I’ve been reading articles about the promise of a paperless office my entire life, and for the most part, those articles have just created more paper.
For the first time in modern history, we now have the tools to go completely paperless. But before you go invest in a new gadget and hunker down to scan all of your paper, you can probably do a lot to reduce the amount of paper in your life.
If you really want to go paperless, start with these steps to have less paper in your life. You’ll find more space in your home.
The following is excerpted from the best-selling book: Organizing Your Kitchen with SORT and Succeed:
If you want to get healthy, the kitchen is a great place to start. Research shows that cluttered kitchens prompted people to eat 44% more snack food than a kitchen that was organized and decluttered.
Unless you are working with a paid professional organizer, do not start out with the goal to organize your entire kitchen. For most people, it’s just too big of a goal to accomplish in the ideal project timeframe of between fifteen minutes and four hours.
Clear the sink
Clear the countertop
Remove or re-organize magnets and notes stuck to the refrigerator door
Grill, picnic and party gear
Towels, napkins, placemats and tablecloths
Pick one of these mini-projects, or choose something that’s specific to your kitchen, and write down your goal. It can be a single bullet point. It can be on scrap paper or the back of an envelope. Just write down the one thing you are working on today, right now.
A written reminder can help you stay focused on your project and reel you back into the kitchen when you start to wander off. It’s the equivalent of having that professional organizer or good friend there beside you, tapping you on the shoulder, reminding you to stay focused on what you said you were going to do today.
After writing down your goal for this project, actually get started. You’ve already completed one-fifth of the SORT and Succeed system to organize your kitchen or anything in your home.
At the end of the school year, there are three things that are a given.
Here’s help for all of those papers:
Just because your kid’s papers come home in one bag doesn’t mean there is just one single type of paper. There are a few different types of papers, and each one needs you to do something different to them. Let’s break it down.
Can you think of any other types of paper that you need to keep?
Don’t bother keeping school papers to pass down to the next kid. When their time comes, their teachers will have their own way of presenting a learning concept.
I recommend keeping recent school directories with #2 above and older school directories in #3 as keepsake items or not at all.
The half-pile I mentioned? I also end up with summer workbooks or skills packets. These might be things you buy or things that the teachers send home. They might include summer reading lists and reading tracking charts. Do yourself the favor of telling your kiddos about them, setting goals, and letting them work through them at a regular pace during the summer. We’ve had a routine of doing a couple of workbook pages each day. This year, we’re giving our kids a weekly packet to complete at their own pace. Either way, I’m grateful for the unused learning resources that the teachers sent home.
How long does it take to get through all the school paperwork? Realistically, it can take less than an hour per kid to sort into these categories and purge. It might take up to another hour to select and digitize the artwork that you’ve saved all year. If it takes much more time, you might be overthinking it. Your child — even elementary school children — can help you with this task. They’ll love telling you about all the amazing stuff they do at school.
If you haven’t unpacked that backpack yet, now is the time to dive in, sort the papers into the categories above, and reclaim your kitchen counter from school papers that have built up all year long.
Click on the title above to learn more about the featured author.
Want a more clutter-free home all the time? Take note of things that organized people do to keep their home organized.
While there are many more things that organized people do, these 6 things that organized people do might help you to stay more on track in your own home.
1. Keep only the items you use every single day in your medicine cabinet. Leave room for the basics like your toothbrush and skincare. At least that part of your routine can be simplified to just one product for each step, even if you have a million choices for color and finishing touches.
2. For beauty items that coordinate with your outfit or the season, like blushers, eye shadows, and lip color, group them together by category so you can see your choices at a glance.
3. Use clear acrylic drawer dividers or decorative boxes to hold groups of each makeup type in drawers or on shelves.
4. Use wall space by adding bins like those found in kitchens to hang utensils. Add magnetic or hook and loop (Velcro) fasteners to hang items in plain view on the back of the medicine cabinet door. The back of the bathroom door can offer even more storage space with the addition of a clear see-through shoe pocket organizer.
5. The under-sink space is super-high value real estate. Use a 2-tier sliding organizer to make use of all the room under your sink, and to reduce spills and messes.
6. Minimize the amount of beauty product in your tub area. Find a shampoo and body wash that the whole family enjoys using rather than tripping over multiples.
7. Most tubs don’t have much built in storage. Add racks that hang over the shower head and offer 2-4 shelves to hold beauty products and gear. Or suspend another shower rod on the inside back wall at eye level to hold baskets that can hold even more beauty items or bath toys.
8. The 80/20 rule applies to most beauty products. We usually use 20% of our products 80% of the time, and most products get used barely at all. Decide which items are your favorites, and pack the rest away for a month. If you don’t go back into the box to retrieve any of those items, you can probably do without them altogether.
9. Repurpose whenever possible. Use mason jars, wooden boxes that were original packaging for nicer beauty products, and small tin pails from the garden department to help you sort items together and make them look nice.
10. Even simple plastic bins from the dollar store can look great if they are in the same color scheme and labelled nicely.
11. Update your light bulbs. It’s hard to organize what you can’t see.
12. If you are updating your space, ensure there are plenty of drawers to store your beauty products in. Most basic vanities don’t come with drawers. With drawers, you can easily separate your beauty stash and keep your counters clear so you have room to prep each morning.
There is a weird magnetic field between my garage door and the stoplight half a mile down the road. So often I get pulled back to my garage five minutes after leaving to gather some forgotten item. Sometimes it happens more than once on the same trip!
Do you often leave the house more than once?
Yes, I’m organized, but it still happens. Hey, no one is perfect.
I recently started investigating why this happens and whether it can be fixed.
Harold Taylor, a noted time management expert, told about how he takes a daily walk, after which he sits down to write an article or two. One year his kids got him a portable music device for his walks. He enjoyed the music, but he found that when he reached his destination, the articles wouldn’t come. What changed? His brain needed the quiet time during his walk for him to consistently write articles.
Many people today just don’t have any quiet time in their day. Certainly, those five minutes between the back door and the garage are hectic, and hectic is where chaos happens.
Hectic is where things get forgotten, accidents happen, and commitments are missed.
Unfortunately, my brain thinks the five minutes after I get in the car are my quiet time. After I’ve cleared the kitchen counter, grabbed my bags, and made it out of the clutches of little hands who want just one more hug — sitting in the car IS quiet time. With all of the household and family duties behind, my mind is captive in the car and starts planning the details of events I’m heading to and the commitments in the rest of my day.
That is when forgotten details pop into my head, usually right around the time I reach that first stoplight.
If this happens to you more often than you’d like, there is an easy fix. Actually, two fixes:
1. Checklists — Similar to notepads that some people hang on the doorknob to remind them of things to take out of the house, I have one inside my car that I check before leaving for an appointment. Going through the checklist forces me to switch gears before I leave the driveway, and at least I don’t forget the obvious items. For a client who often has a dead battery because she leaves her car lights on, I created a checklist of what to do before she exits her car with 3 things on it:
• Turn off headlights (her car doesn’t have automatic shut off)
• Check teeth and lipstick
• Grab purse and lunch bag
Could you make a checklist like this?
2. Breathe — Give it a moment, maybe in the front seat while you are still parked in the driveway. It’s easy to stay on the go, not miss a step in your day, but 60 seconds with your eyes closed, mentally running through the task coming up next might be all you need. Picture what you’ll be carrying, where you’re going, who you’ll see, and your essential items will pop into your head more times than not.
So simple, right? Simple, but not easy. If you do one of these fixes, you’ll be more less frantic and more organized. If you do both, you’ll be an organizing rock star. I think I hear your band warming up now!