Turn your pile of papers into organized workspace

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- It's the chore you've been meaning to tackle all year, but just can't find the time to do it. If there are mounds of paper stacked on your desk or tucked away in a junk drawer, there are a few easy ways to get organized.

Now's the perfect time to organize that cluttered pile of paperwork to keep you and your family's life streamlined. From bills, junk mail, important documents, and that tidal wave of paper and art work kids bring home from school, some people just don't know what to do with it.

"Just kind of throw things you don't know what to do with them, shut the door, pretend it doesn't exist," said mom of three Angela Koch.

Her desk had piles of paper all over, stacks of photographs, and other miscellaneous items scattered throughout. To tackle the job at hand, Koch got the help from professional organizer Julie Hibbs with Squared Away. She says part of the battle is psychological.

"Most people find it overwhelming. And so there's kind of a fear factor that goes with it and they sort of just toss it into a pile. The bigger the pile grows, the bigger the fear grows," Hibbs said.

She says over time, an unorganized work area could lead to bigger problems down the road.

"Bills get paid late, permissions slips go lost, and invitations get overlooked," Hibbs said.

Hibbs says that main goal is to maintain it every day for a few minutes... to avoid it building up again over time.

"You should get yourself to a point where daily you spend 10 or 15 minutes, and weekly you spend 2 or 3 hours so you can keep on top of the big projects," Hibbs said.

Depending on how long you've been putting it off, it may take some extra time to get it all organized.

"It may take you more than a day or two, especially when it comes to looking at insurance documents or school applications. So don't setup an unrealistic goal for yourself," Hibbs said.

Her next tip is to sort it out and put papers you have into categories.

"Get your medical receipts together. Get your insurance documents together. Get the kids artwork together," Hibbs said. "Then after you figure out what you do want to keep, you've got to figure out the best way to store it, file it, or to toss it."

She suggests choosing storage boxes or bins to keep your work area organized that stay within the budget.

"You don't have to go crazy with a bunch of organizing tools. I think that's one of the biggest mistakes people make. They go out, they buy hundreds of dollars of organizing tools, and it's not necessary," Hibbs said.

Julie says to get a few inexpensive and decorative boxes to act as your main "in-box" for specific categories - important mail or bills, kids memorabilia, and anything else specific to your situation. When it's time to sort that in-box, a properly labeled file system is essential. As papers come in, you'll have a specific place to put them so you can access them later if needed.

"If you shop and you buy online, you have free shipping, if you spend more money you can get discounts, watch the coupons, you can do it for under $100 for sure," Hibbs said.
Another important tip is to buy a cross cut shredder if you don't have one already. A good one starts around $60, and it's a small investment to help protect against identity theft down the road.

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