Office Mission #1 Conquering the Paper Monster: Part 1

Filed under: Monthly Missions,Office — Colleen at 8:11 pm on Friday, January 2, 2009

paperpile21.jpgIt starts with a single piece of paper, but before you know it, your desk and counters have been overcome by the paper monster! The paper monster can be scary to face, but with a few tips, you’ll be able to confront and conquer your paper monster.

#1 Contain your monster: Take a laundry basket and go around your home collecting all your un-filed papers, coupons, junk mail, etc. By collecting all the paper you are containing your paper monster into one (or more) manageable baskets. Your paper monster is no longer attacking your entire home!
#2 Sort: You’re probably panicking that that you’ll never find that “important” piece of paper buried in your laundry basket. Quickly go through each item in your basket using a “one-touch” rule, picking up each piece of paper and putting it into one of the following categories. (If you work from home, you may want to have 2 piles for each category, keeping your work and household papers separate.)

“ACTIVE” (papers that you need to respond to, act on, etc)
“DISCUSS” (If your household consists of more than 1 decision maker, place items that need to be discussed here. For example, estimates for home improvement projects, RSVP cards for weddings, donation requests, etc)
“TO FILE” (Information that you need to keep for long-term reference and cannot access some place else).

You may also want to create a separate pile for each member of your household or other appropriate categories.

#3 Create “homes”: Get rid of your trash, shred your papers, and put those “TO FILE” papers aside. (We’ll be addressing those in Part 2). You should be left with 3 categories “ACTIVE”,”DISCUSS” (if applicable), and “BILLS TO PAY”. You may also have piles for each member of your family or other categories you would like to add.

Now it’s time to create a filing or piling system that works for you. If filing doesn’t scare you, (and it does for some), consider getting a small desktop filing bin to keep these frequently used files handy. You may need to create subcategories such as “errands” “phone calls” “email”. WARNING: Be careful! Do not create a system that is so complicated that you need to be compulsive in order to maintain it. Your goal should be to create a system that allows you to find what you need when you need it AND that is easy to maintain.

Does filing scare you? Some people, (myself included), don’t do well with filing active files. Visual people need to see things in order to remember to do them–and it’s hard to see through a file folder! I have found that piling can be as organized as filing. I use clear plastic storage drawers. One drawer contains my “ACTIVE” papers, one drawer contains my “DISCUSS” category, and one contains papers “TO FILE”. I have a separate container that houses my “BILLS TO PAY”. Every day, I sort my mail into these categories. When a drawer starts to fill up, I am cued to sort through it, make my phone calls, pay my bills, etc. You can also use these drawers for each member of the household. I love this system because I can keep my “piles” organized, it’s portable (just grab the drawer you need) and it’s easy to maintain because it isn’t “over-organized”.

Here’s an example of my piling drawers:

piling drawers.jpgIris 3 drawer shallow chest. (
#4 Now that you have homes for your files and piles, spend some time using the system. Complete your correspondence, pay your bills, and discuss necessary paperwork with your partner.

Next week, Part 2 will help you tackle your backlog of filing. Purchase a Set Me Free Filing System to make next week’s task a breeze!



Comment by Mary

July 5, 2006 @ 9:53 am

I think I can do this!

Comment by Kathy

January 5, 2009 @ 1:57 am

I like the idea of the clear drawers! I am a visual person, too, and the file boxes I’ve used haven’t worked for me. I think I’ll try this. The fact that the storage space is limited means I’ll have to deal with the papers, too. Thanks for the idea!

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