5 Amazingly Easy Steps to Conquer the Paper Monster
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One of my most disturbing #adulting memories of my older sister involves learning a valuable lesson about the paper monster.
The memory is going into her house one day before I was married. I saw this giant pile of paperwork and mail that I swear had to weigh like 50 pounds. And I just sort of marveled at how large it was. And then later in the same day I remember her freaking out because the phone got cut off. Because it didn’t get paid.
Now mind you, it wasn’t not paid because they didn’t have the money, quite the contrary–they had plenty of money! She simply forgot to pay the bill. Why? Because there was so much dog-gone paperwork that she couldn’t find the bill!
When I realized that was the real reason she hadn’t paid it, my brain started working and trying to figure out what in the heck went wrong for them to constantly have such a large paper monster that she couldn’t find something as simple as the phone bill.
Now contrary to what you may be thinking right now, I was an actual adult at this point in time. However, I did not understand where all this paperwork came from. Nor how she could have let it get to that point. How could she not see that she was in desperate need of conquering her paper monster??
Now that I’m a parent I fully understand that jobs and kids and trips and life in general get so much in the way of everything you’re trying to accomplish and keep going, and all of the plates are trying to spin in the air all at one time that sometimes it feels like an avalanche of paperwork that you simply do not have time to go through.
My house used to regularly get in this sort of state. Until I found a pretty cool organization website that talked about how you must get a handle on your paperwork. I had heard of this before but always thought it was the silliest thing ever. I mean, how could you possibly get eaten by the paper monster… But now, I understand that this is a total legit possibility.
Because paperwork is one of those things that seems to grow with as if it’s its own entity in our house from the mail to the kids paperwork that comes home from school every single day. And if your household is the anything like ours it sort of takes a life on its own and takes over every nook and cranny, every surface, every basket, every backpack, and every cubby! So let’s talk about how to put a muzzle and a choke collar on that thing, eh?
The first thing that we want to start with in paperwork organization is to reduce the amount of paperwork that’s coming in in the first place. This can easily be done for the mail by going to THIS SITE. There are several steps to take your name off mailing lists. This will dramatically reduce the amount of junk mail you’re getting. (It can take up to 90 days to take full effect, so be patient.)
Once your junk mail load is reduced, look at things like magazines that are coming in. If you have magazines that you don’t even read it’s really simple to go online into the subscription area, enter your information, and cancel the subscription. If you don’t want to cancel it you can maybe have a designated place to set magazine aside where you either donate them to doctors’ offices or other places where people just basically have to sit and wait. Or donate them to somebody else who could use them. Like a family member or friend.
Unfortunately that’s about the only thing that you can reduce at this point. Besides things like receipts and shopping lists. Or any kind of paperwork that sort of accumulates in your purse or bag that you carry around with you.
2. School Papers
Paperwork from the school during the school year, unfortunately, can normally not be reduced. Unless you have a classroom that has decided to go paperless (and–God bless you if you are in that category.) Because many schools seem to have a problem with going paperless.
Kids have a tendency to just unload their entire folder on the counter top. Or just basically plop their folder right on the countertop. So either way I’ve got to go through all these papers from what they call their Tuesday folder. Then I sort through everything that’s in there. So everything either gets tossed, recycled, put in a pile for to-do, or I can post things up to refer back to (upcoming events, etc.) I have little clippies on our command central station that has each kid’s name on it. Those papers that deal with things like field trips, parties, or school events, etc get stuck up in those clips so that we always know where that information is. It’s always in that clip.
Anything that needs to be signed and sent back immediately gets signed and put back into the folder to go straight back to the teacher.
Any appointment request, reminder, etc with a set date immediately goes in my calendar.
3. Paper Basket
The Paper Basket is a basket that’s used to accumulate things that don’t immediately have a place. Sort of a catch-all. But you can even organize it so that it’s not nearly as bad as you’re probably imagining. Mine is set up with files in it for things like ‘tax documents and receipts’, ‘pet info’, ‘kids’ school papers’ (that we save digitally for their school year books), ‘to-do’, ‘bills’, ‘to go over with hubby’, ‘recipes’, and ‘into household binder’.
If anything goes into the Paper Basket, it should be immediately filed. But one day a week you should go through everything. File it and make sure nothing falls through the cracks. I even throw things in ours like extra Kindle fires that need to be sold or donated—but need to have all data erased first, etc. (we have a big basket).
Now whenever we have all of these papers that come in and just kind of accumulate on top of the counter top, normally what I end up doing is sort of putting it all in one big stack so it’s at least not covering the entire counter top and then sorting through that as quickly as possible.
Unfortunately, we don’t have the luxury of a kitchen desk area in our house. But my office actually happens to be fairly close to the kitchen. Our Paper Basket is actually sitting right in the doorway of my office. So it’s simple to just toss everything inside that basket. I actually tell everybody, when they bring receipts in or any kind of paperwork that I need to deal with as long as it’s not urgent, that it goes in that Paper Basket.
4. Family Binder
A really option that you might want to consider is creating a household binder. The Household Binder keeps important things together. Like takeout menus, business cards for anything that needs to be done around the house, the cards for doctors offices, emergency information, just sort of a general guideline page for babysitters. Any of that information needed in an emergency. Or that you would need just to kind of keep things running around the household in case you’re not around to ask questions about all of that.
I also actually put in this binder any information from the beginning of the school year. Because my kids’ teachers will send home forms that talk about rules of the classroom, how to get in touch with them, and some of them even give information about themselves so that if I need ideas for teachers’ gifts throughout the year, I have that information right there. No searching for it online somewhere– Which I greatly appreciate! There are a lot of good options for household binder printable pages. I’ll list several of my favorites here so if you want to go check those out. Basically whatever you choose is going to be dependent upon how you run your household. But also the way your brain works and what works best for you. Some great free options for printables for your binder can be found at:
5. Work to Keep the Clutter Cleared
And the most important part of this is going to be keeping all that clutter cleared. The monster can totally take on a second-or third or twelfth–life if you let it. At any given time. Just stay on top of it. If you see anything lying around, use the 60 second rule. If it takes 60 seconds or less to take care of it, JUST DO IT.
Want a checklist to slay your paper monster? Click the image below!
Let me know how your steps went to get organized in the comments below! I love hearing from ya!