Most people who enter my home ask me, “Where’s all your stuff?” At first I was confused, but after so many times of having to answer this, I know they are referring to the lack of paper piles. My mother was always shuffling papers and constantly looking for things that she knew were in one of her piles. Her piles consisted of mail, catalogs, letters, clipped articles, recipes, lists, notes, etc. She would read something, want to keep it, and then she put it in a pile. I soon realized that she put things in piles because she didn’t know where else to put it yet she wanted to keep it.

The piles became overwhelming to me. Moving the piles to use the table or searching again and again for my school permission slip that needed signing gave me stress. I decided in grade school that I didn’t like piles of papers. Hence, as an adult, I chose to handle my paper once.

Each time we pick up a piece of paper that needs handling, we waste time because we have to reread it, make a mental note about it, and then put it somewhere. If we don’t handle it at that moment, then we repeat these steps again and again until we do. Here’s an example. A piece of mail is opened and let’s say it is a bill. We look at it and put it down on our desk. Other mail we want to keep is looked at and placed on top such as catalogs, coupons, or advertising. A day passes and more mail comes which adds to the pile. We go shopping and have receipts, which are added to the pile. A week passes . . . see how the pile continues to grow?

Here’s an alternative scenario. A file system is in place to hold Bills, Receipts, To File, and Pending. We have a recipe box or binder. We have a designated place for reading material like a shelf or drawer. Now the mail comes or any papers. We open and sort the items, putting each item directly in their designated place. And that’s it . . . NO PILE!

How do we become so efficient? Follow these steps:

  1. Take your first pile and separate into categories such as: bills to pay, papers to file, things to read, receipts to keep, pending items, etc.
  2. Create a file or place for each category. With so much being digital now, you may even need a file for items to scan. Reading material can be a basket near your bed.
  3. Tackle each pile until all your paper is sorted.
  4. Now, commit that you handle all incoming paper once.

You won’t have to worry about finding things because everything is sorted. When you are ready to pay bills, they are all together. If you want to do your budget, your receipts are all together. You need something to read when you are getting a pedicure? Easy – it can be found with all your reading material. And the best thing is, you have no piles and all your paper is handled once!