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How do you organize/ get out from under the paper?

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
Most of the time I feel like we're drowning in paper- mail, financial stuff, health stuff, kids stuff, most of which we'll never need. I need a system! Anyone care to share?
post #2 of 9
First of all, you can stop some of the incoming paperwork before it enters your home. Here is one site that offers free guidance:

This alone has made our paperwork sooooo much more manageable!!!

Then, it depends on how your family functions.... For us:

~ Mail is retrieved once a week and the box is never full anymore. 95% of what we receive is what we need or want now. This saves so much time and frustration! I open the mail on the walk from the mailbox to our house. I recycle the outer envelopes and any extraneous stuff immediately. The real stuff we need goes into a tray on the desk where I do finances once a week.

~ DD brings home a folder of school work once a week. It gets handled ASAP. Her school offers certain things via email or online and I opted for that whenever possible. Unwanted items get recycled immediately. Items to show Daddy when he gets home stay on his placemat until dinner. He looks at them and we recycle immediately thereafter. The things that need further attention go in the above-mentioned tray. The random items we need to keep, but don't need further action go into a folder with page protectors by category: district, school, class, daughter. I empty that out at the end of each school year and recycle most of it. The few items we keep go into the scrapbooking area of the family office (large envelope by calendar year).

~ As I do the finances and paperwork each week, I recycle anything no longer needed. The items needed get filed by broad category. After I do taxes each year, I go through the files and shred/recycle whatever we don't need any longer. I opt for electronic notifications on many things to avoid the paperwork altogether. Our broad categories include: auto, bank, credit cards, insurance, investments, receipts, taxes, utilities, etc. ALL related items are in that labeled hanging file folder. I divide companies within the hanging file with file folders, but I don't label those. Companies change, the category doesn't. I keep the companies in alpha order, so it is easy to figure out.

~ Art work and crafty stuff from children can be daunting to handle. I have two paper portfolios from DD's school (K and 1st) that we keep all flat artwork in (size 18x24, I think). Bulky stuff gets photographed with the child and named in iPhoto. It gets displayed for awhile, then given as a gift to grandparents or repurposed somehow or recycled. A lot of flat artwork is handled that way, too. We keep favorites.
post #3 of 9
1. Open your mail near your recycling. That way you at least don't have to look at anything unimportant more than once.

2. Get online billing for as much as possible. That reduces the amount of paper coming into the house that actually matters.

3. From there, it's all about you. I hate having to look a million places for things, so I keep one folder of "to deal with" and one folder "to file". "to deal with" I pick a day and time to deal with all of it, it's also the time I call about doctor's appointments, remind dh about oil changes, throw out expired coupons. "to file" gets filed when it's full. The great thing about that is it means it's frequently been a month or two since I looked at the papers in there, and often having taken the time and looking at them again (vs filing immediately) makes me realize I was wrong to keep the paper and I can recycle it instead.
post #4 of 9

My filing categories

Schedules: These include pool, library hours, yoga, etc
Shopping: My receipts from purchases I may want to return, pages from catalogs
Groceries: Supermarket flyers, grocery lists
Coupons: I put them here, and put the ones I'll use for a grocery trip in my wallet
Books to Read: List of books I'd like to read
Movies to See: List of movies I'd like to watch
Contacts: I throw in random slips of paper or business cards of names / places I plan to add to my contacts in Outlook, it's really easy to go through a stack of papers, scraps of paper and just empty out my bag. . . .

more later, baby crying
post #5 of 9

Filing tips that have helped me

are that there really is no category too small, but some can be a bit broader, if they are good shortcuts for you. No misc folder, but you could have one called pending, that lives on your desk top.

A book I read said to spend about 8 minutes a day. Probably I spend less than that, now. But the paper is pretty much under control.

I second the suggestion to get your shredder going as soon as you walk in with your mail.
post #6 of 9
We have our paper recycling and shredder right by the side door where we deal with mail - it does help us get rid of stuff right away a lot faster, which cuts down on what's lying around the house.

We have 3 portable file boxes. One upstairs for financial statements/reciepts that we save for 1 year and then shred (I empty out the previous year's month before we start filing it up and shred most of it then). Downstairs we keep 2 file boxes, one with stuff related to medical statements for each of us, ID documents, real important stuff and another for house/purchase related stuff (instruction manuals, major repair papers, etc). Other misc papers usually get clipped together and hung up on the fridge or a board until we don't need them.
Oh - I've also really liked these 'pile-smart' binders I found (probably at target, though I'm sure they're elsewhere) and use one for all my various lists and things I like to personally keep track of - they've got about 5 sections. They're handy if you tend to make piles of papers you like to keep together.
post #7 of 9
oh I so need help with this. ok, even more than help, I just need to get motivated, and get something to organize papers in. I don't have anywhere to put papers, so of course, they go in piles everywhere. subbing for more advice.
post #8 of 9
Hi there! By request, I've combined the two threads so all of the replies were together.
post #9 of 9
I have 5 magazine-holder type boxes on my counter. They are labeled:

--To Sort (for things as they come in, mostly done because DH was not sorting things the way I wanted). This box is reviewed on Mondays.

--To Pay (all things that actually need a payment). I also keep our mortgage payment coupons, property tax coupons, and health insurance payment coupons in there so I see them each week and can mail them at the correct time. This box is done on Tuesdays. That way nothing sits for more than a week (or two if we don't have the $, but at least it's deliberate).

--To Do (all things that need non-payment actions). This might be a notice for an overdue library book (still need a system for that!), a contract to sign, a reminder about an appointment, a gift card for which I have to write a thank you note, a political letter to write, etc. This box is done Wednesdays, although I never get through everything. The box actually has two plastic folders in it, one red and the other clear. The more urgent things are put in the red folder. I only deal with the clear folder if the red is empty.

--To File (all things that need filing). Right now I'm trying do do a few extra minutes because I have a huge pre-system backlog of filing to get through. This is handled on Thursdays.

--To Read (all things to read for fun). This where I put professional magazines and fun ones too. Also the kids' magazines and any catalogs I want to browse through. I get something form there when I feel like reading and it gets cleaned out and put in our free box on the porch every Friday.

My filing system is a knock-off of the Freedom Filer system that I made myself after watching the video. It only took me an evening to get it all set up (not the filing, just the setup!) It wasn't so much that I wanted to save money (I bought all the supplies and spent almost the same amount) as much as I was on a roll and wanted to have to set up that evening before I lost momentum.
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