How to Conquer Paper Overload

For many, the idea of sitting down to pay bills and burrow your way through a heap of mail and paper can feel like an exhausting and overwhelming prospect – draining your energy before you even begin.

The process can be filled with organizational reminders of how things aren’t as easy or simple as you’d like them to be. This can feed the procrastination that allows the project to snowball in your mind and hang over your head until you inevitably have to deal with it.

I can’t make the administrative side of life disappear but I can provide you with a few time-tested strategies to transition your paper, mail, and bills from a dreaded project to a simple routine that doesn’t even register on your anxiety meter.

As always, remember that we are aiming for ‘good enough’ instead of perfection. Give yourself permission to incorporate these tips bit by bit and customize them for your life and work-style.

Pick up and process your mail regularly: Eliminate anxiety by setting a target for how often you want to get your mail and a separate goal for how often you want to want to review and process it. Make sure these targets feel realistic and stress-free for your life.

Eliminate junk mail: Protect your home from junk by keeping a trash bin/shredder near your front door. Don’t let any junk mail sneak past! You can also take a minute to save some trees and remove your address from junk mail lists, credit card offers, and catalogs.

Get a mail basket: Not everyone can open and review mail right away. After the junk mail is pitched, place the remaining pile of unopened mail in a designated basket or container near the entrance of your home until you are ready to review it.

Keep action papers together: Where do you store your bills and other papers that need to be attended to? I suggest a translucent folder to contain everything that is actionable. Keep this folder stored vertically in a spot that will help you review it regularly.

Give receipts a home: If there is any one item that seems to mass produce itself while we’re asleep it’s paper receipts. Give them a home – label an open bin, clear envelope, or your favorite expandable file (if they need to be organized by date) – and make sure it is stored in an easy to drop-in location.

Go paperless: Sign up for e-mail statements, balance alerts, reminders etc. and never have to file another bank statement or utility bill again!

Set up automatic bill pay: There are many ways to accomplish this now. Pick what feels best to you. The peace of mind this process generates far outweighs the minimal time investment it takes to get it set up.

Schedule a meeting with yourself: Designate a certain time of day/week/month when you review your mail, process your action folder, pay random bills, etc. Keep up with this routine and you’ll never have to dread a backlogged admin project again!