Almost all of my clients are burdened by too much paperwork, and a corresponding disdain for having to organize it. The result? Paper cluttering their home or office, late bill payments, forgotten appointments & to-dos, and frantic searches for missing documents. And let’s not forget stress; lots and lots of stress. Sound familiar? There are lots of reasons why managing paperwork is so difficult – let’s explore some of the most common reasons I’ve observed, as well as some solutions to overcome those obstacles.
It requires lots of decisions. Paper is a bunch of small stuff, and each individual piece requires a decision. If you don’t go through each piece, you might miss something important lurking among the junk. After spending a short period of time attacking a stack of paper, you may make dozens of decisions, but have little to show for it because any one piece of paper, discarded or filed, doesn’t make a noticeable reduction in the size of the pile.
Solution: Group papers by category and make decisions for each category, rather than for each item. For example, group bank statements by date, magazine and newspaper clippings by topic, and bills by vendor. Decide how long you’ll keep bank statements, what topics are still of interest for clippings, and which vendors’ bills you truly need to keep, and for how long. Keep what meets your guidelines, and let go of the rest in one fell swoop.
It just keeps coming. Any sense if victory you may experience by reducing your piles can easily melt away after just a few days of retrieving the mail. And it’s even more frustrating because oftentimes the paper intrusion is generated by junk you didn’t invite into your life.
Solution: Take the time to unsubscribe from mailings you don’t want to receive. Online tools and apps make it easy to opt out of insurance and credit card offers, unsubscribe from catalogs, and unsubscribe fromunwanted items in general.
It represents knowledge. You may experience a sense of guilt by discarding information you had intended to read. After all, if it was important enough to save, it must be important enough to read, and even to file away.
Solution: If you can’t possibly part with a piece of information, at least not before you read it, schedule an appointment on your calendar to do so. Making the time to read it is half the battle. And once you’ve read it, decide if you need to save it by asking if it’s a W-A-S-T-E: Is itWorthwhile? Will I read it Again? Can I find it Somewhere else? What would happen if I Tossed it? Do I need the Entire magazine or article?
It represents an investment of money and/or time. You may have paid good money for a magazine subscription, or spent a lot of time and money taking a class or attending a conference. The resulting pile(s!) of magazines, class notes and conference binders are a physical representation of those investments, and it’s hard to let them go.
Solution: Look at things from a practical perspective: The money is gone, so hanging onto the paper isn’t going to get the money back. And unless you’re going to invest time in reading the notes from the conference or class, just having the information isn’t going to make you any wiser. You’ve most likely gotten the most value by your attendance and by absorbing the important information at that time. Determine what’s truly worth hanging onto and heave the rest. Or give yourself a deadline to use it or lose it – set a date by which you’ll go through the information to pull out the gems, or toss it because time had demonstrated you just aren’t going to reference it.
I’d love to hear how you’re managing your paperwork.
Wishing you simplicity, harmony and freedom,