Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Two Tricks To Help You Handle Paper Piles

Over the past few months I've been repeatedly asked one question by friends, clients, and random people who find out I'm a Professional Organizer.

"How do I handle the piles of paperwork I have all over my house?"

organizing papers

What I'm finding is that people are overwhelmed with their paperwork but are afraid to do anything about it because (a) they don't know how to start and (b) they think they don't have time to tackle this project.  So the result is a growing pile of paperwork that threatens to overtake their home.

Let's take the first dilemma: " I don't know how to start."


Start with a trash can, a shredder, and some sort of file container.  Your file container can be file cabinets with hanging files or it can be as simple as a portable file box with manila folders.  If you only have a small amount of papers to keep, you can use a binder with dividers and sheet protectors.
     1.  Temporarily label (I like to use Post-it tabs) some file folders with categories that you know you'll need.  You'll be adding and adjusting categories during the process so don't label them permanently until you're done.
     2.  Start with the first paper on the top of the file and decide if it's a keeper, a tosser, or a shredder.  You might also need to decide if it needs your attention immediately (like a bill, a check, or an appointment).  If so, place it with your planner/calendar to take care of soon.
     3.  If it's a keeper place it in the appropriate folder.  If it's a tosser, throw it in the trash can.  If it's a shredder, shred it or place in the shredder pile so you can shred several papers at one time.
     4.  Continue with the next paper - and then the next  - and then the next. . .
     5.  As you file papers, you may find that you need additional folders.  Just pull one out, temporarily label it, and file your stuff.
     6.  When you come to the end of your pile, add permanent labels to your files.
     7.  Sit back and enjoy a job well done. 
     8.  As papers come in, spend a few minutes each day or 15 minutes a week filing your papers to avoid having the "house eating paper piles" in your home. 

organizing papers

Dilemma number 2: " I don't have time to tackle this project."

Solution:  Take 10 minutes a day to tackle your File Pile.  When the 10 minutes are up, you're done for the day. 

You don't have 10 minutes a day?  I'll help you find it.
     1.  File while you're watching TV or instead of watching TV.
     2.  File during each TV commercial
     3.  File while waiting for dinner to cook.
     4.  File while your kids are in the tub (sit on the floor with your file box)
     5.  File 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes at night.
     6.  Shorten your workout by 10 minutes and use that time to alleviate a stress producer in your  life.
     7.  File first thing in the morning.  I know you'll make up the 10 minutes later in the day.  It always works out.
     8.  Make an appointment with yourself on your calendar and then make sure you keep the appointment.  Ask a friend to call you at the appointed time to keep you accountable.
     9.  Cut out your morning Starbucks trip and grab coffee at home.  Not only will it save you time but it will also save you money. 
   10.  Trade one household chore for another.  It might serve you better to do 10 minutes of filing than to vacuum your living room this one time. 

Ready to give it a try?  If you make the commitment to tackle this project, you will be unloading a large weight from your shoulders and helping to make your home a more calm place.  If you get stuck, just give me a shout out by email and I'll get you unstuck.   


  1. These are good tips. I was constantly overwhelmed by filing until a few years ago. Here's how I changed it (it really has worked wonders for me!)


  2. Thanks for the link, Melissa. Hubs uses something like yours to keep paid bills in. It's portable, which makes it handy.


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