Having experienced a little mental breakdown over the lost dog record, I’ve decided I need to upgrade my paper processing systems. Because the truth is, despite my weekly filing sessions, I’m drowning in paper over here.
Or maybe I should say, “because of my weekly filing sessions,” as this system is clearly not adequate to the task.
So I dug around a bit and gave myself a mini tutorial on managing paper. And now I’m going to share it with you:
1) To start, put aside some uninterrupted time (like two hours) and take all the paper piles in your house/office and put them in one place. This is a scary thing to do, because it means you really do have to sort things out ASAP or they’ll be lost in a towering pile, but call it tough love. For yourself.
2) Put out three paper bags. One will be marked “Recycle” (because I know you’re all ardent recyclers). One will be marked “File.” And one will be marked “Shred” (or “Burn” if you’re a dramatic type.)
3) Go through every piece of paper in your file, putting what you don’t need (but isn’t confidential) in the recycling bag, what you do need but need to re-home in the filing bag, and what you don’t need, but need to destroy in the shredding bag.
4) Do NOT, under any circumstances, start creating sub-piles of, say, “I’ll decide later” or “Ooh, I better put that aside so I can read it…someday.” You have two piles and only two piles.
5) Be honest with some of the pieces of paper — are you really going to read that article? If you are, rip it out of the magazine and throw the rest away. Are you really going to use that 2-for-1 coupon for burritos that expires, um, tomorrow? If not, chuck it now. Are you sure you need EVERY scrap of paper your kid brings home from school? (This is a hard one for me — I love keeping records of my kids’ burgeoning intellectual abilities, but I’ve learned to keep only what’s really creative or cute, not every math worksheet.)
6) Tune in tomorrow for further clutter-management instructions.