Messy Life = Messy Mind
What seems like a lifetime ago, I was a young mom with two littles, a full-time job and a very unstable home life. I remember feeling like there were never enough hours in the day, spinning from mom life to corporate life and back to mom life with barely a moment to myself.
If you are a mom, you know what I am saying to be true. Even if home and marriage are a peaceful most of the time, there is still crazy managing young ones AND adulting. It's no joke! Throw into the mix single momming, or what felt like it, and it was a whole 'nuther level. (My family is all from southern Missouri, so sometimes the southern in me comes out!)
I have always been an organized person. Though my mom might tell you different when I was young. I learned from a young age that when mom says "Clean your room", it means clean, organized and to make the bed. Period. It only took one time for me to learn this lesson.
Mom had asked me to clean my room one day when I was in middle school. Apparently I did not do so to her liking. I guess she thought she'd teach me a valuable lesson. And she did. She dumped everything from the contents of my room - drawers, books from the shelf, clothing, shoes, bedding, toys, and I think even the mattress - in a pile in the middle of the room. Once I picked my mouth up off the floor from sheer shock, she said, "Now, clean it up. All of it." Being the quick learner that I am, I never ever let my room get that messy ever again.
I do not remember how long it took me to clean up that huge pile and put everything away. But what has stuck with me all these years was that when I maintain the clutter, it doesn't take very long to clean and keep tidy. Just one of those little lessons I learned as kid and one that I teach my clients when we work together.
Now, maybe you are not a super tidy person. You may leave little piles of paper on the table or the kitchen counter to "deal with later". Or make stacks on your office desk with the intentions of having a whole day to sit down and go through it. I can tell you right now, you probably don't. You sweet it up in a pile and dump it in a bag or box when company comes over or the cleaning service comes. And then what happens? It is out of sight. Out of mind.
I have seen this with so many people. It becomes the routine way of dealing with paper but it never seems to go away or get better. The piles just build up and then when you do sit down to go through them, it feels so overwhelming so you don't even start. Or after 30 minutes into it, you are so mentally exhausted you take a break and then move on to the next item on your to-do list. It's just too much.
The problem is not necessarily that you are a messy person or that you just have a bad habit. Or that the rest of the family doesn't care about keeping the house tidy. The real problem is that you don't have a good process for dealing with the paper. So let me help you, okay? This is applicable to home and to business so feel free to apply where needed.
#1 - Have one place where in-coming papers land. This should include: mail, notes/forms from school for the kids and any items printed at home that need attention. You can purchase fancy letter-size baskets or an inexpensive letter tray from the thrift store, but find something to put the paper in to keep it tidy. There are stackable trays you can label as well if you want to get really organized.
#2 - Spend two - five minutes each day reviewing each item in the tray. The goal is to get through and deal with every item. From here, make three piles. One pile for filing/scan to file, one pile for recycling/shred, and one pile that needs further attention, i.e. paying bills.
#3 - If you are concerned about privacy, purchase an address blocking stamp. You can quickly stamp each piece of mail with your address and then place paper in the recycle stack. Or if you have a shredder, place in a pile to shred.
#4 - If you recycle, have a bin for paper and cardboard. Toss your recycle pile into the bin. If you use a shredder, take care of the shredding as soon as possible. Do not get into the habit of letting the shredding pile stack up or you'll be in the same boat again. Get the kids involved and show them how to use the shredder, if they are old enough and you feel it's safe.
#5 - If you keep paper files, have a small file tray or basket for papers to file, or scan to file if you prefer digital filing. If you can, file immediately or at least make time with the tray is full.
#6 - For papers or bills that need further attention, keep those in a separate place where you typically pay bills. When it comes time for bill pay day, all of your bills will be in one place. You can keep them in a simple pocket folder or a desktop file organizer to keep your workspace tidy.
#7 - The kid's papers. This is a tough one for some. Some parents like to keep every stitch of paper their child writes on from 2 years old until college. I get it. Their creations are precious. If this is you, ask yourself if you want to take up space in your home to store it all. One handy trick is to use a desktop scanner or take a photo with your phone and save all of those precious pieces of handiwork in a digital file. Or you can be selective and just choose your favorites from each grade to keep and minimize (*The last two are the options I chose.)
#8 - Rinse & Repeat. Once you establish a routine every day/week in dealing with managing your paper, it becomes a super quick and painless task. Stay on top of it and no more overwhelm in dealing with stacks of paper.
You may be at a place where you are completely overwhelmed with even getting started. If that is you, then please, give me a call. I can help you sort through the stacks and make a little more order of the chaos of paper.
If you are interested in more organizing tips for your home or office, please come back. I have so much more to share with you. Until then, just start with one small stack at a time. You will get through it!