While a friend was going through her own stack of mail recently, she thought about our upcoming adventure and asked, “What about all that paper? Files? Important documents? Mail?” It’s a topic Jim & I have spent quite a bit of time on – taming the paper monster. While I am by no means an efficiency expert, I will share the things that have worked for me. Maybe it will help someone else simplify their life.
INCOMING PAPER – reduce it
Go paperless with bills and statements wherever you can. Save your sanity and save a tree. You can find everything you need online, and the bill can be emailed to you. Catalogs and other direct mail – request to be removed wherever possible. If you really want to buy something you can access the most recent information online anyway. I make contributions to a couple of non-profits, and even they have a “do not mail” list. You probably won’t make your mailbox completely obsolete, but these steps will certainly make it more manageable. With the paper you do have coming in, try to follow the “touch it once” rule and take whatever action is needed right away.
EXISTING PAPER – scan it, purge it
For me it began with the “if the house was on fire what would I grab” concept. Condensing all of our belongings into one four-door car forced me to really take a look at several files I’ve been hanging on to. With clothing, it’s easy for me to go through once every year or two and throw out unneeded items. For some reason, I haven’t had that same discipline with paper. Until now. Newspaper clippings of a travel article from 1989? My annual review from a job in 1995? My high school diploma?! Yeah, I’m pretty sure this is paper I am ready to part with. But I don’t have to part with the memory of the item. Last winter Jim bought a mini portable scanner, a NeatReceipts, which is smaller than a three-hole punch (for those of you who remember what those are). It’s a compact and fast way to scan the things I have to keep (e.g. tax returns), as well as the things I want to keep (e.g. that diploma).
The piles and files get out of control waiting for us to get around to it. Start today with just one small step. Good luck taming your paper monster!