OMG! Paper clutter is a nightmare! With a never-ending influx of mail, school papers, printables (yes, I love them too!) recipes, and whatnot, it’s easy to get lost in a flood that results in paper piles stacked all over the house. Here’s how I sorted through mine:
Collect all papers in one place:
This seems like a pretty obvious first step, but if you regularly clean room by room, it’s one you might miss. It’s also one that will save you the most time, in the long run, not having to sort out papers as you go from room to room.
I went through each room in my house and collected each scrap of paper I found and put it in a bag. This included everything from kids artwork, to receipts, to bills, to cards… everything. I was shocked! There was so much paper you could have started a recycling center out of my home:(
Designate a spot for sorting:
If you have a home office, that might (or might not) be a good place to sort. I have a little desk that I use for filing and deskwork, but any designated place will do it. The key is that it should be big enough to make separate piles and see everything at a glance.
For this project, I used my living room floor.
Now you want to go through every piece of paper, open it up, and figure out what it is, and figure out what to do with it.
In my case, there was a lot of school artwork. 3 kids really bring in a lot of stuff! I took pictures of the best of it and cleared it all out. They bring home their artwork at least once a week, and it really isn’t feasible to keep it all. Later, I will store the photos on my computer so I can go back and look at them whenever I want.
I sorted all work documents into one pile and then sifted through that, getting rid of things that weren’t necessary or relevant anymore.
The same for bills… tax-related papers… medical papers… You get the idea.
The point is to get to a point where you can say, “I know exactly what is in each pile, and I know that I need to keep all of it.”
Here’s where you start filing:
Filing can be a pain, especially the first time you have to file all of your documents. There are a number of really good methods out there and it can be confusing if it’s something you’re just starting out with.
One of the more efficient methods I have found, and used for years was set up in “Getting Things Done” If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s a great productivity system that uses checklists as it’s backbone for remembering and doing all the things you need to do.
They suggest that you set up a file system from A-z and file everything that way. I think this works great for general things; contacts, flyers…etc. but I have found that I tend to get confused finding more important information later:
“Gee, did I file that receipt under ‘R’ for ‘receipts’ or ‘F’ for ‘furniture’? Maybe it’s under ‘C’ for ‘couch’?”
Instead, I use individual folders for different areas. There’s a medical folder sorted by family member, a tax paper folder for everything I might need for tax purposes, a school folder for important school papers (like report cards)… This just works better for me.
You should figure out what works best for you and set up a filing system that will allow you to quickly and easily get through all your paperwork, and also let you find things when you need them later.
Making sure the paper stays under control:
This is probably the most important part of decluttering paper. You don’t want to turn around in a month and have to start all over again!
Set up a place to receive all papers. If it’s just you, or you and a partner, a general inbox could work. I have kids, so I also needed a place for school papers.
I created a basket system. One basket is basic. Mail, flyers, bills… one is for the kids, and one is for action items (things I still need to do something with- pay bills).
From now on, everyone puts their papers in the right basket, and I go through them every evening so that I know what is going on and can make sure nothing gets missed. (I will be writing more about family organizational systems soon, so keep an eye out for that!) I can also sort through the papers before they disappear into every nook and cranny of the house 🙂
Now I just have to train the rest of the family to put their papers in the right places:/
Is your house overflowing with paperwork, or have you got it under control? Let me know in the comments below!