Organize the Influx of Information

Information everywhere with not a single space to spare!

One of the most common questions I hear in regards to home organizing is “What do I do with all these papers?” While I wish I had a simple three step answer, I don’t. But I do have solutions for managing the different phases of dealing with papers.

In this article, we’ll deal with the first phase which is the influx of information. 

Where do we start? By identifying all the sources of paper. Here are some:

  • Mail: catalogues, newsletters, magazines, flyers, bills, financial statements, letters, coupons
  • Car: flyers placed on car while in parking lots, miscellaneous papers such as receipts from getting gas
  • Shopping bags: receipts  and coupons
  • Children: school papers, artwork, administrative information, permissions slips
  • Newspapers
  • Email you printed out
  • Internet articles you printed out
  • Notes from family members or that you’ve written
  • Papers people put on your door
  • Papers in transition, for instance, from work that need to be processed at home then taken back to work

You’ll notice that a couple of “sources” of paper have their electronic origins. As much as some people want to go partially paperless, they just can’t help hitting the print button on a regular basis.

Now that we’ve pinpointed how paper enters your home, it’s time to talk organization. Start with decreasing or eliminating as much as you can at the source. For instance,

  • Decrease magazine subscriptions. From the pure perspective of time to read, most people can only read one weekly and two to three monthly magazines.
  • Subscribe to the newspaper for the weekend, the weekdays, or just Sunday depending on which sections of the paper apply most to your professional and personal life.
  • Don’t sign up for credit cards store that offers you a discount on your first purchase. This will automatically place you on a variety of mailing lists, not to mention the fact that now you have a new bill that will need to be processed.
  • Convert utility, credit card, and all other bills to electronic notices. Similarly, have any financial investment statements and prospectuses delivered in electronic format.
  • Be very picky about what you print out from the computer.
  • Eliminate credit card offers through OptOutPrescreen.
  • Abolish other mail through the Direct Marketing Association. Make sure to send in a form for each variation of your name.
  • Control catalogs, coupons, phone books, fliers, newsletter and more with TrustedID.
  • Stop paper junk mail with PaperKarma.
  • Unsubscribe from newsletters (paper or electronic) that you don’t read on a regular basis.
If you’re overwhelmed by the number of options to reduce or eliminate incoming paper, do a little bit at a time.
How else can you control information influx? Shred or recycle immediately! I enter my house through my garage which is where my recycle container reside. I put as much as I can in recycle before I even enter the house. I also keep my shredder handy by having it at the end of my kitchen island. By instantly recycling or shredding, I reduce the amount of mail that I need to process.

Photo by venturist

Photo by venturist

Another step you can take to information-overwhelm is to establish a way to save information from the internet rather than printing it out. I use Evernote. It’s free, easy to use and searchable. So if there’s an internet article I want to read, I clip it into Evernote. I can print it out later if I want, but it’s an easy way to keep articles without printing them.
In future articles we’ll talk about the other phases of dealing with home-based data such as processing, filing, archiving and deleting. If you want a sneak peek about how long to keep papers, check out Organize Your Paper Deletion for guidelines.
Need some help? Minding Your Matters organizing professionals are trained in helping clients set up systems that work in their specific situation. Contact us today for more details.

Janice is available to speak throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe, including Atlanta, Boston, Calgary, Chicago, Denver, London, New York City, Montreal, Ontario, Paris, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland (OR), Salt Lake City, San Francisco, St. Louis, Seattle, Vancouver, Washington, D.C., and the Triangle area of North Carolina (including Apex, Cary, Chapel Hill, Durham, Fayetteville, Morrisville, and Raleigh).

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