How to Organize Paperwork

How to Organize Paperwork

From behind piles of papers on her desk, a weak voice cries, “Good grief! I thought computers were going to free us from paperwork!”

Well, it sounded like a good thing at the time, but the reality is that nothing seems to be taking the place of paper documents and the need to have them in easy reach.

Too many trusting souls have learned the hard way – storing important personal and business financial documents, records, correspondence on computer drives is not a foolproof way to preserve them.

Computers crash and information is irretrievably lost. Experts recommend backing up your files to disc, keeping the information updated, and keeping the discs accessible.

A lot of us still resort to printing documents with the intention of filing them for future reference, or to respond to them eventually. That old bugaboo – Procrastination – wields a heavy hand here. The result is stacks of “important” papers that contain personal, financial, and plain old junk that clutters your desk and overflows onto the floor.

It’s The Mail Carrier’s Fault!

Not really. He or she is just doing their job and – thanks to the millions of pounds of junk mail generated by advertisers – it looks like the USPS has a high probability of eternal job security!

At my small community post office, I often observe patrons separating their mail before they leave the building. Personal mail (bills and letters, etc.) are put to one side and junk mail – ad flyers, periodicals, all unwanted catalogs, solicitations, gimmicks and come-ons are dropped right into the trash can.

They never make it from the post office box to the door.

Organize Your Bills

If you do bring it home, wanted or not, immediately separate your bills and put them in an obvious place. Be consistent! Don’t just stack them with the rest of the mail. They get lost and you spend precious time and sweat wondering where they are. A good place to put unopened or unpaid bills is in a specific folder on your desk. Lacking a desk, designate an area on top of a bookcase, your bedroom dresser, a special cupboard and put them there. After they have been paid, mark the date paid and check number, then file it in it’s own special folder.

Proper Disposal of Junk

Determine whether or not you are keeping the other items from the mail and, if not, put them in the recycle bin. Pay attention to what kind of junk mail it is. Some, such as solicitations for credit cards or renewals of subscriptions, contain a bit of personal information about you. SHRED these before throwing them away. Be aware that identify thieves frequently go through trash containers that are left in unprotected locations in residential areas. They are specifically looking for documents that contain personal information with the intention of using it for identity theft. It’s also a good idea to shred or, using a scissors, cut up credit cards so that they cannot be pieced back together in recognizable fashion. (My husband never threw pieces of credit cards in the same trash bag!)

Paper And Junk Mail

It almost seems like paper and junk mail reproduce themselves! After all, you started with a clean desk, then one stack of paper appears, then another. You notice your inbox is packed full. The letter tray on your desk is up to the brim. What happened? The answer is, “nothing.” You have neglected to separate them into their proper category, act on those that require response, and throw away those which are of no value.

Now you’ve got a real mess. You keep the door to your office closed so people can’t look in and see how utterly disorganized you are. Your boss raises his eyebrows when he walks in and shakes his head on the way out. You cringe with embarrassment and hate to look at it yourself.

Clean Up Your Act

The bottom line is you need to create some orderly habits. You need to learn to immediately throw away all junk mail, periodicals, catalogues, advertisements, etc., without even looking at them. You need to separate important mail into proper categories – business correspondence, personal correspondence, financial statements, bills, etc.

Personal offices may be somewhat easier to organize because you have only your own records to keep. But the office is a different story. You may have very sensitive information about employees, the company’s financial investments, job estimating, customer invoicing, etc. Whether it’s the office or at home, following these simple instructions to get started on your way to becoming organized.

  1. Office supply stores carry many different styles of filing systems. For your desk top, we suggest vertical wire “step” files.
  2. Review your stacks of paper; sort paperwork into similar groups (i.e. Employees, Invoices, Reading, Communication, customers)
  3. Use manila folders and write the name of the group on the tab.
  4. Place appropriate subject papers in the folder, and place the folder in a filing cabinet.
  5. Don’t stop until you have every piece of paper categorized and filed away.
  6. You may wish to label one folder “To Do” and keep current items on your desk.

It doesn’t matter if you’re running a multi-tiered department in a large corporation or whether you are the head of your own household of One. It’s important to be well organized particularly when managing finances and necessary correspondence. Being well organized saves time because you don’t have to look all over for that important piece of information – it will be right where you put it, filed neatly away.

Paperwork Organizing Products

SOHO – Small Office, Home Office. Maybe your office consists of one room, or maybe it occupies a corner in the family room. The only requirement is that you have a place where your computer (if necessary), your files, and office essentials can be kept.

Office supply stores have many filing systems that fit every need. Some are constructed of corrugated cardboard, or rigid plastic. There are multi-drawer filing cabinets, desktop systems for upright filing and in-out boxes.

If your home office doubles as a business office, you need to keep your personal items separate from your business activities. A two-drawer filing cabinet might just fit the bill.

Make a practice of being sure that every piece of paper crossing your desk during the day is filed in the appropriate folder at night!

Survey your “domain” in the morning, at noon, and at quitting time. Take a moment to organize the items on your desk top; Put pens, pencils, scissors where you can reach them; put paper clips either in a container on your desk or inside the desk drawer. Put the stapler on top of the desk where you can grab it when you need it.

Sort papers and file them accordingly. If you have CDs for your computer, be sure they are replaced in their appropriate case and put in a storage tower, your desk drawer, or on a shelf.

Don’t allow drinking glasses, cups, dishes to accumulate on your desk.

The last thing at night, after your have put things where they belong, take a moment with a soft clean rag and some furniture polish and give your desk a wipe-down. When you resume your workday in the morning, the little extra time you took the night before will boost your overall mood – you’ll start the day right! It’s a beautiful life!