My 6 Top Tips to Purge Your Paper Piles This Weekend
I love holding papers in my hand to read. I love taking notes in the margins or writing my to-do list in my notebook. Sorry environmentalists, I will never be able to subscribe to a fully paperless world. There is something about feeling it and taking pen to pad that holds the information in my brain longer; that inspires me I guess, to some degree, I'm a tactile learner.
AND I am so tired of looking at computer screens! I find myself being drawn to words and images that I can touch these days. And if you're not a paperless being like me I'm sure you will admit that our paper piles can get out of control. From bills, insurance notices, to client documents and junk mail, it's a never ending trail of paper in our homes and offices. It comes in but it doesn't go out!
What do we really want? We want to have access to the information that matters most. If I need my birth certificate for DMV I want to be able to open the file drawer, run my eyes quickly over my folder labels and pull it out.
Not there yet? Hold tight. I got you.
I've been organizing papers for YEARS! Actually it's one of my favorite things to organize (Yes, I'm geek). No joke, I used to organize my elementary school worksheets and awards in my trapper keeper (you youngins don't know anything about those, haha). I think it's still nice and tidy in my parents attic somewhere.
So, here are my 6 top tips to purge your paper piles. The weekend is a nice place to get started. Ready? Let's go!
Tip #2 - LABEL YOUR SORTING BOXES & ACTION FOLDER .
Take your post-it notes and label each box: inbox, shred, recycle, give away. The trash bags will be used to discard any unwanted papers. Label your piece of paper/pad/notebook as "action." Take a manila folder and label it "action" as well.
Tip #3 - COLLECT.
Take the "inbox" and place all of your scattered, disorganized papers throughout your home, workspace or office into it. Do not spend time critiquing each item, just place it in the box.
Tip #4. - SORT THEN PURGE
Start at the top of the "inbox" pile and remove one piece of paper at a time. Look at the details then decide if you need to keep it, shred it, recycle it, give it to someone or or trash it.
For papers you keep: Take a manila folder and a post-it note. Write a general category on the post-it note (ex. automobile, insurance, banking, vital records, etc.). Place papers in each folder according to category. The post-it notes will serve as temporary labels for now.
After you've sorted and purged. Revisit your folders with the post-it note labels. Look at each category and determine if you need to break it down into subcategories (ex. Automobile - insurance, registration, maintenance records). Create new categories if needed.
Once if you've decided on what categories you need remove the temporary post-it note labels and write a permanent label on each folder. A label maker is fun to use too.
So now you may have a general & subcategories folders.
DON'T OVER DO IT. The simpler your filing system is the easier it will be to find what you need.
TIP #5 - TAKE ACTION
As you're sorting & purging your papers you will most likely find a notice, bill, etc. that you need to take action on right away. Place this paper in your "action" folder and write the task on your "action" list. During the project make sure you schedule time to take actions on your items.
Depending on the amount of papers you have you could spend a few days organizing them. These "action" items may need your attention before then. Do them!
TIP #6 - FRESHEN YOUR FILES
Systems always need to be updated. Don't think you can simply set it and forget it. You'll end up with an overloaded filing system which will trickle back into your home and office because it's full. A good rule of thumb is to freshen your files every 6 months to a year. Remove old or outdated files like expired auto registrations, insurance policies and account information.
Voila! Enjoy having access to your most important information at the tip of your filing fingertips.