I don’t file my papers on a regular basis. I know I’m supposed to, but my life is busy. Most of my papers go into a special file labeled, “I’ll Deal With This Later.”
So every year in January I try to control the damage and file the papers that I have let pile up. I know it’s actually February now, but as Alicia said, February is sort of like extra January.
It’s been more than three years since I did my first Paper Pile Makeover, and that one was a doozy. I had been trying to organize it all, and I learned that I should have been purging it. I got rid of a massive pile of paper by asking the question, “Why do I still have this?”
Now most of my incoming paperwork is digital, so even though I haven’t filed papers all year, the good news is that the stack I currently have is only seven inches tall.
Most people will give you the advice that you should start at the top of your stack, pick up the first piece of paper and deal with that one. Either file it or recycle it, but only touch it once before you move on to the next. Personally, I find this method to be painfully tedious and dull. I am motivated by quick results and makeovers. And also easiness.
Since I don’t want to spend all day working on my papers, here is my approach:
Reduce them by half.
Some papers are easier to deal with than the rest. I can make a big impact on this stack just by going through and quickly recycling the papers I don’t need anymore. I can file a few of them, and before I know it, the stack is half its size.
The next time I sit down to sort the papers, I’ll reduce it by half again, either recycling or filing them. They won’t be as easy this time, but the stack will be smaller. Each organizing session will have fewer papers to deal with, and by the time I get to the papers that I’ve been avoiding, I’ll almost be done.
I keep my physical papers in an inexpensive plastic crate that I’ve used for more than a decade. Most of my papers are scanned and on the computer. I keep my computer next to me so that I can update my calendar, address book, and to do list with notes as I go through the papers.
What you’ll need: a recycle bin, a scanner, your computer or notebook, and files.
Start your timer, and see what kind of impact you can make in an hour. I spent an hour working on my paper stack, and I managed to get the stack down to half its size. It was originally seven inches, and I worked it down to three and a half by recycling and filing.
Bonus! I found $155 in cash and checks that I had forgotten I had.
This is not the end. There is still more work to do, but it’s enough for today.
If you want to read more about how I deal with papers, you’ll find all the ideas in the Real Solutions: Paper section of this blog. We’ll also be talking about it more in the coming weeks.