Organizer Charlotte Steill has developed a three-part Action File; it’s a great system for identifying, storing and dealing with papers (such as mail, receipts, flyers, school notices, bills, etc.-by their level of urgency) that need attention (or at least a look-through) that takes only a few minutes a day.
Setting It Up
First, you’ll need to determine your organizing style and preference; do you tend to pile papers? A visual reminder would be the best way to go. Consider a set of three clear stacking trays (available at office supply stores). Label each one as “Do Now” (this would include everything that needs to be answered to or done within a week or two, such as bills, urgent responses, event invitations, etc.), “Do Later” (this would include things that need to be handled or completed within the next three months, like catalogs from which you plan to buy an item, near-future business events and non-urgent financial matters), and “Pending” (this would involve anything in which you’re waiting for or getting a response back-perhaps an online purchase or incoming payment-to you!).
Or are you a filer? Do you like everything in its place, with little visual clutter? You may want to consider a desktop file box that can fit three folders (with the same labels-”Do Now”, “Do Later” and “Pending”); the action file’s nearby, but it’s more neatly tucked (so to speak).
To keep up with and maintain your Action File, all you have to do is this: On a daily basis (or at least every couple of days), go through the "Do Now" file and get to work on the most timely items. Once a week, go through the "Do Later" file and take care of whatever you can (some items will end up being moved to the other two categories). And once a month, move any archive papers (those items that require long-term storage and other miscellaneous papers, brochures or pamphlets ) to a a regular filing cabinet (or something similar-lidded boxes and document envelopes, for example).
If you deal in “electronic paper”, another option is setting up a personal database on your computer (the “files” and “folders” can even be more specialized, if preferred-but always remember to check regularly and update when needed).
References, Archives and Miscellaneous Papers
Got some appliance instruction books or warranties you want to save? Steill recommends using a magazine holder, preferably with the receipt and warranty stapled to the cover, for storing several; if it’s just one, it can be in the same room as the item.
For those of you with kids, a box with a lid is ideal for collecting art and schoolwork.
Love using coupons? Keep them all together (and organized) with a coupon wallet.
Accordion-style file folders and document envelopes are excellent for magazine readers.
For those who prefer to store items digitally, you can: visit manufacturers’ websites to download manuals, put together an online photo display of your kid’s artwork (check out www.shutterfly.com), get and store coupons online (or on a smartphone!) and go to sites like www.pinterest.com to save any favorite magazine pics, articles or features. Or start your own personal, customized storage database!
Source: “In-Box Rx” by Berit Thorkelson-Better Homes and Gardens, Jan. 2012
For more info, go to www.BHG.com/list for a free checklist to help you beat clutter.