Create Simple, Repeatable Processes for Your Mountains of Paper
In This Post
In this post, I talk about how to organize the paper clutter.
- Do you have paper clutter too?
- What is paper clutter – do you notice it? Or, are you just used to it?
- 3 Steps to Organize Your Paper Clutter
- Links to Related Posts
- Did You Know?
- Inspiration Images
- For Pinterest
Are You Swimming in Paper?
Can you relate? I used to have papers on the desk in my office, in baskets in my office, in notebooks, on my kitchen desk, and stuffed around the house.
I periodically organized all this paperwork into piles but then somehow the piles got re-shuffled and disorganized again before I ever did anything with them.
Earlier this year, I realized how much time I was wasting and re-did my entire system.
I’ll walk you through it, so that this system (or even part of it) can help you too.
Let’s Break It Down
What do you have in your office, in your kitchen, in storage, in the basement?
For me, I had
- Old planners and calendars
- Work notebooks
- Tons of notes related to personal development (conferences, coaching sessions, podcasts, etc)
- School flyers
- Kids artwork
- Kids school work
I would write it all down (which does help with retention) but rarely looked at it again.
It was wasting a lot of mental overhead. I felt overwhelmed every time I looked at it.
So, I set to work and cleared it all up.
Here’s what I did (and it didn’t even take me that long….a few hours spread over several nights):
3 Steps to Organize Your Paper Clutter
Step 1. Keep the Problem from Getting Worse. Set up systems for handling new paperwork that comes in.
The first step for how to organize paper clutter is to make sure the problem doesn’t get worse.
Create a “Sunday Basket™” for anything you need to process in the short term.
Create a basket where you can collect everything that needs more than a few minutes of attention to complete.
Examples: bills, invites, permission slips
Then, when these items come in via the mail or the school backpacks, put them in the Sunday Basket™.
You guessed it, work through the Sunday Basket™ on Sundays.
Here’s what I do on Sundays when I process the Sunday Basket™:
- Take a photo of all invites and other calendar-related items and save them to a “Calendar” photo album on my phone. Then, I add them to my phone calendar and throw them away.
- Schedule bill pays and then, throw the bills away.
- Work through anything else. Throw it away when done.
Create a system for organizing the kid’s papers and artwork.
A big contributor to the mountain of paperwork is kid’s stuff.
Here’s the system I set up to handle it. You can use this one, or make your own.
- Throw away items that aren’t special (when the kids aren’t looking).
- Respond to anything urgent
- Put the calendar-related items or slips due next week (or beyond) into the Sunday Basket
- Save anything I think is special in a ‘memories’ pile that I process monthly.
- On the 10th of each month, I go through the kids artwork/work ‘memories’ pile. I take a photo each item and add the .jpegs to my Shutterfly album for the year.
- If you want more detail on this process, here’s a blog post I wrote for you – How to Create an Amazing Annual Family Photo Album
- Then, I save the best of the best work in a banker box in a folder for this school year.
- If you want more detail on this process, here’s another blog post I wrote for you – How to Save the Kids Artwork (Without the Guilt or Clutter)
Create an electronic system for capturing all of your important work and personal notes
Find a tool that you love for capturing and organizing your documents.
You will need this to save off any electronic documents and also to save scanned documents that you don’t need the original .
I use Evernote for all my notes.
I use Dropbox to store all my paperwork and photos.
You can use one or both of these, or something that you like more. The key is to find something you like and stick with hit.
Set up a system for saving important paperwork
I have a file system in my kitchen where I store off tax related documents and important receipts.
Create something for yourself that’s easy to access and is dedicated just to documents that require the originals or that you don’t want in the cloud.
Step 2. Sort Your Existing Mountains
So, now we have a simple system in place for keeping the paper under control going forward. Now, it’s time to tackle the mountains of paperwork you’ve already collected.
The second step for how to organize paper clutter is to gather your existing paperwork, and make a huge pile to sort and organize.
I put this big pile in front of the TV so I could multi-task while catching up on The Crown.
1) Keep pile. This is a pile of paper that you want to keep the originals. Examples: tax related docs, best school and art work
2) Paperwork you want to keep but don’t need the originals. This pile shouldn’t include sensitive/identification info.
3) Throw-away pile – this is non-sensitive info that you no longer need
4) Shred pile – this is a pile of any sensitive paperwork that you no longer need
Step 3. Address Your 4 Piles
The third step for how to organize paper clutter is to add the three piles you made in step two.
1) File your keep pile into the system you created in step 2.
2) Digitize the paperwork you want to keep but don’t need the originals
- First, if you haven’t already, set up an online file system. I use Evernote for this purpose.
- Then, download a scanning app. I use Genius Scan.
- Next, scan the documents and save to your online filing system. Tag as appropriate, to find later.
- Finally, add the scanned docs to your shred pile.
3) Throw away your throw away pile. Easy!
4) Shred the shread pile.
- Look for a free event in your area (usually in April)
- Shred at work
- Buy a shredder
So that’s it, the three steps for how to organize paper clutter are:
- Set up the systems you’ll need (shortcut alert – I gave you the instructions for the systems I’ve created)
- Sort your existing paperwork into 4 piles
- Process the 4 piles
- How to Save the Kids Artwork (Without the Guilt or Clutter)
- 10 Time Management Tips for Moms
- How to Create an Amazing Annual Family Photo Album
Did You Know?
I’m a success coach for working moms. I work with other moms to create and execute the mindset, strategies and routines that are required get out of survival mode and achieve your goals, both personally and professionally.
Think of it as a re-set for ambitious moms who want to maximize what they do, who they are, and all they impact to make the most out of life.
The first step is to meet for half an hour to talk about your goals, obstacles and mini action plan. If you want to create your own mini action plan, here’s the link to schedule the free session on my calendar.
I’ll coach you through building the plan and identifying your next steps. Then, we’ll talk for a few minutes at the end about what I do and if we might be good working together. I’m not a salesperson so don’t expect a sales call. I only accept clients who are a good fit.
This is time focused on you and your goals, and how to get to the next level.