You need to set up a message center, a specific place for papers to land so they're not all over the kitchen countertop or table. To set up an effective message center, figure out if you are a "piler" or a "filer." If you are a filer, set up some kind of upright filing system so that papers immediately have a home that is easy to access. If you are a piler, you need a lateral filing system that is horizontal, like letter trays.
Then you need to keep papers in categories – but just a few categories, and keep them broad. There is often an action attached to each paper, so that action can actually become the category. For example, "to pay" would be a category where the bills go, then after you've paid them, you can move them to the "paid" file. You can also create categories like "things to read," "kids' papers," etc.
And don't forget to clear the trays out. The end of the year, when you're preparing to do your taxes, is a really good time to move your bills into an archive filing system.
Hellen Buttigieg is an award-winning Certified Professional Organizer®, Life Coach and Gemini-Nominated host of the HGTV show Neat. She is president of We Organize U, an Oakville, Ont.-based company she started in 2001 to provide clients with a personalized approach to clearing their clutter and organizing their space so they can regain control of their lives. Hellen is also a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO), and Professional Organizers in Canada (POC), where she has served on the board as Director of Chapter Development. At their 2004 conference, Professional Organizers in Canada honored Hellen with the prestigious Harold Taylor Award in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the organizing profession. To learn more, visit www.weorganizeu.com.