In a previous post, we explored the 3 main reasons that lead to paper clutter.  While having clarity on the cause of the problem is the first step towards solving it, I’ll be sharing in this post the 4 most effective tactics that I use with my clients when organising their paper at home.


#1 Set up an efficient yet conducive workspace

Having a workspace, free of clutter, equipped with all the supplies you need to perform the tasks you have to do at your desk within easy reach, with some – but not too many – decorative items, is the best way to stop you procrastinating and to start organising your paper.

A waste basket, placed by your desk, is indispensable so that you can throw right away papers you have decided not to keep.  It also helps to invest 5 minutes after you’ve finished dealing with your paperwork to clear your desk and to return things where they belong so that it’s ready to use next time you need it.

Here are more tips on how to organise your desk at home so you can get the work done.


#2 Set up processes

Processes are critical when organising your paper to avoid having paperwork stuck in a “holding pattern” on your desk.  Without processes, your paper clutter is bound to come back.  Aim to touch incoming paper once and to get rid of as much as you can then.

Create a document retention guidelines list to help you make quick decisions on what to keep and how long to keep it for.  If in doubt, speak to an accountant or a financial professional as document retention requirements will vary based on your home country.  While you’re at it, include rules for reading materials too.

Not sure which processes to set up for organising your paper?  An online coaching session with me is the perfect way to get started.


#3 Make use of your to-do list and diary

Many people have an “out of sight, out of mind” approach and keep the piece of paper to remember the action they need to take while they could easily let go of it if they were to capture the action in their to-do list.  Ok, it won’t completely eliminate paper, but it’ll significantly reduce it.  The rest can be temporarily filed in a magazine holder for example so that it can easily be retrieved when you’re ready to act upon it.

Here is how to write a to-do list that gets done.

Also many people don’t take into consideration the time it really takes to deal with paperwork.  You need to block the time in your diary on a weekly basis to file your papers, pay your bills, reconcile your accounts, RSVP to invitations etc.  You also need to block time once per year to purge your files because paper accumulates very quickly.  The beginning of a new year or the tax return filing period are good times to do a good purge.

Here are compelling reasons for you to adopt a weekly schedule.


#4 Establish a robust filing system

Best to start from scratch than trying to tweak your existing system.  Start with the most recent papers.  Name your files based on the words that would first come to your mind when you would want to retrieve the file.

Create a master index of all your files.  Indicate the category they belong to, how long you need to keep them and their location (paper, electronic or safety box).  Print the index and keep it with your files.  Not only it’ll save you time to file or retrieve a document but it’ll also prevent you from creating duplicate files.

Check this post for more details on how to refresh your home filing system.


I appreciate that the above tasks are not particularly exciting, but keep your eyes on the prize: you’ll save time, you’ll no longer incur late payment fees and argue with your spouse about it etc.  It’s all worth it, don’t you think?

Of course I’m here to help if you need some guidance or support.  Typically in 3 hours I can help you set up an efficient workspace and establish key processes and systems.  You can choose to take over from there or have me helping you further if you need to.


This post was first published on Connected Women website.


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