Taking control of paperwork reduces stress


Managing paper is a full-time job in the '90s. Now that school is into full-swing, students daily bring home fat wads of paper. Most of it should be admired profusely and then tossed immediately into the recycling bin.

Paper floods all aspects of our lives: social, financial and work-related. Handling paper well reduces stress. The nagging presence of paper piles can get to even the most serene of us.

Each piece of paper, the clutter experts write, represents a decision postponed. We set it aside "for now," thinking "Maybe I'll want to read that someday, or I'll get back to it later." Many of us have the habit of dragging paper from place to place, never really tending to it. Stephanie Culp, in "Streamlining Your Life," writes that letters do not belong in the bathroom. That, of course, is where half-read magazines belong.

Here are some tips from "Streamlining Your Life."

* Always read with a marker in hand to save yourself time. Then you can write who should see it, or what part of the article is important, or whatever to process the paper.

* Buy stock in Post-its. Without context things are meaningless. Have you ever saved something only later to wonder why? That's because you didn't put a Post-it on it noting that it was your teen-ager's first parking ticket or whatever. With the magic of Post-its you can remember why something was worth saving.

* Feed the piggy. Put a large trash receptacle near where you process your paper. It's a game to throw out paper before it can add to our considerable clutter. Ms. Culp's advice: Put the bills in the ever-fat bill folder and the personal letters in the skinny little folder immediately. Once a week, sit down and handle them.

* Choose a spot and stick with it. Don't drag your paperwork all over. Have one spot set aside with all the supplies you need on hand.

* Eighty percent of what we keep we never look at again. Things get lost in the files filled with junk that people save just to cover their backsides.

* Throw out time wasters. Just because the makers of the car you bought five years ago want to know how you feel about it doesn't mean you need to devote 20 minutes to telling them. Before you start to answer mail, ask yourself if you really want or need to.

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