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Creating a Paper Management System for Your Home: Part 1

Dear Jo the Clutterbuster:

Every January, I promise myself I will finally get my bills, files and other paperwork organized. But after 15 minutes surrounded by my piles and bags, I give up, leave the office and shut the door and continue to live in chaos.

What will it take to conquer this clutter?

Yours truly,

Buried in Paper

Dear Buried:

Paper never goes away: bills, correspondence, junk mail, cards, magazines, reminders, school papers, newspapers, etc. Most of my clients have tried to create a paper management system - repeatedly - but found themselves overwhelmed by the sheer volume of paper.

More than 50% of all the paper that accumulates in our homes is recyclable or trash. Sometimes the reason why paper is out of control is due to lack of time. When time is short, most of us look for the important bills that we know must be paid or the form that needs to be returned on a particular date. We set aside the remaining paper to be reviewed later. Later never comes and more paper piles up until there is no hope of managing it.

There may be other reasons why we hold onto paper that we don't really need. Some possible blocks to managing the paper in your home can form a kind of belief system:

Believing you 'Might' need the information about how to remove a stain, fix a car engine, identify a rare insect, locate a restaurant and will not be able to locate it.
Believing that 'Someday' is a day on the calendar
Believing that it is your responsibility to know everything, keep everything and where to get anything.
Believing that you can stave off disaster or reduce anxiety by saving everything 'Just in Case'.
Believing that you will be audited by the IRS or taken to jail because you didn't have the receipt. (More on this in a future blog)
Believing that it is possible to 'File everything'
Believing that 'Later' is an actual day made specifically for paper management.

Pay attention to those 'beliefs' that may be preventing you from creating a paper management system. Listen to those voices in your head and decide if they are telling the truth or keeping you from your goals.

Yes, Buried, it will take time. But didn't it take time to accumulate all that paper?

Next time: Managing the backlog or why did I keep that?