Get organized: How to get rid of the paper

Papers that require attention need to go in an action pile.

The first thing you need to ask yourself is, “Do I need this?”

Eighty of the papers we file never get looked at again. Filing these papers will cost you in several different ways: the cost of the supplies such as file folders and filing cabinets, the storage required in your home for these filing cabinets and your time involved for filing.

To feel more comfortable letting go of paperwork, contact your accountant or go online to attain a records retention schedule. This will give you guidelines on what you need to keep and for how long.

Also, the Internet is a great source should you need information in the future. Why keep a Disney brochure for a trip you may take when the current information will be available online when you actually start planning the trip? Once you’ve collected the papers in one place and you have your record retention schedule you can follow this plan. There are four basic categories to sort papers in to:

1. Trash/shred/recycle: Immediately get rid of any of the unsolicited junk mail including empty envelopes and the inserts that often accompany the junk mail. Throw away any paperwork that you saved because you thought you might need it, but now that time has passed has become unnecessary.

2. Reading material: Take this category off of your counter or desk and put it in the place you actually read. In a basket near the couch, on your nightstand or in the car to be read while waiting for your child’s sports practice to end.

3. File: One of the biggest reasons people have paperwork left out is because they don’t have a proper filing system in place. It’s important to have a filing system that not only makes sense for you to file and retrieve from, but others, too, should understand it in case they need to step into your shoes because of an emergency.

4. Action: This category should now be the only category left on your counter or desktop. These items require you to take action before you can file or toss it. If the item can be taken care of in two minutes or less, take action now. Practicing the two-minute rule regularly will eliminate a lot of the paper piles you currently have. For the rest of the stack prioritize it within the pile. Those items you need to do immediately go on top of the stack while those items that can wait go on the bottom. Now when you have time to take action you will be less likely to miss deadlines as you reach for those items on top of the pile.

Lori Firsdon is the owner of Forte Organizers, LLC in Centerville.

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