Organizing large quantities of paper feels overwhelming, but with the right strategy you can blaze through it. After assessing a clients’ clutter they often tell me “but I have to go through the paper myself.” If that sounds like you, you might be surprised by what I am about to share. As with any organizing challenge, you have to prioritize before you organize. The vast majority of paper prioritization does NOT require your unique knowledge. Don’t worry. You can organize your papers fast AND still be in complete control. Here’s how.
1. Papers last
If you are decluttering your home office, do the non-paper clutter first. You will need the singular focus and space to spread out for the paper clutter.
2. Trust help
Obviously the best help I can recommend is my team, but you can get help from a friend. Your friend must however make one promise. He or she will not discard papers without you knowing. This is how you can trust the process. This is how you stay friends! In exchange, you must allow your friend to do a pre-sort of your papers.
3. Prioritize by stage
The presort is about “separating the wheat from the chaff.” Don’t think your friend can recognize the wheat? You might be surprised. He knows the difference between a certificate and an unwelcome solicitation. He knows how to read a date and that the current year is a higher priority. He can distinguish work files from personal files. After the lowest value files are isolated the remainder is prioritized by stage.
4. Leave O.H.I.O.
O.H.I.O. stands for “only handle it once.” It is classic piece of organizing advice which I profoundly disagree with. It suggest that you only process one piece of paper at a time, before moving on to the next. Deal with it once and never handle it again. The intention is not to shift one pile to another pile without progress. That’s fine, but it is too restrictive and too slow! Also, it doesn’t address priority level, so it welcomes abandonment.
5. “build a fire”
The alternative I recommend is let friend “build a fire” for you. I’m not suggesting a real fire, but a priority fire. A fire is built on tinder, kindling, and fuel. The tinder is a crumpled piece of paper that burns very easily. Kindling is a tent of light dry sticks that picks up the flame from the tinder. The hardest part to burn is the fuel, progressively thicker limbs. Yet with the help of the kindling, the fuel can build a sustainable fire.
The “tinder” of paper management is the junk mail and old boiler-plate files. Kindling is archive files that you can store more remotely. The fuel is the remaining current files that can be categorized and acted upon. The fuel ignites more quickly because the easy burners are gone.
To blaze through your papers requires that you start by de-prioritzing the distractions. That’s easier to do with some help. A friend or family member (or professional organizer) will be more detached from your papers than you are. You can then bring more focus to fewer files. If these reduced files are sorted categories you will be able to organize them even faster. Context drives decisions and easier decision-making is the key to decluttering. Decluttering always fuels organizing.
Would you like to light a fire under your paper organizing process? Then share these guidelines with a good friend. Of course Matt Baier Organizing can be a great friend.
Call 203.428.6294 today for a free consult.