Thursday, January 22, 2015

6 Steps To Getting Your Paper Piles Under Control

Is your dining room table covered with a sea of paper piles consisting of mail, documents, magazines, circulars, coupons, to-do’s, children’s schoolwork, business cards, and miscellaneous messages? How does your office look? Whether you work from home or away, you need to have a consistent system for processing your daily paper.  Your sanity will thank you.

Step 1: Divide your paper into 3 piles: Keep, Recycle, and Shred.
Work each piece of paper on your table or desk area until all your paper has been processed. Remember to only make three decisions/piles: Keep, Recycle or Shred. Once this step has been completed you should have only three piles in front of you.

Step 2: Lets work the Shred Pile first.
You’ll need a shredder for this exercise. If you have an extreme amount of paper that needs to be shredded, then you may want to hire a shredding service? It’s usually about $50 per standard file box of paper. If you are shredding the paper yourself, continue feeding the paper into the shredder until the whole pile is gone.

Step 3: Now it’s time to work the Recycle pile.
Grab a big tall brown paper lawn bag and use that as your recycling bag. Label the bag “Recycle” with a black sharpie. If you don’t fill up the bag with your pile, leave it close by, so you can continue to fill it during future sessions, until it’s about three-quarters full. At that point, empty it into your outdoor recycling container. Now you should only have one pile remaining. Onto Step 4.

Step 4: We saved the Keep Pile for last, because this pile needs to be worked into two more piles: Current and Archive.
Once you have worked all the paper in the whole Keep pile, you should have two piles on your desk or table: Current and Archive. The Current pile will consist of relevant information like bills to be paid, future appointments and meetings, newer coupons and circulars, and other important current paper. The Archive pile will consist of paper you don’t need to access on a regular basis, like insurance documents, real estate paperwork, Healthcare benefits, Auto history, Investments like 401k, Taxes, etc.

Step 5: What do we do with the Archive pile?
File it into a standard metal office file or any file of your choosing, which does not need to be accessed on a daily basis. Create a file folder for each subject and label it clearly with a marker or labeler.

Step 6: What do we do with the Current pile?
Create a Ticker Filing System to file daily paper. See this Tickler File Video for more detailed instructions. You will need 45 folders for this system: 31 for the days of the week, 12 for the months of the year and 2 for blank paper and recent paid bills. You will also need a portable file holder.

Following these 6 bite-sized processing steps will help you tackle your daily paper with confidence. Stay tuned next month, when we dive into Time Management.

As a Professional Organizer, Speaker, Author, Podcast Producer & Host, Rick Woods helps residents and businesses make room for clarity, by getting rid of the clutter that gets in their way.

Rick’s newly released book “Make Room for Clarity” is a step by step guide to getting rid of the clutter that gets in your way. Available on Amazon.Listen to Rick's free weekly iTunes & Stitcher podcast "Make Room For Clarity", which focuses on interviewing business & health experts by visiting

Inquire about Rick's professional organizing business, "The Functional Organizer, LLC.", which focuses on decluttering, organizing, paper filing and time management by visiting


  1. Stuff piles up fast. Thanks for the tips, Rick.

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