The “actionable” pile.
Once you have dealt with your original pile (or maybe several of them), turn to your four new piles and deal with them separately.
The “keep” pile.
Those things should be filed in a way that allow for easy retrieval.
Once this is done, leave these three piles alone for a moment and move on.
The “want” pile.
Usually, this pile is relatively small, because it serves as a safety system to avoid papers slipping through the net. Ask yourself: why do you want to hold on to this even though it did not end up in the “keep” pile? If you can come up with a good reason (and that could be “I like the image on this postcard” or “for research purposes”), by all means keep them.
However, make sure you don’t start to create a hidden collection somewhere that you never refer to: make sure to display the beautiful image somewhere, and to create a proper ‘research’ folder for the latter. If they end up in some drawer somewhere, you might as well throw them out right now!
The “move” pile.
At this point, you might need some physical exercise to clear your mind. This pile contains items that you have decided are not in the right place. Usually, however, this part is fairly straightforward: you have identified these things as NOT part of the office, which implies you have a better place for them in mind. Why not pick up some or all of the move pile – depending on how big a pile it is – and relocate those items to their proper place.
And by ‘proper place’ I don’t mean dumping them somewhere else. These things need a proper home where they belong. If you can’t find one, you may want to reconsider why you want to keep them in the first place! The “recycle” pile is right in front of you and you are free to add more to it.
The “recycle” pile.
NOW it’s time to take all that paper out to your usual recycle spot. That could be your recycling bin, a box that you use for paper and take away regularly, … whichever system you use. If you have no such system, consider paper recycling: it is a simple yet effective thing to do and requires very little change in your life. Just separate as you go along during your days and you’ll realise just how much paper rubbish you produce. It’s a good eye-opener, believe me.
At this point, you should be left with only things you need to actually take care of: either actionable items (the “to do” pile) or things to be filed (the “file”, “new” and “one-off” piles), plus potentially more papers that you have not yet sorted through, still sitting on your desk.
I suggest to repeat the sorting until nothing is left but those four categories, as this will vastly speed up your filing process. And we’ll look at simple ways to do that in part 3.
Ask the ClutterMeister
Ideas to help clear away the mess in your homes and in your minds.
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Hi, my name is Tilo Flache. My mission: help clients declutter mind and space.
This blog contains pointers for your journey towards a happier living experience.