There's no doubt, we're all inundated with paper on a
daily basis. Even if you use technology such as your
computer or a PDA (personal digital assistant) to help
reduce it, you're still living in a world that is paper-
Just between the mailman bringing mail to your door,
paperwork brought home from school and work, contractor
agreements, medical forms and so on, paper piles around
the world continue to grow.
Here are five ideas to help you halt the paper pile-up in
1) Corral the paper clutter.
The problem often starts small. Jack brings the mail in
the door and leaves it on the coffee table. Jill puts the
insurance forms she has to fill out for work on the
kitchen table. Jane comes home from school and drops her
permission slips on the home office desk. Jeff flings his
college applications on the living room coffee table. In
just a few days, paper piles are forming all over the
Contain this problem by designating one place where all
paper is handled. Have a wire basket for each family
member in one room. When a paper can't be read or
attended to immediately, at least it can be placed in an
assigned wire basket for a day or two, where it's not
going to be lost.
2) Handle paper daily.
Handle your papers within a day or two, and you'll be
able to keep them under control. Wait a week or more, and
you'll be drowning in a flood of paper!
Go through your mail on a daily basis, immediately
recycling anything you don't need, and putting all
important papers into their designated homes (e.g.
pending bills in the bill paying binder, bank statements
in your filing system, etc.)
Go through your in box once per day, and empty it out
each night before you leave the office.
Read at least one item in your To Read file each day to
keep it under control. Then, immediately file, or
recycle, those papers.
Don't let your To File papers pile up. If you have a
sheet of paper to file, file it in your file cabinet
right away. Don't first put it in a To File tray, and
then file it later after lots of papers begin to grow. It
will only take a second to file one or two sheets of
paper now, but if you allow it to grow, it's going to
require quite a bit of time. That's one of the main
reasons people hate to file. They allow it to pile up
until it's out of control.
3) Don't print everything.
You would think because more people have computers these
days, that the paper clutter has been reduced. No chance
of that. It has immensely multiplied!
One of the reasons for that is that people are printing
things that don't have to be printed.
One person I know was complaining he didn't have enough
room in his filing cabinet for his important papers. I
then found out he was printing every single e-mail he
received. When I asked him why, he said that he might
want to reference one of those e-mails someday.
Let's put this in perspective. He gets around 20 e-mails
each day, prints each of them and puts them in his filing
Twenty e-mails times 365 days per year equals a minimum
of 7,300 sheets of paper annually. That's almost 15 reams
of paper in his filing cabinet. No wonder he has no room
for his important papers!
Upon further exploration, I found out that he hasn't
referenced even one of those e-mails in months. When I
looked at the types of e-mail, it was over 70 percent
jokes and funny stories that friends had sent him over
Wow. Let me assure you that 95 percent of the e-mail most
people read on a daily basis can be immediately responded
to and deleted. The rest of it can be temporarily stored
in e-mail folders until you're ready to handle it.
As a rule of thumb, don't print out your e-mail. I print
less than 1 percent of the e-mail I receive on a daily
basis--only very important documents that would be
detrimental to lose in case of a computer crash.
4) Eliminate scraps of paper.
Use one binder system, such as the Get Organized Now!
Easy Organizer, to hold all of the information you must
keep on hand, such as phone numbers, birthdays, To Do
lists, cleaning schedules, grocery lists, meal planning
logs, and so on.
This will eliminate lots of sticky notes, and loose
sheets of paper floating around--which tend to get lost.
Plus, you'll save time as you won't have to search for
your important information when you need it. It will be
all organized together in one place.
5) Be careful about what you're filing.
Eighty percent of papers most people file, NEVER get
looked at again, but most people are not satisfied with
the amount of space they have in their filing cabinets.
Ally from New York filed everything from travel brochures
to recipes to decorating ideas. But, once those items were
filed, she never referenced any of them. What did she end
up with? A filing cabinet full of stuff just taking up
First, before you file anything, be sure it's truly
necessary to keep. In a nutshell, you only want to file
a) you need to keep for legal or financial reasons and
b) you are very likely to reference in the near future,
that you won't be able to easily access somewhere else,
such as the Internet
For example, travel brochures tend to get outdated very
quickly. If you're not planning on traveling somewhere
within the next few months, don't get the travel
brochures until the last minute. This way, the prices and
other information will be current. You could always use
the Internet in addition, and skip the paper brochure
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