Paper. It should be a benign part of our lives. It means no harm, really. But somehow, when it piles up and has a paper party with its friends, it becomes dreaded clutter! What to do?

Grab a RAFT and sail to an organized shore! (Okay, technically, it should be RAFTS, plural, but that just didn’t work well in a sentence, so allow me some leeway.)

  • Sort your mail daily – use the RAFTS method:
    • Recycle – Junk mail that is not confidential.
    • Act – Bills to pay, invitations to RSVP to, forms to fill out, etc.
    • File – Vital documents that must be kept long term (only 20% of paper needs to be filed!).
    • Toss – If you unfortunately do not have paper recycling in your area.
    • Shred – Anything with financial or confidentil information on it.
  • Designate a spot for your mail. If there is no "mailbox" in the house, you will "deliver" it to a different spot each time, or in a location that may not be best suited to paper flow (for example, the dining room table!).
  • Keep the recycling bin, garbage, shredder, and calendar/planner nearby to immediately be able to take action. Whatever is brought in the house should be pre-sorted by recipient, category or any system that makes sense for your household. For a large household, consider separate mail slots per person.
  • Evaluate whether you want to continue to receive magazines and newspapers that you are not regularly reading. Cancel subscriptions, rotate them, or share with a friend or neighbor. Get in the habit of cutting out only those articles you know you will refer to again, and recycling the magazine itself. Set up those articles by subject matter in your home filing system. Start by throwing out the piles of unread junk mail and catalogs.
  • If you have a home office, use it!
  • If not, set up a Home Information Center.
    Home offices do not need to be a room, but can be a "hub" somewhere in the home. A likely spot may be in the kitchen, as many people do paperwork and pay bills in the "public" areas of their home. If you do realize you need a larger space, re-evaluate the space you have in the home to determine where the home office should be established. For example, if your child is away at college, repurpose the room as a home office. Invent the room that best suits the space and the activities that will take place in your "office."

When you have a high functioning paper management system, you will be motivated to actually get the work done and keep it organized. If you have good systems in place, you will be able to find what you need more easily and be able to do the mundane tasks, such as bill paying with less stress!

Now, go find your RAFT and climb in. Happy sailing...

Author's Bio: 


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Copyright 2009. Lisa Montanaro, "The Solutions Expert," is Principal of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC, a professional services firm created in 2002 that offers professional organizing, business and life coaching, and motivational speaking to individuals and organizations. Lisa publishes the monthly "DECIDE™ to be Organized" e-zine for the general public, and "Next Level Business Success" e-zine for professional organizers and entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at Lisa also publishes the DECIDE™ to be Organized blog at Through LMOS, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how LMOS can improve your home or work environment, or help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at