When organizing anything, the golden rule is to give whatever is disorganized a home and create a system to get it there. Paper is no different: you need a system that organizes what's already in the house and accommodates what arrives daily. Here's how you can create a system to make sure you don't leave a paper trail.
There are two steps in creating an organizing system for paper: sorting and filing.
1 Decide on a location for sorting. Ideally, create a “household information centre,” which can be a desktop and nearby filing cabinet. If you don't have room for such an area, find a comfortable spot to sit and file papers in a portable file system (an accordion file, filing cart or cardboard or wicker file boxes) that you can return to a closet or shelf when the job's done.
2 Collect stray papers from around the house. If you have a backlog, tackle papers one room at a time.
3 Buy four cardboard file boxes. Later, once you've created an organizing system and know how much file storage you need, you can buy an appropriately sized file cabinet and use the file boxes for long-term storage.
4 Keep other supplies handy, including a recycling bin, a garbage bag, file folders, hanging file folders, labels, Post-it notes, a stapler, a few pencils, a thick marker and elastic bands.
5 Use the marker to label each box with one of these four main categories: Personal; Home; Financial and Legal; Action (for bills or forms requiring immediate action).
6 Sort all papers one piece at a time into one of the boxes or the recycling bin or garbage bag. Don't read them, just scan and sort.
7 Deal with papers in the Action box as soon as possible; once you've acted on them, you can sort those papers into one of the other three boxes.
1 Create subcategories for each box except Action, which should now be empty. Start with the Personal box, for example. Pick a paper from the box, maybe a picture of a living room you've clipped for decorating inspiration. Write the subcategory Decorating on a file folder in pencil. Put the clipping inside and set aside the folder. Repeat the system with each paper in the box, creating new folders as needed. Later, when you're confident of your subcategories, label the folders permanently.
2 Sort the file folder subcategories into groups. For instance, Decorating, Gardening and Recipes file folders can all go into a hanging file labelled Home.
3 Alphabetize the hanging files and return them and the folders to the storage box.
4 Repeat the system with paper in the remaining boxes.
Image courtesy of Tarkett Residential