It Just Keeps Coming!
(neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet...)
Paper management is an issue in almost everyone's home these days. In spite of the increase in electronic communication, the amount of "snail mail" that comes into our homes has escalated tremendously in the past ten years. And, it comes every day, without fail! Having a system in place to deal with all of the paper when it comes into your home is the key to avoiding all of those paper piles that tend to obscure our kitchen countertops and dining room tables. Setting up a mail sorting station is an important component to managing incoming paper.
Your mail sorting station should be situated as closely as possible to the door in which you enter your home each night. If you have to make a major effort to get to your station - if it's in a remote, inaccessible space, it won't be used and will defeat the purpose of having one. In your sorting station, you will need a trash bin/recycling bin, a good, sturdy shredder (get one that will shred at least 12 - 15 sheets at once), and a basket, bin or paper tray for each member of the household.
When you enter your home each evening, mail in hand, take a few minutes to do a quick sort. You should immediately shred anything with financial or personal information (those credit card offers will have at least 3 - 4 sheets of paper folded over twice - hence the need for a sturdy shredder! It will save you time and effort if you don't have to open any junk mail before shredding it.) Toss anything else in the trash or recycling bin. If you are a catalog or magazine lover, have a basket into which those catalogs and magazines will immediately go, and limit the number you save to however many will fit into that basket. When the basket is full, it's time to either recycle the pile, or to stop saving them until you've read what you have! If you have accumulated more than three issues of a magazine without having had time to read them, then you need to consider canceling your subscription. You will save both time and money if you buy an occasional single issue when you do have time to read it, rather than having unread issues pile up, taking up space and wasting money (and causing you guilt in the process!)
After you've discarded the junk, sort what's left (only the important stuff!) into the baskets designated for each family member, delegating what needs to be taken care of by those folks to them. Anything that can be taken care of immediately in 5 minutes or less - like signing school permission slips - should be done right away. Any other papers that you need to take action on should be placed into your own assigned basket. Tackle this "in basket" on a regular basis - ideally for a few minutes every day, but at a minimum every three or four days. Putting in just a few minutes every day for paper maintenance really helps you stay on top of things and helps to prevent those paper piles.
For in-depth instruction on how to set up a household command center to deal with those important papers, how to set up a filing system, and more information on home paper management in general, register for my "Conquering Paper Clutter" workshop on March 29th. You will walk away from this hour and a half class armed with the tools to defeat those paper piles once and for all!