You’re being attacked on all sides by a small but deadly enemy. Singly it’s easy to fight off, but in great numbers it threatens to overwhelm you, and it’s growing in magnitude and strength every day. Soon you will go under so you need to be rescued. What is this enemy? Paper… the deadliest foe of the de-clutterer.
You have to fight it and fight it now, before the situation gets any worse, so where do you start?
Gather it all up into one pile, or several piles if your paper problem is immense. This way you are containing the enemy in one area and can give it your focused attention.
Go through the heaps and put similar content together into new smaller piles. For example make one pile of bills, one pile of receipts, one pile of junk mail, one pile of bank statements, etc. For items which don’t suit any other pile then start a miscellaneous pile. Spread them on the floor if you don’t have enough table or desk space.
Now you can see what you’re dealing with things will be much simpler. The first thing you should do is throw away the junk mail pile into your paper recyling bin, without reading it. If you read it you will get distracted and you can’t afford for that to happen. Remember, it’s called junk mail for a reason!
Next file away bank statements, insurance certificates, important receipts, manuals, etc, in date order, into clearly labelled folders. Keep the folders in a drawer, on a shelf, or the best place of all, a filing cabinet. If you’re lucky enough to have a filing cabinet then you can keep your paperwork clearly organised in labelled categories. Another good solution is a concertina folder, where you can file a year’s worth of bank statements, electricity bills, etc, in one place.
Having organised and thrown away, or filed, the easy stuff you will be left with the miscellaneous pile. Your paper foe has now been reduced and is in a weakened condition. However you are now dealing with the trickiest and deadliest element. The miscellaneous pile is harder to deal with because each piece of paper has to be looked at individually and there may be actions associated with it.
There are two types of miscellaneous paper clutter. The first type is papers you want to keep for sentimental reasons, or feel you should keep in case they comes in useful one day. My advice is this; if you can’t be bothered to file it, then don’t keep it. If you don’t care enough about a letter, leaflet, postcard, greetings card, or set of instructions to find a suitable home for it, then you don’t care enough about it to retain it.
The second type of miscellaneous paper clutter is items that need some type of action on your part. For example, you may need to reply to a letter, ring up a company or person to deal with a problem or to give them some information, or you may have a form that you need to fill in and send off. This stuff is important and if it isn’t dealt with then there could be consequences.
Put it all into a file labelled urgent action, and then sit down and deal with as many as you can straight away. If there is too much to do in one day or in the time you have available, then keep the folder in a prominent position on your desk or table and set aside some time every single day to deal with it, until all the tasks are finished.
As you deal with each task associated with the papers in your urgent action folder, then you can either file them away in one of your other folders (set up a new folder if you don’t have one that fits), or throw them away.
Victory Is Yours!
You’ve done it! You’ve fought off the paper clutter enemy and rescued yourself from it’s clutches. You will get a great sense of relief at having faced so many jobs you’d been putting off, and your paper enemy has been dispersed, cut down to size and dealt with.
To keep it up, so that your enemy can never again grow to a dangerous size and pose a threat to you, then it’s essential that you read my previous blog Stop Drowning in a Sea of Paper. This blog lists all the measures you can take to safeguard yourself against future paper invasions, so that you never drown in paper again!