I have been needing to tackle the “denial piles” of paper in my house for a long time now. You know that ever-expanding mountain of bills, forms, receipts, coupons, statements, insurance stuff, etc that collects on the kitchen counter (and on the microwave, on top of the refrigerator, by the phone, etc.)? Yeah…you all know!
The problem is, I didn’t have the foggiest idea how to even get started! That was until I was watching a local television program that featured a professional organizer talking about…..Controlling Paper Clutter! BINGO!
This was EXACTLY what I was looking for. It was SIMPLE (I really didn’t need a filing system that was more stressful than the stress I was looking to alleviate) AND I already had everything I needed on hand to make it work!
To create this system, all you need are 3 things (in addition to the extremely important wastepaper basket):
- An inbox.
- A desktop filing container.
- A reading container.
Your inbox can be just about any sort of basket or bin. I already had several of these cloth bins on hand that I bought at Walmart several months back for various organizing projects. You just want to make sure that whatever you use doesn’t hold more than about one week’s worth of mail. If you use too large a container, the sheer volume of your paper will be overwhelming and you won’t want to deal with it.
#2 Filing Container
Your filing container allows you to separate, store and readily access incoming mail and other communication. A simple vertical file box with file folders is a good choice and easy to find pretty much anywhere. I already had this box from my former “coupon queen” days, and I’d recently purchased some new file folders in hopes of figuring out some sort of system to use them in. :-)
It doesn’t have to be very big, but it should have enough room to hold the following file folders:
- Every person in your family. These files hold special school papers, paper that you need for ready reference, etc.
- Bills to pay
- Coupons. (I added store circulars and store ads that I’m interested in)
- To be filed. This file holds items that will move into your reference files, such as insurance statements, bank statements, paid bills, etc.
- Current projects. For example, if you are having work done on your home, this folder will hold all related paperwork until the project is complete.
- Folders for every month/quarter of the year. (I elected to do quarters.)
- This week. This folder holds any paper that requires immediate action, such as permission slips, etc.
- This month. This folder holds papers that require intermediate-term action. This file should be reviewed weekly, along with your weekly file, so you can rotate items into your immediate action file.
I added only one additional file folder for “Blog Stuff” (for obvious reasons). :-)
#3 Reading Container
A reading container is A MUST for helping to empty your inbox. With a reading container, magazines and catalogs have a place to go! The key to making this container work is to put it in an area where you actually sit to read — such as your bedroom or study — so that you can catch up on your reading whenever the opportunity arises.
And THAT my friends is all there is to it!
Here are the results of my efforts. This was my “denial pile” BEFORE I got to work. (It was actually a LOT worse about a week ago before I went through and got rid of all the JUNK that had accumulated.)
And this is the AFTER! Incredible! Like I said, I had purged a LOT of stuff about a week ago, so I hardly had anything to put in the INBOX or the READING CONTAINER (but it won’t take long for THAT to change!)
But the amazing part for me is the filing system! I love the different categories. I feel like they are all-inclusive without being overly-specific and that every paper I had laying around now has a logical place! Throughout the rest of the day I kept finding other odds and ends to add to the system, and a couple of times my kids asked me where they should put something paper-related and I knew exactly where to tell them to go. It is working like a charm!
Of course this system isn’t going to take care of itself, it’s going to need some regular attention. But 15 to 20 minutes once a week should be all it takes to go through the INBOX and various folders. I think I can handle that. :-)