How's your home office looking/working out these days?
In my earlier lifetime I developed and taught paperwork/information management seminars in person for several years as my own business and I've spoken to groups as large as 400 on this topic. I also helped people organize their offices/home offices in person and virtually. (See below how they said it helped them.) Now 64, I am semi-retired and so I just write about it all.
My first home office as an organizer
And me in that home office, with my 90s coiffed hair. :)
When January rolls around, most people are saying:
"Help!" when it comes to their paperwork.
Now, before you say, "Yeah yeah old school Boomer, but it's now 2023 and everything's digital and paperless, in case you haven't noticed so what's with the paperwork thing?!" To that I say: "Yes, I have noticed, and I practice digital paperwork management now myself, but there are still some things that require at least some 'paper paperwork management,' even if only temporarily."
Me teaching an organizing seminar when I was just a baby organizer in my 30s
A red Work-in-Progress paperwork system I set up for a former boss in the 90s
Also, anyone who knows me well knows that in addition to loving organizing, I am a longtime Anglophile. But what does that have to do with paperwork management?
Quite a lot, as it turns out: As I watched and read with riveted eyes last year the late Queen Elizabeth's tributes to her after she passed away, here's what really stood out to me about this lovely royal leading lady:
The Queen's red boxes put her in excellent control of her paperwork!
Yes indeed, this dignified monarch was organized and disciplined for 70 years of leadership and one of the ways she maintained that to the end was her red boxes which helped her manage her paperwork on a daily basis, except for Easter and Christmas since she was a woman of deep Christian faith so she took those days off.
Queen Elizabeth II said if she missed a day or two with her red boxes her paperwork built up and she didn't like that because it just made things stressful.
Totally true, my friends!
Now, if the Queen of England can stay in control of her paperwork for 70 years, trust me here, you and I can too. (Yes, I know she had a staff of 1200 or so and you and I don't, but she probably had lots more to do too than we do, so it evens out.) :)
So, let's get going!
First we need a red inbox and to remember this: All that little red box or bin or basket is is a place to store your papers temporarily that you will eventually need to make a decision about. I repeat: It's a temporary holding pen so that papers are not all over your desk or dining room table, (or in a closet inside paper bags like a former client of mine), with no "home." It's not a filing system. Did I mention it's not a filing system? Also, your red box or bin should not become overflowing. If it does, you need to immediately start sorting and deciding and doing, sister!
Once you have your red box, as papers come into your home/office just toss them in there until you can sit down with your red box/basket and sort through them. At the point you toss them in there, you don't want to think; you just want a home for them temporarily.
When you are ready to take action on the papers, start thinking and then do this:
If you still want to keep the info, scan it into your computer by topical files and then shred the actual paper.
You can also file it as a paper if you prefer. I like my purposely easy A-Z filing system eBook for that, personally. And you can use the same instructions I give in my eBook for a computer-based filing system if you prefer as the filing principles are the same whether it's computer files or paper files.
PRO TIP: That eBook has a very negative review on Amazon and while I believe everyone is entitled to their opinion, I heartily disagree with the person who wrote this review as they truly missed the whole point of why it's purposefully short: Because most people's "filing systems" are just too complicated so they seldom or never use them, get frustrated, and are right back where they started with piles of paper. Trust me, my easy A-Z filing method works! (If you use it, of course.)
My own home office currently, with my new red in-basket.
Here are some nice red basket and bin choices for you to consider buying below.
PRO TIPS: Buy a basket or box or bin big enough to hold 8 1/2 x 11 papers without them catching on the sides of the basket or bin or you will be annoyed and likely not do your paperwork tasks, or you will buy a second bigger bin, wasting money and time. Don't do that! If you work from your home office, or for personal papers at home, try these:
If you want your "red box" to be portable so you can take it with you to work on your paperwork somewhere other than your home office, then buy something like this with a lid so your papers don't end up all over your car or you will have a big mess and possibly lose a very important paper. Take some binder clips, post it notes, a highlighter, a mini stapler, and a pen with you, stored in a pouch or Ziploc bag in the box. Sort your papers into categories, make Post-it notes on the front of what needs to be done with the papers when you get home (file, scan, call Susie's teacher about this later) etc. and then put them back in your box for when you get back home. That way you can take action on them quickly with the Post-It notes reminding you what needs to be done. (I really don't recommend working on paperwork in your car or van or SUV, but some people have to do so, so a basket/box/bin with a lid will help you ...)
ABOVE: I once helped a client get organized who worked between a van and a very small office. Before pix on top and after below.
Why a RED basket, box, or bin? There are various legends about why Queen Elizabeth used red boxes, all of them interesting tales. I don't know why she chose red in reality, but my take on using red is you can see/find it easily if your office is a super super mess! (Red file jackets were a game-changer for my former boss above, and I chose that color for him purposely.)
You can become Queen of Your Paperwork, my dear readers!
Happy New Year and don't let your paperwork tiara get tarnished!
P.S. In 2022 I went through some of my past work memorabilia and I smiled when I came across these comments below from former seminar attendees and consulting clients near and far; I felt so blessed that my organizing work helped them empower themselves.
“Thanks for starting me down the road to freedom from my paper prisons! Ginger, Kansas City
"You have an amazing ability to put in words several things that are treasures for me: concrete and purposeful questions, accurate answers, perfect timing quotes, and sensible suggestions that have made me smarter, comfortable, self-confident and self-assured. I used to not like organized people a little because all I could remember was bad input from their perfectly particular way of being. You changed that feeling and I trust you. You are so professional. I want to be like you! I am paying you back with a daily reminder about you, from me, to our Lord." Cindy, Costa Rica
"I feel like I lost 50 pounds! Your system for mail saved me at least an hour a day!" Lou, Omaha
"Very very honest. Has the human touch." Marla, San Francisco
“Thank you for your valuable resources for my office. It’s been a month now and I’m pleased to report the new “organization” is very functional and I’m still using everything I learned from you.” Susan, Omaha