Monday, August 1, 2011

The Clipboard

Paper clutter (along with mental clutter!) is one of my biggest, if not my biggest, clutter nemeses. Over the past year I've been working on a system. It is ever-evolving. One aspect that I think will stick around for a long time, however, is The Clipboard.

Yes, by The Clipboard I mean an actual board and and an actual clip. Not a cool new piece of organizational software. Sorry 'bout that.

Allow me set the scene.

When I sort the mail or other papers that enter the house, here are my basic categories:
1. Recycle
2. Shred
3. File
4. Action

Recycling and shredding I try to tackle immediately, using my bins in the garage (before I come in the actual house.) After that, I'm usually left with some filing and action items. The items to be filed (not too many nowadays because I've become cut-throat in my shredding) I put near the filing cabinet and try to get to that as quickly as possible, if not immediately. Action items are things like bills or forms that need some sort of action from me before I can recycle/shred/file and move on with my life.

This is where The Clipboard comes in. On the top of my clipboard is my on-going to-do list. Under the to-do list, I clip any papers that require action. I like this system for the following reasons:

  1. I write the action items right on my to-do list when I clip the corresponding paper there. Feels very streamlined and helps me not forget.
  2. My to do list and the action items are always together. I have tried keeping an electronic to-do list, even on my smartphone, but I didn't like the disconnect between the list and the physical items that need to be dealt with, if that makes sense.
  3. I hang my clipboard on a hook in my pantry, thus eliminating the need for one more pile of papers on a surface. Flat surfaces are the enemy when it comes to curbing paper clutter.
  4. The clipboard physically limits how big my pile of action stuff can get before I feel forced to deal with it. A pile of papers on a surface is only limited by how tall it gets before it starts to topple over. Much bigger than what fits in a clip. And then that pile is prone to multiplying....
  5. My action pile is portable. I can take it all with me on my errands if necessary.

I have come a long way. For several years I just kept a box in my closet where I threw any paper I might need later. I was in denial that effectively dealing with paper was something that was going to take a degree of daily vigilance for the rest of my life. I finally made peace with this fact and got my files back in order in January. But I've never had a satisfactory system for action items. I had a manila folder for awhile, a box for awhile, but I hated it and inevitably ended up with generic piles of miscellaneous paper. Of course it's not 100% fail-safe, but this works so much better for me than other methods I've tried.

What works (or doesn't) for you?

No comments:

Post a Comment