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10 Easy Steps to Organize Your Paper

Do you struggle to keep up with the influx of mail and other paper information? Here are ten quick and steps to organize a household paper processing and storage station:

1. Create an area in your home to process and store your paper: If you have a kitchen desk this is a good location, but any area where you can create a small flat surface with storage underneath will work.

2. Create an inbox: Designate something like a mail in-box such as a basket or tray and place this on the flat surface. It can be anything that will hold a week’s worth of mail but no more.

3. Add a recycling bin to your paper processing station: Place a recycling bin or trash bin under your flat surface and near your inbox so you will have easy access to throw away all the junk mail you don’t need to open.

4. Place a trash bin under the flat surface: For non-recyclable items that arrive in the mail.

5. Place a shredder next to the recycling bin: To dispose of any incoming paper that has personal information or account numbers on it. This will help reduce the risk of identity theft.

6. Designate a basket or tray for magazines/catalogs, and place on the flat surface next to or stacked on top of your inbox: Separate large magazines and catalogs from your other mail. The container should be portable so you can easily move it around to where you read. The container should be big enough to hold a month’s worth of reading but small enough that you will get rid of the old magazines as new ones arrive. Donate and recycle old magazines at your local library, hospital or other charitable organization.

7. Create a file for bills to be paid: Sort your bills into a portable tote so that you can carry it with you to where you are comfortable to pay bills, such as the kitchen table with a cup of coffee, making it feel like less of a chore. Keep a checkbook, pens, stamps, and envelopes in the tote for easy access. Or, simplify bill paying further by setting up online bill pay with your bank.

8. Create a file for each family member: If you are the primary mail sorter in your household, but other people receive mail—set up a file and label with the person’s name. Add mail to their folder as you sort. Ask the person to check their file weekly or place it where they will take action.

9. Set-up reference paper storage: For your bank statements, insurance policies and claims, tax receipts and other important documents should you need to refer to them later. A file cabinet underneath your flat surface or next to is ideal, but any box that will hold files inside will work fine. Organize by broad subjects to simplify your system. Label your files and place in your storage alphabetically for easy access. Weed annually—after you have filed your taxes is a good time to do this.

10. Create a household binder: For organizing the endless stream of paperwork that the kids bring home from school, such as school/sports schedules, lunch menus, sports team information, and after-school activities. Also directories, emergency information, medical information and the all-important take-out menus. Keep it near the phone, and you'll have easy access to all the information you need. It will instantly become "command central" for your entire family.

If you follow these easy steps, opening your mail will no longer be that dreaded task.
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