When it comes to paper I learned two important rules apply.
Paper is something that flows in and out of our home, and every piece requires attention. When paper sits around it attracts more and more paper and can be a constant source of overwhelm. Here’s how I manage paper at home.
Where ever I can, I limit the paper that comes into my home. I sign up for automatic and emailed bill statements, unsubscribe to junk mail and opt out of magazines and brochures. I don’t hand out my email or home address to stores for coupons, info, deals, etc. And I recycle junk mail before I put the rest of my paper in its tray. The less paper coming through your door, the less you have to deal with.
Paper to process
Some paper is needed though, that’s a given. It is very easy to fall in the trap of housing your paper in multiple locations…thinking you are getting ahead of the game by presorting your paperwork, but when your paper has multiple homes and categories… it creates an extra decision you now have to make in the paper process. Not only do you need to determine what paper you need to keep and process, you also now have to determine where the paper temporarily lives prior to finding its permanent home. Keep it simple by creating one location for all paper that needs to be processed. One basket or tray or file for your paper pile to land until you can get to it. Be sure everyone in your family knows that if it needs action or your eyes, it needs to go in this one place.
The singular paper pile only works if you make and KEEP a regular commitment to actually process your paper. I like to go through it once a week. It takes a few minutes to empty the file, categorize papers and work through it. My categories are paperwork to file, bills to pay, paper needing action (i.e. rsvps, school forms, etc.) and reference paperwork. After bills are paid and actions are taken, I shred papers not needed, archive papers that are important and place reference items on a bulletin in our pantry.
When it comes to that final resting place for our papers, I tried many different systems. I became really overwhelmed with filing paperwork. There were too many categories, bulging files and it took forever to find anything because of the level of detail. So instead I went back to my rule #1 and simplified. I stuck to broad categories and use accordion files rather than individual file folders. It makes it so much easier to find documentation. Here are my file categories:
The regular household mail/bills/documentation are not the only papers that float through our home. Here are some other ways I manage paper: