It never fails. Everyone has a paper problem. And, everyone thinks their paper problem is unique. They think that their pieces of paper are different, special and never seen before by the likes of me. The pieces are so unique that they can’t possibly be filed with out worry.
Each piece is instead, given a place of honor, on top of a pile. Where it often gets buried the next time a unique, and fully deserving of a special place on top of the pile piece is identified. Eventually, the special pieces reach a critical mass and topple over, revealing the spectacular page that has been hiding for months. It gets replaced to the top of the pile where it won’t be forgotten. Until, the pile must be scooped up because company is coming or you need the surface for some other super special project, or dinner.
Does this sound familiar? I almost never, hardly every exaggerate, and this is not one of those times. I actually have a similar conversation with everyone I help with paper piles.
It’s not just a bank statement, it is the bank statement that shows the transaction that… and I wouldn’t understand because I’ve never had a bank statement with that transaction on it. It can’t possibly be kept with the other bank statements, the ones with other transactions on them, and I can’t possibly think you would really want to recycle after shredding the one with that one transaction, for the piece of gum you bought at the gas station the very first time you ever used a debit card back in 1989.
This phenomenon of each and every piece of paper being unique leads to over categorization when you do file. And that leads to a lack of confidence in the system when you do try to relocate all the research you did about the thing you wanted to try 6 years ago and are just now remembering that you wanted to consider doing it.
I’m not going to say that your papers are not unique, I am going to say that this is no way to keep track of the specialness of your collection.
A simple archiving system will help you revisit the special moments in purchasing and intending to do’s without worry. In fact, this simple system might just allow you to know exactly where they are so you can use them for all those things you actually do.
The easy solution to this problem is to have fewer options.
Instead of every single piece being so unique that it needs it’s own category, set up only a few broad categories. Just set up a bankers box for each one, so you can drop the pages in as you run across them. Is it about money or about the car? Is it about a hobby or about work? How about family or house?
Now look for the commonalities amongst your scraps. Instead of unique papers, think, similar but different and keep them together. Like all the cheese at the grocery store being in the dairy case, all the bank statements can go in the money information box. Where are the similarities in the information you keep?
Only break down a category further once it has become unruly due to the volume of papers. Then separate it into the 2-3 most common types with in a category. So, the stuff in the money box can be grouped as banking, credit, and investments when necessary.
Notice that this system can be but doesn’t have to look like files in a cabinet. It can stay in boxes. Heck it can be just piles. The trick is to designate where each category will live and then sticking to it.
I have yet to come across a piece of paper that wouldn’t work in a very basic and super easy category file system. This applies to both at home and at the office. In fact I run my business with just such a glorious system.
I want to know why your paper is unique and what you are going to do about it. Share your unique system in the comments section.