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Are You Overwhelmed by Paper?

If piles of paper are spilling onto the floor from every horizontal surface of your house, if you have boxes of paper stashed in the back of your closet and in your garage, you are not alone. However, it’s probably making you feel overwhelmed, anxious, and even depressed. Here’s what to do when your paper has gotten way out of control.

  1. Believe it can be organized.
    Sometimes, things are soooo bad, you may have given up all hope. There IS hope! Here’s a good quote from Albert Einstein: “Three Rules of Work: Out of clutter find simplicity; From discord find harmony; In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”
    Even though you probably wish it could all be done at once, the process of decluttering and establishing order will yield benefits that you can’t even imagine right now. No matter what, take heart.
  2. Start one box at a time.
    Papers have to be gone through an item at a time. Most of your paper will be discarded. There really are very few things you need to keep. Keep birth certificates, passports, 3-7 years’ worth of tax return documentation, and whatever you need for this year’s taxes. Also, keep records to show how much money you have invested in your home. Once a day, pull up your box of paper, sit down and start sorting and tossing. If you can’t go through a whole box, start with just 5 papers a day. Eventually, it will all be finished. If you are really stumped about whether you should keep something or not, have a box for papers you have questions about. Keep going. Be judicious about using that box, and try to make a decision about each paper right then. Even if you accidentally get rid of something you should have kept, it’s not the end of the world. For example, you can get another birth certificate.
  3. Develop a system for incoming paper.
    Whenever you receive the mail, immediately toss what you don’t need. Then put bills to pay and items which require action in a designated spot in your home. A drawer used only for these items is a good place. Once or twice a week, open the drawer and spend some time paying your bills, etc. If you pay most of them online, take care of your other paper during your “desk time”.

Whatever you don’t know about taming paper clutter, you can learn. There is no one right way of organizing paper, so don’t be discouraged if you have difficulty following one system. There’s another you will like better. Spend some time thinking about a system that will work for you.

The most important thing to remember, though, is that the less you have, the easier it is to organize it, and to find something when you are looking for it. Get rid of everything you can. It makes no sense to organize something you really don’t need anyway!