You Don’t Need More File Drawers, You Just Need to Keep Less Paper!

It’s amazing how many people I come in contact with who are overwhelmed by the amount of paper in their lives.

Paper is an equal opportunity stressor.  It doesn’t care who you are, how much money you make, where you live or your level of education.  Only those individuals who’ve created a foolproof system for dealing with paper inflow and outflow are winning the war against paper stress.  The rest are waging a daily battle against the paper monster.

One thing I’ve noticed over the past eight years of helping individuals overcome their paper overwhelm is that people who contact me to help them tame their paper monsters are quick to ask about what papers they can eliminate.  We inherently know, or at least hope, we don’t need to keep all of this paper, but we’re typically not taught, in school or by our parents, how to establish an efficient filing system.

If you’ve worked with me on creating a filing system, you know the first step in that process is determining what you’re not going to let into your new system.  The vast majority, some say up to 80%, of what we file is never accessed again.  Why keep it then, allowing it to take up valuable file drawer real estate?

This decision making process, as you work to tame the paper monster, typically yields a lot of paper set aside for recycling or shredding.   After getting a handle on this process, my clients are often surprised by how little paper they actually end up keeping and filing away.  You don’t need more file drawers,  you just need to keep less paper!

IMG_0336My favorite filing system is called Freedom Filer. It’s my favorite because it seems to work universally for my clients and allows me to support them in creating custom tailored filing systems.  This system is also great because of the guidance it provides with respect to decision making.  For instance, have you ever:

• Wondered how many of those insurance declaration pages you need to keep around?

• Been curious about what to do with your EOBs and medical bills?

• Wanted to better understand what to file for tax purposes and for how long?

By making better, more informed decisions, I think you too will be surprised by how little paper you actually end up filing.  Let’s face it, who really wants more filing drawers?

What’s your favorite tip for keeping the paper monster in check?


Note:  S.O.S. is an affiliate of Freedom Filer and if you email me, I can send you a discount code for 15% off of your Freedom Filer purchase. Click here to link to the Freedom Filer site, where you can learn more about this fantastic product.  Need some support taming your paper monsters?  Contact me and I’ll support you in the taming process.  



5 Responses to “You Don’t Need More File Drawers, You Just Need to Keep Less Paper!”

  1. Ellen Delap July 23, 2014 9:16 am #

    Love this post! I am an advocate of how much paper can we eliminate vs. how much to keep and how to keep it. There are so many ways to find information easily online now. I love simplifying clients files so that they can easily find papers by category. I find a very basic set of categories can often suit the home filing options. These categories include, home and auto, personal (everything to do with living things in your home) and financial (any thing to do with money.) Easy filing makes for more time for what you love to do!

    • Andrea Sharb July 23, 2014 11:18 am #

      Ellen, Glad you love it! Simplifying files is key, as is categorizing papers in a way that makes sense to the individual. People will often ask me what to call a file. It’s a question I can’t answer for them. The file should be named whatever makes the most sense to that person. I once had a client who called a file – “Companies I need to hassle.” I would’ve never come up with that name, but as an action file, it made perfect sense to her and she knew exactly what to do with the contents of the folder. Thanks for your comment.

  2. Linda Samuels July 24, 2014 6:01 am #

    Ahhh. Paper. That is perhaps the number one challenge most of my clients face. I’ve yet to discover a universal system that works well for everyone. There are so many factors to consider in terms of their preferences for how something looks, feels, and is positioned in their space.

    But one aspect IS universal. Before any system is created, editing of papers happens, even when a client lets me know upfront that they want to keep everything. No client ever does. Once we begin sorting, questioning, decision-making, and establishing “keep & release” guidelines, it helps them retain the essentials and release the extraneous. From there we look at the types of systems they need to manage the different types of papers (action, reference, and archival storage.) Each type is designed differently to accommodate the individual’s preferences and processing styles.

    If I had to share one tip it would be this. Start with the current inflow of papers, get a handle on those and the system for organizing them. Work backwards from there to go through older papers.

    • Andrea Sharb July 24, 2014 7:37 am #

      Thanks for your tip Linda. Getting control of the inflow / most current papers is key to the process. Starting with the pile on your dining room table is much more productive than beginning with the bags of papers you have stored in your pantry or laundry room!

  3. Document Shredding New City NY October 2, 2014 10:02 am #

    Handling too many documents can be really stressful if you don’t know how to deal with it. Thanks for the tips.

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