Tuesday, December 9, 2008

My System for sorting Mail and School Work

I promised that I would write a blog about how I sort my 'stuff'. Whether I am chit chatting with friends or problem solving with clients, many topics come up that appear to be an ongoing issue and one is paperwork! Whether it is mail or school work or church and organization flyers, it is hard to manage. The number one rule is 'touch it once' and that requires strict sorting discipline! It sounds like 'work' but it is very exciting to see a stack of stuff and turn it into a few things and be done with it. I promise! So, last week I promised that when I came home from helping my sister for 3 days that I would show you my stack of stuff that arrived while I was gone and show you how I knock it out! You won't find stacks of mail and paperwork at my house but if you look around you will find several different organizing tools that help me accomplish the same things we all have to accomplish. Bills, school paperwork, filing, tax items, school art work that I want to keep, things I want to hold onto but don't need to do anything with, magazines and catalogs that I want to read and on and on and on . . . They are all here but they have a place and I am very picky about what stays and what goes.

So, here is the stack that I came home to:

-A box from the scout store

-many catalogs including walmart and Tiffany, what a contrast in my mailbox!

-Bills, a check for scouting as I am treasurer, Christmas card and lots of junk mail

-School Papers and a receipt that I paid for a fieldtrip

Okay, you must sort everything now! It's a couple seconds when it comes in the door but if you stack ALL the bills and have to sort all of it at the end of the month, the 'bill paying' chore will seem large. It only takes me a few minutes to pay bills with this system. Here's what I kept and what I tossed.

-Tossed all the envelopes from bills, all I need is the bill as I bill pay online
- kept reward check, like a gift card
-kept scout shirt
-catalogs that were boring I flipped through quickly and tossed
-magazines and catalogs that I want to really look at go in my magazine bin. Once I read it, I recycle it but until I read it, it goes in my bin!
-kept Christmas Card
-kept money for scout account
-Tossed school items that were uneventful, 1 item had a lot of writing so I wanted to keep that.
-kept a magazine from school for my 4th grader

Here's my first secret. This table is rather large and is in the center of my family room. The white bin with the ribbon is my magazine bin and I read them and look at the catalogs when I watch tv. I have parties and no one has ever even noticed one of my biggest organizing secrets sitting right here, under the table.


Bend down a bit and look under my coffee table.

Here they are in full view for you. They are actually 'containers' that I think were intended as planters from Southern Living At Home, aren't they pretty?

Well at my house, the big one is my trash can and the little one is my urgent TO DO bin. Whatever comes in that needs 'action' within the next couple days goes here. I look in it daily and do what is needed and it's small and never full. My office is not far but to make life simple, there is a pen, pencil, checkbook and pad of paper inside for me!

Nothing on my table was urgent that day. Now, I should define what I think is allowed to be put in "to do". If it takes longer than 2 minutes and you need time to do it, then it should go there but the check for cub scouts that came in the mail, I just filled out a deposit slip and that is done so it didn't need to go in there. If it had been 15 checks and cash from popcorn sales, it would have gone in there! Touching it once requires that you really use your time. If I had put that check down to handle later, I would have used up more time than to just do it now!

So Where Did The Rest Go?

Here are a few spots in my office. They seem pretty and are decorative items but they have high function! The green bin has all my bills. When it's bill time, I grab the bin, pay my bills and that's it! NOTHING goes in the bin except the bill--envelopes, flyers, promo junk has all been tossed while sorting the day the bill came into the house. I literally take out 8 or so pieces of paper.

The black basket is my Pending To Do. Meaning, it isn't urgent but I need to do something with it soon or I am waiting for someone else to do something. For an example, right now, here is what is in this bin--notebook with measurements because tomorrow I need to finalize a kitchen design, stack of documents I need to hold onto until I confirm that our old insurance is completely cancelled, a school project for my son that is due Friday and I am holding onto the rules, a scouting assignment that we need to work on and info I need for a reunion I am the treasurer for. Notice that anything Pending requires action at some point. If you just want something (article, catalog, school work) those items are a reference or memory item and need a different place.

Here is where I display the kids' work that I or they love. In the black cabinet is a drawer where this year's school work is that I want to hold on to. It is not a large drawer but I do not need to keep a lot either! Their report cards and 'official' items go in a school file folder in a file cabinet but their work and art are considered memories. I have a system for memories that I wrote a while ago and you can read in detail about my school work suggestions here.

The writing assignment that I wanted to keep went on this wall and the school magazine that my son needs to read went to his desk in his room. In a week, I will find it and toss it! He is still a kid!

Sometimes newsletters come home from school and some keep them or post them. I suggest you read it and immediately put dates in your calendar and anything you need to take action on (send and item in, talk to a teacher about something) should go on your To Do list. Then toss the newsletter.

This catalog bin is by my back door and it hold catalogs that I want to hold onto. Most catalogs you can view online but unique ones like Southern Living at Home, Tastefully Simple and many many other home show sales items aren't available online so I hold onto those.

Attached to this are 2 clips. The one on the left holds things that I need to take somewhere with me. Bank deposits are almost always on there and sometimes a document I need to drop off somewhere. The one on the right holds gift cards and coupons.

The reward check that I recieved went onto the right clip and the scout deposit went on the left clip.

I have a display area for Christmas Cards so that is where that went!

The bins in my mudroom have all our scouting stuff. I am NOT a fan of letting these uniforms along with sport uniforms end up in my kids rooms as inevitably, they can't find them when you need them! Makes me CRAZY! So I control these items and they go in 2 of these bins! I toss them in the dryer to get the wrinkles out in case you wonder how I store shirts in there--it's a sacrifice I make to not have to search for them every week!

So the new shirt went straight into the bin!

The garbage went out the door! Stack is done! Writing this, it seems like a lot of info and may seem like I did a lot but the work is in setting up the system! The sorting of this stack took me 4 minutes and I was done! I told you Rule #1--Touch it Once. But Rule #2 really made this work in 4 minutes. Rule #2--A Place or everything and everything in its place! It is not a cliche, it really makes life easy!

I mentioned that I am made fun of for being organized and I am a dork in that I love systems and finding solutions and really have a passion for making life easier on myself and others! So I'm teased a bit, whatever. I was shopping in a cute boutique this weekend and saw a cute saying that I thought those of you that like to make fun of me would like. It seems that you can find a way to make fun of anyone so here you go:

Organized People
Are Just To Lazy
To Look For
Their Stuff!

Happy Sorting! And remember, TOUCH IT ONCE!

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Southern Fried Gal said...

OK - you've got me hooked. I'll be back! I LOVE what you did with the wall organizer. How clever to put the keys on the tp holder!

The Pretty Neat Company said...

Ha! Shh, don't tell anyone it's for TP! :) It works GREAT actually for a back door organizer! I'm glad you are coming back!

FrancesM said...

I love your blog! What great ideas and beautiful touches!

I totally need you in my life! My scrap area is a disaster... well it's my dinning room, I don't have a dedicated space :(

I will definitely be back.... :)

Anonymous said...

I am SOOOO going home to sort my "mail" nightmare basket on my lunch break! You totally inspired me to get that done! See ya soon!

Little*Precious Boutique said...

I'm sitting here with a counter top FULL of paper...just FULL & I see your Southern Living Wall Magazine/Key holder...I have one IN STORAGE!!

Raced up to the attic & am already getting this mess organized!

THANK you for the inspiration!! :)