Organizing Papers, Ugh! Part 1

Papers never stop arriving. The mail is delivered 6 days a week barring a holiday and even if most of it is junk mail that you throw away, there is bound to be papers that you end up with. If you are well organized then they will not clutter up your home, but how many of us are THAT organized? There are so many ways to organize your papers and the different kinds of papers that you may decide to keep, whether short term or indefinitely.

Everyone has a system for dealing with those papers coming in, although whether it is working well is another matter. It is a system even if the papers are piled or dropped somewhere. Most critical for the system is whether you know where to find things easily and are paying your bills on time. Yet, this often is not enough.

The first step is to figure out what you want to keep. Period. Start this simple. Is there a reason to hold onto something right now? If there is no reason to hold onto it, throw it away.

Next, with the things that you are keeping for right now, what is short-term and what is long-term?

Starting with the short-term papers: coupons, catalogs, and sometimes magazines are easily put into this category. Coupons and catalogs expire or become outdated. Find a place to hold onto these short-term papers where you know where to look for them. Make a point to look through the catalogs within a short time and decide whether it is now trash or something to hold onto for a while longer.

Some people keep catalogs until the next one arrives. If you want to do this, find a relatively small place to keep them. I have seen catalogs kept in a small drawer, an upright magazine holder, and in-box container just for them, to name a few. Creating a place to keep them that helps contain them temporarily helps to make sure that the older version can easily be thrown away after the newer one arrives.

Similarly, with coupons, if there is a small place you keep them, you can see when it is time to review them, purging anything that has expired, and reminding yourself what you want to use. They can be kept in an envelope, a small bin, in your purse, or wherever you find convenient and logical.

Magazines ideally are read before the next one arrives. If you enjoy the magazine and are loathe to just throw away the unread magazines, stop getting more until you are caught up and you can always start getting it again. Canceling a subscription or not renewing it is important in avoiding unnecessary clutter when you do not have time to read them. Try to be realistic about what you can read regularly; no one else can determine that for you.

Deciding what to do with the magazines after you have read them varies from person to person as well as the type of magazine. I am a fan of tearing out articles that you want to keep and finding a way to organize them that way. There are times when you want to keep the whole magazine though. My husband and I have a combination of both these approaches.

If there are articles you want to keep, one option that saves space in your home is to find them online and save them on your computer, where you can do keyword searches for them. If you keep the paper copies, create a way to organize them. You can put them into files with appropriate labels so can find them easily or create binders that keep them altogether.

If you are keeping the magazine as a whole, you also need to find a way to keep them organized. Theoretically, if you decide it is important enough to keep, you are going to want to have access to it at a later point or you do not want them to be ruined. They make binders that are designed to hold magazines without damaging them or what I like using are the magazine holders. The magazine holders can be as decorative or plain as you want and in different materials, from heavy cardboard to plastic, to metal ones. I use each holder for a specific magazine after it has been read and been moved into the keep category and they can be kept altogether.

Organizing papers is a detail-oriented process and I will begin the section on long-term papers in the next post.

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