Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Questions and Anwers: Paper

Q and A: Paper
This is the first of what will become a regular feature on the Wellrich Blog: a Question and Answer column. I often receive questions from clients. Many of the questions are very similar. I will post here some of the more common, interesting or helpful for your benefit. If you have questions you would like answered, send them to me at

Q: I can't keep track of all of the paper that comes into the house- mail, school papers, etc. If I try to put things away I forget about them and miss things, and if I leave them out I can't find anything. What do you suggest? I currently have stacks of paper in various places, things on my bulletin board, and the really important things stuck into my planner. Cherri, Toronto

A: "How do I handle the paper?" is the most common question most professional organizers receive from their organizing clients.

Step 1 – The first step to correcting the solution is to get all the paper in one place so that it can be weeded out. Schools are notorious for sending second and third copies of forms to be signed if they haven’t shown up by the due date. Pull is all together in one big pile and let's go.

Step 2 – Go through and throw out (recycle) all the duplicates, envelopes and junk mail. What you have left is the material that you really need to address.

Step 3 – Set up a date sensitive/hot file type folder for handling birthday invitaitions, Kiwanis dates, doctors appointments or anything else that stale dates. This can be as simple as (my favourite) an alligator hook holding the date sorted papers hung on a hook in the kitchen, or as complicated as a 31 day accordion file used as a bring forward file.

Step 4 – Set up a reference material holder. This could be (my favourite) an accordion file labeled by subject (church, teacher, ballet studio, music teacher) or a binder with dividers using the same titles. File the paper related to these subjects as reference for when you need it. If it doesn’t contain reference, toss it.

Step 5 – Set up a filing system for day to day items such as statements that you still receive in hard copy. Get into the habit of keeping only the minimum required e.g. one year of statements, latest bill, total year to date etc.

Step 6 – Set up a mail station with a separate slot for every member of your family. This could be as simple as a cereal box cut like a paper tray (get the kids to decorate their own), plastic stacking paper trays, wall hanging shoe holders or anything else you can imagine. Go vertical! Label each members slot and make sure that when the mail comes in, it gets sorted. This is a good “chore” for a grade 3 student.

Step 7 - Give your kids a folder – plastic, 2 pocket, which they can choose the colour and decorate. Have them use this folder for everything that comes home for you. They bring it home and put it in your mail slot. You take out the contents, sign the forms and put it back in their slot. They check the slot each morning before school.

It will take a while for your family to buy into all of this but persevere. They will catch on and the kids will love not being nagged at school for the forms which used to be always late. Kids also like having their own mail slot. It makes them feel important and on an equal footing to older siblings/parents at least in this one department.

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