Everyone’s got it, and even with so much digital information, the paper monster, a.k.a paper clutter, still shows up.
So, how do you tame the paper monster?
Here’s a strategy I use with my clients:
1. Find a comfortable space to use with plenty of room for sorting and creating piles. I recommend an empty tabletop.
2. Set up a SHRED bag, a RECYCLE bag, and a TRASH bag. These are three MUST-HAVE categories.
3. Have a letter opener, a pen, and a post-it pad on hand.
4. Grab a pile of accumulated paper and sort it into categories. For example, if the stack you grabbed is mail, in addition to identifying what is trash, recycle, and shred, additional categories may include: TO PAY, TO FILE, TO SCAN, TO READ, etc. Make the categories work for you, and don’t worry if they are unconventional.
5. Use a post-it to identify each categorized pile of paper. These visual cues reduce brain fatigue and are a major time saver!
After the papers are sorted, the next critical step is to assign your piles a home because let’s be honest, a homeless item is clutter. If you don’t have a home, make one. A home could be a pile, a file, a basket, etc. If you don’t want to make a home or you don’t have room, then ask yourself:
- What is the value of keeping it if I don’t have a home for it?
- Could I find this information elsewhere, say online?
- What is the likelihood that I will look for this again, and if I do, will I look for it on this piece of paper?
For items you are saving to read “someday,” add them to the top of your someday pile and remove an equivalent amount from the bottom of the pile. It’s fair to assume that if you have not yet read what is on the bottom of the pile, you have not missed it or needed it. Besides, it creates room for newer, fresher content to read.
Suppose you feel overwhelmed; SET A TIMER FOR 5 MINUTES because the most challenging part of most tasks is getting started!
Setting a timer establishes a boundary for how long you need to work and gamifies the activity. Start with a small, easy task, such as sorting all the catalogs, and you will be amazed by how much you can accomplish in a short amount of time! Keep setting the timer if that helps you.
If the paper monster has you spooked, contact me because I have never met a paper monster I couldn’t tame!