You walk into the house and what do you see first?Papers, mail, registration forms, magazines all on the kitchen counter or our kitchen table.
Waiting for you, but it’s not the warm welcome you wanted!
While your kitchen counter and table may not look exactly like this photo, because we don’t live a life in photos, wouldn’t it feel better if there were less paper?
You wouldn’t need to clear off the table and move the piles to some other room when you needed the table. Another room, where the piles mix together, the cat knocks papers off the table, papers get lost, and appointments get missed.
You wouldn’t cringe when you were overwhelmed by clutter on the counter, clutter you knew you wanted to deal with yesterday.
It would take less time to get ready for your monthly brunch with friends or family.
You could manage the household, the activities, the paperwork and fun much more easily.
What’s your reason for wanting less paper? That’s what will motivate you. “I don’t want to see all that paper because I want …”
Alternatively, what is one benefit to a disorganized counter top?
When I work with people, part of the problem’s diagnosis is which of the “Three P’s” is not working: people, products or the process.
Think about your answer, while you read through some of these strategies — from simplest to more difficult.
Quick tip: You could print this blog and put it on your refrigerator or somewhere near to where you go through papers; that way, you’ll have new ideas to try, right alongside you, when you process the papers.
- Have a recycling bin somewhere before you reach the kitchen counter area. Out in the garage, in a cabinet before you arrive at the counter. Winnow down the pile before it reaches the counter. Shred pile can go into a bag and into your office or wherever the shredder is.
- Instead of dropping the mail, the school, committee and work papers in a pile on the counter, find a basket or other way to contain the pile. Easier to move and to move back into the room if needed.
- Deal with mail/papers at least one more time weekly than you do now. Progress, not perfection.
- Take 2 minutes and presort the piles of papers. Presort means: your own mail in one container, his/her mail in another, and “ours” in another. “Ours” are what you want to discuss together, so a concert, a festival, party invitation. Benefit: your own pile is smaller and less overwhelming.
- Figure out a time almost every day when you can spend focused time and go through the papers. Do it while you’re waiting ...before dinner, before an appointment (yes, take a ‘mail bag’ with you), right after breakfast, during dinner cleanup time.
- Attach this habit to something you are already in the habit of doing and it will be easier to maintain.
- This week, when you bring papers into the house, notice what’s coming in which you automatically toss out. How can you get off that list or stop that type of mail from coming in.
- Make one call or end one email to opt out, just one, and another tomorrow and the next day.
- Or make one call to receive information electronically instead of paper, e.g., bank statements.
- A tool to have alongside: Have your calendar, Blackberry or whatever you use for trapping appointments AND to do list items, errands, etc. Write down the details there, and toss the paper.
- So you need to talk with someone else to make a decision? Put that piece of mail on the dinner table, or somewhere nearby so you can remember to discuss and decide at dinner. On the dinner plate, was one woman’s technique!
- If you take in both home business and personal papers at the same time, or if you’re handling mail for another family member, sort out into the major groups and into separate containers — box, basket, mail bin, folder, accordion file –whatever works to move the papers to their next stop on the paper trail.
- Have a separate container for papers which belong somewhere else — usually in a file drawer somewhere (financial statements), or in a home office. Keep them together, so when they land in that room, you’ve kept them from spilling out and you know what they are (filing).
- Keep less to file less. Know the guidelines for what you must keep versus what you want to keep.
- Set some boundaries on items you keep for scrap booking, memory albums, children’s artwork/schoolwork. How many, or how many containers, special ones only, or length of time – all useful boundaries/limits to try out.
- Find an alternate spot to set up household central, but still nearby where you bring papers into your home. Where could you find a two-foot square space to work through the mail? Somewhere off the table and off the counter.
As we process mail/papers, I use this strategy to stay focused: The Four T’s: Time, Tools, Triage and Tie it up.
Time: Make one. The papers aren’t going away. But reduce the time by getting off lists, presorting, and speeding up decisions.
Tools: Have recycle, shredder and calendar nearby.
Triage: Do it quickly, at least to presort and winnow down to the real decisions that have to be made. Papers after all pertain to what our life is about right now.
Tie it up: Set up files for what you’re currently working on. Buy beautiful inspiring folders for an extra motivational push!. Get rid of what needs to go quickly and easily. Keep to to decide on with someone else. Or keep in reference files, away in a drawer. Right down their location if you think you’ll forget where they are, but take them out of view and out of your everyday space.
To your clearer counters and tables !