Paper is unavoidably the No. 1 challenge for many people. Mail, bills, subscriptions, newspapers, receipts, and important papers pile up in our homes and can be overwhelming. While digital clutter from email can at least be out of sight, paper is physically visible and in need of constant attention. There are often more documents coming in than anyone can feasibly handle, and many people tend to be “pilers” not “filers.” Tossing papers to the wayside leads to annoyance as it becomes difficult to find what you need. This is why a tailored organizing system for paper is crucial to maintaining your home or office.
There is no “one size fits all” for organizing systems – the best kind of system is customized so that it works for you. Individuals have a variety of priorities and preferences; therefore a system that might work well for one hassled human may not work for the next person. Many people are collectors —they like to clip food recipes, save articles related to health concerns, or gather magazines or other items of interest.
Creating a system begins with organizing your paper into categories such as bills, tax documents, magazines, etc. Decide what needs to be kept and what needs to be tossed. For important records like tax forms, talk to your accountant to determine what you feel comfortable throwing away, what you want to keep, and for how long you want to keep it. It’s all up to you!
It also helps to reduce the amount of paper that comes into your home. For example, switching to online payments can make bill-paying less cluttered, and that also means fewer checks to write and less related paperwork. Visit dmachoice.org to get your name taken off of advertising mailing lists.
Make a habit of immediately throwing out (and recycling) any paper you know you don’t need. Consider snapping a photograph of a page or scanning it so that there is a digital copy instead of a physical one.
Block out your personal information or shred documents that contain personal information. Special guard stamps or rollers can help protect against identify theft.
If you have lots to shred, you can take your unwanted paper to free local shredding events (limits may apply). Palatine Township and Northfield Township are among those that offer shredding events. Commercial shredding services are another option, and some even offer pick up services. For ongoing paper shredding needs, a personal shredder should be able to handle the demands of most households.
Implementing an organizational system to control your paper is not as complex as it may sound—it’s all about setting aside some time to design a system, and then getting into the habit of filing papers in the right place. Maintenance is key because when paper stacks grow, frustration sets in. Develop an organized system for your paper today, so you can avoid the chaos later.