52 Weeks of Organizing – Week 5 – Dealing with Paperwork as it arrives … and the piles!

We are moving into Week 5 of the organizing challenge and into the home office realm!  However, you may or may not have a home office!  If you do have a home office, then come right along!  If you do not have a home office, then you probably still have the issues that are addressed, but perhaps not a designated room to deal with them.  Either way, it is a good time to address all of these organizing areas!

Welcome to the 52 Weeks of Organizing Challenge!  This is Week 5 in the series!  Please note that these weeks are not built on one another and you can start at any time!  It’s never too early or too late to begin organizing!

Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork!  It seems that no matter how many digital systems we put in place, there is still paperwork to deal with.  The good news is that there are generally very clear cut categories that paperwork falls into these days and we can eliminate a lot of it if we deal with it as soon as it comes in the door.

So, the first thing that we need to do is to establish a system for dealing with things as they come into your house from this day forward.  This step does not involve going through papers that are already in your house, so please don’t get overwhelmed by them yet!

Establish a central location to sort incoming papers/mail/school work/receipts … all things paper that come in your house … You need at least a recycle bin here, maybe a shredder, maybe a trash can.  You will also need a system for sorting, there are lots of fun ideas on the BHG website.  My suggestion is to have a box/bin/bucket, what ever you decide, for each person in your house, one for bills/important items that need action, and one for filing/record keeping.  If things need to be pitched they go straight away into the trash/shredder/recycling.  Each person needs to empty their bin at least weekly.   You may need to add an urgent bin if there are lots of things that you get that need to be dealt with more frequently than weekly.  If you have your own business, you may want to add a bin specifically for your business as well.

You will also need an area for outgoing mail tools.  This could be another box/bin/bucket to match the incoming mail station, or a drawer etc.  This area needs to be stocked with pens/envelopes/stamps/address book etc.  All items that you need for sending out bills and correspondence.  I also like to keep a stash of cards here, a minimum of one sympathy/blank/adult birthday/child birthday/congratulations … all of these fairly generic for age/gender.  I usually buy a set from either my own child, or someone else’s child when they are making the rounds with the gift wrap fundraiser sales … You may also be able to find a variety pack of cards at your local gift store or card store.

Put this station to use from this day forward … next we will start dealing with the back log!  We will be setting up filing next week!

This may be the least favorite organizing chore for everyone and all organizing clients I have had.  Paperwork … and don’t worry … I am no exception.  However, at least some paperwork is necessary in my life, especially since I am a homeowner, business owner, file taxes, have children … there are just some papers that are important and necessary.  This week, we will ONLY be establishing the system above, and doing the first initial sort of paperwork.  It is not my intention to overwhelm you will a huge organizing task at one time, so we will be dividing up paperwork over a few weeks.

Sort it all, and sort it fast … NO READING ALLOWED!

The first initial sort is to rid your paperwork stack of things you just don’t need … Please do not get sidetracked by the beautiful new magazine that came in the mail 3 weeks ago that you haven’t read yet … When you get finished, then you can reward yourself with the new magazine, but only if you promise to put it in the recycling bin when you are finished!

We are going to do our initial sort into these 7 piles, I have included a short example of what needs to go into each pile.

Recycling – All junk mail, magazines (that you don’t intend to read), old correspondence,

Trash (hopefully you have recycling for magazines, newspaper, paper in your area, please mark things as trash sparingly!) – Things that go in my trash pile include waxy papers, plastics, etc.

Shred – Any item that contains personal information or account numbers that you do not need for record keeping

Urgent – Bills or any item that needs action within the next week

Taxes – Tax related statements, W2s, receipts etc

File – Items you need for record keeping, sentimental school works, manuals, receipts for large items

Action (non-urgent) – Items that need action in 2 plus weeks.


Spend less than 10 seconds looking at each paper item and make a decision on what pile it needs to go into.  You can create additional piles as needed, but do not focus on sorting subsections of each category above.

Discard all Recycling, Trash, and Shred items appropriately.

Complete all items in the Urgent Pile

Store away your remaining piles until next week, or keep them in a location where they won’t be disturbed.

That’s it for this week, and I hope you are not feeling too overwhelmed!  If at any point you do become overwhelmed take a break!  Go outside and take a walk, play with your kids, walk away until you are feeling not overwhelmed … Or push through until it is finished!  You got this!



ShareShare on FacebookPin on PinterestTweet about this on Twitter