Digging Out of Paper Clutter - Part 2

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Digging Out of Paper Clutter - Part 2

By: Marc Rifkin

We previously noted that papers must be sorted before they can be properly filed. Continuing from our last article, your sort has left you with two piles - 'to file' and 'to throw away/recycle.' You've tossed the garbage/recycling, so now you have a stack of papers to file. Let's finish the sort, and create a basic filing system. Keep in mind three things:

A filing system has one main purpose: to allow you to find & retrieve your information quickly and accurately. Your files are a lot like a library. When you go into a library, you want to be able to go right to the shelf and find the book you want. Imagine if the library had no filing system, and put books on the shelves randomly. How long do you think it would take you to get frustrated and give up the search? My guess is that you'd probably never go back to the library.

Your files are the library of your life. You may not need your paperwork often, but when you do need it, you want to be able to find it fast. It's about predictability. Surprises are great on birthdays. With paperwork, you want predictability and speed. And finding papers fast means having them in the right place.

To create your filing system, follow these steps:

1. Broad Sort - Sort your papers into broad categories, such as 'Insurance,' 'Utilities,' 'Investments,' 'Hobbies' and 'Travel' (Your categories will depend on the type of papers you need to file.) Get a bunch of supermarket bags, and label each using your categories. Grab a handful of papers from the stack, and drop each paper in the appropriate bag. Again, don't look for dates, amounts or other details - you're separating things into big categories, such as credit cards, banking, taxes, etc. As you go through the papers, remove any item that involves an action, and set it aside, in a separate bag labeled 'Action.' Action papers are easy to pick out. They require you to do something by a certain date, and include bills, parking tickets, RSVPs, and forms, applications, etc. that have a deadline. When you're done sorting, you'll have a bag of banking stuff, a bag of auto stuff, a bag of credit card stuff, etc. Keep in mind that categories will vary from person to person.

2. Specific Sort - Next, sort the contents of each bag into more specific categories. For example, 'Utilities' might be sorted into 'Water,' 'Gas,' 'Electric' and 'Cable. 'Banking' could be separated by account #, or by 'Savings,' 'Checking' and 'Car Loan.' (Don't bother with the 'Acton' pile. We'll get to that soon.) Again, your particular headings will depend on the types of papers that you have. But the principal is the same. Each of these subdivided piles will eventually get its own file folder.

3. File - Now that the sort is complete, it's time to set up a filing system. Let's keep it simple. Bills, statements, and similar records will be filed chronologically, with the most recent bill in front. For example, take your Visa statements and arrange them by statement date, from oldest to most current. Get an empty folder, label it Visa, and put the statements inside. Do the same for each utility, bank account, and other pile from step 2. Major purchases will each get a separate file. So, if you buy a new washing machine, create a washing machine file. Put your receipt, warranty, manual, and other info related to that washing machine inside. If the appliance requires repairs, put those receipts in the folder too. Non-dated items, such as instruction manuals and articles will also go into appropriately labeled files.

4. Action Files - Remember the papers from step 1, which require your action? Let's sort them into two piles, and assign each pile to its own file. The first group will include items, such as bills that must be handled this week. Some people like to call this a 'tickler file'. I suggest writing each task on a to-do list, as you put the paperwork in the file. Put all items that must be handled within a month, but not necessarily this week in the second pile. Put these items in a file labeled '30 Day Action'. The idea is to review your 30-Day file regularly, and transfer items into the tickler file, as you reach the one-week deadline date.

About The Author

Marc Rifkin is a Professional Organizer, and owner of OASIS professional organizers, which provides organizing solutions for homes and offices in Seattle, WA.




iHEARThistory 29.07.2011. 19:20

Is this good suspense for my story? Part 2? ?Alright,? I croaked. Little Miss Spit Fire, that?s what she was. Now, where did Father keep his lighter? ?Let me check in his study,? I said. When we moved in, I remembered that he carried his lighter into his study. It was silver with an American flag painted onto it in bright colors.

I paused in front of the mahogany doors of his study and took a deep breath. I really wasn?t allowed in here. But, it was just to get a lighter, nothing more. I?d light Megumi?s cigarette, put the lighter back, and turn a blind eye to her smoking. I strongly suspected her father disapproved of young ladies smoking and drinking, or for that matter, any woman smoking or drinking.

The door was pushed open by me, and I walked inside, sniffing the air. It smelled faintly of vanilla. It was a comforting scent, as it reminded me of Father, and he snoked a pipe with vanilla. Bookshelves lined the walls, and a globe rested soundly in the corner of the room. The window was open, letting the air inside. The moon, now high in the sky, shone through, illuminating the floor.

I searched his desk. It was cluttered with documents of all sorts. I hardly read them, as they seemed so boring. Then I heard a faint crunch. I looked underfoot: a crinkled piece piece of notebook paper. On it was scrawled hastily The Horrible Princess: A Holiday Story for Children at Heart. Various letters were underlined, but I didn?t bother to read them. I knew the story already.

A children?s story...is Father seeing another woman? I wondered. I remembered the story from long ago...such a distant memory. When I was little, he would read it to me before bed. It was an adorable story: a mean spirited princess learns the spirit of loving and caring in time for Christmas. Along the way, she met various talking creatures who taught her how to love.

I placed the paper down gingerly on the floor and turned my attention back to the desk. A glint in the moonlight caught my eye. Buried under the mass of papers was the lighter. I dug it out and nestled it firmly in the palm of my hand. The box was cold and smooth, matching my mood. The smooth part anyway. I felt so serene, standing in the moonlight.

I went back out into the brightly lit parlor where yellow lamplight swamped my vision and waved the lighter. Megumi looked up excitedly from the dining table and rolled out her cigarette.

?What took you so long?? she asked as I pulled out a chair. I held out the lighter in my hand and fiddled with the top, trying to get a flame. Megumi looked mildly exasperated and took it.

?Here, like this.? She swiftly flicked the top and a flame sprang forth. I took it back from her, keeping my finger down where hers formerly was, and lit the cigarette. Long gray strand of smoke snaked out, and Megumi breathed out deeply. ?There, that?s more like it...? She seemed to sag in her chair and closed her eyes. My missionm completed, it was now time to put the lighter back in its proper place.

I went back into Fathers study and placed the lighter under the mound of papers on his desk. Then I looked to the upper right corner of his desk, where his ink well was. Or was supposed to be.

That was strange. Wasn?t his inkwell always on his desk? I distinctly remembered it being on the upper right corner of the table.

I searched the desk, until my eyes landed on the upper left corner. The silver jug sat innocuously, a black pen snidely leaning out of it. Look, it seemed to say. I was here the whole time. Now don?t bother me or think up some ridiculous idea.

?I won?t,? I heard myself say. Shit, I just murmured to myself. I really needed to stop that, before I went crazy and got sent to the asylum. At Miss. Dupont?s, this one girl, Gloria I think, got sent to the asylum. She had this problem where she never ate, and threw up her food. Maybe she thought of herself as fat. From what I remembered, she wasn?t. She was movie star glamorous, with bright red lips that didn?t need lip stick. I envied her.

My eyes lowered to the floor. I remembered that the princess story had strange underlinings on the paper. Maybe I?d take a look at it again. The floor was messy as usual, and I picked up each piece of paper, searching its contents. But nothing was there.

Nothing was there.

The inkwell, the princess story. Had someone been in here?

I walked slowly to the window and peered down below. Nothing was touched. The curtain gently swished back and forth, as it had before.

Shaken, I walked back to the parlor. Something seemed amiss. If Father noticed anything was out of place, he would be beyond furious.

And I would be the brunt of the blame.
Only 2 answers, and I've already been given good suggestions. Thank you. Keep answering away!


Admin 29.07.2011. 19:20

it is a great piece of writing with wonderful vocabulary that makes it flow very well, but its hardly suspense. Its only an inkwell!. For more suspense maybe she could feel a breeze on her neck and realise the window is open, and it wasn't open before. Then she could realise several things are missing, and there is a rustle of bushes from outside. That would be suspense!


swelwynemma 19.10.2007. 18:32

When I have to tidy my room, how should I go about it? Be as detailed as possible - this is a serious question I THINK it's supposed to be

1. Clear the floor (where to put the things?)
2. Put the things on the floor away (in what order?)
3. Hoover the floor

I always start clockwise from the door, working on 1/8th of the room at a time... Even when I do it, tohugh, it never seems quite right with me....
Should I pile all items of each type together and put them away onre pile at a time?


Admin 19.10.2007. 18:32

If the room is really out of control with just too much goodies use the four box system ....put away... throw away.... and give away and papers. You already have part of the system right ...start in one corner cleaning as you sort out anything that no longer belongs in that spot...deciding which box to put it into.

Moving around the room continue to clean all the surfaces and sort until you have found a home for everything you put into put away box. ...and the room is clean.

Empty the throw away box into a trash bag and get it out of the house.

Wash and replace everything in the give away box and decide who to give the box of items to...tape the box shut and label it for that charity or individual. Take it THERE!

Then sort out the paper box and the magazines. Dont give into paper clutter. Toss out every thing that is not needed. We dont dig out most of those papers often enough to justify the clutter they make.

Sort windowsills, bookcases and wall shelves and clean the mirrors as you go but do not try to sort closets and drawers or storage containers in the same day as you clean the room. I make the bed just before I sweep and damp mop. I like waxed floors so I often use a mop and glow type product on the floor. I also like shiny surfaces on my wood items and will use a scratch cover and/or good spray wax on them. I keep the shades open when its sunny so I get that bright clean "House Beautiful" look when I glance back into the room. I wash the bedroom curtains and the window glass on a different day than I clean the room. And I trade off bedding colors with the seasons.

About finding a home for each item.. it should live where it is used. and have its own space to remain in and be put back into quickly when you are done with it. Having a home for it in mind before you buy it helps. If buying it means something else has to go know that before you buy it.


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