Are the walls closing in after the holidays? Are the paper piles getting taller? Are you dreading tax time? How long do you think a paper clutter clearing project will take? It will take you less time than you think it will. Really! Try the four paper clutter clearing ideas below.
1. The time and energy you are expending worrying about paper clutter and procrastinating about it drags you down. You don’t have to let it do that to you! Make a choice to tackle it today. You can do this! Check out Flylady at www.flylady.net. She is a fan of the kitchen timer and setting it for 10 minutes to tackle any clutter project.
2. Remember that any pile can become a new file. Paper clutter sometimes happens when we have multiple files ( think “systems”) for the same category of paper. Examples? Business cards: in a drawer, in a billfold, and stuck on the refrigerator (that’s three systems,so no wonder someone has to hunt in multiple places). Take-out menus: on the refrigerator, in a drawer, some by the upstairs phone, some by the downstairs phone (same point here). Pick one system or file for each category of paper in your life: Use it, trust it, and spend less time hunting for lost paperwork. Sometimes a folder that served us once is a folder we no longer need. Be alert for these too.
3.Try just one hour of paper clutter clearing: The paper piles have grown. Tax season is coming.
- Pick your thickest folder or tallest paper pile. Grab the kitchen timer and set it for 15 minutes (Repeat up to four times until you have put in an hour. You will be pleased with your progress!)
- Sort: Shredder items, recycle items, to-do items, to-file items, and maybe a to-make-new-folders-for items.
- Not sure what to do with something? Decide to decide. If you need to ask someone, make a note on your to-do list to talk to them about the item.
- Remember the 80-20 rule of life applies to paper too. 80 percent of what we keep and file, we will never use again. Humm? Think twice before hanging onto it.
- Reward yourself for a job well done. You pick! (Don’t skip this step!)
4. Tax paperwork: (Disclaimer: I am not a tax advisor or legal counsel. You are responsible for your own choices with paperwork as with anything else.)
- Suggestion: Make a tax folder at the start of each year (for example, a folder marked: Taxes, 2010). Put anything you might need for taxes into this folder throughout the year. At tax time, you should have everything you need in the folder ready for you.
- What do I need to save? How long do I need to save it? As you weed out your household folders and those questions enter your mind, make a list of your questions for each category of paper that raises a question (receipts, statements…). When you are done going through all your folders, ask your tax person or call the IRS with your questions. Write down what they tell you and apply that advice next time you go through your paperwork. Keep in mind that tax laws change over time and so do the kinds of paperwork in your life, so you might want to hang onto the list and revisit it with your tax person periodically.
Paper clutter didn’t happen overnight, so we usually can’t get rid of it instantly either. Be patient and kind to yourself. You are making a huge number of decisions. Try to work on paper clutter in your peak time of day. Try to limit yourself to no more than an hour or two at a time. 15 minutes will let you make progress too!
Additional resources: Try Unclutterer’s Five uncluttering things you can do in your office right now and consider subscribing to her blog. Since we are all unique people with our own organizing styles and preferences, check out How to Be Organized in Spite of Yourself: Time and Space Management That Works With Your Personal Style by Sunny Schlenger and Roberta Roesch. When you figure out what “type” you are in this book, then you only need to read the section for that type. The suggestions are tailored to the organizing preferences or style of each type.