Home Organization Tips for Taking Care of the PaperWork at Home
Someone, somewhere once proposed the notion that our society is becoming a paperless society. If that’s the case, why does it seem harder than ever to keep paper under control?
From junk mail to bills to children’s homework and communications from school, paper is everywhere–still. The question is, what can you do to manage it all?
Here are a few ideas:
Start with the “circular file.”
When you get the mail each day, the minute you bring it in the door, stand by the garbage can or recycling bin and sift. Drop in any junk mail immediately. Then drop in circulars and catalogs, and be honest with yourself: you don’t have time to leisurely page through them and you really are not going to order anything.Keep only those you absolutely use, such as the grocery store sale flyer or a catalog you order from on a regular basis. And remember, most catalog companies have web sites, so you don’t actually need the paper version.
Once you have sifted, then sort. Have a file system close by with folders for bills, correspondence, sales/coupons, school, and such. Sort mail immediately into the files so that you can address those areas when you have a need to do so.
Everything will be easy to locate and you will save time. Have an address book or rotary file handy (or your computer) so that you can enter addresses for future use without saving the return envelope or jotting them down elsewhere.
Invest in a technology
Look for one with a document feeder that scans both sides in one pass, such as the Fujitsu ScanSnap or the Visioneer Strobe, which have models with a footprint smaller than a notebook computer.
Create file folders on your computer for each type of document, name the document, and file immediately. (This is a great way to store everything from bank statements to rebate forms.) Then shred or recycle the original.
Be consistent with this, and you will only handle that particular piece of paper once. Important note: back up these files to an external hard drive or CD-Rom, in case something catastrophic happens to your computer. There are many options for palm-sized external hard drives, such as the Western Digital Passport, that store an unbelievable amount of data. With a little web research, you can find one to suit your needs and budget.
Set up systems and stick to them
If you can’t part with your children’s artwork or schoolwork, then invest in an archival box to store it, and put it away the minute you take it down from the fridge.
Color coding things may help you manage, because color is a visual cue that helps people locate things. Choose colors that help remind you what’s what. If your house is yellow, make household related files yellow.
For items that cannot be scanned, such as appliance manuals, get a binder and some plastic sleeves into which you can slip the booklets.
Horizontal surfaces in your home should be off-limits to paper. This means homework does not stay on the kitchen table when it is finished; it goes directly back into the backpack.
Magazines get put in their proper place, preferably close to where you will spend time reading them. The counter is not where the mail is set; the mail is sifted and sorted and put in files.
Use the internet to your advantage
If you do so, be sure to set up a file system on your computer for them, because some companies only let you have access to a year’s worth of records at a time.
You can also use the internet to register to get off the junk mail circuit...
Check out www.greendimes.com or go to www.donotmail.org , or http://stopjunk.com/. Another site, www.dmachoice.org from the Direct Marketing Association, allows to you choose which industries should send you mail based on your interests, and which should not send you anything.
And all of those pesky credit card offers? Get rid of them by calling 1-888-5 OPT OUT. You will have to register the names of each adult in your household, but it’s certainly worth doing.
We are not going to eliminate paper entirely from our society, but we surely can reduce the amount that we handle, and the amount of times we handle it. The most important thing is being consistent with whatever system you put in place.
Return from paperwork to home office organization...