If there’s one thing that tends to pile up around my house, it’s paper. The kids bring home permission slips and drawings and math review sheets, the mailman keeps bringing bills and ads, and we get handed everything from church bulletins to flyers advertising free kitten and puppy vaccines to business cards of landscapers (we live in Florida, so this is year-round!) on our daily excursions. Most of us have “hot spots,” which are areas that tend to accumulate clutter around the house, and in my house, it’s the kitchen table: It seats eight, but there are only four of us, so a pile of papers at one end doesn’t impact our family dinners.
Since many of us have made getting organized the new year’s resolution, and we’ve already talked about organizing the schedule, it’s time to get those paper piles under control! Here are some tips on keeping paperwork organized:
- Know what’s important to keep. Any tax forms need to be filed right away; don’t even think about leaving them in your “paper pile” for any length of time. If you own a business and save receipts, again, take care of them immediately. Bank statements, if you get them in paper version, also should be checked and filed right away.
- Arrange for electronic billing for everything if possible. The amount of paper coming into our home has been drastically reduced since signing up for electronic billing and automatic deductions from our checking account. I usually only write three or four checks per month, really just for the kids’ activities that don’t take debit cards. Instead of getting your electric, phone, car insurance or health insurance bills via mail, see if they will send you an email instead.
- Deal with mail as soon as it comes in. When you do get bills, either pay them immediately or schedule the payment. If you are doing this electronically, all you need to do is set it up with your bank to release the funds on the date that you specify. If you are going to write a check, then write it out, put it in an envelope, and write the date to mail it on the envelope where the stamp goes. Keep the envelopes in order, and when it’s time to mail one, stick on the stamp (covering the date) and stick it in the mailbox. Throw junk mail into the trash or recycling bin right away; don’t even open it. If you receive a letter and need to write back, record the return address in your address book (paper or electronic!) and toss the envelope.
- Teach your children to go through their backpacks as soon as they get home. If you need to sign a permission slip, do it right away. Don’t save every paper they bring home; compile them in a folder, and each week or every couple of weeks, go through and only keep the best ones. It can be hard to throw away children’s schoolwork, but you can’t realistically save everything. Send some of their artwork and their best spelling tests to their grandparents; they’ll put them on the fridge for a week and will throw them away themselves!
If you can get your paper under control, you won’t have to squash down a sense of dread every time you go to your desk to pay bills, and if you’re like me, you won’t have a pile of mail and various paper clutter on your dining table!
Do you have any great tips for getting the paperwork monster tamed?