4 organizing tips for getting rid of piles of paper

It is important to handle paperwork promptly. Missing deadlines for paying bills cost you money. Late responses to family and colleagues’ inquiries create concern or hostility. Losing important papers costs you time recreating or searching for them. Here are some tips to help you build a system to deal with your paperwork as soon as it arrives.

A lovely colleague sent me this first tip.  Marie Mushing runs a networking group called People in Connection. See what working with a professional organizer can do for you? Professional Organizers rub out junk. Where there was once chaos and huge piles of paper, is now a showcase. Thank you Julie! Replace the junk pile with something pretty as I did, then you won’t want to pile junk on that again. Great motivation to keep the filing done!

If you have an empty flat surface it sometimes  calls to people, “to fill me with stuff.” To prevent that area from becoming cluttered, put a large object or two in that spot.  It will make the area feel full and then you won’t drop things there.  With only 2 larger objects, it is easy to pick them up dust and clean.  If you use a number of smaller items it may make the area harder to clean and look cluttered.

Assign a place to put papers that need to be read, filed, signed etc.  Place a tray, lovely baskets, eye catching red container etc in a convenient location. Why red?  Red is a high energy colour, it increases your heartrate, and your eye is drawn to red items.  By using a red basket it can help to make dealing with paperwork a high priority activity.  Keeping paperwork consolidated in one spot makes it easier to find and work with.  When paper is all over the office or house it becomes visual clutter, causing anxiety, releasing cortisol and you feel stress.  Cut the visual clutter, collect the paper in one spot, and complete the tasks.

Piles of paper will continue to build up if you leave them for later.  Later will never come.  Schedule time to deal with paperwork: schedule time to read, file, and reply to paperwork that generates more work.  Schedule these activities according to your level of energy at different times of the day.  Scheduling reading after lunch at a low energy time of the day may not be productive but scheduling filing after lunch may be perfect because it gets you up and active. Scheduling time at the beginning of each day to concentrate on work generated by email, letters, and documents might work well when you are able to focus on single tasks.  Remember not to multi-task.

If you’re interested in learning how colour can affect your productivity, this guide is free and you can find it here.

Julie Stobbe is a Trained Professional Organizer and Lifestyle Organizing Coach who brings happiness to homes and organization to offices, virtually using Zoom. She has been working with clients since 2006 to provide customized organizing solutions to suit their individual needs and situations. She uses her love of teaching to reduce clutter, in your home, office, mind and time. She guides and supports you to be accountable for your time, to complete projects and reach your goals. If you’re in a difficult transition Julie can coach you to break-free of emotional clutter constraining you from living life on your terms. Online courses are available to help instruct, coach and support your organizing projects. Get started by downloading Tips for Reorganizing 9 Rooms.

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12 thoughts on “4 organizing tips for getting rid of piles of paper”

  1. One client was having that problem with people piling stuff on her newly cleared surface. I made a post-it note and stuck it on this spot that said, “Do not put anything here.” She said it worked so well that she made a note of her own for another space. Sometimes it isn’t even us who are piling the paperwork on, but others who drop stuff under/over our papers. I’m for any trick that helps families form good habits!

    1. I love the post it note idea. Not everyone in the family may realize they shouldn’t put things there, a note works great.What is obvious for one person may not to everyone.

  2. A vase of flowers is a fun way to add life and freshness to a newly cleared surface. It can also serve as a reminder to keep that surface clear.

    It’s an interesting suggestion to make the paper collection basket ‘red’ to draw your attention to it. I can see how that could work in some scenarios.

    My best strategy is to triage the papers when they first ‘arrive.’ Trash, recycle, file, route to another person, or place in their action container/file. Doing this regularly keeps the piles in check.

    1. It is really important to trash and recycle paperwork right away. Next is to open the envelope and get rid of all the unneeded paperwork. Then the pile of paperwork seems more manageable.

  3. I love that you mentioned the color red and how it impacts us. That’s a great time. People forget that color may affect them during their day. Knowing which color affects them is an excellent option for taking action.

    1. Colour can impact how you feel and help to give you energy or calm you down. When I am working with clients the colour I wear can motivate them or help them to focus.

  4. I love the suggestion not to leave empty surfaces – they are a definite clutter trap!

    I used to have paper trays on my desk but got rid of them a few years ago – it forces me to deal with the paper right away (I do have a ticker file for those that require action, but not yet).

    1. The sooner you have time to deal with paperwork the better. It is good to schedule time for paperwork so it can be handled quickly. If you don’t get it done right away be gentle with yourself.

  5. I like all of these tips, but especially using red. I discussed with a client the fact all of the important papers that Queen Elizabeth had to review each day were brought to her in a special “red box.” These red boxes have some historical significance, and I believe members of Parliament also get similar boxes. By taking advantage of the red color as well as identifying a place where papers really should go (for eventual evaluation), it yields all the benefits you describe.

    And I completely agree about putting one or two large items where clutter (paper or otherwise) tends to get left; it’s a good way to discourage physical clutter by creating friction. The more annoyingly difficult it is to be cluttered, the less we’ll do it!

  6. Wonderful tips. A beautiful plant is a good decor for that empty space and for breathing. Or maybe make sure if you want it empty it stays that way.
    I think that red color basket is calling and will make you shake until you get rid of all the papers.
    Thanks for sharing.

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