What can you do to bring your house or office back from the brink? What brink? That point where your space starts to resemble an explosion in a paper factory! You know what I mean. Thereís a pile of paper sitting here and another one sitting over there. Some look relatively straight, while others are continually flirting with the Law of Gravity. How can you bring this paper mess under control before your stress level goes through the roof every time you walk into your home or office?
Vow to sort it, put it away, or throw it away.
There are many people who have Attention Deficit Disorder who have far too much unorganized paper in their lives. For paper to stay in your space, it needs to have its very own home. If it doesnít have a place, it canít come into the house or office! What types of paper do you need to have? Bills, banking and investment statements, personal items, household warranty documentation, health care notes, automobile paperwork, work related paper, advertising, and magazines are commonly found around the house. Most of these items can find a good home in a filing cabinet.
As soon as paper crosses the threshold, it needs to be sorted. Sort it beside a trash can. Throw the junk into the trash right away. Then, file what needs to be filed in its place. If you have no place for it, make a place. Finally, any paper that needs some type of action, a response of any type, place it into an action file and immediately schedule a time to deal with it.
Put it away.
Bills go into a bill payer file. Arrange them so that they will be paid on time. If there is a question about the bill, put a sticky note on the bill with the number that needs to be called. Schedule a time to call. Make the call in a timely fashion. Write down who you spoke to and brief details of the conversation, then file it in the proper place.
Get a file cabinet and put it to use! Some towns have businesses that recycle office furniture. These companies have used office furniture for sale where you can get a good filing cabinet at a deeply discounted price.
Make hanging files for all of your categories. You can put subfolders within the hanging file. If you have more than one person in your household, you will need hanging files for each of them for medical records. Within those folders, you can put the statements from the different health care providers that they use. Alternatively, you can make a hanging file for a health care provider and place file folders for each person who uses their services. You may make hanging files for each of your cars and add folders within for insurance, repairs, and gas bills. Alternatively, you can make an insurance hanging file and put folders within for each of the cars that are insured by that company. Hereís the trick; find a system that works for you. Consider color coding your files. Use that ADD creativity; do what works for you!
Throw it away or give it away.
Magazines and catalogs can pile up. If you want to keep them, make a designated place for them. If not, get rid of them. Sometimes magazines seem too good and useful to just pitch. Give them to somebody who can use them. Schools, nursing homes, laundromats, or any place with a waiting room might want them. Some people want them to read, while others might want to use them for art projects.
If a bill or statement is over seven-years-old, it probably needs to be shredded and go into the trash. The exception might be investment information where you need to know the tax basis of an investment.
Some of us keep papers for sentimental reasons. Thereís that first card a loved one sent to you or the last card your mom sent you before she passed away. Your childís handprint on a piece of paper brings back memories. Make places for these items. However, if you no longer value an item, or if you can carry it in your memory without having the artifact, just get rid of it. Streamline your life.
Digging out from under the piles.
Find the paper mess that bothers you the most. Start there. Grab the pile and start sorting it. Have a supply of hanging files and file folders. Label the files and folders. DO NOT make a miscellaneous file. It will fill up, and the papers will still not be sorted! Have a small container for those papers that you have not decided what to do with. Give yourself 24 hours to figure it out. If they are still in that container, throw them away. Also, if you are not using something, get rid of it. Take care of the piles that you hate the most. Then, go room by room and get rid of all of the piles in that room. When I am sorting, I put on some pleasant music or a movie that I enjoy. It needs to be something that doesnít occupy too much of my attention while I sort through the papers. It does need to help me stay in one place long enough to sort and just distracted enough to do the job.
Keeping paper around in an unorganized fashion tends to bring out the negative symptoms of ADD. Having items that you are not going to use just takes up more of your time and attention. If you need the paper to make your life easier or better, find a home for it. When you are not using papers, donít let them just sit around looking messy in a pile. Join the paper liberation movement. Set those papers free; throw them away!