
- invitations- clipped together and sorted by date so the first item out is the one taking place the soonest
- sport schedules- I will include here field directions and notes from the coach
I review items from my wall command center every single day- taking down and recycling what is no longer needed, and adding new items as necessary.
Use a Sorting System to Organize Paperwork
Once a day, I will sort through my inbox basket, touch every piece of paper and make a decision about what to do with it. I can either:
- Do it- if it something I can respond to quickly- I will do it right away.
- List It- if it is going to take me more time to complete, I will add the item to my to do list. I will then file the paperwork in the right quick-access folder (usually the “tickler file”).
- File It- a reminder for a school party- goes into the “ticker file”, a party invite for the kids- I will RSVP and put the invite on my wall board in date order. A bill goes right into the “bills to pay” folder.
- Recycle /Trash It- most of what I receive can be quickly read and then recycled!
Aaahhhh….. I LOVE clearing through that inbox!
What if You Already Have Paperwork Piled Up Throughout the House?
Then set a timer and spend 20 minutes a day on working through the piles you have, making these decisions, and clearing out the piles. You can DO this!
See How to Organize Paperwork
Since sometimes it is easier to show you…. here's my youtube video on How to Organize Paperwork:
How are you doing fighting the paperwork battle at home? Please leave a comment and share!