Did you know that streamlining your files begins the moment you pull your mail out of the mailbox?
Yep, the first step to getting your files in order is to take no more than 60 seconds to sort and process your mail as soon as it comes into your house.
The reasoning behind this is simple. When you take the time to open your mail and separate what you're going to keep from what you're going to recycle, the keep to recycle ratio is substantial. As in, you only keep about 25%. That's a 75% reduction of paper that won't get a chance to stuff your files or clutter up your house! That little minute also saves yourself hours of cleaning up and/or hunting around for important documents in the future, I would call that an excellent investment of your time!
So why aren't you doing this now? Or, more commonly, why are you so inconsistent with this one simple task? Here's my take. We are all creatures of habit -- and we all need mundane tasks like this to be easy or we won't do them. I often ask clients with clutter and filing issues to literally show me where their mail lands when they bring it into the house. If I can create a simple way for them to process and recycle their mail at that habitual location, their consistency rate goes way up!
The key to making this work is to be able to recycle your mail within zero to three steps of your mail processing area. For most people, this would be a cute wicker basket in the entry right below where the mail goes. As the mail gets sorted, the recycling gets dropped in the basket. Easy Peasy. In my own case, our mail gets sorted on top of my kitchen counter. Two steps away is the door to the garage, and just inside that door is our recycling receptacle. I just open the door a crack and drop the paper in.
Whatever set up you choose to create, make the daily recycling of your mail as effortless as possible!
The next step after recycling is to store your kept mail in ONE designated location that is in plain sight. To keep it simple, I recommend the same general area where your mail gets processed.
For clients, I've used small trays, shallow baskets, and napkin holders. For some clients, I've even clipped the mail with a bull clip and hung it off of a picture hook on the wall so that the mail is at eye level.
My own mail sits in an antique silver toast rack right by where I process the mail. (That's right. A toast rack! I wasn't using it for toast and this makes an otherwise pretty and useless object have a purpose!) This is where I also tuck receipts and invitations as I get them. When it is time to pay bills and do my filing, it's all right there. No hunting or second guessing.
Sort and process your mail daily.
Recycle the paper right away.
Store the kept mail in plain sight, close to where you sort your mail.
Next up is my take on traditional files and why they don't work many of you!