All News & Blogs
Visit the Photo Place
BY JOHN SHULTZ
The Kansas City Star
KANSAS CITY, Mo.--Christmas shopping is over. There's a chill in the air. Tax season is on the horizon. Next thing you know, you wake up one morning surrounded by mounds of the white stuff.
Early February snowfall?
Try reams of unsorted paperwork.
And though the blizzardlike state of your home office/kitchen counter/living room end tables may make you want to reach for the snow shovel, you'd probably be better served by some determination, a good filing system and a reliable shredder.
How much of a problem is this?
"Eighty percent of the paper we keep we never look at again," said Jennifer Ford Berry, an organization expert who lives in New York state and has written the "Organize Now!" books.
Manufacturers have no shortage of products available to help you get a handle on your packrat tendencies, from designer stacking shelves to specialized file folders to elaborate electronic systems that vacuum up your paper odds and ends and spit them back in electronic form (or directly into the cloud).
We'll get to that in a bit. Because, organizing experts agree, before you try to tackle any sort of household organization project, Step 1 is securing the right mindset. A good, healthy and properly grounded outlook is the No. 1 tool in your cleanliness tool kit.
"Probably the best mindset is not to think of it as a whole house project, but a room-by-room project, which is really what it needs to be anyway," said Kasey Vejar of Simply Organized, a service in Johnson County, Kan. "You tackle one room at a time and more likely one closet, cabinet or drawer at a time within that room. If you try to organize your entire house at once you'll end up 'picking' at different areas, probably expending a lot of time and effort, without much visual impact.
"It's going to take a long time, generally, for the whole process. But the payoff is well worth it."
Mary Ellen Vincent of OrganizeMe, a professional organizing service in Kansas City, Mo., agreed that calm, cool determination is key.
"Paperwork is one of those things that's neither sexy nor fun," she said. "Pick a time of day--maybe earlier in the day when you're more focused and have more energy--when you can pay real attention to it.
'PAPERWORK IS ONE OF THOSE THINGS THAT'S NEITHER SEXY NOR FUN'
"Using a shredder is a great way to protect your identity against fraud and to get rid of unwanted paper clutter," said Beth Freeman, general manager of the Staples on Prairie View Road in Kansas City.
There's a variety of shredders sold at multiple retailers, ranging from office supercenters like Staples and Office Max to Target and Walmart. Freeman suggests a 10-sheet cross-cutting number that sells for about $100.
Shredding job too big? The office superstores and other retailers will shred it for you for a price.STORAGE: Binders with rings that detach from the shell for easier storage and modular Stack+Fit desk shelves can make organizing easier, Freeman said. There are even stylish storage options by Martha Stewart and other labels.
The fancy stuff can be nice, but the simple options can be just as effective.
"Clear containers are the best for storage," said organization expert and author Jennifer Ford Berry. "Repurpose containers that you already have before you go out and purchase something new, which just adds more to your clutter."
Mary Ellen Vincent of OrganizeMe, a professional organizing service in Kansas City, likes "hanging files and manila folders. It's hard to make a truly cool new gadget. I don't even like the color-coded hanging files. It seems like a good idea, and then you forget the meaning of the colors."
One organizing product you might want to avoid? Bulletin boards, said Kasey Vejar of Simply Organized, an organizing service in Johnson County, Kan.
"They quickly become a catch-all for everything from theater tickets to coupons to photos," she said. "So I recommend beginners and intermediates not use these. For most, it's really just a cop-out to making a decision: 'Hey, I'll just shove it up here on the bulletin board so I don't forget it.' And then you forget it."ELECTRONIC STORAGE: With the ever-shrinking price tag on storage volumes, consumers have a variety of choices, from wafer-like SD cards to the venerable CD- and DVD-ROMs to standalone hard drives to cloud storage.
Vejar's quick advice: Ditch the bulky packaging and invest in a space-saving zip-up sleeved pouch.
Of course, those options bring with them their own issues in terms of data lifespan and a new desire to hoard all sorts of digital media like camera phone pics.
And then there are bill/receipt/document scanners that allow you to digitize all of the important papers you're keeping and organize them in a proprietary electronic filing system. You can convert data for functional use in Excel, Quicken, Turbo Tax and other software.