Shop Talk

Ask the experts: Deal with mail to help eliminate piling up papers

Now that the yellow pollen has settled and the rain has stopped, many owners are in spring cleaning mode at home and in the office.

All the paper that’s accumulated in the office can probably use some attention. It’s on your desk, it’s piled on top of the filing cabinets and there is more of it coming in each day.

“Every organizing situation is unique, but paperwork seems to be a universal concern for my clients,” said Nancy Haworth, professional organizer and owner of On Task Organizing in Raleigh. “Papers pile up or become spread throughout desktops, covering the main workspace. Too much paper leads to a cluttered space, often making it hard to focus on current projects.”

To get out from under all that paper, Haworth says to start with the mail.

“In many offices, dealing with incoming mail can be overwhelming,” she said. “Mail that needs to be acted upon is overlooked or improperly distributed, and there is no scheduled time to focus on mail.”

Haworth suggests designating one person to distribute mail and designate an inbox for each employee.

Also, a hanging inbox helps prevent other papers from ending up on top of that mail.

She also recommends discarding unwanted items as they’re opened, and opening mail by the shredder or recycling bin daily. Reduce junk mail and catalogs by contacting those companies and asking to be removed from mailing lists, she said.

Determine a home for mail that you need to take action on.

“Using an upright file box or sorter, store paper vertically into folders based on the action needed such as “to read,” “to call,” “to file,” “to scan,” “to pay,” etc,” Haworth said. “Plan a time to take action, as you will be adding to these folders with each day’s mail. If you have time, take action immediately.”

With non-mail files, Haworth recommends setting up a filing system that is best for your business whether it is alphabetical, by category or by project. Schedule time to file every week and keep active files near your desk, moving them when the project is complete.

“My organizing clients are often apprehensive about tossing a paper, just in case they need to refer to it again. Keep in mind that 80 percent of items that are filed are never referred to again,” Haworth said.

Reach Carla Turchetti at