One comment made to me frequently is what to do with all the paper and mail that comes into a house. I agree that it can be overwhelming at times especially when you add all the insurance forms, bills and school papers that need to be sorted or signed or filled out.
First, understand how important getting all of this paper in order. A 2008 study found that if people regularly tidied their homes and offices, most would gain between 16 minutes and one hour a day when they could be doing other things (that’s four to 15 days a year)! And lack of space isn’t the issue since most cubicles are less than 64 square feet. What is needed is the understanding of the old saying, “everything in its place”.
When we have a place for incoming mail, a place for bills, for children’s papers, for invitations, etc., then we will be able to keep up. Think of this paper and where it should go as different zones.
Action Plan: First, find a place (zone) where you will open your mail. If you open it in the same place each day, it will be easier to keep it more organized. Also, you must go to the mailbox daily! Otherwise, the mail can get out of hand.
Next, handle the mail once. Place each piece in a place: a place for each person in the house getting mail, a place for bills, for forms, for invitations, for catalogues, magazines, flyers, and of course a place for trash. I separate the mail at one sitting and then walk it to where it should go: my husband’s mail on one corner of the kitchen counter; my daughter’s mail on the steps; personal mail goes on my desk, etc. You will have to figure out what works best for you but I believe the answer is to do it the same way consistently and to do it every day.
I also recommend one spot in the kitchen for all the papers that relate to your children. When they come home from school and have papers for field trips or cookie sales information, place these in this spot. It could be a section on your desk or kitchen counter or a low table or stool. That way, they won’t get hidden under other papers and you can remember to take care of them. I also love folders. I have one for each activity as well as for each child. If you don’t want to use folders, use stacking baskets. But whatever you use, be consistent and keep up with each piece of paper daily. Once you get in the habit of sorting through the mail daily you will soon be on top of it.
Second Action Plan: Another tip that might help you in keeping up with all the paper and mail is to have a command center (which was discussed in a previous blog). This is the central place where you run your household, because running a household is a full-time professional job! We need to treat it as such. Your command center would be a desk, fully furnished with a calendar, pens, paper, files, etc.
Even in Biblical times people had to be organized with their papers! Each person had to register for the census in the city they were born which meant they had to plan time in their life to get there. Make sure all your birth certificates, passports, medical papers, mortgages, insurance papers, and licenses are in a folder in a safe place (such as a fire-proof box) where everyone in the family can find them.
Emotional Check-Up: If you are like most women, you have stacks of papers that need to be sorted: either to read, filed, filled-out or thrown out. And if you are like most women, this stack of unending papers can cause huge stress as well as problems if some of the hidden papers are bills that need to be paid or forms that need to be filled out. So, what helps me to get over the stress and get healthier emotionally is to realize I have to take care of the problem. Procrastinating and ignoring the issue is only going to cause more problems, I promise you. So, I begin to get myself ready mentally as well as putting a time on my calendar for when I will tackle the job. I mentioned getting myself ready mentally because some tasks around the house (such as paperwork or changing out my closet or cleaning out a large area or yard work) are just plain hard and so for me, I have to start talking myself into it! Then, I will get a surge of energy and readiness to “get it done”! I pray you will be able to get your paperwork in order so that this stress in this area of your life will soon be gone.
1. www.rememberthemilk.com is a free website where you can list all your tasks along with a priority level. The site will then send you reminders – “carpool to Girl Scouts at 4 pm!” – via email, IM, or text message.
2. Forward your travel confirmations from various websites to firstname.lastname@example.org, and the site will consolidate it all into a day-by-day itinerary, plucking out the essential details and adding maps, directions, and local weather forecasts.
3. Never miss a birthday again! Register at www.jackcards.com and enter birthdays for your friends and family, then select a card for each one. As their big day approaches, Jack Cards mails you a card (prices start at $2.50). Just stamp and send. Or, find an on line site that will send an e-mail card automatically.
I hope this pathway to a more organized you concerning your mail and paperwork is a help to you and your life.
Next Week: Organized Files = Organized Finances…And Saving Money!