Monday, October 4, 2010

Paperwork Paperwork Everywhere - Are you buried in it ?

I hear over and over again from Mom Entrepreneurs that they are buried in paperwork - no matter how small or big of a business paperwork is a huge stress for business owners.

The first advice I have is to get yourself 4 boxes - they can be rubbermaids or cardboard boxes. I find old photocopy paper boxes are awesome - they are a great size, and have lids, and stack beautifully. You can get some from an office or I buy them from Staples for $1.49 each or wait for a 10-pack of file boxes go on sale.

Next get 7 clear 12x12 envelopes. You can get these at the dollar store or Michael's individually or in a 10-pack in the scrapbooking section (remember your Michael's coupons!).

Label these boxes and put them on the floor in your office or designated sorting area.
Box #1 = Garbage / Recycling
Box #2 = Home Papers
Box #3 = School Papers
Box #4 = Your Work Papers

Label the 12x12 clear envelopes and put them in front of each box
Envelope #1 = Garbage to Shred
Envelope #2 = HOT Home Papers
Envelope #3 = HOT School Papers
Envelope #4 = HOT Work Papers
Envelope #5 = Take-Out Menus
Envelope #6 = Home Receipts
Envelope #7 = Work Receipts

Now you are ready to take the first step. Gather all the papers you have from your ENTIRE house in ONE location. I have worked with many friends and clients and there are papers hidden everywhere! I mean everywhere! You get those papers from the kitchen, from your bedroom, from your bathroom, from those kitchen drawers, then den, the drawer in the china cabinet, that box in the basement, that box in the garage, that rubbermaid under the bed, that plastic bag stuffed in a closet.

I know and you know you have papers hidden everywhere! You get them all and put them in one room. I mean it! Don't just get your office papers or just your home bills. Get ALL of your papers from everywhere. This first step is to tackling all of your paperwork. Paperwork can stress you out and overwhelm you. This is something you need attack and stay on top of and have a system of how to handle each paper that comes into your house instead of letting it pile up all over. You need to be in charge of these papers not let them take charge of you and interfere with your effectiveness in running your household and your business.

TIP: Do this with a girlfriend and some music or a chick flick. Trade with another mom business owner - she helps you with her papers one weekend and you help her with yours another weekend.

So, now you have your piles of papers, magazines, bills, receipts, take out menus, school notes, everything all in one place. Start sorting! I want you to do a relatively fast sort in this process like the pre-sort on Clean Sweep before you get to Peter Walsh (the Peter Walsh detailed sorting and letting go comes later in the process).

You will be amazed at how much is in your Garbage / Recycling box! You may have to empty this one more than once to your recycling bin. You will see how little value some of these papers, old magazines, old mail, and old fliers have after you have had them hanging around for weeks or months.

So, getting these sorted in their boxes fast will at least help with retrieval of documents until you have come up with a system or process for each box (forthcoming blogposts:-). So, if you are looking for a school paper you can at least just look in the school box.

I used to have people just do the box sort and the last several clients I have worked with we have added these 12x12 special clear envelopes because we inevitably run into all kinds of HOT super important papers they have been looking for and lost. Examples may include: HOT work papers that need to be acted on in the next 7-10 days, important HOT home papers like bills that need to be paid, important HOT school papers like permission slips and forms.

Take-out menu Envelope - everyone has these scattered everywhere and can't find them when they need them. Take all your take-out menus and keep just one most recent copy of each in this folder along with any coupons you have for eating out. You will run into these all over the place while organizing and now you have just created an easy and portable home for them !

The last 2 envelopes are for receipts that need to be kept. Home receipts should only be for important items of high value or that may need to be returned. Work receipts should be each and every receipt you can find to expense at the end of the year to help with taxes :-)

Finally, there are some people that getting organized will always be a great struggle and has no joy for them. I highly recommend enlisting the the help of a professional organizer to come in and go through your entire home office with you. A professional organizer can do wonders with your mountains of paperwork! She can get through a huge backload with you all the while setting up a system and process for the future for you to maintain.

If you need help finding a professional organizer, I would start with checking the National Association of Professional Organizers.

If you need additional help finding an organizer, tweet me on twitter at @TimeOutMom and I will help you find one in your area.


  1. Thank you! Love your tips on getting rid of paper clutter. Over the years I have also learned some useful tips in getting rid of unwanted papers/ mails:
    1) keep a shredder in your home office or where ever you handle or sort papers/ mails. Shred junk mails the moment you enter your home, don't even put them on your counter.

    2) Select a time/routine that works best for you in sorting and Shredding papers. You could create a system where you shred once per day, week, etc.

    3) If you have tweens/teenagers "hire" them for a small fee or have them work for their allowances by shredding paper. Thus, one less thing for mom to do. Use your "man/woman power"!!!

    4) Scanning and saving documents on the computer is a great way to reduce the need for having papers around. But, remember to always have a backup file.

    Autism: Bridging The Gap

  2. Great tips! You're right, we all need to efficiently manage our files so our productivity doesn't get hampered by it. As another commenter have said, we have to regularly discard the files we don't need anymore and consistently organize them. Shredding papers isn't just freeing up space, it's also important, especially for businesses to discard any sensitive information. And another thing we can try to free up some space is to have digital backups for the important papers we need.

    Williams Data Management