Paper clutter is the biggest organization struggle for home business owners! Disorganized paper clutters up our home offices, adds frustration and stress to our already busy lives, and significantly decreases our productivity. But you don’t have to suffer with paper clutter any longer! I’m taking you through each step of my clutter busting method, from gathering the sea of papers to creating organized, functional files, so that you can conquer home office paper clutter once and for all!
The First Step to Conquer Home Office Paper Clutter
Next week is Organize Your Files Week, and it’s the perfect time to get our files organized AND conquer our home office paper clutter! We’re going to spend time each day next week completing tasks that will make paper clutter and dysfunctional, disorganized files a thing of the past. We’re getting a jump start today by tackling the first, vital step in the process. Let’s get this party started and conquer home office paper clutter!
The Great Paper Gathering
To prepare for next week’s tasks and experience immediate success, we’re going to quickly gather ALL of the loose papers cluttering up our home offices and put them into something that will keep them corralled. A bin or a basket is perfect!
We’re talking loose papers and paper piles here. Leave any filed papers in their respective files. We’ll declutter and organize those next week.
If you have a big office or a lot of loose papers and piles, set a timer and work in shifts of 10 or 15 minutes. Just get all of those papers rounded up and placed in a container!
Ah! Doesn’t that feel and look better?!
*You’re also welcome to grab any loose papers floating around your house. We don’t work in a vacuum and the lines between home and work are especially blurred when we work at home. You’ll likely have personal papers mixed in with your business papers anyway, so you can choose to knock out ALL of your loose papers and paper piles at one time! However, this is a completely optional step. If you think it will be too overwhelming, skip the household papers, practice the process with your home office paper clutter, then tackle the rest later.
Gather Your Sorting Supplies
Now, that you’ve got all of your loose papers stowed neatly in one place, let’s gather a few, necessary sorting supplies!
It’s helpful to have a few supplies handy during the paper sorting phase:
- Your Paper-Filled Basket or Bin
- A Writing Utensil
- Sticky Notes
- A Timer
- Recycling Bin
- Shredding Bin
- Trash Can
You likely have all of these supplies on hand, so round them up, and let’s get ready to sort!
Decide Where to Work
Okay, we’ve gathered all of our papers and put them in a bin (or something similar) for safe keeping. We’ve rounded up all of the supplies we need to start sorting our papers. We’re just about ready to get this party started!
Sorting your papers could take a few days to a week or more, depending on the time you have available and the height of your paper pile. So, find a place where you can work undisturbed for the length of this project. Make sure it’s comfortable!
Sometimes I work on the floor. It’s not the most comfortable spot, and my two mini doxies love to walk on my piles and mess them up, but it gives me lots of space. Other times I work at the dining room table where there’s a little less room but fewer paws shuffling my piles. It’s also more comfortable than the floor.
And you’re ready!
General Sorting Categories
Our first step is to sort our papers into 4 basic categories:
- To Do – any items that require action from you.
- Read – items you want to read at a later time.
- To File – any items that don’t fit in the two categories above but that you want or need to keep (we’ll be sorting this pile into more specific, relevant categories next week!).
- Trash, Recycle, or Shred
Write each of the above categories on a sticky note. If you don’t have containers for trash, shredding and recycling, create a sticky note label for each of those, too.
Lay the sticky notes out in whatever order makes sense for you. As you’re sorting, you don’t want to waste time searching for the pile you need. The idea here is quick and mindless. I usually put my sticky notes in alphabetical order, but do what works best for you.
Set your timer for 15-30 minutes.
Grab a handful of papers and….
Start sorting your papers into their appropriate categories. The idea with this first, general sorting process is to classify each paper as quickly as possible without investing too much brain power.
Throw any trash away (I always find trash in my piles!).
Place any items that require action from you in the To Do pile, any items you want to read in the To Read pile, and any items that need to be filed in the To File stack.
If you don’t need to keep an item, recycle it. If the item has sensitive information on it (phone numbers, account numbers, etc.), put it in the shredding pile.
Keep sorting until your timer goes off.
Take a Break.
Once your timer goes off, it’s time to take a break.
Go for a walk. Hop on that conference call. Switch the laundry over. Complete a couple of business tasks.
Just do something other than sorting papers!
After you’ve taken a break and if you have time, repeat the sorting process.
Plan on completing at least one round of paper sorting each day until your bin or basket is empty. Complete more sorting rounds each day if you have the time and energy.
During each sorting session, you may only sort a small section of the papers you gathered and that’s a-okay. The point here is progress, friends.
Today we took the first step toward conquering home office paper clutter by gathering up and corralling our paper piles, completing short yet powerful sorting blocks, and organizing our papers into four basic categories!
This step isn’t easy. It takes time and effort. But I promise it will be worth it once all of those papers are sorted, filed, easily retrieved, and no longer cluttering up your home office! You can do it!
Next week we’ll tackle your To Do stack, set up a filing system that works for you, and create a paper processing system that will have you wondering what happened to all of your home office paper clutter! 😉
Don’t forget to pin this post!
Other Posts in the Organize Your Files Week Series
Today’s post is part of the Organize Your Files Week series!
Check out the other posts in the series:
If you’re looking for more ways to organize your home office, check out these related posts:
- Eliminate Paper Clutter for Good
- Supercharge Your Organization and Productivity with Office Zones
- 6 Things to do on Sunday for the Best Week Ever!
See you next week for the official kickoff of Organize Your Files Week and more paper clutter busting tasks!