When you think about the areas of your home that easily become chaotic, is there really anything that can compare to the mind-numbing drag of paper clutter? Many times it seems like the office just becomes a place to stack your random bills, receipts, work related papers, and notes to self. The office loses its functionality when we allow it to be swallowed up by needless piles on every surface, and it slows our workflow tremendously.
Today we’ll be sharing some of our favorite tips for keeping that office looking professional and tidy. Having a system already in place for everything will help you stay on top of the mess instead of drowning in it.
Try to minimize the amount of paper entering your home
The most obvious thing you can do to prevent paper clutter, of course, is to minimize the amount that comes through your door.
- Unsubscribe from any magazines you no longer read.
- Switch as many of your expenses as possible to paperless billing.
These two steps will have a huge impact on your paper chaos. It’s better for the environment as well. Win-win all around. However, paperless billing doesn’t eliminate all the random fliers, advertisements and other junk mail that gets delivered to our homes almost daily.
On top of mail, we frequently carry needless papers home from work, school, the store, and other places we’ve been that day. Consider putting a little trash or recycling basket somewhere close to your front door. Don’t just carry your piles of paper in and plop them down somewhere to be forgotten. Instead, create a habit of sorting the papers you are bringing in immediately when you walk through the door. This will break your paper organizing into more manageable chunks and help you stay on top of the important stuff.
Deal with paper clutter every day
Paper clutter can accumulate in a matter of days. And getting back on top of it is something most people really tend to drag their feet on. Dealing with paperwork, receipts, and other paper clutter every single day will only take a few minutes most of the time. However, this small commitment will have a huge impact on how well you keep your office space organized.
Sort the paperwork you already have
Once you’ve thought about how to moderate the amount coming in, it’s time to tackle the paperwork you already have. The best way to do this is to start making piles. Grab a stack of paper and sort into one of four piles: shred, scan, recycle, keep and organize. Your shredding pile is for documents with personal information on them. Medical bills, bank statements or anything else that has your phone number, address, social security number, etc. If you no longer need it, shred it!
We often find ourselves hanging onto important paperwork just because “we might need it”. Frequently those situations never come up and we’re left wondering if we should have just tossed them a long time ago. This can be true for invoices, memos, and other documents. We recommend scanning these and shredding the physical copy. This will eliminate so much unnecessary clutter from your desk and file cabinets.
We also recommend backing up your personal documents for safe-keeping. These would include marriage certificates, passports, mortgage documents, etc. While you shouldn’t dispose of these, having a digital backup will allow you to tuck them away in a fireproof safety box. No reason to pull those out all the time anymore!
Don’t forget to recycle! Did you know that 4.5 million tons of office paper are thrown away every year in the US? Stewarding the world we live in is definitely in our job description, so don’t just throw all that paper away. Recyclable paper includes magazines, pamphlets and brochures, and telephone books. However, waxed and carbon paper can’t be recycled, so make sure you set those aside.
Organize the paper you need to keep
You should now be left with a stack of paperwork that you need to keep on hand in your office. It’s time to find a place for these, and establish a system that will be easy for you to maintain.
Use a filing cabinet.
Some desks have filing cabinets built in. However, if yours doesn’t, then it’s time to go shopping. You basically want to have a spot for every single piece of paper that enters your office so you’re never tempted to leave it lying around. A filing cabinet is just the thing.
Use hanging folders.
These hanging file folders glide smoothly on the bars and make shuffling through your files a much easier task. And if you are planning on using a color system to organize, these would still work well with colored labels.
Create a system for ordering or grouping the folders.
There are several great ways to do this and you just need to figure out which system works best for you. One option would be color-coordinating your files or labels. For instance, all of your mortgage-related folders could be dark blue, while anything related to your medical records could be yellow.
You could also file by date or in alphabetical order. However, this can be more complicated. A combination of these ideas might be your best bet. As an example, you could have all your medical paperwork in yellow folders, grouped together and labeled “Labs 2017”, “Dr. F 2017”, “Labs 2018”, Dr. M 2018”, “Labs 2019”, etc. Only you will know the best way to group your folders so that you can find your documents when you need them.
Have a place on your desk for incoming papers that need to be sorted.
This could be a tray or a basket of some sort. It gives you a tidy, designated spot for other people to put paper, as well as you. And having it right on your desk is a great reminder that you need to sort it and get it put away. Remember, take a few minutes every day to sort your papers! You’ll be glad you didn’t procrastinate, and you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to stay on top of the clutter this way.
Reclaim your office
We hope this helps you reclaim your office and make it the productive space it was meant to be. If you found yourself here because you let the chaos take over, you’re not alone. But don’t let paper stand between you and your goals! You can still have the workspace you need with just a bit of time and effort.
Are there other places in your home that need a little TLC too? Check out our tips for organizing your closet to get some of those hidden areas tidied up as well!