Professional organizers offer tips on paper management

Professional organizers offer tips on paper management

I try to keep my home office organized, but I still have papers - articles, recipes and important mail - laying around in three different rooms. What can I do?
- Angie's List member Kathy Sain

Nearly everyone struggles with paper management, says Marcie Lovett, owner of highly rated Organized by Marcie in Olney, Md. She suggests you start by reducing the amount of paper coming into your home. For what you can't eliminate, designate one location for all papers and schedule time to deal with it each week.

"Be brutally honest," Lovett says. "Are you really going to refer to each of the items you've kept? The only reason to file a paper is to retrieve it. If you're never going to look at it again or you can find the information somewhere else, let it go."

Betsy Fein, owner of highly rated Clutterbusters!! in Rockville, Md., says there's no cookie-cutter fix. One suggestion she gives her clients is a simple saying: "Don't be a pack rat." Using "rat" as a mnemonic device can remind you to decide immediately if a piece of paper you're handling should be retained, acted on or tossed.

"Treat the paper as a perishable," Fein says. "Don't let it pile up to deal with when you have the time. You wouldn't let it do that if it was food in your kitchen."

A professional organizer can help you corral an existing mess of papers and devise a personalized system to manage what comes in. But it can be costly, from $65 to $95 per hour, Fein says.

There's no license required in most areas, but the National Association of Professional Organizers does certify organizers, which Fein says is a good place to look.

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