Paper is the No. 1 culprit of clutter in most any home or office. Staying on top of the constant flow that accumulates is a big job that never really ends, but here are a few tips to help keep the paper pile up under control.
Process Mail Promptly. When you retrieve your mail, while it's still in your hand, quickly pull out anything that can be tossed. Keep a trash/recycle bin handy and get rid of junk mail immediately. Wherever it is your mail lands, there should be systems in place to file, process papers and pay bills quickly.
Make Filing Easy. If your file drawers are stuffed, you won't take that extra time to put papers where they belong. Keep only current files right at your desk. Toss, box and archive any papers that you do not need frequent access to.
Weed Out Regularly. Use the One-In-One-Out Rule: Every time you put something in, take something out. Any heavily used filing system should be cleared through once or twice a year. When was the last time you gave your file system a weed out? If you can't remember, set some time aside for a paper purge.
Don't Over Organize. When organizing you can get distracted and end up spending too much time on nonessential details. Focus on the big picture, not on how perfect the labels are.
Don't Hoard Office Supplies. Supplies can waste precious desk space. Do you really need 32 pencils and four rolls of tape in your desk drawer? Keep only what you're using right at your desk. Store extra office supplies in a box or closet elsewhere.
Look up at your Bulletin Board. Is your bulletin board cluttered with three layers of paper? Have you had the same picture of the kids hanging up for the past 7 years? Pull everything off your bulletin board and rehang what you need. You'll be surprised how much clutter had been on display.
Know What to Keep. Knowing what you should save can be confusing. Speak to your accountant or lawyer regarding your specific needs. You can also check out our retention document for some general guidelines.
Remember, if you keep too much, you can't find what's really important. Insulating yourself with too many papers can make it more difficult to find what you need when you need it. Streamline, organize and enjoy the benefits.
Monica Friel is president and founder of Chaos To Order - the Chicago area's premiere organizing company since 1990. Friel manages and trains a staff of professional organizers who specialize in everything from household clutter to corporate chaos.