Some days it feels like you’re spending all your precious time putting out fires and chasing your tail rather than enjoying the small amount of quality family time.

Remember what life used to be like before our 24/7 work culture set in?

There was a rhythm to daily life and the weeks and seasons followed a familiar and comforting pattern; fish and chips on Friday, Thursday might have been washing day, there was shopping day and cleaning day.

Whilst we have an ‘act now’ culture that seems to demand our attention around the clock, by putting in place a few systems and routines that serve and support your life, you can quickly restore the balance and help avoid those annoying last minute upsets.

The best place to start with getting organised is with your paper because it impacts all areas of your life: financial, emotional, career, family and time.

Paper flows through our lives. It maps our journeys, showing where and when we were born, our progress through school, where we travel and where we choose to call home. Paper celebrates our life achievements through school reports, diplomas, degrees and work contracts. We accumulate permission documents such as licences, accreditations and endorsements. Marriage and birth certificates are evidence that we loved and we left living legacies. Invoices, account summaries and receipts show what we exchanged our hard-earned money for, be it electricity, lounge suites, houses or holidays.

Sometimes our paper breaks its banks and floods our lives and we end up wasting hard earned time and money trying to keep afloat. Unpaid bills, lost tax receipts, misplaced warranties and unpaid insurance can put enormous stress on relationships, as well as create serious consequences downstream. Lack of sleep, depression, anxiety, anger, frustration and lethargy are common symptoms of the overwhelm people experience when their paperwork is out of control.

Now before you start berating yourself (or your significant other!), just go easy. This struggle with paper is happening in homes and offices all over Australia. What most people need is a system for dealing with it. Draw a line in the sand and forgive yourself.

In 2008, Australians posted more than five billion items. That same year, Australian businesses sent 4.2 billion paper items by post. A lot of this was invoices, bills and direct-mail advertising. The average Australian employee uses 10,000 sheets of A4 paper each year and these numbers are growing. It’s worth investing a little bit of time in setting up a paper management system in your home and office.

I have written a book along with Melbourne professional organiser MaryAnne Bennie called Paper Flow, the ultimate guide to making paperwork easy. MaryAnne and I offer these five lifesaving and health creating tips for you to turn your piles into files and your frowns into smiles.

Tip 1:
Have a dedicated file for your unpaid bills, and call it ‘Bills To Pay’. All too often people have their bills all over the place, some in a diary, some on the kitchen bench and a few intermingled within a pile on the floor. This lack of clarity causes our subconscious to be continuously thinking about unpaid bills, it creates more paper through reminder notices and increases costs due to late fees and interest and it causes arguments and friction within relationships. You can now sleep more easily knowing that all your bills are in one place! Too easy!

Tip 2:
Looking for important documents like birth certificates causes people to go into a panic. These documents are usually accessed occasionally but when they are needed they are needed NOW. Place all your important documents into one folder now before the urgency hits and the panic sets in. Birth and marriage certificates, divorce papers, passports, wills and powers of attorney, titles and lists of important contacts all come together in one place. An extra tip: scan or photocopy your documents and keep a copy elsewhere in case of loss of originals through fire, theft or other misfortune. You will feel so much more in control after this one simple action.

Tip 3:
Overwhelm is exacerbated by being faced with too much to do all at once. So why not take a trip to the bottle shop? No we are not suggesting you drown your sorrows! Pick up some empty champagne boxes and neatly place all your stagnant piles into the boxes and stack the boxes neatly together. Now you can tackle one box at a time at a pace to suit your lifestyle and schedule.

Tip 4:
Little receipts can do your head in especially when you need to find one to make an exchange or to obtain a refund. People feel sick just thinking about the amount of wasted money is lying around their homes. Place all little receipts into a box the size of a shoebox. At the end of each month place the little receipts into an envelope with the month and the year written on the front. Place the envelope back into the box and then keep collecting receipts for the next month, repeat each month.

Tip 5:
Use a notebook. Of all the things that create anxiety, losing an important phone number or misplacing a person’s contact details or important message is among the most frequent offender. The time wasted searching through stacks of paperwork, scraps of paper and sides of newspapers sends us into a spin of anxiety and frustration. Having a single simple notebook into which all messages and notes are recorded could save you hours of searching every month. Keep the notebook in a central place and place all notes in the book.

MaryAnne and I invite you to join the 28 day Paper Flow challenge – that is to organise all your paperwork in 28 days or less – and feel the benefits for yourself. Are you up for the challenge?

For more information go to www.paperflow.com.au