paper clutter

Piles Happen

While having lunch with a friend, she proclaimed “piles happen”.  I readily agreed, and shared that the best way to combat piles is to store paper vertically, not horizontally.  For example, instead of setting the mail down on the counter, and letting it pile up, sort it into a divided vertical container.  Another example is to put newspapers, magazines, catalogs, and in a container that holds them upright.

Reclaiming Order

15 minutesWhile looking for a list of skincare products that I wanted to share with a friend, I realized that it was time to reclaim order in my Fashion File.   I knew I had tucked the list into my file somewhere, but when I went to look for it, I couldn’t find it.  I quickly deduced that the main reason for this was that there was a surplus of irrelevant information in the file.  It held current and relevant information, but also held some outdated information that was no longer of interest to me.

Therefore, I allowed myself 15 minutes to reclaim order.  I did this by pruning each category of the Fashion File and making decisions on what information was worth keeping, and what was to be discarded.  Here is a list of what I discarded:  8 outdated or duplicate business cards, 1 outdated jewelry catalog, 12 magazine clippings on products, tips, and ideas (I’m a bit embarrassed to admit I clip from magazines, but in my opinion, it’s better than keeping the whole magazine.), 1 outdated skincare catalog, 5 old purchase receipts (shred them), and 8 notes of websites to look at or items to try.  At the end of a very productive 15 minutes I had located the list of skincare products that I wanted to share with my friend, and reclaimed order in my Fashion File.

By taking the time, at that moment, to reclaim order, I stopped the accumulation of paper, and prevented my Fashion File from turning into a huge, inefficient mess.  This is what I call preserving the natural flow of the organizing process.  The natural flow of the organizing process looks like this:

Chart of Organizng Flow

One very important factor to keep in mind when preserving the natural flow of the organizing process is to keep the duration between creating order and reclaiming order short enough, so that the act of reclaiming order doesn’t take too long, and isn’t an overwhelming task.  If we wait too long, or allow too much build up, the act of reclaiming order becomes overwhelming, stressful and frustrating.  If you reach this point, reclaiming order may no longer be a do-it-yourself task.  Just remember, it’s okay to ask for HELP!


© August 2015  Janine Cavanaugh, Certified Professional Organizer®  All Rights Reserved


Proud member of NAPO


Fashion File

skincareOne of the reasons we hold onto paper is because we need or want to reference the information (on the paper) in the future.  However, what happens when we can’t put our hands on a piece of paper quickly and easily?  We waste time hunting and searching for that paper, or we attempt to find the information from another source.  Is there really any need to save paper that we can’t find quickly and easily?  No!  So, what will help us find specific papers when we need them?

An organized paper storage system will help us locate what we want, when we need it, and help us remember where paper is stored.   Creating an organized system can be quite an undertaking.  The initial step in this undertaking is to have a paper storage container (ie. file cabinet) that holds alphabetical files that are labeled with file names.  It is essential to customize the file names to reflect our specific, personal retention needs. The best way to do this is to create file names that uniquely describe what information is stored inside the file.  This is much more efficient than using generic or standardized names.  For example I use the file name “Kia Soul” instead of Auto, Car, or Vehicle.

Another example of a customized file that I have is my “Fashion File”.  It holds all the girly things that I want to reference, look into, check out, or use.  It contains 5 separate categories, hair, jewelry, nails, skincare, and wardrobe.  The types of papers that I store in each category are as follows:

Hair – contact information for my current stylist, pictures of hair styles that I like, products I want to try
Jewelry – receipts of jewelry purchases, business cards for jewelry consultants, jewelry catalogs
Nail – business cards for local nail salons with times and directions
Skincare – business cards for skincare consultants, products I want to try, lists of chemical free products, skincare catalogs
Wardrobe – contact information for image consultants, tips for my body type, fashion styles I like

By establishing and using this unique file name, and other personalized file names, I have created an organized system that helps me remember where my papers belong and where I can find them when I need them.  This approach could work for you.  If you do use it please share with me what file names you use.

© June 2015  Janine Cavanaugh, Certified Professional Organizer®  All Rights Reserved


Proud member of NAPO

Organizing Paper

Store action papers, notes, and reminders in one location.  Examples of action papers are, information that needs to entered into the computer, information that needs to be read and responded to, and contact information for someone who needs to be called.  The product I use is a multi-pocket organizer that is divided into days of the week, and the location I use is an easy access vertical file holder by my desk.  This gives me one place to store and retrieve action papers, notes, and reminders.  It also helps me to organize and prioritize those actions.

Organizing Tax Documents

Keep one tax document folder labeled with the current year, and add papers to it as they collect throughout the year.  Once your taxes have been filed for this year, transfer the documents to a bin labeled past tax documents, and write the specific years that are included in the bin.  Include with your past tax documents,  all your supporting tax papers, financial records for that year, and proof of tax payment.  Store the bin in a remote area.  Start a new tax folder for the next year.