Preventing Paper Clutter

paper clutterEven the most organized people have some amount of paper clutter. It’s difficult not to, because paper comes into our space on a steady, regular basis. Practically every time we walk into our home, we bring more paper into it, either intentionally or unintentionally. So, how can we prevent that paper from taking over and prevent those piles from happening?

The simplest way to reduce paper clutter is to stop paper from coming into our space in the first place. One way to accomplish this is to go paperless with bank and credit card statements, and don’t print them out. Another suggestion is to not print emails, recipes, or other information from your computer, instead store and organize the information on your computer. A few other suggestions are to remove you name from as many mailing lists as you can, stop mail on all magazines and catalogs you don’t read, read the newspaper on-line, use your phone or another device for coupons and tickets instead of printing them, and have a paper recycle bin in the garage and toss as much paper as you can before entering the house.

Another way to reduce paper clutter is to allow each piece of paper to be in your home for the shortest possible time-frame. One way to accomplish this is to immediately recycle or shred junk mail. Another suggestion is to recycle boxes, wrapping paper, envelopes, and other paper items that we intend to reuse but never do. A few other suggestions are to shred ATM slips after you’ve reconciled your bank account, jot down event details on your calendar and toss the invitation, send the greeting cards that you have on hand, and recycle catalogs and magazines after you receive the next issue.

One more way to reduce paper clutter is to have an exit strategy for paper files and stored information. An exit strategy is a predetermined guideline that you’ve established for particular papers, files or information. One exit strategy may be to recycle or shred your utility bills after you view the confirmed payment on the next bill. Another exit strategy may be to shred pay stubs after you receive your W2. Please keep in mind that the guidelines need to fall within your own personal comfort zone. If you have questions on how long to keep particular papers, files or information, please consult a Certified Public Account or an attorney.

©March 2015 Janine Cavanaugh,CPO® All rights reserved.


Proud member of NAPO

Janine with donation box

Organizing Habits

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Helpful Organizer Newsletter – January 2015
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Side Notes:***  January 2015 marks my 7th year in business.  Thank you for being a part of it, and helping me reach this anniversary.  I’m grateful to you.



***    Did you know that January is Get Organized Month?  In honor of GO Month, the New England Chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers, of which I am a member, is offering a full day expo on Saturday, January 24th.  For more details call me or visit the NAPO-NE website.


***    I’m excited to say I’ve taped a video for my website, and the launch date is at the end of the month of January.  I hope you’ll take a look and let me know what you think.


***  My organizing classes will begin in March.  I’ll be teaching 4 different classes in Franklin, MA.  Check my website for upcoming dates and times.


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Hi  Janine,

Happy New Year!  I hope your 2015 is off to a wonderful start.  A new year inspires me to try something new.  What about you?  Is this the year for you to initiate one or two new healthy organizing habits?  Maybe a few suggestions would motivate you to pick a new organizing habit to incorporate into your life this year?

Organizing Habits

Below are a few suggestions of healthy organizing habits:

1.  Go paperless with monthly bills and statements to cut down on the amount of mail that sits unopened on the counter.  Resist the urge to print out the payment receipt.  Instead, set up a file and store them on your computer.
2.  Share household responsibilities with everyone who lives under one roof.  Teamwork is the best approach to daily and weekly chores like laundry.
3.  Set up a clothing donation bin by the clothes dryer, and fill it with items you wish to get rid of as soon as they come out of the dryer.  Schedule a trip to drop off the items, or schedule a pick up date for the donations every 3 months or so.
4.  Allow only one open bottle of dish detergent, cleaning supplies, shampoo, lotion, soap, etc. at any given time.  This helps prevents clutter in the bathroom and kitchen.
5.  Immediately get rid of outdated, damaged, unused, or unwanted items.  It’s tempting to shove them into a closet, the basement, or garage, but it is too easy to forget about them that way.  Prevent clutter build up by getting rid of them right away.

Will you initiate a new healthy organizing habit in 2015?  If so, please share.

Helpful Organizer Blog

What is a blog?  The Helpful Organizer Blog I write is short entries of information on organizing topics that I find noteworthy and potentially helpful to my clients and the general public.   Here are a few of my most recent blogs that you may want to read:

Organizing Decorations
Organizing Medical Papers
Save Time
Clutter Aerobics


Janine Cavanaugh, CPO®
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Organizing Medical Papers

finished fileIn preparation for visiting a new doctor last week, I realized that my medical papers were not organized in a manner that was suitable to my needs. They were mostly organized in chronological order of doctor visits, and I wanted them organized by subject, and then, in chronological order of doctor visits. So, I gave myself the project of organizing my medical papers.

tools neededThe tools I used were a hanging file, a file folder, 8 sheets of paper, 8 tabs, a highlighter, and a black marker.  I first sorted all my medical papers into subject categories. I choose 8 different categories that made sense to me as I was sorting my papers. The 8 subject categories I used were general information, yearly physicals, mammograms, doctor visits, eyes, and 3 categories for specific ailments I have. Your medical categories may be slightly or completely different. That is understandable.  Personalization is encouraged.

Here is a list of the types of papers I have in each subject category:
General information – primary care doctor contact information, office hours and locations, medical insurance documents
Yearly physicals – medical history records, physical exam results, lab results, appointment reminders
Mammograms – test results, appointment reminders, literature on subject
Doctor visits – test results, appointment receipts, insurance explanation of benefits
Eyes – appointment receipts, exam results, prescriptions, eye glass receipts
Specific ailments – test results, appointment receipts, diagnoses, prescriptions, literature on subject
file names

I used the highlighter to mark the date and subject on specific papers. I used the tabs and paper to create dividers for each of my 8 subjects. I used the marker to write the subjects on the tabs. I placed all the tabs on the upper left hand side of the paper (horizontal) so they would fit into the file folder and be easier to read.  It’s much easier to scan one area for the subject tab, then have to scan staggered tabs, especially since we read from left to right. I reduced as many papers as I could before reassembling my medical file.  I shreded 56 papers that I felt comfortable discarding.

The project took me about an hour to complete. Since all of my papers were in one file folder and in a semi organized state, I was able to complete the project in a relativity short amount of time, but if you’re going to organize your medial papers and they’re in disarray you will need to give yourself more time to complete your project.  You will also realize as you sort your medical papers that your subject categories will be specific to you.  That is ideal.  Each and everyone of us needs to find a way of organizing that is personally suitable to our individual needs.


© December 2014  Janine Cavanaugh, Certified Professional Organizer  All rights reserved


Proud member of NAPO

Organizing Mail

mail boxDo you ignore the the daily acts of collecting, sorting, and processing the mail?  Dose it go away?  No!  It just keeps piling up.  I find that a routine helps me keep the mail organized and prevents piles from forming.

My mail routine:

  1.  Sort into my mail vs. my husband’s mail (he gets to open and process is own mail)
  2.  Open it as soon as I bring it in the house, if not then, by the end of the day
  3.  Put open pieces in their predetermined homes
  •  Bills go in bill pay box by computer
  •  Coupons go in box on top of fridge
  •  Flyers, advertisements, and solicitations get briefly viewed then recycled
  •  Junk mail gets immediately recycled
  •  Statements or the like, get filed right away
  •  Mail to read gets put in my “to read” location
  •  Mail that requires action goes into my action folder

Organizing guidelines help me stay on top of the mounting mail, as well.

Here are my guidelines:

  1.  My timeframe to open the mail is right away or by the end of the day
  2.  I have predetermined homes for pieces of mail to land
  3.  I immediately recycle as much as I can
  4.  I’m not the mail opener for the whole household
  5.  I consciously make an effort to reduce the amount of mail I receive

Mail is delivered 6 days a week, whether we view it or not.  So, stop ignoring it, and establish organizing routines and guidelines in order to stay on top of it.

© March 2014  Janine Cavanaugh, CPO®  All rights reserved


Proud member of NAPO

Taxes & Paper Management


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Helpful Organizer Newsletter – April 2014
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Quick Links

My website
My Email address
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Side Notes:

***    I’m currently reading a book about Feng Shui.  Did you know that a dirty stove can make you tired and depressed?  It can even make it harder for you to earn money.  So, please clean your stove, and visualize improved income.  I did and booked two clients!

***   Spring Organizing

Spring tends to be a busy month for homeowners.  They spruce up, clean out, lighten up, and prepare for a summer of fun and sun.  What do you do?  Please share your spring organizing tips with me.

Join Our Mailing ListPS:  What do you think of my caricature?
Happy spring!  Do you associate spring with tax time?  I apologize if I just put that in your head.  Would it help if I provided you with a tax preparation list?  

The “T” word

What are you doing April 14th?  Do you find yourself hunting and scrambling to find all the documents you may need to file your taxes?  I created a list of all the documents my husband and I need to prepare our tax forms, which has made that process much easier.  We file jointly and very simply, but I thought our list may be helpful to you.

Here it is:
W2 forms
Mortgage documents – form 1098
Investment documents – form 1099
Excise tax yearly bills
Real estate tax yearly bills
IRA documents – form 5498
Interest from bank account – form 1099
Medical documents
Proof of health care insurance (MA residents)
Value of donations made throughout the year

Below are the additional documents I need to include from my business:
Estimated tax payments for the year – form 1040
Income total
Expenses total – including the following category totals: donations, electric, food, Internet, marketing/advertising, membership dues, mileage, networking, office supplies, phone, postage, training, and travel

Please note:  The above list is just a memory jogger.  If you have questions or concerns consult a tax specialist or CPA.  Janine Cavanaugh, CPO© can not be held accountable for any improper tax filing.

Never Ending TaskDid you know the one category that most of my clients want to address, even if it’s not the focus of our appointment?  Organizing paper!  Paper management is like dishes and laundry, a never ending task.  Paper can accumulate and pile up so quickly that it leaves you scratching your head, wondering where it all came from.  It helps if you create guidelines for yourself on what to keep, and for how long.  If you’d like a list of my paper retention guidelines, please email me.  I’d be happy to share my guidelines with you.

Janine Cavanaugh, CPO®
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