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The Paper Chase

Ugh. I’ve been doing tax prep this week. Raise your hands if you LOVE dealing with paperwork? No one? Really? Yeah. Me either. I do have a few things that I have found that work well or me, so I’ll pass them on.

Today let’s get a handle on the paperwork that comes into our homes via the mail. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Who brings in the mail?

  2. Where is unopened mail placed?

  3. Where does opened mail go?

  4. Where is the paperwork located?

This will help you figure out what you’re doing now and what you need to change. To give you an idea, here are my answers to these four questions.

  1. I get the mail. I’m a big fan of the “handle it once” school of thought.

  2. If I can’t get to the mail right away, I put it on the corner of the hutch, next to the desk. I like to decorate my hutch, so this motivates me to get it off that pretty spot and where it belongs. By our desk, we have a paper shredder and a recycle basket. Most of the mail gets put in the recycle basket. Anything with our identity gets shredded. Bills, financial records, insurance, and other legal papers are pretty much all I keep.

  3. Most of this gets filed immediately. The few bills that aren’t on autopay are the only things that I keep out as a visual reminder. But where do you keep this “visual reminder”???? Years ago I bought a pretty black iron napkin holder. It is perfect for holding papers and files on top of the desk. Bills to to be paid go right in front where they stare at me until they are paid. To keep me honest, I write the due date in big letters on the front of the envelop.

  4. All our “working files” are kept in the two file drawers in the desk. (I have another file cabinet in the basement that holds archived papers etc.)

With mail, as in most things, it’s easier to keep up than to catch up. If you can’t attend to this daily, create an inbox to corral the papers and do it AT LEAST weekly. Toss the junk and sort the keep into:

1.Action Papers

2. Reference papers (save and file)

3. Reading material (If it’s a quick read, do it now and toss, if not have a magazine basket wherever you read and put it in there.)

Dedicate an area to process mail, with a letter opener, pens, stapler, recycling basket etc. Have “Action Papers” and “Reference Papers” inboxes or folders and an “Out Box” for outgoing mail/paperwork. (Stop credit card offers and pre-approved insurance offers by contacting 1-888-567-8688 or www.optoutprescreen.com.)


Congratulations! You should be well on your way to conquering the paper chase!


In the next blog post, I’ll talk about whether you are an “innie” or an “outie”. No, not bellybuttons - papers. Hint: I’m mostly an innie. My husband is definitely an outie. And yet we are happily married. It’s all about knowing what works for you and a heaping measure of grace. Get ready to conquer receipts, school papers and more next time. You can do this!

Laura ~ your organizing girlfriend


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