Into the Fray: Tackling Your Paper Piles

Series: Taming Your Desk

Piles of stuff – a lot of people have them. In our fast-paced society, there is never enough time to do all the things we want or need to do. The result? We mount up tomorrow’s chores in little piles around our home.  Unfortunately, as Little Orphan Annie sang “tomorrow is always a day away.”

So how do we handle our piles? We start by understanding what they say about us.  Piles talk to me, and they will talk to you, too, once you understand their language. Usually, piles say one of the following things:

    • No Time
    • No Place
    • No Confidence
    • No Clue

The Time Pile – These are the piles that grow because you don’t have time to take action on the items in them. You know what you want to do, but it’s not a priority right now. These piles grow in direct proportion to how busy our schedules are.

The Place Pile – These piles contain items that need to be put away, but you have no designated space for them. It may be that you haven’t had time to create a home for them, or the items are so different you don’t know how to organize them.

The Lack of Confidence Pile – Let’s call this pile what it is: the Fear Pile. This is the pile you have to act upon. These are action items that must be done, but they can’t be done right now, and you won’t put them away because a little voice is telling you that if you file them, you’ll forget them.

The Clueless Pile – These are things you might need – maybe. You don’t have a place for them. You don’t know what to do with them. You simply want to think about them and make a decision later.

Okay, so you’re looking at your piles in a new light, but they’re still piles. Let’s start molding them into something usable.

1. Separate your piles by the types listed above. Use sticky notes or notecards to label each pile – Time, Place, Fear, Clueless.

2. For now, set aside your Fear and Clueless piles.

3. Look only at your Time and Place piles. Within each pile, collect like things together. Put your receipts in their own pile, scrapbook memorabilia in another, etc. Label with more sticky notes as needed. These labels might be something like

      • Time – Scrapbooking
      • Time – Business Articles to Read
      • Place – Receipts
      • Place – Craft Articles to Keep

**Many people do steps 1 & 3 naturally as they create their piles, so you may have a good start already. Just make sure to label the piles with your sticky notes.

4. Now for the fun part – turning your piles into something functional and attractive. All of your Place piles need permanent homes. Time piles may or may not need a permanent home. Only you can decide. Is this something you will do on an on-going basis or is it a one-time activity?

Here are some ideas for dealing with your Place and Time piles:

Paper Piles –

    • File Folders – great for bills, tax documents, scrapbook memorabilia (filed by year, child, or event)
    • Accordion Files – great for receipts, coupons, cards (use one tab for each month)
    • 1 Gallon Ziploc Bags – great for craft projects, small paper-based projects, and scrapbook pages.  (You can put all items for your scrapbook page in the bag including a 12×12 sheet of paper). Added bonus – you can easily see what is in the bag.
    • Notebooks – See the July 1 post “A Secret Weapon for Getting Organized” for more details.

Books & Magazines –

    • Designated Shelf – If you have books or magazines to read, designate a shelf on a bookcase and label it. This will remind you of both the things you want to read and the place where to put them.
    • Magazine Holders – If you don’t have shelf space to spare, buy some magazine holders and put them on your coffee table, nightstand, or any other place that makes sense. There are many decorative holders that will match your décor. Also, you can find ones that hide or display, depending on your preference, the books and magazines they store.

Whew! That should get you started. Next week we’ll tackle the two piles we set aside: the Fear and Clueless piles.

Do you have piles of things stealing space in your home? Tell me about your situation. I’d love to share some ideas for tackling your clutter.

Simplicity Tip of the Day: No matter what organizing tool you use (notebook, magazine holder, accordion file, etc.), always use a label to describe the contents. Things we don’t use on a daily basis can be easily forgotten. Labels make our lives easier and less stressful.

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3 Responses to Into the Fray: Tackling Your Paper Piles

  1. Meaty information. I’ve taken action.

    Now, I have a notebook where I print out Practical Light Living. Each article has become a step-by-step guideline for getting me organized.

    Thanks. Write on.

  2. thanks for the tips, Cynthia. Mine definitely fall into the place piles. I’ll tackle it after breakfast.

    • C.C. Owens says:

      Yeah! Tackling projects first thing in the morning is my favorite way to work. It makes sitting down at lunch sweet because you can see your progress. Happy organizing!

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