Organizing paperwork

Organizing paperwork, is most likely the next step after having your desk and home office space set up. It is a good idea to start with actual physical papers, before you move to the electronic stuff, as you can spend hours in cyber space without anything to show for it. 

Organizing paperwork - How?

Setting up a desk is pretty easy. Paperwork is different, there might be a whole mountain of papers and you are naturally not sure how or where to start. 

Once you have your physical set up, the next step is having some floor space to spread out all papers and sort them in categories.

The easiest way I find is to get a pen and some post-it notes and start with a pile of papers (preferably not the most intimidating pile). Put each piece of paper in a category that makes sense to you, which is clearly written on a post-it note. 

If done well, you will have post-it’s and small piles of papers all over the floor. This looks messy but is actually a really important step in the process. 

You simply, need to pull everything apart, check if it is still relevant and where it belongs before you can put it back in an organized fashion. 

This is also a great time to throw or shred papers which are not relevant anymore. You clean and declutter as you go only keeping relevant / important papers.

Organize paperwork – “Mother” and “child” categories

Once you have finished looking through all your papers and they are all placed in a category, you can see if there is overlap or if there are what file organizers call “Mother” and “Child” categories. 

For example; my personal health file is a child category in the main category Health. As I have other members of the family with their own file, these are also child categories under a larger heading; Health. 

The above diagram shows the principle of “Mother” and “Child” categories.

One of the basic principles of organizing is finding “a home” (aka resting place) for each and every item in your house.

This is no different with paperwork but somehow tends to be a bit harder for our brains to grasp. 

Using “Mother” and “Child” categories when organizing paperwork helps with this. 

Organizing paperwork – Isn’t easy, so make sure you are nice to yourself!

It isn’t the easiest of organizing projects to organize your home office and I don’t suggest you start here in your organizing journey, but having your home office and paperwork organized will save you hours once it is set up. It will reduce stress, save money and make weekly admin tasks so much easier. 

Organizing paperwork - In a nutshell

  1. Get a desk / office space
  2. Categorize your papers in groupings which make sense to you 
  3. Bin or shred irrelevant information
  4. Place categories in an order which make sense to you (extending later to using Mother and child categories).
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