Day 28's goal: Corral the Clutter
Yesterday, guest blogger Alison Marks shared the big picture for how to deal with paper. But then there's that moment that you're sitting there staring at all your paper and not sure how to tackle it. To address that issue, guest blogger and professional organizer June Bell is back and she's getting specific: What to keep, where to keep it and how to sort it. As always, leave comments below, or ask June questions directly by emailing her at junebell (at) aol (dot) com.
Bills. Receipts. Magazines. Catalogs. Copies. Clippings. Notes. Lists. Documents. Paper is everywhere, blanketing our tables and desks and filling our mailboxes, in boxes and out boxes.
Taking even a baby step toward conquering paper clutter may inspire you to take another and another … with increasingly positive results as you progress.
To reduce the amount of paper in your life, first, limit the amount of paper that you let in:
Junk mail. Sort mail by a recycling bin. Immediately toss anything you don’t want (for me, that’s supermarket circulars and any unsolicited ads).
Newspaper. As a veteran newspaper reporter, I hate to suggest that people ditch their subscriptions and read the paper on line. But if you’re battling piles of newsprint, this might (sob) be an option for you.
Magazines. If you’re not excited to find a new issue in your mailbox, consider canceling your subscription or not renewing it. When a new issue arrives, recycle or pass along the previous one. And instead of keeping the entire magazine, just tear out the articles you want to read or save.
Catalogs. Contact the Direct Marketing Association to have your name removed from mailing lists. You can also call catalog companies individually as you receive catalogs.
Tax-related paperwork. Set aside a shirt box or shoe box for all W-2 forms, dividend statements, 1099s (if you’re self-employed), brokerage statements, etc. Just drop them into the box throughout the year so that when you’re ready to start on your taxes, you’ll have everything you need in one place. Note: This is one category where you don’t want to discard as much as possible!
Office papers. The vast majority of what we file disappears into our filing systems, drawer or cabinets, never to emerge again. So before you routinely file (or add to a growing pile), ask yourself:
o How likely is it that I’ll need this again?
o If I do need it, can I get it somewhere else, such as from a manager, the Internet, a family member?
o What’s the worst-case scenario if I toss it?
A stack of paper usually represents a bunch of decisions you need to make: Take a cruise? Buy supplemental life insurance? Read a prospectus? So set aside time to make decisions on these items, or delegate those decisions to someone else.
Gradually you’ll reclaim the horizontal surfaces in your home or office.