Monday, February 9, 2015

Macro-managing Your Paperwork

Hey gang, I'm sorry for being absent so long!  Life and what not.  Anywho, I'm currently back :)  and I'm going to talk about paper.

On my Facebook page I asked what kind of household organizing solutions people wanted help with, and the first reply was "paperwork."  Now, I'm not going to front here.  If your standard is hospital-grade paper handling, my system is not for you.  However, if you're into "deal with it effectively and move on," I've got what you're looking for.

If your paper already looks like this, move along.  You're already done.

There are other, seemingly more orderly methods of handling your paper than what I'm about to describe, and you have possibly tried one or more of those systems.  If they haven't worked, try mine. It won't be harder, and it won't take more time.  But it will free you from having your file system be the boss of you.


SO, first things first:  Pour yourself a cup of something hot or a glass of something cold, then clear a big space on the dinner table or the bed or the living room floor.  Set out a bin or box or bag to collect paper that needs to be recycled.

Collect all the paper.  Don't sort it, just gather it all and put it in your cleared area.

NOW:  pick up the piece of paper closest at hand and decide what category it is.  It can be "Utilities" or "Home Repair" or "Vehicle", or whatever.  Just decide, then start a pile for that category.

I double-dog dare you to start this file and see how many people in your household  "organize" it for you.

Pick up the next piece of paper and decide what category it is.  If it is a different category from the one you just handled, start a new pile.  If it is the same as the one before, put it on that pile.  Don't get anal and start organizing the paper in the piles according to date or who sent it or other things that don't currently apply.  Just make sure the paper gets into the pile that it belongs with and move on.

Lather, rinse, repeat.  Pick up the next piece of paper, decide, put it in the chosen pile.  You will end up with as many piles as the number of categories you prefer.

PROTIP:  keep the number of piles under a dozen.  Fewer than that is fine, even dandy.

Some of the paper you handle will need to be shredded, so start a shredding pile.  I differentiate papers to shred by ripping them in half.  That also keeps me from changing my mind about shredding them.

Stop every now and then to refresh your drink.

Once you have sorted all the paper into piles, neaten the piles.

We're almost done!

If you have folders, label them according to whatever categories of paper you have:  "Utilities" or "Home Repair" or "Vehicle" or what have you. Then put your piles in their folders.  If you don't have folders, paperclip the piles together with a top sheet that is labeled according to the categories and put "file folders" on your shopping list.

Green Cross Insurance?

Put everything in your file cabinet or filing box or desk drawer or whatever container you are using. In the future, as paper comes into your home or you create it yourself, just stick it in the correct folder. If you happen to need a new category, just label a new folder and put it in the cabinet with the rest.

Shred what needs to be shredded, then take the shreds and the other recycling out to the bin.

I know what you're thinking:  we missed a step.  We didn't organize the papers in the stacks.

That is correct.  We did not. We don't need to.

The papers have been sorted into "families" and they are in a designated containment. If you need a piece of paper relating to your utilities or your home repairs or your vehicle, you will know where to look.  60 seconds of paging through that ONE folder will reveal the necessary piece of paper.

60 seconds, vs. potentially hours more work obsessively organizing paper
you might never need to lay your hands on again.

As you use this system over time, you will eventually discover that you have never even opened certain folders since putting them in the cabinet.  You will also see that after going thru the folder every month for a year, some papers aren't necessary anymore and you can shred them.  And if you find yourself with an empty 10 minutes on your hands, you can always take out a folder and organize the papers inside.

The main beauty of the system, however, is that you are done.


Images courtesy of scottchan, basketman, and pandpstock001, at