Ask the Experts

Dear Organizing Coach: How Can I Corral All of My Important Paperwork from Its Hiding Spots in My House?

Do you have drawers crammed with paperwork, or boxes and boxes of unorganized files? Many adults with ADHD face this overwhelming, frustrating problem — and face financial, emotional, and organizational hurdles as a result. Here’s what you can do to start getting a handle on paper clutter.

Q: “I have a drawer crammed with paperwork, plus more paperwork all over my house and desk — where I’ve either sat it down in a hurry or have put it aside to keep it ‘safe’ just to lose it later. Now I have a huge mass of clutter that goes beyond just paperwork in a very small room to boot. I have tried to ‘start over’ with the most needed papers, but they have disappeared and now some are even in my fiancé’s car too…. Please help! I am totally overwhelmed! I also have chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, and lupus, which doesn’t help.” —Rose

Q: “I get overwhelmed with things on my desk. I don’t know where to start. I have trouble putting things in place. I procrastinate constantly. I run late a lot. What can I do to make my life easier?” —Catlady1414

Q: “How can I manage my ‘important papers’ mess in all parts of the house?” —Deb1954

Dear Rose, Catlady1414, and Deb1954:

The first step to any organizing project is to take inventory. SO gather your piles from every corner of the house and SORT! Natural categories will appear as you go through this process. Make sure to have a recycling bin and a shredder close at hand.

Once you pare down your piles, find ONE place in your home to access your active papers. Having a hard time making a decision? Think of it this way: Silverware lives in the kitchen, clothing in your bedroom. So where is the most natural and easiest accessible place for you to have your papers?

[Free Handout: Get Organized in One Weekend]

Next, find the best method for containing. If filing is not your thing, there are many creative and out-of-the-box ways to keep paper contained. Pretty bins, magazine files, clipboards, binders (my favorite!) are all fun ways to make organizing your paperwork obtainable.

However, remember that even the best organizing systems need to be maintained. So schedule your paperwork organizing like you do haircut or medical appointments. A regularly scheduled time will make getting started that much easier.

Organization guru Leslie Josel, of Order Out of Chaos, will answer questions from ADDitude readers about everything from paper clutter to disaster-zone bedrooms and from mastering to-do lists to arriving on time every time.

Submit your questions here!