I think we’ve all come across the Number One bit of expert advice on getting cluttered papers under control – “Handle each piece of paper just once.” It sounds so sensible! Don’t waste time pawing through mountains of paper over and over. Take one piece, decide where it belongs, put it there, done. Repeat as many times as needed.
The only problem is, it doesn’t work all the time for everybody. It has never worked for me. When I try to sort through paper piles, I wind up with so many different categories that, before I know it, I’ve lost track of which papers go on which pile, and soon after that I give up in exasperated despair.
If following the rules doesn’t solve your problem, maybe it’s time to think harder about what your problem really is, and invent new rules to solve it. My problem? When I have to invent several dozen categories for scrambled papers*, I get confused and overwhelmed. So, for the past week I’ve been going through the piles gathering bank statements. Nothing but bank statements. It’s easy to sort them based on which account they apply to, and easy to set up one folder for each account and put them there.
Yes, I’m going to need to sort through those same jumbled piles again. And again. But the piles (some of them, at least) are visibly smaller, and now that I can see that I’m making progress, the idea of more sorting isn’t half as scary.
* Scrambling papers is even easier than scrambling eggs. But the papers aren’t as tasty.