If you’re anything like me, you might have a knack for accumulating ridiculous amounts of unorganized loose paper clutter. Papers from work, papers in the mail, papers to file, papers to shred, papers to scan, papers to pay (oh them bills…). Paper mostly sucks.
I used to have a bad habit of amassing embarrassingly large piles of paper. I would ignore them until I became certain that if I didn’t sift through them that I would miss paying a bill on time, RSVP late for an invitation, or forget to register for important things (like to vote or to update health benefits packages… permission to judge = granted). Needless to say, while many of us do our best to “go digital,” a lot of important stuff still comes via paper and if you miss it you could wreck yourself and lose money in the process.
SYSTEM CREATION TIME!
About a year ago, I purchased and read Unstuff Your Life by Andrew J. Mellen. This book was an organizational game-changer for me – highly recommend. In one of the chapters, Andrew discusses mail organization and I have been slowly but surely dominating my paper problems ever since. If you’re curious, check out the below tips for mail and paper control, a few from Andrew, a few from me, all for you:
CREATE A MAIL STATION
Sort of annoying but SO affective – seriously invest in a mail organizational system. Low on space? So am I. Check out these ideas on pinterest for different ways to accomplish this.
Immediately shred any credit card offers that you have no interest in applying for, I don’t even bother opening those envelopes half of the time ’cause #aintnobodygottimeforthat
Separate out the obvious junk mail (catalogs you don’t want to look at, coupons you don’t need, mailers, flyers, etc.) and recycle
SET A WEEKLY MAIL DATE
Sounds strange but this tip is a game changer – pick one day a week and set a recurring event on your calendar dedicated to sorting the mail and handling any action items you accumulated that week
Pick a day that you likely won’t be traveling or out of town (sorry weekends, you’re out) at a time when you won’t be too distracted
Open and recycle the envelopes each bill came in, including return envelopes if you pay electronically and place the actual bills into a pile to be paid either by mail or online when you’re finished sorting
Invitations or Events
Open and recycle the envelopes these come in UNLESS you need the return addresses, in which case hang on to those suckers and input into your address book after you’re finished sorting
Keep any RSVP cards and envelopes, doctor appointment reminders, and event location information and place all of these in another pile to be entered into your calendar when you’re finished sorting
Be honest with yourself. Do you REALLY read all of the magazines you subscribe to? If you have a backlog of more than 3 issues it’s probably time to call it quits. Suspend and save my friend!
Otherwise, put magazines in their little magazine rack home to read later
Cards and letters from friends and family members
I’m just gonna say it – you’re not a bad person for throwing away birthday cards. I only save cards and letters that had a lot of thought put into them (handmade, really nicely written, etc.) and recycle the rest. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate those hallmark cards with just a “love, whoever” written on the bottom, but I am simply not attached enough to justify holding on to them. I’m pretty sure that the givers of those cards won’t be offended.
Once you have sorted, recycled, and handled your action items, file them away
File anything that you might need or want to refer to – i.e. receipts from major purchases or tax write-offs, important reference documents, or sentimental items with significant meaning