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Four Tips for Managing Incoming Paper

We all have certain strengths in our professions; for me, I feel it is functional space planning and supportive coaching. I love finding ways to maximize space in my clients' homes, creating a flow that makes sense for the space being organized, and using my active listening skills to personally connect with those I am working with to make positive changes in their lives.

But--being a human--I also have my weaknesses.

When it comes to organizing and tidying, paper is not my friend. Why? Because for my ADHD brain, paper is boring, and when something is boring, I want nothing to do with it. I also never really loved reading (which is why I added a text-to-speech option to this blog, by the way), so just the thought of having to read through lines and lines of, well, whatever it is that comes in the mail, is a huge turn off for me. But alas, paper is a part of all our lives, and if we don't deal with it as it comes into the home, it has the ability to take us down.

If your life is anything like mine, then you may agree that the most common paper items that come into the home on a daily basis are bills, junk mail, and children's schoolwork. Knowing how much I detest working with paper, I have worked to build habits that help me to better manage it and that--over time--have become second nature (after all, that's the who point of building habits, right?).

Want to know which strategies I have implemented in my life in order to keep my brain happy when it comes to organizing paper? Read on to find out!


Strategy #1: Keep a trash can at your "drop zone".

Which space in your home is your paper-catcher? Is it the entryway table? The dining room table? The kitchen counter? No matter which of the above may be the drop zone in your home, I bet it drives you bonkers to see it covered with paper. Adding a small trash can or recycling bin to your drop zone is the first step to making big changes when it comes to managing incoming paper. Having a trash can within arm's reach makes it possible for you to quickly let that junk mail go, and guess what? The instant relief that comes from trashing that junk straight away may also encourage you open up and view the other mail in your hand, too. Which brings me to the next strategy.

Strategy #2: Make it a habit to open your mail right away.

Listen, I know opening and reviewing your mail is just about as exciting as watching paint dry, but making a habit of opening your mail as it comes in will literally save you time and energy in the long run. Nothing good comes from letting that stuff pile up... late bill payments, forgetting to RSVP to special events, the stress of seeing a mountain of paper take over what was once your place setting... see? Nothing good. So, save yourself from all that negativity by taking care of the paper right then and there!

Also, if the mail you open requires you to act on something within a certain timeframe, try your darnedest to get it done immediately. If you are unable to act right away because of having to tend to a task of higher priority, leave the piece of paper in a highly-visible, frequently-touched location (mine is right next to my coffee maker). This will hopefully encourage you to get the job done more efficiently than ever before.

Strategy #3: Automate it.

If you can automate your bills, do it. Do it now.

Strategy #4: Make memory bins for your kids' schoolwork.

Each day I open my kids' folders to find at least six pieces of paper, most being pencil sketches done during free time or ink dot tracings of the good ol' ABCs. Listen... I love my babies and their adorable work, and I always make it a point to ask about and compliment their creations; however, unless the papers they bring in 1) have their sweet little pictures on them or 2) are so dang cute that they practically take my breath away, I secretly and promptly slip them into the recycling bin.

If that sounds harsh to you, I get it... but let's look at the facts here. As I mentioned before, an average of six pieces of paper comes home in my kids' folders each day. Six pieces of paper times five school days equals thirty pieces of paper per week. Thirty pieces of paper per week times 40 school weeks equals 1,200 pieces of paper per school year. And that's just with two school-aged children. So, here is your permission to let your kids' schoolwork go. Think about yourself here and now as a grown up. Would you actually want your family to pass down all that saved paper from your childhood to you? Would you ever actually take the time to go through it?

Getting back to the strategy now... for those extra special pieces of paper that come home from school, consider hanging them up and then, in due time, storing them in a memory box. Your memory box doesn't have to be anything fancy; just make sure the outside of it is labeled with your child's name and that it is kept in a location close enough to your drop zone so that storing these papers does not become a hassle.


Once again, readers, in order to effectively manage the paper that comes into your life on a regular basis, habits must be formed. I encourage you to try implementing one of the strategies shared here to see how it works for you (psst.. start with the first one!), and if it does prove itself to be effective, use that positive energy to keep going. Be the boss of that paper, don't let it be the boss of you!

If you feel motivated to tackle that incoming paper, I'd love to hear about whether or not one or more of the strategies shared in this post worked for you. Please feel free to leave a comment below or, if you could use a hand, contact me for additional assistance!

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