Bills. Receipts. Bank account statements. School permission slips. Medical reports. Insurance policies. Name cards. Flyers. Magazines. The list could go on…
Let’s face it – we’re drowning in paper clutter. Even if you have an extensive wardrobe, I bet that the number of pieces of paper you have in your home is at least 50 times greater than the number of pieces of clothes you own. Right?
No wonder most people are intimidated and paralyzed at the idea of tackling their paperwork. In fact, the fear is so strong for some people that it prevents them from opening their mail, which can lead to costly consequences.
Having helped many clients better manage their paperwork, I attribute paper clutter to three primary causes.
Paper clutter is the result of your inability to make timely decisions
Many people are unable to make decisions on the spot when a paper enters their home because they’re not clear about what to keep and how long to keep it for. They fear they might need it in the future. They worry that if they file it, they might not be able to find it when they need it.
As a result, they leave it unattended on a flat surface on their desk, in the living room or the kitchen, in the hope that an answer will eventually come to them. But soon enough this piece of paper is covered by another piece of paper, and another one, until it becomes a huge pile from which it’s very difficult to find anything.
Paper clutter is due to a lack of systems and procedures
Most people do have a filing system in place, but quite often it’s not up to date. They got married, had children, bought a house, signed up for new insurance policies etc. but they didn’t revisit their filing system, or they maintained multiple systems in parallel. Or they never purged their files and they are no longer able to fit another piece of paper in it. Like everything else, a paper that doesn’t have a dedicated “home” will end up in a pile or will be randomly filed.
But paper clutter is not only a case of a poor filing system. It’s also due to the lack of proper procedures and the absence of a dedicated time in your schedule to deal with the paperwork. With the right systems in place, you’ll quickly realise it doesn’t require much time on a weekly basis to stay on top of your paperwork, probably even less time than you currently waste trying to find a document when you need it.
Paper clutter comes from being unrealistic about your reading capacity
Many people tend to subscribe to more newspapers and magazines that they can possibly read. Their schedule doesn’t allow them to find the time to read all of them, yet they struggle to let go of them because they’ve paid for them and feel it’d be a waste of money.
I’d highly encourage you to think about where your paper clutter may come from, because having clarity on the cause of the problem can help you get into motion. And if you’re not sure how to address your issues, reach out so that together we can find solutions to unburden you from your paper clutter!
This post was first published in Connected Women magazine.