Q: If my client just let go of 20 bags of paper and the papers she kept fill 4 file drawers, and she only will use 20% of those, then were we successful?
From experience, I can attest to the fact that the 80/20 rule absolutely applies to our paper. So, I’m often asked, and asking myself, why do we keep so much paper if we’re never again to look at it? The answer has become clear to me over the years: it’s for peace of mind. No matter how much you keep, it is highly unlikely that you will ever refer back to 80% of it. There’s no way around it, sorry.
Personally, I probably have about 20 hanging files. I know that I’m only going to use 20% of my paper. I’ve worked with clients who end up keeping 20 drawers of paper. They too, will only ever reference about 20%. If I sort through a desk pile and we keep ten papers, she too will only ever reference about two of them. See what I’m getting at?
So the question should be, Why do we keep so much after we throw so much away? It is the insulation of this 80% (be it 8 or 800 papers) that empowered us to let go of so much in the first place.
It is a very fine line that I have learned to walk when guiding clients through the “pitching and tossing” phase. I’ve learned that our peace of mind is the real goal of organizing. If it takes keeping 2 drawers of “useless” paper to let go of 15 drawers, then we have absolutely been successful. My 20% may be 10 files. Your 20% may be 2 filing cabinets.
Look around your office. Knowing that you are officially allowed to keep quite a bit of "useless" paper, does a mega-purge feel any easier? Do you think 80% is an accurate estimate of how much paper you have, but will never reference? Please share in the comments below!