This guest post was written by Certified Professional Organizer® Tiffany Engler – St. Louis, Missouri – www.yourlifeorganizedstl.com
Paper is like laundry. It is never-ending, usually a struggle, always piling up, and typically not something we look forward to doing. But if you understand why paperwork is so exhausting you might be able to overcome some of the obstacles. Below are five reasons why paper is so hard to manage and solutions to those problem areas.
PROBLEM: There is too much of it.
SOLUTION: The more mail we get the more time it takes to process. Stop receiving unwanted mail, like newsletters, catalogs, credit card offers, coupons and more. Wikihow offers great advice on how to take your name off junk mail.
PROBLEM: Hard to make decisions?
One piece of paper could require that you to have to make numerous decisions. For example, say you receive a coupon for Payless Shoes and you think to yourself my son needs black shoes. This could lead to a whole host of questions: When does it expire? Does Payless Shoes have a good selection? What size is my son wearing now? Should I get them a little bigger so he can grow in to them? Should they be slip on or tie? Should I go or have my spouse take him? Where should I put this coupon so I remember to go? When will I go? Do I have time? The decision-making process is endless.
SOLUTION: Try not to think too hard about all the details, it will drive you nuts. When making decisions consider its importance, the timing and reality. For example: how important is this coupon, really. Are you going to use the coupon within 10-days and is it realistic to make time to go to that specific store, that is out of your way, to save 10% off a pair of $15.00 kids shoes. Get my point?
PROBLEM: Don't know how long to keep things?
SOLUTION: One of the biggest paper problems is that we don't know how long to keep papers; therefore we keep everything and can find nothing. Just do a search online for "How Long to Keep Papers" and you will get the answer to this question. Also talk with your CPA, financial advisor, insurance agent and so on. They will give you advice that meet your individual needs. Don't let 30-years of papers pile up because you don't know how long to keep them. Find out and be free.
PROBLEM: Don't have a good or up-to-date filing system.
SOLUTION: A good filing system is one that makes sense to you. It does not have to be fancy or elaborate. The trick here is to be able to put something away and find it again. Take one piece of paper at a time, identify it and write it on your folder. For example if you have mortgage papers with Commerce Bank you could call it Commerce Bank, Mortgage, or Home Loan. Don't think too hard about a label – just go with the first thing that comes to your head. Only your current files should be on-hand, anything else should be in an box, located somewhere else, like your storage area.
PROBLEM: Don't have a place to put papers that need your attention?
SOLUTION: Purchase a few magazine racks and use them to place the papers that need your attention. Then every week spend an hour giving those papers your attention. Keeping them vertical versus horizontal will not seem so overwhelming.