by Ariane Benefit, M.S.Ed.
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this article at http://blog.neatandsimple.com/
(see the blue box at the bottom of the second colum.)
In the majority of American homes, managing paper is one of the biggest sources of clutter-related stress. As a Professional Organizer, everyone I meet asks me questions about paper. 80% of the calls I get are about paper. Why is paper so difficult to organize?
In part 1 of this new series on organizing paper, we’ll explore paper organizing issues including the psychology of our relationship with paper. I’ll offer suggestions on ways to relate to your paper differently so that you can take back control. I’ll also be discussing how to sort paper and create systems for keeping it organized so that you can find it when you need it.
The first reason paper is so overwhelming to organize is this: SHEER VOLUME! The amount of paper that comes into our homes daily is increasing all the time. In fact, we get more mail in a single day than our grandparents got in an entire year! Add to that the paper we acquire from school, work, vacations, etc. and if you hold on to even half of it, you have the makings of a serious paper crisis on your hands.
Personally, even after getting off the junk mail lists, I recycle or shred 90% of the paper that comes into my home. And I still have 3 file drawers and several binders full of actively used paper.
In researching my upcoming book on paper, I counted over 35 types of paper we have to organize. And each of them gets organized in different ways! There are also at least 5 -10 and sometimes literally hundreds of choices of tools to organize each of the 35 types of paper. No wonder there aren’t any existing comprehensive books on the subject of organizing paper. There are, of course, hundreds of books that include tips on organizing paper - but many of them contradict each other. The thing is, all of these tips may work for some people but may not work for you.
What I found particularly interesting in the over 40 books I’ve read, and in the stores that sell paper organizing products is the total lack of explanations of how to choose the right solution for your needs. This is a gap I hope to address in my book.
But for now, let's focus on what you can do immediately to start taking charge of the amount of paper coming into your life. Here is one of my best tips: ***Get off the mailing lists!***
Receiving less mail will save you so much time. It will greatly reduce the stress of sorting it out and trying to decide what to do with it all. It will save wear and tear on your shredder too. It could even help your town reduce the cost of recycling.
FACT: $320 million of local taxes are used to dispose of unsolicited mail each year. If we all made an effort to stop the mail from coming in, we could help keep property taxes from rising so quickly!
Here are some very effective and easy to use links for getting off Junk Mail Lists:
Another reason paper organizing is difficult is that we get incredibly EMOTIONALLY ATTACHED to paper. Some people attach so much value to the “potentially useful” information paper contains, they can’t let any of it go without anxiety. The roots of our attachment to paper run deep.
Information and paper play incredibly important roles in our lives and even in our identities. The information contained in our paper can be a source of independence, power, recognition, proof of our accomplishments, and so much more. Some of our paper even represents tangible affirmations that we are loved and remembered by others. It validates our being.
Paper also allows us to extend our ability to remember information we might otherwise forget. Without paper, we wouldn’t be able to function very well. Its no wonder many people have deep fears that if they let go of paper, they are letting go of a part of themselves.
Consequently, deciding which papers to let go of is very stressful for some people. Yet keeping too much paper carries with it a huge price tag as well. Unfortunately, the volume of paper mixed with our reluctance to let go of it, is wreaking havoc and chaos in our homes. Instead of feeling confident that we can deal with our paper, we dread opening the mailbox. Remember when getting mail was a thrill? Not so much anymore. Hunting for papers we need amongst the many we don’t need is eating up hours of our time and causing untold stress.
In order to take charge of paper, we must confront our feelings and beliefs about paper so we can let it go. For example, instead of fearing that you are letting a part of yourself go, consider letting go of it as taking care of yourself. Reassure yourself that thanks to the Internet and Google, you can always find the information you really need.
Another source of troublesome emotional attachment to paper is the paper our children generate. Many parents today feel they must keep every single piece of artwork their kids produce. Just like some people feel if they toss a photo they are disrespecting the person in it: Some people feel they are disrespecting or letting go of their children if they toss their artwork. To make it easier to let go of artwork, think about this. If you keep only the best 10 or 20 pieces per year, you will appreciate the special pieces more. And, you will be teaching your children to prioritize what they keep as well. Another way to make it easier to let go is to take digital pictures of their artwork. That could clutter up your computer, but that’s a whole other issue! : )
Bottom line: The potential for paper overload is staggering. The price we pay for our attachment to paper is that the more we keep, the more living space we have to devote to it, and the more time, energy and money we have to spend organizing and containing it. To take charge of paper, you must change the way you think and feel about paper, set tough boundaries about what paper to keep and how much space in your home to devote to it.
Next month we’ll continue this exploration of how we can reframe the way we relate to our paper. See you then!
Copyright © 2007 Ariane Benefit
NOTE: (This Article is Reprinted and Updated From the July 2007 Issue of NJ Life and Leisure)
Ariane Benefit, M.S.Ed, is a Life Coach and Organizing Expert, specializing in how to manage ADD, overcome chronic disorganization, organize your financial life, and design a lifestyle and home environment that supports you in getting the results you really want.
She is the author of the "The Neat & Simple Guide to Organizing Your Office" and the Neat & Simple Living Organizing and ADD blog and you can get her free e-book at "100 Surefire Ways to Organize Your Busy Life!" !