Homeadults with learning disabilitiesHow to Organize Paperwork

Being dyslexic, organization is a weak spot for me, so it needs extra attention if I want to keep things orderly in my life, so around this time of year, I go on a cleaning and organization spree. Since we’re embarking on a fresh year, why not get a fresh start, right?

Last year, I went through our home and reorganized our closets, kitchen and bathroom. I had neglected the paperwork I’m so bad at keeping in order, so I figured I’d focus on that this year.
Since I have a number of projects to keep track of in addition to household papers, I’ve discovered that I need slightly different systems for each of them.
Household Paperwork

This file tote is great. It’s easy to customize, compact enough
to store in different places and mobile enough to move it
whenever you need to.

Mail tends to be a sizable problem for me. I’d gotten in the unfortunate habit of bringing the mail in, picking the bills out, dumping the rest on the kitchen table, and adding the statement from the bill to the pile once I send the payment out.
Occasionally, I’d go through and sort out the recycling, so I’d be left with a pretty big pile of things to file at the end of the year. In addition to the mess that results, whenever we needed a particular statement for some reason, I ended up wasting time and energy to hunt through the pile for it.
In an attempt to remedy the situation, I decided to use a portable file holder that I picked up a while ago. After figuring out the monthly categories that come in the mail every month, I decided to designate a folder for each of the following –
  • To be mailed
  • To be paid
  • Paid (File last day of the month)
  • Shred
  • Catalogs
  • Coupons (To be clipped)
  • Taxes
  • Follow Up On
Anything that can be tossed ends up in recycling. There are extra folders that I can designate for other things that may crop up, as well. Since I’m already in the habit of sorting mail in our kitchen, that’s where the file holder stays.
When we have company, it’s extremely easy to simply move it to a different location to keep it out of sight. Even though it’s early in the year, it seems to be working pretty well. It requires little thought on my part, and clutter doesn’t accumulate.
On the first day of each month, I plan on filing the statements from the previous month’s bills and shredding whatever’s in the “Shred” folder. The Taxes folder will get things like receipts from donations and the like throughout the year, until filing time comes around. The follow up on folder will get checked within a week of getting whatever’s in there.
The logic behind all of this is that once an easy to follow routine is put in place, things will be easier to find, there will be less clutter plus my husband and I will both be a little less stressed for it.
Project Paperwork
My most used binders. The far left is for crafts, the middle
is for the fictional series I’m working on and the one on the
right is for recipes.
I guess these binders could be considered more of a long term storage kind of thing, too. The three I use most often are pictured. For this entry, though, I’ll use the craft pattern binder to illustrate what

works best for me.

The great thing about these is that they can be reused over and over again as your life changes. The binder I use for crafts has been with me since my school days, and has seen many uses since then.
Right now, I have it divided into four sections –
  • Crochet
  • Knitting
  • Sewing
  • Beading
The first section divider. The “Bunny 1” is the first page of a crochet pattern for making a small stuffed bunny.
Each subcategory holds printed out patterns or tutorials, and will hold charts I make for upcoming projects. As you can see, there’s no need to get fancy with the dividers, but office stores do sell tabbed dividers that work beautifully for this purpose. I just didn’t have any on hand.
Usually, I keep a pad of graph paper for creating unique patterns in the binder, as well, since the binder zips up.
In this case, folders kept in the binders would also have worked for many people, but punching holes in the sheets of paper and storing them like that tends to be neater for me.
This is also one of the cases where digital copies work for other folks. However, since I tend to mark up my patterns with pencil to keep my place or clarify instructions, paper works better for me.
Again, like with the folder tote I use for household paperwork, binders are fantastic because they’re so flexible in how they can be used. If I accumulate too many patterns in one category, I can always move them into their own binder, or if I pick up another crafting method, like macramé or sculpting with polymer clay, I can always add another category with ease.
Each binder is stored in an area that I already designated to a specific activity when I’m not using them. The patterns binder resides in my sewing cabinet, the recipes binder stays in the kitchen, and the binder for the series I’m planning stays on my desk, near my computer.
That way, I know where everything is, and I can grab them whenever I need them.
Sorting the Paper
Getting started is often the hardest way thing to do when it comes to stacks of paperwork. There are quite a few methods out there, including this one posted by Prolexic on one of the forums on The Dyslexic Advantage. The next time I find myself faced with a stack of papers, I’ll have to try it.
I tend to be a bit more hap-hazard. As I’d stated in that thread, I tend to stack the paperwork, settle down on the floor and sort it into piles according to the types of documents I have. For instance, when it comes to bills, I sort by utility and then date before filing it away.
It’s basically the same process described, but not nearly as neat. As long as I have the time and space, it works for me.
Despite the fact everyone needs to do it at one time or another, organization systems are very individualized. We know from the highly individualized way we learn that everyone thinks differently, and that is what we need to remember when we work out our own system.
What works for me won’t necessarily work for you, but hopefully what works for me might offer you some inspiration to find what works for you.
Here are some more organization related writings to check out –

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