Laura’s Blog Entry
The one thing that bogs me down, over and over, is paper. Mostly paper that comes in the mail. Anyone else experience this?
I used to go nuts opening the mail each day and then making piles of things that needed attention. I didn’t want to put it away somewhere because I was fearful I would forget that it needed to be dealt with. But then there was so much lying around that things got lost anyway.
I was pretty sure I could wrestle this monster to the ground if I just put my mind to it. What resulted was a system that has evolved over the past five plus years. It works pretty well. In case you are looking for a way out of the paper nightmare, here’s how it goes…
Mail comes in the front door each day. I give it a quick look – anything interesting? Any packages? Those get opened right away. Everything else goes into the mail storage box. That’s the large box on the bottom in the photo below. The top box contains the letter opener, paperclips, pens and any other odds and ends I need for the process.
Once a week, often on Thursdays for some reason, I process all the mail. It is listed on my calendar so I don’t forget. This way bills get taken care of in a timely manner and nothing sits too long. Processing involves opening everything and making decisions.
Is it a bill to pay? It gets moved into a file folder in a portable file box. These are organized by date. I file it in the folder for the week before it is due.
This file box also contains supplies for mailing – stamps, envelopes, return address labels. I also keep files I use on a regular basis in here as well. For example, there is a folder for coupons – these are the ones for oil changes, restaurants, craft stores. I can easily leaf through them before I go shopping.
There is also a file for deposit envelopes so I can process any checks that come in the mail.
My latest strategy – and this is working really well – is that I keep any statements that come for investments or 401Ks here. Each month I pull out and shred the one from the previous month and only keep the most current. Then at the end of the year I just keep the final statement. That is so much neater than filing them away each month and then purging at the end of the year.
Back to the mail processing: Is it junk mail? It goes to the shred pile or recycling. Catalogs I want to keep go in a large basket. Other go straight to recycling. I try to only touch things once. Open and make a decision.
If I have time I pay bills that are due right then. Best not to put it off.
I also take this time to transfer any important dates to the calendar – things like invitations, school functions, etc.
Some people can probably whip through this routine every single day and be done. If I had to do that my soul would wither up and die. So mind-numbing. It works for me to only have to do it four or five times a month.
My latest experiment is a basket on the coffee table for school forms that need processing. I dislike having a pile sitting there, but if I put them away some where I forget to do them. So far the basket is working better than the pile system. Time will tell. How do you keep your paper under control?