What are some wacky, perhaps even extreme ways to really get a handle on organizing paper clutter? Sure, a match is the quickest way to getting rid of it, but maybe not what you had in mind.
Get a PO box. Really. Most people grab their mail on the way in the house after work, skim it for “anything good”, slap it down on the counter, and then never want to look at it again. That’s how the piles grow to mountains. But if you have a PO box and check it only once or twice a month, then it’s a lot easier to get rid of the junk mail and trash all at once. No one ever said that just because the mail is delivered every day means you have to look at it every day.
Get on every do not mail list there is:
And here’s the one most people don’t know about. Contact each of the 3 credit bureaus (Equifax, Transunion, and Experian) and block your records. You can request that they NOT provide your information to general inquiries, which is where most of those credit card offers come from. Block data mining, and you won’t be included in every mailing done by the large credit sources who know your basic data, such as age, location, and income. (But you’ll still get the ones from your alma mater, sadly.) In order to reach each of the three credit reporting bureaus, start at http://AnnualCreditReport.com.
Stop filing by category. Most people file their household bills and records away by category, but that is HARD! You have to put things in order, then put them in individual file folders, usually 20 or 30 deep. And there’s no way to know when you should clean them out, so they get full, and pretty soon your file drawer breaks, so you don’t even want to try to file anymore. Instead, file receipts and paid bills by month, on a 24 month rolling basis. Bills and receipts (not including tax items and major purchases) get filed away in ONE folder each month. (Even year- January through Odd Year-December). You never even have to re-label them. You cut down on filing time. (Just paid your bills? Dump them all in the Odd Year- February file and walk away. 30 second filing.) And the system cleans itself out, because on the 25th month, you’ll dump the records from 2 years ago and fill that folder again. This one tip alone can save hours each month.
Does that sound too complicated? Fine. Narrow it down to JUST TWO boxes. Odd year. Even Year. Put the lid on the box for the year you aren’t in, and put it under the current year box (odd year for 2015). Keep the lid off the top box, and throw receipts and paid bills in the Odd year box for 2015. At the end of the year, put the lid on the top box (Odd year), switch it with the bottom box (now EVEN year for 2016), and start piling information into that box. You are still filing, and the only one you’re cheating is the clock.
Who cares that it’s not traditional? Stats show that 80% of what we put into a file cabinet never see the light of day ever again. Don’t spend time filing the 80% if you hate or don’t understand filing. Just pile it by year into Odd and Even categories/boxes, and dig through the box if you need something.
Where does all the paper end up? In the kitchen. It’s a hassle to move the paper, even if we have a home office, which some people don’t. Make record keeping easier by retrofitting an existing kitchen drawer with one of my favorite products, a fitted file frame. File right where you spend your time and where the paper lands anyway. If you don’t have a drawer you can retrofit, use an attractive file box, like this sea grass file box, right on your counter.
The biggest tip is to stop clutter before it starts. If you aren’t opening up your bank statements anyway because you look at them online, then contact your bank and have them stop the paper statements. It’s silly to receive, shuffle, file and store an unopened envelope that you never wanted anyway. (Not everyone should stop paper statements, by the way. Check with your tax advisor.)
This is, of course, just the physical part of dealing with paper clutter. When possible, get off of most paper, and move to apps like Evernote. Type, import, draw, record voice memos, and scan all types of data into this free app that has an extremely powerful search capability. Anyone with a smartphone or tablet should have this app loaded so you can break the sticky note addiction.