Organizing Your Paperwork: Clear a Little Bit of Clutter Every Day

Sorting paperwork and cutting down on piles of clutter should be easy, but somehow it's overwhelmed at least one blogger

Credit: bourgeoisbee

A pile of files can quickly become a tower of text if you aren’t rigorous

For months now I have been struggling to carve the piles of paper on my desk, hutch, bookcase, buffet and basically every other available surface down to size.

My goal has been modest: just deal with 10 pieces of paper a day, I tell myself. To no avail.

Once I’ve dug myself out of the onslaught of new e-mails, tossed the mail onto the nearest strewn pile, there to be instantly swallowed up, and dealt with the day’s various brushfires — panicked e-mails, deadlines and other demands — I’m good for nothing above and beyond.

Coach, Organize My Paperwork, Please

During the same time I’ve been interviewing coaches with an eye to chronicling the ways in which their services can help you become a better person. When my potential coaches ask me what sort of help I need, I’ve learned to speak in highfaluting euphemism.

“Focus,” I’ll say, or, “I’m just a bit scattered.” What these people don’t know is that I talk not of my brain but of the desk in front of me. I’m too embarrassed to say that what I really need help with is the basic task of managing my information. It sounds so minor.

Clearing the Pile of Clutter
I am reminded often of a job I used to have in publishing. One day we received a pile of returns from a major book retailer approximately the size of a garden shed. Processing returns is a no-win job anyway; as likely as not the books are damaged and can’t be resold, so it’s sort of like pouring loonies and toonies down the drain.

My boss took one look at the towering pile and uttered words of advice applicable everywhere. “Just do a little bit at a time,” he said, and sure enough, with all of us processing 10 or 12 packages of books a day, the pile melted away inside of a couple of weeks.

Admit It: You’re Powerless

It’s not that I’m a complete failure as a human being, whatever my third-grade teacher thought. I floss, for goodness’ sake. I prepare nourishing meals on a near-constant basis, many of them composed of beans, beans, and more beans.

I enjoy writing little thank-you notes, and who does that anymore?

But the facts have to be faced. I need help. What’s that they say at self-help groups? The first step is recognizing that you’re powerless over the problem. Okay, I’ve done that. Now what?