Dear Home Ec 101,
There are stacks of paper all over my house. Do you have any suggestions on how I can better organize this mess?
I am completely guilty of this avoidance behavior. Living in a mess of paper clutter is a sure sign that someone in the home is indecisive or afraid of commitment.
Papers most often represent decisions or actions that need to be done. Allowing the paper to pile up is the essence of procrastination.
Bills need to be paid, children’s artwork needs to be stored, displayed, or disposed, jotted phone numbers – are these people worth committing to memory or your contact file?- it goes on and on.
There is no immediate, magical fix for your paper clutter problems, but you can begin to develop habits that will counter the build up of paper clutter.
If you have reliable internet, switch to electronic communication for as many services as possible. Important – this does not mean you switch to auto-pay, if there is a billing snafu of some sort, you want to manually confirm what comes out of your bank account.
Learn to recognize your avoidance and commit-a-phobe behavior. Sort mail as it comes into the house. Don’t put the whole pile on the counter to deal with later; make the first decisions immediately. Flyers and junk mail go right into the shredder or recycling. Bills go into their appropriate place.
You don’t have to keep every piece of artwork your child ever created. Scan and save their better work and only display their best and most precious pieces. Not every sketch and doodle requires this type of effort. Just because Little Johnny slapped a couple of scribbles down for praise and a hug doesn’t mean you must keep it until the end of time.
Figure out how to back up your electronic data and stop storing scraps of paper out of fear. My friend Michael Carnell of Palmettobug Digital has a great post on how to back up your information.
So these ideas help reduce the incoming paper clutter, but how do you deal with what already exists?
There’s nothing to do except deal with it. It doesn’t have to be all at once. Each day set a goal of dealing with one pile. If those piles are huge, set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes and attack one of the existing piles: toss, scan, or file as needed. Just start making the decisions or the situation will only get worse.
I get it. I know it’s hard, but avoiding it only makes it harder.
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