Digging out of Paper Clutter - part 1

Digging out from under stacks of paper might seem like a daunting and insurmountable task. Let's face it, paper can be intimidating and overwhelming. It comes relentlessly and without warning, and it never stops coming - bills, insurance policies, faxes, to-do lists, invoices, tax information, user manuals, receipts, itineraries...Add in the magazines, brochures, drafts, booklets, letters, drafts, etc., and it's easy to see how paper molehills become paper mountains. And here's the worst part - somewhere in this ever-growing mound of chaos lies your business - important phone numbers, bills that have to be paid, clients that need attention, receivables that need collecting?

Before I help you to dig out of the paper clutter, let me assure you of two things:

1. You are not alone.

2. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

My goal is to "unbury" you, by helping you to pare down and organize your papers. Before we start though, let me suggest that you don't try to do everything in one day. Work in 1-2 hour chunks of time.

The first step is sorting, To sort, we'll need some containers (I use laundry baskets or milk crates, but any boxes will do). Label the containers accordingly:

-Take Action ? anything that requires you to do something within the next two weeks. Includes bills, appointments, meetings, etc.

-Read ? includes any paper, newsletter, announcement, magazine, etc. that might contain information you want to read. The secret here is to cut it out the article, and throw away the rest of the publication.

-30 Days ? includes things that must be done within 30 days, but are not as critical as Take Action items which must be done within two weeks. Includes bills due, appointments, events, to-dos, etc.

-File ? These are archived items that require no action, but must be retained. Includes contracts, bank statements, receipts, warranties, product information, tax information, etc.

-Throw Away ? anything that is six months old and requires you to take no action.

Now that we have our containers, let's start. Grab a stack of papers, and sort through it, placing each paper into the appropriate container. Since you're sorting by general category, it should go pretty fast. Be thorough, but quick. The key is to touch each piece of paper only once, and not to read each paper. Just glance at it, and quickly put it into the correct container. We will do a more specific sort later. For now, we are doing a general sort, and discarding trash.

Of course, the biggest question is what to throw away. The simple answer is to throw away anything you don't need. You need to ask yourself, "Do I really need this, and what is the worst thing that can happen if I throw this away?" I worked with one person who published a local, specialized newspaper. He needed to keep one or two copies of each back issue, but when we sorted his paperwork, we found 40-50 copies of each. We also found records of events he was involved in years ago, wedding photos, some of his children's artwork, DVD rental receipts, last year's to-do lists, his son's birth certificate, the title to his SUV, etc. We also found owners manuals and receipts for items he no longer owned, stacks of bank statements from the 1980s, and so on. Remember, this is your workspace. For you to be most efficient, effective and professional your paperwork needs to be in order.

By now, you've gone through each stack of paper. You sorted correctly, you have five containers or boxes of papers to be filed, and (most likely) a lot of discarded paper for recycling. Congratulations on your hard work and progress. Stay tuned, and I will discuss how to set up a filing system, and what to do with the papers you sorted.

Marc Rifkin is a Professional Organizer, and owner of OASIS professional organizers, which provides organizing solutions for homes and offices in Seattle, WA. http://www.oasisorganizers.com

©2005 OASIS professional organizers

May be reprinted with full author credit, bio, and all links intact only

In The News:

B'ville Junior organizing Culture Festival  CNYcentral.comA student at Baker High School who's been involved in city-suburrban inter-school dialogues is organizing an event aimed at sharing the many cultures in the ...
John Clarke's decades of militant anti-poverty organizing in Ontario  rabble.caJohn Clarke was an organizer with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) from its founding in 1990 until his retirement in late January 2019. Though he ...
Closet Organizing Commandments to Help You Get Ready Faster  Real SimpleWant to shave minutes off of your morning routine? Follow these seven closet organizing rules right now to make get ready much easier. With these guidelines in ...
Fyre Festival Live-Action Role-Play Events Planned in Michigan, Texas  The Daily DotThe infamous failed luxury music event is inspiring a Fyre Festival live-action role-play in Detroit and another in Texas mimicking the fiasco.
Organizing tips from Marie Kondo's Philly-based comrades  Philly.comFeeling overwhelmed by your clutter? Philly's professional organizers have lots of advice.
6 Ways of Organizing Your Leadership to Help Your Growing Company Succeed  Inc.As a company grows, the top levels of the organization must change. Going from a founder with a few early employees to a billion-dollar company with multiple ...
20-20 deadlock votes stop the Alaska House from organizing, weeks into session  KTUU.comJUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - Two votes in the Alaska House of Representatives both resulted in deadlock for two candidates nominated to House Speaker ...
NH Primary Source: Former NHGOP Chair Horn organizing Granite State events for Weld  WMUR ManchesterWhen former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld reached out for a knowledgeable local Republican to help him put together a New Hampshire schedule as he ...
KonMari Is The Latest Home Organizing Craze, But Does It Really Work?  ForbesMarie Kondo's Netflix series "Tidying Up" has sparked an organizing craze, but is KonMari really the best way to organize your home?
Google Wanted to Prohibit Workers From Organizing by Email  WIREDCEO Sundar Pichai pledged to support workers who walked out, but his lawyers say that employees shouldn't be allowed to use company email to organize.
Sex abuse survivors to meet with Vatican summit organizers  paNOWVATICAN CITY — The organizers of Pope Francis' summit on preventing clergy sex abuse will meet this week with a dozen abuse victims who have descended ...
Organizing a Science Symposium: Don't Be Intimidated!  Entomology TodaySo you want to organize a symposium for an upcoming ESA conference? Check out these ideas and tips for creating, organizing, and moderating a successful ...
Clever Kitchen Organizing Ideas to Steal from Insta-Famous Organizers  Real SimpleFrom orderly spice cabinets to genius corner drawers, these organization hacks are the home cook's dream.
Organizers plan e-bike and mobility festival for Bentonville  Bicycle RetailerBENTONVILLE, Ark. (BRAIN) — This community, which already has hosted an IMBA World Summit, Outerbike and other bike events, will be home to the new ...
16-year-old organizing donation drive for homeless  14 News WFIE EvansvilleAfter this last cold snap, a local 16-year-old saw our stories about homeless people in need of warm clothes. She called us saying she wanted to do something ...
Latinx Immigrant Movement History Shows Importance of Organizing  Nonprofit QuarterlyToday, there is a high degree of unity among Latinx organizations over the need to support immigrant rights. This was not always the case.
Where's Shane? Organizing with Simplify My Life  KWCHThis morning we're getting some tips from an organizing expert with Simplify My Life to see if we can make this year a little easier to navigate!
LouFest Organizers Allege Contractor Sabotaged 2018 Festival  St. Louis Public RadioOrganizers of the LouFest music festival have filed suit against one of its contractors, alleging that the owner of sound and lighting vendor Logic Systems.
Bethalto Public Library organizing first-ever Ladies Night Out  Alton TelegraphBETHALTO — The Bethalto Public Library is organizing the first-ever Ladies Night Out for the village. On Friday, March 8 from 6-9 p.m. the village is closing three ...
4 notebooks for organizing your thoughts this year  Popular ScienceWith the daily tasks of life flying around your head, it can be easy to feel stressed and a little lost. Writing down your thoughts can help you think more clearly.
“Less Mess, Less Stress” with Abundance Organizing  WTVR CBS 6 NewsRICHMOND, Va. - Amanda Scudder is part of Abundance Organizing, a company's whose mission is to help clients find clarity and contentment within their ...
Human Rights Organizers Encourage Employees to Blow the Whistle on Unethical Tech  BioSpacePublished: Feb 20, 2019. Today, Fight for the Future launched a website and video ad campaign that directly calls on employees of big tech companies to blow ...
NDS Arrests Three For 'Organizing' Green Zone Truck Bomb in 2017  TOLOnewsNational Directorate of Security (NDS) forces have arrested three members of Haqqani network in Kabul, the NDS confirmed on Sunday. According to the ...
Professor shares lessons from experience in political organizing  The JusticeLESSONS FROM THE FIELD: Marshall Ganz, who worked with Cesar Chavez and the Mississippi Freedom Project, shared his experiences with organizing.
Eastside Grannies organizing decor sale in support of African grandmothers  Sherwood Park NewsA new March event hopes to boost dollars collected by Canadian grandmothers sent to grandmothers in sub-Saharan Africa who are taking care of children ...
Québec solidaire organizing rally against shredding immigrant applications  Montreal GazetteWill Quebec's decision to shred 18000 immigration applications blow up in the government's face? Québec solidaire believes there is enough anger out there to ...
Fortnite Live Norwich Festival Organizers Liquidated  VGR.comWondering what happened to the organizers of the Fortnite Live Norwich Festival since Epic Games took them to court? Find out here.
Suit to allow farmworker organizing heard in Albany appeals court  The Livingston County NewsALBANY — The case of a farmworker who was laid off from Marks Farms in Lowville for allegedly trying to organize better working conditions was heard by the ...
Organizers of unsanctioned Fortnite festival facing lawsuit from Epic Games  GamasutraEpic Games has issued a claim against Exciting Events, the organizers of a recent and unsanctioned Fortnite festival hosted in the UK over the weekend.
#RedforEd: Socialists Organizing Teachers to Turn Purple States Blue by 2020  BreitbartA well-funded and subversive leftist movement of teachers in the United States threatens to tilt the political balance nationwide in the direction of Democrats ...
No Center of Gravity festival in Kelowna this summer: organizers  Trail TimesOrganizers of summer music festival Center of Gravity has announced that there will be no event this summer, with hopes for a comeback in 2020.
Orange Crush organizers planning St. Pat's event  WSAV-TVOrganizers of a spring break bash on Tybee Island say they plan on taking over the beach during the Coastal Empire's busiest weekend for tourism.
Organizers Oust Amazon HQ2 From New York  Common Dreamsmazon offered New Yorkers the best possible Valentine's Day gift — a breakup. The union-busting, deportation-aiding company announced it wouldn't go ...
Oscars organizers backtrack on plan to hand out awards during commercial breaks  CP24 Toronto's Breaking NewsBowing to a backlash that had threatened to engulf an already blunder-plagued Academy Awards, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Friday ...
Jack Frost attendance unaffected despite rained-out Saturday, organizers say  CBC.caDespite a downpour that closed the outdoor Snow Kingdom at the Jack Frost Winterfest on Saturday, organizers say attendance doesn't seem to have been ...
ICCW organizing large food drive for Helena Food Share  KXLH Helena NewsThe Interagency Committee for Change by Women (ICCW) is organizing a large food drive at the State Capitol complex and other state agencies to benefit ...
Smart Solutions: Never too late to start organizing  The Detroit NewsWhile National Get Organized Month may have already come and gone, we can still keep the momentum going even if our first attempts have failed.
Lexington cruise-in clash continues with new organizers  Lexington DispatchThe confusion over the monthly cruise-in in uptown Lexington has just kicked into high gear.On one side, a former organizer says the event has been “stolen” ...
7 closet organizers and storage products under $30  NBC NewsInspired by 'Tidying Up With Marie Kondo?" A professional organizer shares her favorite shoe boxes, storage bins and closet organization products under $30.
Census outreach organizers fear missing people and dollars in Ventura County  Ventura County StarVentura County has been found at high risk of being undercounted in the 2020 census, organizers say as they mount an "all hands on deck" campaign.
'Key To Progress': How St. Louisans Are Using Community Organizing And Engagement To Make Change  St. Louis Public RadioOn Wednesday's St. Louis on the Air , host Don Marsh explored how community organizing has evolved in the St. Louis region over the past 40 years. Joining.
Organizers, Navy plan special addition to Adam Brown Shamrock Run  Hot Springs SentinelRegistration for the Ninth Annual Adam Brown Shamrock Run/Walk 5K is now underway and organizers are working on a special addition to the event.
Steward's Corner: Where Do Good Organizers Come From?  Labor NotesFew people are born organizers. Instead, we have to find and nurture people who show some interest and willingness to become organizers. Photo: Jim West ...
The Limits of Extremely Online Organizing  The AtlanticThe remarkable #FuckFuckJerry has been as successful as a spontaneous campaign can be.
Controversy continues: Drag Queen Story Hour in Greenville cancelled, organizers push for new date  FOX CarolinaKayla Conby reports on the increasingly controversial Drag Queen Story Hour event that was to be hosted at an Upstate library- until an issue caused it to be ...
Climate organizers react to Lamont  Yale Daily NewsAfter edging out Republican candidate Bob Stefanowski last November, newly elected Gov. Ned Lamont SOM '80 enters office with Democratic majorities in ...
Music Festival organizers ready to rock  Columbus TelegramThis year's River's Edge Music Festival is going to be like none before.
Organizers nix 2019 Center of Gravity festival  Kamloops MattersIf you were planning to buy tickets for this year's Center of Gravity show, you'll have to wait another year. Organizers have hit pause on the Kelowna-based ...
Organizers Of Religious Events Shall Undertake That There Will Be No Denigration Of Any Other Religion: Madras HC [Read Order]  Live LawSadly, on display are sporadic instances when every religious group competes to dominate with shameless quest its supremacy over the other. The Constitution ...
Youth Fair organizers want to build pavilion  Hudson Valley 360Columbia-Greene Media. CAIRO — Organizers of the annual Greene County Youth Fair are looking to build a permanent pavilion that can be used all ...
NCAA and Tampa Bay Local Organizing Committee announce details for 2019 NCAA Women’s Final Four  NCAA.comWith the 2019 NCAA Women's Final Four only a month and a half from tipoff, members of the NCAA and Tampa Bay Local Organizing Committee detail national ...
Brewery wants the dogs back, and there's an online petition organizers plan to take before local leaders  Winston-Salem JournalA local craft brewery is helping drum up support for letting the dogs back in.
Oscar organizers struggle to keep show relevant  Yahoo NewsFrom going without a host to handing out key awards during commercial breaks, to a quickly nixed idea for a popular film category -- Oscar organizers are ...
Protests to resume in Hoover, Montgomery, organizers say  AL.comOrganizers say protests will resume in the city of Hoover because, according to organizers, city officials have not held up an agreement they made in ...
Emerald Crush? Orange Crush organizers planning St. Patrick's Day event on Tybee Island  WJCL NewsOrganizers of the controversial event that brings thousands to Tybee Island each spring are planning a new event a full month before Orange Crush.
Athletics: New Jamaican world trials dates worry other meet organizers  ReutersThe Jamaican athletics federation's decision to hold their world championships trials during a period typically reserved for Diamond League and other meetings ...
Meriden St. Patrick's Day parade organizers more than halfway to fundraising goal  Meriden Record-JournalMERIDEN — Organizers of the 46th annual St. Patrick's Day parade say they're close to raising enough money to hold the event next month. Organizers have ...
Suggestions for Regatta Organizers  Scuttlebutt Sailing NewsNoel M. Field, Jr. is currently a US SAILING judge emeritus, and as he recognizes the shortage of judges, he has some suggestions for persons organizing ...
Denver's People's Fair canceled for 2019, organizers say  The Denver ChannelThe city's oldest neighborhood festival will not return this year, organizers for the annual People's Fair said so Friday on their website.
Thunder Bay to host national conference for Pride organizers  CBC.caThunder Bay, Ont., will be the first non-major city in Canada to host the annual meeting of Canada's Pride organizations. Fierté Canada Pride will hold its ...
Canada Day organizers eye move  paNOWMembers of the group behind the city's Canada Day celebrations hope to bring the event back downtown for 2019....
World Ag Expo organizers are prepared for rain during three-day event  KFSN-TVThis year's World Ag Expo in Tulare has 1466 exhibitors - 750 are outdoors. And rain is their friend, not foe.
Punkin Chunkin lawsuit dismissed; organizers hope to host Delaware event  Delmarva Daily TimesPunkin Chunkin announced after a two-year lull it was back, but whether a pumpkin-spewing championship will happen this year is unclear.
Organizers excited for 2019 Santa Maria Elks Rodeo  KSBY San Luis Obispo NewsPreparations for the 2019 Santa Maria Elks Rodeo are underway and there are some new things fans can look forward to this year. One big change is new ...
Saskatoon Organizing Systems wants to help you manage memories, photographs  Saskatoon StarPhoenixVIDEO: Angela Turner is a professional organizer in Saskatoon who wants to help her clients organize and sort their photo collections.
Organizers Cancel NedFest Music Festival  JamBaseAfter 20 years, the NedFest music festival will no longer be held in Nederland, Colorado. The news of the cancellation was confirmed in a statement posted by ...
Marble mecca: Organizers gear up for second Humboldt Marble Weekend  Eureka Times StandardThe passion for small glass globes will be magnified this weekend as organizers put on the second Humboldt Marble Weekend, set to open Thursday. “There is ...
Transit challenge organizers demand fare freeze  CBC.caThe organizers behind last week's transit challenge in Ottawa have wrapped up their campaign by demanding an indefinite freeze on OC Transpo fares.
Stamford PD praises organizers for ‘extremely peaceful’ rally  The AdvocateSTAMFORD — Venezuelan nationals and other members of the community joined for a peaceful rally in front of the city's government center on Washington ...
Organizers Cancel Beverly Comic Con For 2019  Beverly, MA PatchOrganizers Cancel Beverly Comic Con For 2019 - Beverly, MA - Organizers suggested the show outgrew its venue at the Porter Mill building but offers hope that ...
'In New Orleans, we throw parties’: Organizers prepare for Boycott Bowl  FOX 8 Live WVUENEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - What started on a drawing board between a group of friends has become a sold-out event, bringing in Saints fans from all over who ...
Yemen’s friendliness towards Netanyahu at summit blamed on ‘seating organizers’  World Israel News“As in any international conference, the organizers are responsible for the mistakes in the seating arrangements,” Alyemany said, apparently disturbed by photos ...
Stanford partners with Coachella organizers to bring concerts back to Frost Ampitheater  The Mercury NewsMusic fans will once again flock to Frost Amphitheater, which will re-open on Stanford campus for concerts with Goldenvoice, San Francisco Symphony.
Better Together organizers are disingenuous, self-righteous  STLtoday.comBetter Together is trying to sell a bill of goods that will become a large, expensive bureaucracy that will not be as responsive to local communities.
Boycott Bowl organizers donate $57404 to NORD Foundation  WWLTV.comFriday, organizers for the Boycott Bowl turned over a check for $57404.36 to the New Orleans Recreation Department Foundation.
Fyre Festival’s Organizers Didn’t Pay a Restaurant Owner, So GoFundMe Donors Stepped In  The New York TimesWith two documentaries bringing new attention to the 2017 music festival disaster, people raised more than $177000 for a Bahamian restaurant owner who was ...
Tokyo 2020 organizers, metro and central gov'ts troubled over athlete transport plans  The MainichiTOKYO -- Organizers of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics as well as the central and Tokyo metropolitan governments are struggling to work out ef.
Athletes, organizers enjoy fun atmosphere at Special Olympics  New Jersey HeraldVERNON -- With conditions more appropriate for the middle of spring than early February, competitors took to the slopes Tuesday for the second and final day of ...
WhiskerMania organizers prepare for battle of the facial hair  WLKY LouisvilleMembers of the Derby City Whisker Club are preparing for their fourth annual WhiskerMania. The facial hair competition is at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Diamond Pub ...
Plans involving Camp Grayling move forward after organizers met with Department of Defense  Petoskey News-ReviewGRAYLING — Northeast Michigan Council of Governments (NEMCOG) leaders are moving forward with the development of Joint Land Use Study plans for the ...
Vuelta a San Juan organizers eject Keisse  VeloNewsDespite his apology made earlier Tuesday, Vuelta a San Juan organizers kick out Iljo Keisse for harassing local cafe employee. In the wake of controversy over ...
City organizers prepare for 45th annual Tallahassee Marathon  WTXL ABC 27TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) - More than 1000 people will be lacing up their shoes first thing on Sunday morning for the 45th annual Tallahassee marathon.
Covington clash won't affect Canadian march: organizers  The B.C. CatholicBy Deborah Gyapong OTTAWA—Organizers of Canada's National March for Life in May are keeping safety paramount, especially in light of an incident at the ...

Common Clutter Culprits- How to Bust Through Clutter

Paper1. You may already be in the habit of filing... Read More

Time for a Clean Out

Time has flown. It's been six months since you came... Read More

10 Easy Maintenance Tips vs Piling on the Chaos

Whether you are in your own business or an employee... Read More

Spring Makeovers: Organizing Tips for the Home and a Virtual Makeover for You

Winter is starting to retreat, and hints of Spring are... Read More

Managing Mealtime Madness

It is 5:00 pm and Cindy has no idea what... Read More

The Organized Move: Packing Made Simple

(This is the second in a series of three articles... Read More

Oh No, Not Another Interuption, How To Deal With Everyday Distractions

Every day I find junk mail waiting for me, whether... Read More

Secrets to Eliminating Emotional Clutter

Are you plagued by clutter in your personal or professional... Read More

Clutter Campaign - Commit Your Time

Decide When And Where To StartDecide when and where to... Read More

Cleaning Out Your Closet

Helping people clean out their closet is something I love... Read More

Overcoming E-mail Overload Using Microsoft Outlook

Do you feel like you just get too much e-mail?... Read More

10 Myths of Clutter Clearing

1) It's easy to have a good clear out: Not... Read More

Be More Productive at Work: Avoid These Eight Traps

Obviously, productivity involves producing. Producing widgets, events, reports, sales. The... Read More

Spruce Your Environment, Spruce Your Spirit

After a long winter, this is the time of year... Read More

Feeling Overwhelmed and Unorganized? - How to Use Index Cards to Organize Your Life

Feeling Overwhelmed and Unorganized? - How to Use Index Cards... Read More

9 Simple Strategies for Home Organization

Home organization means being able to find your stuff when... Read More

Do You Have A To-Do list?

I have a huge white board in my home office,... Read More

The Love It Or Lose It Principle: One Simple Key to Living Clutter-Free Forever

It wasn't long ago that you spent an entire weekend... Read More

Making Space - Letting Go of Clutter

To make room for new things to come into you... Read More

Dont Get Lost In The Shuffle

I have a good friend whom (also being in the... Read More

10 Common Roadblocks to Getting Organized

1. All or nothing thinking/taking on too much." I'm going... Read More

Effective Closet Cleaning Tips - Let Go of More Than Skeletons

I know I have a problem when I have to... Read More

The Psychology of Being Organized

Individuals who are organized in their personal lives most generally... Read More

Clutter & Creativity

Take a look around you right now. Look away from... Read More

Daily Systems Keep You Organized

Ever wonder how they do it? How a short-order cook... Read More