If you followed my directions last week, you should now have three bags of paper before you: the “file” bag; the “recycle” bag; and the “shred” bag.
And you should have some clear spaces in your office, because you picked up every little scrap of paper you could find and sorted it. If, by chance, more paper has accumulated since you started collecting it, put it in a bag, too.
1) Empty the contents of the recycling bag into your recycling bin. Fold up the paper bag and put it away (out out darn clutter!).
2) Sit down with your shredder, shred up all the paper in the Shred bag and immediately dump it in your recycle bin. Fold up the paper bag and put it away.
3) Fueled by the delight of having a) some clear surfaces in your office (and/or home) and b) just one bag left in front of you, start going through the file bag. And here’s the most important part: Find a Home for Every Piece of Paper in the Bag.
Let me say that again: Find a Home for Every Piece of Paper in the Bag.
If you don’t — if you start making little piles of “I think I’ll read this this afternoon” or “I still don’t have a place for personal notes?” or “I’ll keep this production schedule out so I can refer back to it,” you’re going to end up with clutter again. Believe me — been there, done that, time after time.
So take an hour to do this right. Take two hours, if need be. Just make sure that every piece of paper finds a home.
(I actually found more paper that I could get rid of while going through this process, if that cheers you any.)
Next up: Keeping the piles down for good.