One idea for corralling paper clutter is a “paper command center.” Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? After I first saw the phrase, I decided to research it. Apparently most who talk about it mean a set of files on the work surface where you handle household paperwork. Maybe five or six files—one for each family member, one labeled “to file,” one for bills, one for medical and whatever else the person using the command center finds useful.
This means you have two sets of files: This small one near where you work, and another one, probably with the same labels, somewhere else.
This makes no sense to me. I would never have more than two pieces of paper, if that, in each file folder in this command center.
Here’s why. When I get the mail, I throw out the junk, start a pile for filing, and either handle right away what’s come in or put it in my inbox for later. I infrequently have more than two or three pieces of paper in my inbox. Before leaving my desk, I file the daily mail that needs filing and check the inbox and handle anything there, and I’m done. This rarely, rarely takes me more than about twenty minutes (usually a lot less) after dinner.
Okay, I admit, I don’t get bills in the mail. Ours are all paid automatically, except for one credit card, and that’s because I pay it off every month, so using automatic bill pay wouldn’t work. But if I had bills, they would either be paid right away, or put in the in-box and paid once a week or twice a month, or monthly. I might make a file folder for them to put in my inbox, but I wouldn’t have a file folder for anything else in there.
I have a small envelop-sized filer for receipts—they’re filed by month.
When I come home from the doctor’s office, shopping, or whatever and have some paperwork in my purse, I simply file it away during my evening stint at the desk.
I don’t have children’s stuff from school to contend with anymore, but if I did, I’d go through what they bring home each day, either file it, put it on the fridge (art work), or handle any forms that need filling out and stick them right back in the backpack. Or make a note on a calendar or planner if it’s about an upcoming event. This could also wait for after dinner and shouldn’t add more than five or ten minutes to the whole enterprise.
Before you have two of anything, ask yourself, will it save me time? In this case, in my opinion, it won’t.