Papers, Papers, Everywhere – But Not the One I Need!

papersFamilies are bombarded with papers and mail every day. It never really stops and at this time of the year, there is also the added burden of finding the papers necessary to prepare the taxes. So, how do you keep up with the papers, handle them and find the important ones when you need them? This newsletter offers several solutions based on your paper personality. Which of the three paper personalities are you?

The “pilers” are the ones that make piles of this and that but leave them in the busy zones of the home and so they get relocated and re-piled over and over. The kitchen table and counter are two of the most popular landing zones for the mail and incoming school papers. Problem is when the table or counter is needed the pile is moved to another spot, or several piles are combined. With this method, all the papers need to be looked at to find the one you need. Are you a “piler?”

The “collectors” have a spot for papers and put all papers whether important or unimportant in that place. It may be a desk, small table or the corner of a counter, but all papers are dropped there. To find a specific paper they need to go through the entire pile – but at least all the papers are in one place. Are you a “collector?”

The “filers” separate their papers and put them in different places depending on their function. Bills go in one place, action items in another, magazines in another etc. Based on what they are looking for they know where to look. The problem with this system is that although the papers are in their “spot” there is no designated time to take care of the papers, bills, or action items.

Whether you pile, collect or file your papers, you need to ask yourself if it is working for you. Can you find what you need quickly and easily? Do the action items get handled in a timely manner or do some things fall through the cracks? If you answered “no” to either question, keep reading to find three solutions to get those papers under control.

desktop-fileA Desktop File can serve as a command center and is easily adapted to suit individual needs. It is easy to carry, keeps all papers contained and has hanging file folders labeled to fit your family’s needs. Some typical file categories are: bills, action or to do, to file, project title, tax info, and/or family member names. For example, when the mail comes in, it is sorted into the bills and action folders. What is left is usually to read or junk mail. With folders for each family member you can keep important information handy. Sports schedules, class lists, current sizes, the information on the upcoming field trip, whatever you need to be able to access for your child, spouse or self all contained in one place.

A Family Notebook is a three ring binder outfitted with plastic dividers with pockets and page protector pockets designed for your family’s needs. Use the dividers to categorize things such as family members, dining, town information, sports schedules, etc. Put your favorite take out menus in page protectors, put your child’s sports practice schedule in a page protector, put that upcoming field trip information in the front pocket of the divider with your child’s name on it so it is easily accessible. This works well for school and town information and those sheets of information you have to hold onto for a season or a school year. This won’t handle all your papers though so I suggest using “in” boxes or bins for each family member and two extras bins; one for bills and one for the rest of the mail. In case you can’t sort through all the mail or incoming paper at that moment, place it all in one “in” box and it will stay contained until you have the time to deal with it.

There are also various types of Mail sorters that can be used for papers. Find one you like with enough slots or dividers for what you need. Label the dividers so that anyone can sort the mail into the right category. The main thing is to separate the bills and action items from the rest of the mail. Each family member can also have a slot for their important papers.

Remember to go through each of these systems weekly to pay the bills and handle the action items. Then there is the question of what to do with your child’s papers. Check out my blog for tips on handling the three types of papers your child brings home.

New Year Organizing Plan: Week 1

Week 1:

Are you ready for lesson one of our organizing plan for 2009? What arrives 6 days a week no matter the weather. Sometimes it is only a small amount and other times it is a pile but each day it continues to grow. If left unattended it can cost you time, money and really add stress to your life. Know what it is?  That’s right it is the mail.

Leaving the mail in the mailbox until you have time to deal with it is NOT an option. Rule #1: You must deal with it EVERY day.  Now that doesn’t mean that you have to handle each bill or invitation on the day it arrives, but it does mean that you have to separate the bills and invitations from the junk mail each day. So by following the next five steps you will be able to separate the important from the unimportant quickly and easily.

Step 1: Toss/shred/recycle anything that you know you do not need.

Step 2: Separate reading materials (including catalogs you want to browse)

Step 3: Separate bills and keep them together in one folder (To Pay)

Step 4: File anything you really need to keep (automobile title, insurance policies, etc.) or put into a TO FILE folder.

Step 5: Put what’s left into an ACTION folder.


There are several storage ideas you can use to house your mail. Vertical hanging pockets, desktop files or literature sorters work to separate and contain the mail until you can deal with it.



The second part is to now deal with the important stuff.                                

Rule #2: Deal with the ACTION items and BILLS weekly. Set aside 20 -30 minutes a week to handle the action items you have set aside and to pay the bills that have come in. I suggest weekly payment of the bills unless you already have a plan that insures all bills are paid on time. This is the time to make that call, reply to that invitation, or send that email, whatever it takes to handle all the items in the ACTION folder. Be sure to mark all important dates on your calendar. Clear out this folder each week and you will never again forget to RSVP, pay a late charge on a bill or have to apologize to your child because you lost their permission slip to the museum.

Here is your assignment: Decide how you want to contain your mail and set it up. Whether you use labeled hanging folders in a desktop file or pockets hung on the wall, or a literature sorter, find something that will work for you. Sort the mail each day as it comes in. Pick one day that you will deal with the ACTION items.

Let me know how you do.


For those readers in the Norwell, Massachusetts area or areas south of Boston you can learn how to Tackle and Tame Your Mountain of Paper by attending our free workshop.


Tackle and Tame Your Mountain of Paper

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Norwell Middle School Community Room

328 Main Street

Norwell, MA 02061

Call or email to register

(781) 659-0513