Mail, Bills, Papers, Receipts, and Ode to the Shredder

What to do with all the Paper? Even if you use e-everything and opt-out-of-it-all you still get mail and receipts. Some of which you need to keep for some period of time. The existence of this Paper can drive an organized person crazy once in a while, so don’t feel bad if you have receipts stuffed in a shoe and papers under the sofa.

If the thought of this topic scares you, skip ahead for now and enjoy the poem Ode to the Shredder. You can work through your Paper phobia another day.

Your recipe for dealing with The Paper is here!

1. Don’t take it if you don’t need it. Brochures, coupons, flyers. Ask yourself, “Am I really going to look at this later?” or “Is it highly likely that I will never see this Paper again?” If you answer (1) No or (2) Yes, stuff that stuff in the recycle bin as soon as you get the office or home.

2. Set up a Paper Station. You will need:

A Place: This should generally be near where the Papers accumulate.

A sorting system: Clipped paper with titles written on the back of binder clips, file folders, boxes, clip boards, magnetic strips or perfectly squared stacks. It’s the system that works for you. I use a plastic Chinese take-out box from the dollar store, the gift box from a friend, to store all my receipts top-up.

An envelope opener: This may be the knife you got in Mengwi or a plastic letter opener you got at a trade show. Just make sure it is stored and stays at the Paper Station.

A recycle bin: Treat yourself; brown bags are only fun for so long. Once you over stuff a few or the cats turn it into a cave and rip it to shreds (they are almost helping), you will be wishing you had a more durable bin.

A shredder: To minimize the chance that your or someone else’s Paper identity is stolen, you may need to buy Paper paraphernalia like a shredder. Some people have shredding companies pick up their Paper; this is efficient for large quantities and higher security. Some people use the Paper for kindling; just make sure it fully burns. I send it back.

When I get an unsolicited credit card application, I put a line through my contact information, write “remove” across the top and stuff it all into the pre-paid envelope. It works and I am spreading the word. It feels good to return the Paper to the source.

Alas, if you have a business, you have Papers that will need to be destroyed. If you have more than a few sheets to shred when you open the mail, you may need a shredding box, treat yourself, use a real box. The box will ensure that the confidential Papers stay in one place until they are destroyed. Keep the box in a secure location. If you end up with more than one full box to shred, take it to a shredding service, it’s worth it.

3. Commit: Whatever system you choose, you will need to maintain it. Put quality energy into your system at a frequency that works for you and ensures you meet commitments like getting the bills paid. I scan my mail for emergencies (and checks) and ‘open the mail’ every few weeks in conjunction with paying the bills. For many of my clients, the mail is opened each day by an employee.

I wish you success in conquering your Paper. Enjoy this poem and contact me if you would like a hand creating your Paper Station.

Ode to the Shredder
By Scott Pinkerton

Once upon a time I had no paper

Needing saved, sorted, cataloged, or layered

Then spaces were cordoned and drawers were bought

Storing piles of leaflets whose import was lost

They said thy son ‘Save those things’

You might need the stack when the gov’t sings

Or this person sues, or the bill’s in dispute

Or the self finds agreement with some ill-repute

When purging the past at the appropriate time

The pages were trashed, and that was fine

But meth-heads and felons united with glee

And gleaned out the bins for the identity of me

So now we have the multi-toothed mulching machine

That rips my history into useless strips of tree

And makes safe the purging of the extinct parts of past

Thus guarding my work from the pirate flagged mast

So Ode to the Shredder, my new pal and friend

May your talons stay sharp from beginning to end

And if you choke on the meal presented this time

I’ll have your back, as you’ve had mine