Are you a "Piler" or a "Filer"?


Here I sit trying to update my website but I’m facing a serious episode of “writer’s block.”

Why? Because it can’t see a single piece of furniture in my office – they are all covered up with paper – magazines, books I want to read, future newspaper columns, bills to be paid, clippings ripped out of the newspaper, recipes, bank statements, the rough draft of my latest book (okay my ONLY book). It’s overwhelming and it’s time to do something about it.

I just spent an hour perusing articles on the internet which is loaded with tips on how to control the paper tiger. Here’s what I learned:

Everything in your physical environment should have a “home.” Frequently one of the stumbling blocks is that we simply have too much stuff! I figure I have about three households stuffed into my little bungalow. It’s high time I honed my skills in “Art of Wastebasketry.”

One article suggested we ask ourselves “What’s the worst possible thing that would happen if I didn’t have this?” Depending on your answer, you must immediately file it or trash it. Now that’s a subject they should be teaching in college.

Sarah Aguirre, a writer for lists the following steps to make your life easier:

1. Automate.
Sign up to make payments online. Companies will continue to send statements to your home, but now these statements can be easily filed without worrying about forgetting to pay.  Of course, I haven’t done this yet because I don’t want someone taking a chunk out of my bank account without my knowing it.

2. Access the Trash.
Open incoming mail over the trash can. Standing over the trash as you open mail, gives you easy access to the best place for junk mailings, outer envelopes, and any other paper clutter. I’ve been doing this and it does help.

3.File It.
Find a filing cabinet and divide your important papers into categories. File incoming papers after opening the mail. Things that need attention or action can be place in the appropriate spot in the mail center (see below.)

4. Contain the Memories.
Create a place for paper memories. Youth artwork, birthday cards, and other memories need their own storage. Me, I need another house for this stuff because I’m terribly sentimental. I still have my sons’ T-ball uniforms, the locks from their first haircut and their report cards.

5. Evaluate Your Subscriptions.
Do you pay for multiple magazine and news subscriptions that you never get around to reading? Maybe you put them on the end table thinking you will find time to read them, but before you know it you have a stack as high as the ceiling to “get to.” Keep only the subscriptions you read on a regular basis. Consider donating magazines to a seniors center or shelter after you’ve read them. We have a neat thing going on at our public library.  You take your old magazines in and so does everyone else.  I’m always dropping by to pick up issues of Country Home or Southern Living  (never mind that they are dated in the 80s.)

6. Create a Mail Station.
Create a centralized place with stamps, pens, envelopes, paper, and slots to sort incoming and outgoing mail. Keeping all of the supplies together means you will be able to find them more easily when they are needed.  Now this is a great tip.  But I need to tie the pens with a string like they do in the grocery store because they seem to wander off on their own volition!

7. Have a Message system.
When the phone rings or visitors drop by, many people scrounge for the nearest scrap piece of paper to write message information on. If your address book looks like a pile of torn paper, it may be time to create a new message taking system. Have one place in your home where a pencil and a notepad are always available. Post messages in the same place every time so household members know where to look for their messages. (Lucky Dawg and Rebel would appreciate this.) Keep a household address book near the phone to take down permanent information in.

8. Cut the coupons.
Do you have a drawer full of unused expired coupons? It can be great to cut coupons and save money. But only if you cut them and use them. Keep the coupons in a regular spot so that they can be easily accessed for a trip to the grocery store.

9. Regulate collections regularly.
Update your files, tossing outdated information yearly. Get rid of items you do not need to create room for the next year’s flood of paperwork. Yeah, right.

10. Get rid of receipt mania.
Receipts kept for tax purposes can be filed under the appropriate heading. For those people who like to track all of their expenses, create a receipt “dropping point” that will temporarily hold the receipts until your weekly session of adding and evaluating them.

The key to cutting back on paper problems in your home is to reduce the incoming paper and then to create regular places to store the necessities that find their way to your door. Whether you toss it or file it, it won’t find its way to a pile anymore.

Now I know what to do. But will I do it? Nah. I think I’ll wait for a rainy day.

Recommended reading: Go to and click on Organizing 101. You’ll be glad you did.

One thought on “Are you a "Piler" or a "Filer"?

  1. Hi Em,
    Have just begun to call mail-out 800 no’s to cancel mailouts, but I’ve started with the ones that are from charitable or religious organizations. They are usually the most cooperative, and removing someone from the mailing list helps them to save on postage. Today I stopped a couple of catalogs from a bookstore that I can easily access online if I want to order anything. Another organization sends our family THREE copies of the same newsletter that deals with my mother’s physical illness, so I’ve asked them to just send us one.

    Anything that I don’t absolutely need on hardcopy, but still desire to have it, I will request online from now on. I shread everything that has any personal information on it, including address labels, so you can only imagine the time it takes ripping all this stuff open, and going through looking for my name. I wish there were a law that says you can’t preprint someone’s name on every page of those letters enticing a person to take out still another pre-approved credit card. Hmm, maybe those days are over, but I wouldn’t count on it.

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