First: Set up a system for the deluge of daily mail.

Step 1: Place a wastebasket and shredder next to your desk to dispose of the junk mail and credit card offers immediately. Use a decorative basket to hold magazines and catalogs so they don’t start to form another prolific pile on your floor.

Step 2: File each person’s daily mail into “in-boxes.” You can get creative with your in-boxes, using wall-mounted file pockets in your mudroom or magazine butlers that sit on your kitchen counter. Kids can also put their school papers here for you when they get home each day.

Step 3: REGULARLY sort what’s in your “in-box” into action files. No procrastinating allowed; leaving your papers to multiply before your very eyes. Your action files are folders labeled with headings similar to: To Pay, To Mail, To File, To Call, etc. If your brain thinks a bit more creatively, try labels like these: This could be painful (for unpaid bills), Get it out of here (for things to be mailed or filed), and Call them or else (your mom fits into this category)!

Step 4: Stand your action files in a vertical rack rather than piling them horizontally. The phrase “File, don’t pile” really applies here. Put your action files in the vertical rack in order of highest to lowest priority.

Step 5: Purchase a drawer organizer, so your office supplies don’t get sucked into a black hole when you put them in the drawer. You can use common household items instead if you don’t want to purchase one. Empty checkbook boxes can hold pens or pencils. Ice cube trays can hold push pins, paper clips, and stamp rolls. An empty ziploc can hold rubber bands or staples. Just a little imagination can go a long way!

Next: Establish a functional file system

Step 1: Take one stack at a time and sort papers into boxes or bins labeled with categories such as financial, medical, and home improvement. Avoid the catch-all category of “miscellaneous.” Toss or shred information that’s outdated, unneeded, or easily found somewhere else like the internet. If bringing your shredded paper to the Humane Society for animal bedding gives you a little extra motivation, go with it!

Step 2: Purchase colored file folders and assign a different color for each category you have. Use the color of the folders to make your own associations to the related category (e.g. green folders for financial information or yellow folders for medical/health information).

Step 3: Once you’ve sorted and purged your papers, begin placing papers from each box or bin into smaller sub-categories in your colored folders. Smaller sub-categories in your green financial folders might be investments, charitable donations, credit card statements, and so on.

Step 4: Once your papers are in the folders, label each one using white labels with bold lettering to make the heading “pop.” When you label the folder, put the broad category name first, then the sub-category name after. An example would be Medical – Eye doctor, Medical – Orthodontist, Medical – Benefits plan. Once your folders are labeled, put them into your filing cabinet and label the outside of the drawers.

Step 5: Put miscellaneous papers like receipts for returns, dry cleaning slips, and coupons in a small expandable plastic folder. That way you can tuck it in your purse while you run errands and have what you need at your fingertips.

Author's Bio: 

Sheila Dingels is a professional organizer with experience in helping people save time and simplify their lives. Sheila works with clients on residential organizing, time management, and handling household papers. Her business has an eco-friendly focus by helping people reduce the amount of clutter in their lives, reuse items they already have in new and creative ways, and recycle items they no longer need.