A home office (and frankly an entire home) can quickly become overrun with paper piles. Paper piles add frustration and stress to our already busy lives. But with a chunk time and a little effort, you can whip those piles into shape. Yesterday we found a place our papers can call home, and today we’re going to build on that by sorting those piles into relevant categories. Let’s sort like a machine!
Welcome to Organize Your Files Week, where we’re taking control of those piles and files!
How did you do on Monday? Did you find A Place for Your Papers to Call Home?
Sort Like a Machine
Our next step in conquering our paper piles and files is to sort all of those papers into relevant categories.
It sounds like a lot of work, I know. But it will be worth it once all of those papers are sorted, filed, put away, and easily retrieved!
All you need today is:
- Your Stack of Papers and Paper Piles
- A Writing Utensil
- Sticky Notes
- Recycling Bin or Basket, etc.
- Shredding Bin or Basket, etc.
- Trash Can
It’s All About Categories
Today we’re digging into those piles and purging, recycling, and sorting, oh my!
When I sit down to go through a large collection of papers, I find it’s easiest to start with general categories. The process goes more quickly, and I don’t have to think very hard.
You’re going to think I’m crazy, but when I get going, I find sorting papers almost relaxing. My mind can wander, and the process becomes almost fun. #iamafreak #weirdrunsinmyfamily
To make the process even easier for you, I’m offering up this “Sorting Categories” printable!
The general categories are on the top of each column and below each category is a list of items to include. I’ve also left open space at the bottom of each category in case you need to move things around or write in additional items.
This is just what makes sense for me. There’s no one, “right” way.
For example, I put medical and dental statements in the “Insurance” category. It might feel more natural for you to put them in “Financials.” I also put Pay Stubs in “Financials.” It might make more sense to you to put them in “Career.” Tweak this until it works for you!
By taking the extra time and tweaking the categories and items under each, you’ll take your first step toward creating a routine that will keep those paper piles at bay. We’ll talk more about creating a routine for managing your papers in the next post in this series: I’ll Never Have Paper Piles Again!
What to Keep and For How Long
It’s difficult to know what to keep and how long to keep it.
That’s why I’ve included this “How Long Should I Keep It” printable guide.
Print it and hang it near your papers’ home, so you can reference when you need it.
**A word of caution: Each situation is unique, so always verify this kind of information with your tax professional!
I’m going against everything I said yesterday, but this step in the process could take a few days or a week, 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 (not the most comfortable, and if you have pets, they’ll walk on your piles and mess them up, but lots of space). Other times I work at the dining room table.
Put on some music that fits your mood or a television show if that’s more your style. I watch more Gilmore Girls when I’m sorting papers than at any other time in my life. 🙂
Get something enjoyable to drink: tea, water, wine. Whatever works.
And you’re ready.
Write the heading at the top of each column on a sticky note. If you don’t have containers for shredding and recycling, create a sticky note label for those, too.
Lay them out in whatever order makes sense for you. You don’t want to waste time searching for the pile you need. The idea is quick and mindless.
Set your timer for an amount of time between 15 and 30 minutes. Anything less than 15 minutes and you end up feeling like you’re not making any progress. Set it for much longer than 30 minutes and you risk burning out, and leaving another pile of papers on your dining room table/floor/kitchen table, etc.
Grab a handful of papers and get comfy.
Start sorting your papers into their appropriate category. Throw any trash away.
You’d be amazed how much trash I find in my paper piles!
If you don’t need to keep it and it can be recycled, do it. If the item has sensitive information on it (phone numbers, account numbers, etc.), it’s headed to the shredder bin, baby.
Keep going until the timer goes off.
Take a Break.
Once your timer goes off, it’s time to take a break. Kick back, close your eyes, and enjoy the music. Go for a walk.
Just do something other than sorting papers.
Start the Process Over Again.
After you’ve taken a break, it’s time to start the process over again.
No more than 15 or 30 minutes. Fit in as many cycles as you can (without burning yourself out…I promise those piles will be there waiting for you tomorrow), then start again the next day.
It’s slow going, but it’s SO worth it! Stick with it, and you’ll be so happy you did.
Challenge: Start sorting and try to get through 2 cycles today.
Bonus Challenge: Print the “Vital Documents” file and post it near the home you’ve chosen for your paper piles.
Hang in there! This is the thankless part of organizing our files. That also means we’re nearer to being paper pile free!
If you’re looking for more ways to get your home office organized, check out Supercharge Your Organization and Productivity with Office Zones and 6 Things to do on Sunday for the Best Week Ever!
More Posts in the Organize Your Files Series
Sort Like a Machine (with FREE Printables)
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