I was lucky enough be able to travel to Atlanta for an organizing job a few weeks ago. The main focus of my trip was to help my client organize paperwork, mail, and important documents that had been accumulating and overwhelming her for years. It was a large undertaking, but a vital first step in living a less stressful and more enjoyable life.
To get started we pulled all the paper from every corner of the house- all the boxes, bags and files that were in cabinets, closets, and drawers. We brought it all to the dining room and I dug in.
I made several boxes/bags to help in the sorting process- donate, recycle, trash, shred, and some "save" boxes- important papers, photos/keepsakes, and random things to put away. I'm always looking to work most efficiently and I have found that a quick first sort works best. So, at this point, all papers fall into only 2 categories- keep or get rid of. After the initial sort, I went back and more closely looked at the papers to save in order to decide where they should go.
Once I had all the important papers identified and sorted into piles by type, I worked with the client to identify what really needed to be saved. Thankfully, there are so few things these days that cannot be accessed online. If you are paying bills online or have automatic pay schedules, there is simply no need to be receiving paper bills and account updates. This is an extremely important step for people who are overwhelmed by paper. We made a list of all the companies she need to contact to "go green" in order to choose the paperless option. Our happy helper, the client's sister, and my dear friend, was kind enough to help us with that arduous task. Once that was accomplished, all of those piles were enthusiastically tossed into the shred box! This will virtually eliminate the paper that comes into her home everyday.
We were now basically left with important documents and papers to save for tax purposes. We created hanging file folders for each category and filed them away. Now instead of paper spread throughout every corner of her home, she has one very organized file cabinet in her office!
Now that there was a clean slate to move forward from, we needed to set up a way to maintain this organization. I always feel that simple is better and my plan for her was just that! A few simple rules to follow-
1. No junk mail comes into the house! Upon taking it out of the mailbox, she will immediately walk into the garage and toss it into the recycling bin (And train the kids to do this as well!)
2. All other mail goes to her Drop Zone. This is an area that was chosen to be the place where she will store her keys, purse, briefcase etc. and any mail/paperwork that needs to be dealt with. She will have one basket/bin where she will place her "to do" paperwork. Any mail for her children will be filed into one of my favorite products- the hanging cascading file from The Container Store.
3. As needed, she will go through her "to do" bin to handle each item as necessary.
And that's it! There will be 95% less papers coming into her house and there is a plan of action for the 5% that does come in. No excuses. Easy to maintain.
I was also lucky enough to work on sprucing up a few other areas of her home. I tidied the living room by removing items that didn't belong and styled her bookshelves. Suddenly an unused room in her home is now ready for guests or relaxing with coffee and a good book!