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Hi all, what do you do to keep paper clutter under control? I have 3 "inboxes" on the desk & they all seem to be full all the time. I just cleared one out so DH can put his papers there, as we share the desk. It was mostly catalogs & other stuff easily tossable, no big deal. But I know in a few weeks, my 2 inboxes will be brimming over again.

*Sigh* I guess I need to have a marathon filing session now.

Seriosly, what do you all do to cope?

Thanks,
492dea
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Sadly, my cape and boots (of paper-taming) are looking fairly scuffed.

What I've learned in the last year is that,

if the pile has too many sorts of things in it, the pile is wild.

So, I am keeping reading/to be filed/action items separate.

That helps a lot. I can enjoy the satisfaction of filing everything out of the flower pot (yes, my decor is wacky), without getting bogged down by reading the last fifteen pages of something else.

Being ruthless with the mail helps too: open everything, pick out the address panels of the junk mail for safe disposal (we use it to start fires), recycle the rest of the junk mail. I have hanging files for catalogs I use and rotate new catalogs in and old ones out.

I have a slot for bills (they usually arrive a couple of weeks before I pay them), so no matter how messy the piles are, I know where to find those that must be paid.

Any of those ideas make sense?

I think we do have to sort, deal with, and discard paper When I separated my filing, I found that I could work on it for six minutes and see accomplishment. That means I'm ready to do it every other day or so, instead of fretting about it every fortnight.

YeilB
who has not three inbaskets, but at one count, eight sets of files for what I think I want to do
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Seriosly, what do you all do to cope?

Stop putting things in the inbox.

I'm not being sarcastic-- the problem is that you put things in there and have no habit for dealing with them. Marathon filing sessions aren't the solution.

I'm guessing you don't always look at the mail, etc the second it comes in? So you probably need to have two spots.

One is for things you haven't seen yet. These should get opened and looked at practically everyday. Almost all of this stuff should get tossed -- the envelopes, the inserts, the catalogs, the ads, anything you don't have a home for or a need to respond to. Your filing system should fit you well enough that if some things in this pile don't need any action on your part but just need to be filed that you'll just file them as soon as you open the mail.

Then have a second in box for actions. This is where the bills to pay, letters to write, things you can't do in 15 seconds go.

I find if I hit the action pile every week things stay under control.

This is just one system, there are lots of other ones that work too. But the trick is you can't worship the paper. It's not a paper management system, it's a task management system. Paper is just how some tasks come into your house.

- Megan
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As always Megan has excellent advice.

I have a paper problem, too. What I do is I deal with the mail immediately. Catalogs go in a basket next to my chair. If I feel like flipping through them, I do. If not, they get recycled every Thursday. There isn't anywhere I shop that has a catalog and not a Web site.

Reminders/invitations get pinned on the bulletin board with the calendar.

Junk mail goes in the trash. I don't shred or recycle. I should do both but we throw out our cat litter with the trash and I figure that keeps most people away anyway!

Anything I need to keep goes into a folder (in a hanging folder holder I have on the kitchen counter) to be filed. Now I stink at actually DOING the filing but this system works well for me. The folder holder I have is small (maybe three inches in depth?) so I can't let it go on for toooooooo long. I file quarterly. In that period of time a lot of things I was saving to file become irrelevant and can be tossed out. That way I only need to file the really important stuff.

My biggest issue is that while I finally have filing cabinets (really just stacking plastic file drawers from Staples) they have a lot of old junk (like files from a house we moved from 4 summers ago) and I haven't made time to sort through them. Maybe this Fall/Winter.
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Doing a little filing each day is easier than marathon sessions. Before vacation I was slipping, which added to the amount of mail to process after vacation. Very little mail is actually worth filing.

Rather than an inbox:
1.) Unsorted box
I was stacking unsorted mail at my desk, but if my husband approached my desk the mail would fall. I still take a quick look at incoming mail. If anything requires immediate attention, it goes on the keyboard at my desk.
As you take an item out, deal with it. Either file, shred or trash. Before opening a letter, it is easy to predict if the contents are trash or file. The very small percentage that are wrong are the shock. I thought one letter was ads and it contained a $1,600 settlement check. I had sent the paperwork assuming we would probably get less than $10. I was wrong. Opening all mail is important.

2.) 2 Aging boxes which are swapped every two week, for ads catalogs and receipts that aren't worth filing. When the boxes are swapped, the contents of the previous box are tossed.

3.) A obvious location for those items which requires more extensive processing.

I am still struggling with past accumulations of paper, but at least incoming is under control.

Debra
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I also keep a small folder holder at the spot where I handle mail (which is not my desk) so I can file right away. What has helped immensely with this is:
1- keeping it RIGHT where I open the mail (not even down on the shelf nearby)
2- MASSIVELY reducing the number of possible folders to less than 10 choices (medical, rentals, tax related, car, short term - keep 1 year or less, long term and DD are what I ended up which + I just added DD school).
3-When it fills up I just grab all the files and stick them in the appropriate hanging file in my file cabinet and put new folders in my small folder box (no real re-filing time).

I keep date related items under the calender (which lies flat on the table).

I have a 3 drawer organizer also. The drawers are: supplies, bills and un-handled mail. I try to handle mail every day, the unhandled drawer is for when a couple days get away from me but the small size of the drawer limits how long I can go.

Lael
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I'm guessing you don't always look at the mail, etc the second it comes in? So you probably need to have two spots.

Megan, this is almost exactly what I do and it works like a CHARM.

Two of the smartest decisions I ever made for myself were to
a) always go through mail EVERY DAY and deal with it. For me, that is about 70% trashing things, 10% putting it in the "bill paying" slot, 10% in the "file me" spot, and 10% in the "other action" spot. I then deal with the bill pay, file me, and other action items when I sit down to pay bills on payday.
b) I decided that my bill paying schedule would match my payday schedule, not necessarily just what's printed on the bills. I built a routine that works with the pay schedule for DH and I and as long as nothing is paid late, I'm happy.
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Also, I have all of the routinely active folders in the top drawer of the filing cabinet. At the end of the year, I make room by moving previous years files into the lower draws. This way 99+% of the filing does not require opening a different drawer.

Debra
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if the pile has too many sorts of things in it, the pile is wild.

Paper tiger, indeed. Rawr!

I found that I could work on it for six minutes and see accomplishment.

OK...this is a good idea & got me thinking. Like Flylady says: hit a lick at a snake. I will have to re-arrange the filing to accommodate this, but moving my active files to the top of the 2-drawer filing cabinet instead of the banker's box under the desk might facilitate frequent-er filing.

It only makes sense, I know. But I hate this filing cabinet because the drawers don't pull out all the way & that makes filing things in the back more difficult. Which is why the banker's box was easier (at first). Will try to come up with a strategy to combat this.

Thanks, YeilB!

492dea
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I'm guessing you don't always look at the mail, etc the second it comes in?

Actually, I open the mail every day at my desk, where I have letter opener, trash, shredder, filing & bill folder. (And 3 inboxes!)

It's not a paper management system, it's a task management system. Paper is just how some tasks come into your house.


This is what I needed to hear. More pondering on how to make this work as a *task* management system to ensue!

Thanks, Megan!

492dea
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It only makes sense, I know. But I hate this filing cabinet because the drawers don't pull out all the way & that makes filing things in the back more difficult. Which is why the banker's box was easier (at first). Will try to come up with a strategy to combat this.

Buy a decent file cabinet. I went through through this. Throwing out the file cabinet was the best decision I ever made.

Debra
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There isn't anywhere I shop that has a catalog and not a Web site.

True for me as well...I trashed a bunch of catalogs last night clearing out a box for DH.

Reminders/invitations get pinned on the bulletin board with the calendar.

Oh, I also have a bulletin board next to the desk with a calendar on it, and I put invitations there, as well!

My biggest issue is that while I finally have filing cabinets ...they have a lot of old junk...and I haven't made time to sort through them.

I think I also need to "freshen" my filing system.

Thnaks for sharing, mrsDJB! Seems I do a lot of the same things you do, so I must be on the right track.

492dea
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i had to get rid of my bulletin board. it became a cross between wallpaper and a black hole.

i second the suggestion to get decent file cabinets. they completely changed my experience of being organized with papers. seriously.

bb
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1.) Opening all mail is important.

True dat. I've never almost-thrown-away that much, though!

2.) 2 Aging boxes which are swapped every two week, for ads catalogs and receipts that aren't worth filing. When the boxes are swapped, the contents of the previous box are tossed.

Can you explain about this a bit more? Are your aging boxes like inboxes? Do you unilaterally toss it after a month, or sort first?

3.) A obvious location for those items which requires more extensive processing.

Check! For bills, anyway.

Thanks for the tips, Debra!

492dea
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2- MASSIVELY reducing the number of possible folders to less than 10 choices

Hmmm, interesting. A couple years ago, I re-organized my filing system so that each folder goes under a major category (Insurance, Finances-me, Finances-DH, etc.) I only have about 6 of these major categories. Maybe I can adapt them to work with your idea somehow.

Thanks, Lael!

492dea
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I decided that my bill paying schedule would match my payday schedule, not necessarily just what's printed on the bills.

Hi Diana, I don't actually "pay" bills anymore; they mostly are on auto-debit or some such, depending on the bill. What I have is a calendar with the predicted debit dates for each bill & then just update the check book each day, cross-referencing the two to be sure nothing is amiss. But maybe I can take you payday idea & do some filing every payday.

492dea
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Buy a decent file cabinet. I went through through this. Throwing out the file cabinet was the best decision I ever made.

Hi Debra, I was at the point a few years ago that I wanted to get a good cabinet, but alas, the budget has not allowed it & there are always other priorities. Maybe soon.

Thanks,
492dea
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i had to get rid of my bulletin board. it became a cross between wallpaper and a black hole.

Hi, bb! Well, mine has the calendar, the birthday calendar, office vacation schedule & the a couple cartoons & things I like to look at. But there is still room for it to hold those invitations! I like the "clean" look & tend to file papers *in* something to achieve that...but obviously have too many containers & they are all just full.

i second the suggestion to get decent file cabinets. they completely changed my experience of being organized with papers. seriously.

That may be an option soon. We'll see.

Thanks,
492dea
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Can you explain about this a bit more? Are your aging boxes like inboxes? Do you unilaterally toss it after a month, or sort first?

Toss or shred. Only items which have a very limited life are put in the age box: Ads, catalogs, ATM receipts, grocery receipts,etc. All the miscellenous stuff that maybe needed within a couple of weeks, but do not have a long enough useful life to file.

Debra
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All the miscellenous stuff that maybe needed within a couple of weeks, but do not have a long enough useful life to file.

Ahhh, now I see. Thank you!

492dea
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A good filing cabinet wasn't in my budget either (because I have a furniture addiction!) so I got plastic filing drawers at Staples that stack. I think only on this board would you all "get it" that they are white outsides with red drawer fronts and this makes me happy and I find them less intimidating than big metal cabinets or even something nice in wood. (They come in many colors and you can even mix and match but I like the red.)

Also, every month when I change the calendar page (too cheap to actually BUY a calendar so I printed a free one off the 'net and I use that) I clear off the bulletin board of anything that is already on the calendar, is out of date, etc.

Confession: My bulletin board is in the shape of a black party dress and my pushpins are fake diamonds and high heeled shoes. I LOVE it!
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Also, every month when I change the calendar page (too cheap to actually BUY a calendar so I printed a free one off the 'net and I use that) I clear off the bulletin board of anything that is already on the calendar, is out of date, etc.

I don't buy calendars. Real estate agents and charities send them as advertising.

Debra
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My bulletin board is in the shape of a black party dress and my pushpins are fake diamonds and high heeled shoes. I LOVE it!

Hi mrsDJB: you sound like quite a vivacious lady:)

492dea
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Only items which have a very limited life are put in the age box: Ads, catalogs, ATM receipts, grocery receipts,etc. All the miscellenous stuff that maybe needed within a couple of weeks, but do not have a long enough useful life to file.


Hi Debra, thanks for spelling that out for me. Most of those things, I already have a place for & am able to handle. The less-routine items seem to be bogging me down. Stuff I want to keep for reference (or whatever), but am not filing routinely.

492dea
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I have not figured that out, either. And I think I have to deal with it, because eventually somebody will see what the spare bedroom actually looks like.

Right now I have barely managed to avoid complete chaos, by having one place for the bills.

I think I will weed out the catalogs. It might not help the condition of this desk but at least the living room will look better - & it seems like one of the tasks that I have enough mental energy to handle at the moment, after trying to deal with other computer weirdness.
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Hi Debra, I was at the point a few years ago that I wanted to get a good cabinet, but alas, the budget has not allowed it & there are always other priorities. Maybe soon.

I have bought a couple of nice USED filing cabinets. One of the office furniture stores sells them.

Vickifool
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