Clear The Clutter

Unpaid bills are shoved into an envelope, 401(k) statements are tossed into a drawer, old photographs are buried on the desk along with two expired health insurance policies, a pile of bank statements, and your colleagues wedding invitation with an overdue response card.

Organized people save time. According to the American Demographic Society, Americans waste 9,000,000 hours annually looking for lost or misplaced items. The hour spent now reviewing the papers on your desk, tossing what is not needed, and filing what needs to be saved will save you countless hours when you look for an unpaid bill or prepare for next years tax return.

Being organized will provide you with a more comfortable living environment, more free time and most importantly, a lot less stress. Can you relate? Why are so many talented, successful and otherwise efficient people unable to handle the daily clutter that engulfs them at home? For many busy professionals, it is lack of time, when you would rather be spending it with the children, running in the park or even sleeping. And sometimes the quantity of clutter needing to be addressed can be overwhelming. Where to start? What needs to be saved? What needs to be tossed?

Here’s a 7-point program:

1. Start with small steps. Gather all your loose papers in one stack. You have just cleared the kitchen table, your nightstand and most of the desk. Your living space looks better already!

2. Purge the pile of all material you will never need. Remember that approximately 80% of documents that are filed are never referenced again. Be ruthless. The stack should be considerably smaller.

3. Sort the remaining papers into broad generic categories. Those categories may include financial, utilities, tax information, and health information.

4. Refine your categories and make piles. For example, divide your financial folder by type of account: bank account, brokerage account, mutual fund account, etc.

5. Use your filing cabinet. Buy some hanging folders and label them to accommodate your main categories. Color-coding can be useful to distinguish main categories. For example, green can be used for financial materials.

6. Use interior file folders to hold each subtopic, make sure they are labeled appropriately. Labeling file folders appropriately is the key to rapid retrieval.

7. You do not need to do this all in one day. Work for a few hours at a time. Stop and reward yourself for making progress. If you take the time to tame the clutter, maintenace becomes a snap.

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