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The 20 Minute Solution to Organizing Household Paperwork

Aug 17, 2007
Household paperwork is a never-ending cycle. It sits in piles on tables, countertops and desktops. Some people have many months' worth of papers stacked on every flat surface available.

The types of paperwork that you have can come from many different sources. They can be bills, statements, personal mail, email printouts, magazines, leaflets, junk mail, and the list goes on. Important papers are lost because there is no organized system to contain them. You must have a system to get - and keep - all your papers organized.

Your system must be one where you can keep them accessible but not scattered everywhere in the house.

Your first task is to find a box, preferably a nice looking one, that will house ALL the paperwork that comes into your home - by whatever means. The box will be large enough to contain quite a bit of paperwork, but not so large that you'll be overwhelmed with its contents. A size about 12" square would be just about right.

This box, basket or tray will be the ONE place that every new piece of paper is put into before you sort, process or file it. It must be easy to get to so that you won't be tempted to just drop today's mail on a table somewhere.

Go into each room of your house and gather all of the loose papers, envelopes and magazines and put them into your box. DO NOT put junk mail or other pieces of paper into the box that you know that you will never need.

Now, you need to have a few tools to get the paperwork in order:

- a file box or filing cabinet
- a set of hanging folders
- a pad of 2x2 inch sticky notes
- a calendar
- a kitchen timer

1. Set your timer for 20 minutes. You may not be able to get every piece of paper taken care of in 20 minutes if you have been "saving them up" for a long time, but you will make a big dent in your pile!

2. Grab a stack of papers from your box and separate them into piles of like papers. All the bills will go in one pile, all reading material in another, receipts in another, and so on.

3. As you are sorting, throw away the no-brainer things like expired coupons but don't make any real decisions about what to do with any of the paperwork. You are only sorting here. Don't stop to read everything!

4. Now that your big pile is sorted into smaller piles, start putting each pile into a file folder. No, you're still not doing any in-depth decision making. Use a sticky note to label the file. Just write something quick that will help you remember what's inside. The categories might be warranties, recipts, recipes, travel, bills, to file, taxes, gifts, or...you get the idea.

5. Now, go through the papers in each folder more carefully and note down on your calendar anything that you need to work on, such as bills you need to pay or a doctor's appointment you may need to keep.

Many of the papers in the "temporary" files that you have created will be put into more permanent files once you have dealt with them. The rest will simply be thrown away because there's no need to keep them permanently. You will have to use your own judgement and your own situtation to know which to keep.

Has your timer gone off yet? If so, leave the papers in your "in" box until tomorrow for your next 20 minute session. All done? Then, congratulations! You will soon have all the paperwork in your house organized if you remember to put all new papers into your box and schedule a time for those items to be dealt with.
About the Author
Visit CleanAndOrganized.com for more ideas on organizing and cleaning your home.
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