Letting Go of Paper

Having many interests and hobbies can lead to the overwhelming desire to collect and catalog paperwork. I often observe a fear of letting go of facts, information sheets, articles that one hasn’t had a chance to read and ideas, recipes and other inspirations that the person never has time to go back to and follow through on. In an effort to keep the paperwork, they often devise complex systems to catalog it that become so overwhelming to follow in its intricacies that they end up with piles of information they can neither access easily nor remember they even have. Suddenly the paper takes up space in their home and fails to provide any utility in their lives. But letting go of it is an option they will not face for fear of losing something valuable or useful.

Here are five ways that you can help establish the boundaries you need to keep a reasonable amount of paperwork and find more joy out of your resources.

1. Cut down on magazine subscriptions and e-mail newsletters. If the information is not coming to your door, you won’t be compelled to keep it. While there is a wealth of information to be gained from professional journals and magazines, it is a difficult goal to set for yourself to get through so many each month. If you find you are 2 months or more behind on the majority of your subscriptions or that you are deleting e-mail newsletters more then reading them, it is time to unsubscribe and take the pressure off.

2. Pick the interests that are the highest priority to you and commit to them. I personally love doing crafts in my spare time and would do as many as I could if I had the time. But I know that I don’t, so I committed wholeheartedly to one, knitting. With any hobby or interest, it is easy to want to know about everything and try it all, but if you can focus in on the ones that are most important to you it is much easier to identify which information is worth saving and what is not. You must be ruthless in your decisions or you will continue to fall into the same pattern of filling more drawers, file cabinets and flat surfaces.

3. Keep your storage system simple. When filing paperwork be careful about making too many categories. I often see people making their filing systems so complicated and detailed they can’t remember where they put something. Try to keep you categories general, like Travel, Boating, Photography, etc. If you must make sub-folders to find information, make those general too. When you start labeling folders by the title of the articles you are filing, you may find that filing is arduous and ineffective.

4. Schedule time to read and file. Often if we don’t make the time filing and reading, they will be the last tasks we would ever choose to do. I tell my clients to schedule tasks they often procrastinate. It is also a good lesson in understanding the reality of your schedule. If you can’t find time on your schedule to sit and read a magazine, you will have a better understanding of how many pieces of paper you should be holding on to. It can be freeing when you can just say, “I don’t have time, I can let this go.”

5. Take a computer class. For those who are uncomfortable with the computer, taking a class may help you find away to harness information without filling up your house. The advantages of using a computer for information gathering are numerous if you can avoid the temptation to continue hitting print to save paperwork. Being open-minded to this technology can open new doors. Check your local newspapers, adult-ed and community college listings to find a class that can help you feel more comfortable storing information on the computer.

Kristin Mastromarino is a professional organizer and owner of Livable Solutions Professional Organizing (www.livablesolutions.com) and The Organized Lifestyle online retail store (www.theoganizedlifestylestore.com). You can e-mail her your questions at kristin@livablesolutions.com)

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