I was talking with a client the other day who due to some relocation issues is now temporarily living in someone’s room and storing a lot of items in her car. While we were chatting on zoom, I asked her how things were going. She told me that she had spent most of her morning doing the “sh*t shuffle”. After snorting coffee thru my nose with laughter, I asked her to tell me more.
Because of several relocations and not being the best paper organizer to begin with, she now has boxes of papers that are mixed. She had spent her morning (in the car) trying to organize the papers so that she could find her most important documents when necessary.
While I loved her phrase and her sense of humor, the “sh*t shuffle” is not a fun thing. Here are some tips to avoid this dance:
Handle your paper as quickly as you are able. Get rid of trash and recycling immediately so that it does not clutter up space and get mixed in with the papers that need action.
Take the remaining paper and group it into bins or files according to the action needed. Do not ask “Where do I file this?” but rather “What do I need to do?”. Depending on what paperwork you have, your files or bin categories will likely include:
Pay or reconcile - this would include bills or statements
Contact- following up an email or letter because you have questions or because you want more information
Read – after reading, you will either discard the paper or file it
File – either file the paper in with your permanent basic files (insurance, financials, medical), warranties or directions for your appliances, your current tax year info, your archival files (past tax info, old property sales, military paperwork), or special interest files(gardening, recipes, exercise)
Waiting for (holding paper a certain period of time until you know if you can participate in a conference or party, a response from someone, the event to happen, etc.)
Do another action (enter information in phone, research information, etc.,)
Make files or envelopes for coupons or receipts if you keep them. Do not hold on to receipts “just because”. Know why you will need them (return? Tax?) and label the envelopes so that you can find them. If you keep coupons, go through them often and cull out expired ones so that you can locate the ones you want to use.
Create a memorabilia container – place in the container old notes, cards, playbills or any paper item that you want to keep just for the memory but does not require an action
The important thing is to have all the papers you need or want to keep in a place that is accessible when necessary and easy to find.
By placing your paper into clear categories and then into containers or files that are clearly labeled, you won’t need to shuffle through a mountain of paper to find the important one you are looking for. You won’t be paying late fees because bills have gotten lost. You won’t miss another event because the invitation has gone missing.
Bottom line – a lot of the paper clutter we have lying around is because we have not taken the time to decide what to do with it. Deferred decision making causes the paper to pile up and get mixed together. It is so much easier to find that papers that are really important if the unimportant is gone.