Paper clutter poses a challenge for the most organized among us, with seemingly limitless amounts of junk mail arriving daily. Short of going paperless (a great option, if you can pull it off), managing and filing paper can reduce the clutter occupying your desk, dining room table or kitchen counter. Though there isn't a "right way," here are some tips from the experts on how to manage the paper stream in your life. E.B. Solomont, Mother Nature Network (mnn.com)
Sort by verb, file by noun: Grammar can help differentiate between papers you need to deal with now versus those you can store away, according to Renee Kutner, founder of Atlanta-based Peace by Piece Organizing. Generally, documents that require action should be sorted by verb (such as: pay a bill, RSVP to a party, call someone back, mail the form). Use a noun to file away papers by category (such as: recipes, insurance, kids' report cards, tax information).
Enlist help in getting off mailing lists: Hire help through websites such as www.41pounds.org and www.stopthe junkmail.com. The average adult receives 41 pounds of junk mail each year, according to www.41pounds.org. "We'll contact dozens of companies on your behalf to stop your junk mail and protect the environment," the site boasts.
Open your mail over the recycling bin: Opening your mail over the trash can and recycling bin stops junk mail before it can clutter up your desk. "It saves so much time," says Dahlia Bellows, founder of New York City's Your Amazing Space. When you're finished, you'll have fewer items to go through.
Pay your bills online: Most bills can be paid online. And, many utility companies and credit cards have paperless options to stop the paper bills from coming via the post office altogether.
Scan paperwork and toss the originals: Use electronic filing and then "make the trash your best friend," advises Peggy Umansky, founder of St. Louis-based It's About Time. Pretty much any information you receive is accessible online. And if you scan documents and business cards, you can tote electronic files with you. Just make sure you back up your system, black out personal account information off documents you recycle, and don't ever throw away original copies of your lease, or financial or legal papers.
Spend 10 minutes a day organizing your papers: Whether you toss, follow up or file something away, a few minutes each night helps you stay on top of growing mounds of paper. "Do everything in bite-sized morsels," Bellows says. Have a time limit, she adds.
Create "daily" and "long-term" filing systems: Keeping a small file on your desk is one way to organize the papers you need daily. Umansky recommends a "tickler" file that is used for anything with a due date. The file can be an accordion folder with dates that you check daily, weekly or biweekly.