Around the House: Tame your Piles of Paper, Keep your Surfaces Clear
By Yehudit Garmaise
Mail, magazines, notes, to-do lists, homework papers, and other documents often pile up and get easily misplaced in busy households.
Instead of moving your piles from place to place, tackle the pile to keep your surfaces nice and clean, and more importantly, find those papers when you need them most.
1. Create one spot for daily papers: Choose a convenient spot in the house where you can set a paper basket. Instead of stuffing your electric bill into a cabinet, desk drawer, or closet where you may not see it later, have all papers go into one place: to deal with later.
2. Pick out one eye-catching paper basket to set in that spot: Did you take notes at a shiur, read an article you want to save, or receive an invitation? All paper goes into this one basket until later in the week, when you decide whether you will file, toss, or scan the information into your computer.
3. Create a routine: While pre-Shabbos and pre-Pesach attempts to organize the little mountains of paper can make little dents in them, without regular maintenance, the paper piles will quickly rise once again. Once a year won’t cut it, but if you choose a regular time every week to file, you can banish your paper mountains by dealing with them little by little.
4. Decide whether to file or toss: perhaps every Friday or Sunday morning, spend 20 minutes going through all the paper in the basket and do the crucial thing that will eliminate overwhelming paper messes: Decide there and then which papers you will need and which can go.
5. Acknowledge that going through paper can be stressful: which is why we avoid it. Even sorting old photos can cause anxiety about how quickly time passes. So put on some upbeat music, bring some coffee or other favorite drink, and just get your filing done.
6. Be honest about what you can toss: Chances are, a lot of the paper that clutters our homes really can be thrown away. By committing every week to throwing last week’s magazines and grocery lists in recycling bins, you can make your life a lot easier and your home a lot neater.
7. Choose a few containers for your files: Whether you like to file in a filing cabinet, desk drawers, or basket choose something into which to put your neatly organized papers.
8. Buy manila folders: that you can neatly label before separating your paper into categories, such as important receipts, appliance instructions, articles to read later, simcha invitations, travel plans, and birthday cards, so that when you desperately need to find things quickly, you know exactly where to look.
9. Buy a bright red file folder: for the most important documents, such as passports, birth certificates, jury summons, social security numbers so you never panic and know exactly where they are when you need them.
10. Choose a plastic container with a lid: for papers, photos, and other things that you want to file and then store to get out of the way. If you store this container in a garage, be careful not to leave it on the floor in case of leaks or flooding from rain.