I want you to share how your experience is going in the comments below as we progress through each post. There is nothing new under the sun and the snags you face aren’t new either. When you share your struggle, others are encouraged and questions can be answered. I can’t wait to partner with you as we embark down this path!
You’ll need a large flat surface to work on, so a table or floor will work beautifully. If you’ve got young kids or pets around, I’d recommend using a bedroom that you can close off OR your dining room table as long as it’s high enough to avoid sticky fingers and wagging tails.
Next, lather your hands with lotion, layer up with some nice gloves, and grab all the papers in the house.
Every single scrap and stack of paper. Watch out for paper cuts, because you’re going to get it all. This collection includes all of the files from your current system too. You know, the one in the filing cabinet you never use. You may leave all your documents in those folders for now, but you gotta grab ‘em. If you’re going to tackle your papers, you have to know exactly what you’re up against. (Warning: if you only want to tackle loose papers and not all the papers, you can. Just be aware that you’ll eventually need to incorporate your old filing system into your new setup so that you know where everything is. Waiting typically doubles your work. If you don’t want to double your work, then grab those files now.)
As you collect your papers, DO NOT TRY TO SORT THEM.
I know it’s tempting, but getting side-tracked never helped anyone achieve their goals. Getting off-course only creates more micro-goals, and let’s be honest, who’s got time for that? Not you. Try to complete this one task from start to finish without adding more steps.
Stack your papers, overstuffed folders, and piles on your work space.
Don’t stack more than a foot high at a time or they’re liable to fall over, creating more work as you re-stack. Keep the stacks on the left side of your work space if you’re right handed or on the right if you’re left handed. Having a large, clear work space is crucial. You’ll end up using the opposite side to hold all of your sorted piles in the near future, so respect the space.
Position your organizing materials at the top of your work space.
Go ahead and invest in a 100 count box of straight filing manila folders. I recommend using the straight line filing folders (that have the label tab in the same spot for all of them) because they allow you to easily add and move folders without having to worry about your tabs all flowing in a pattern of left, middle, right; left, middle, right. If you’ve got old tabbed folders, just reuse those for now. You’ll also need a pencil with a decent eraser for temporary labeling of your files. For most people, the temporary names become the permanent names. But for others, the temporary files may merge together into one broader category, so pencil is best at this point. You’ll also need a trash can (or box to contain the documents you want to recycle), a shredder (or box to contain all the items you need to shred if you don’t own a shredder), and a notebook to record to-do’s and reference information that you’ve been jotting down on random sheets of paper (before you toss those sheets away).