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Paper Clutter? Put an End to the Piling & Shuffling Once and For All

By using this simple system you can finally free yourself from the paper clutter cycle.

We’ve all been there. How did I get so behind in dealing with the papers? Why do I have three months worth of filing piled up? Where did I put that restaurant gift card? I don’t remember getting that phone bill.

We move one pile of papers from the counter, to the table, to the desk depending on which surface we need to use.

Ugh, it’s never ending frustration…and it’s ugly.

By creating a system that is designed to capture all the paper coming into your house ahead of time, you and your family will know exactly what to do with each piece, as you handle it the first time, and then you will know where to retrieve something too.

First of all, let me say that I am not an expert or tax professional. Do not shred or trash anything based on this article unless you know you won’t regret it. That being said, I’m a huge proponent for less is more, I’m not a paper hoarder and I haven’t regretted it yet.

The “what you need” section below is a list of receptacles I use in my home to house all the paper. These items are listed in the order most used. You do not have to use these exact receptacles but you must have a designated place for everything.

Papers that don’t have a pre-defined home end up in a pile on your counter.

SHANNA

What You Need

  • Recycle Bin
  • Trash Can
  • 4 Compartment Desktop Sorter
  • Portable File Box with Hanging Folders
  • 2 Drawer File Cabinet with Appropriate Hangers and Folders
  • Small Fireproof Box

1. Recycle Bin & Trash Can

  • Start with the incoming mail and other papers by immediately sorting the junk or recyclables from the rest.
  • Put the recyclables in the recycle bin and the trash in the trash can.
  • Do this as you come into the house with the mail.
  • Be ruthless with this first sort.
  • Tip* Please don’t kid yourself that you’re going to read this or that later -when deep down you know you won’t; it is just future clutter.
  • Tip* My husband does this step, he gets the mail and puts all the catalogs and other advertising in the recycle bin before I even see it.

2. Four Compartment Desktop Sorter

Compartment 1

  • Unpaid Bills
    • I always put these on the top

Compartment 2

  • Documents to be Reviewed or Filed
    • Things you need to look at before filing or things to simply file away.
    • Insurance Policies
    • An investment statements

Compartment 3

  • Coupons and Gift Cards
    • I put these in an envelope and then into the compartment.
  • Menus & Often used Reference Documents
    • Information for an upcoming appointment
    • Concert Tickets
    • Contact lists
      • In case of emergency
      • Your kids friends parent contact info
      • Phone list
    • Printed schedule or calendar
      • Club information
      • Personal schedule for family member
      • School activities

Compartment 4

  • Current Interest (use with extreme caution, try taking a photo of the item instead)
    • I like to think of this folder as the nothing important or critical file, if it gets out of control I can simply recycle or trash it all.
    • Catalogs you want to peruse
    • Articles you want to read
    • Recipes you want to make

Boom!! All the incoming paper has been dealt with! It all has a home. Whew!

Now that all the paper is where it needs to be, you can perform household tasks quickly and easily.

*Compartments 1 and 2 contain papers that will move to new homes as you perform tasks like paying bills and filing.

3. Portable File Box

The portable file box contains hanging file folders that house the current years documents. I keep paid bills, bank statements, investment statements, and pay statements for 1 rolling year. I find this really convenient because I don’t have to be in and out of my file cabinet very often. This box can be pulled out easily when I’m completing tasks and allows me to keep my ugly file cabinet tucked away.

  • 12 Month Folders
    • When a new month arrives I file the previous month to the back of the portable file box.
    • The current month is then in the front. It will contain the previous years papers so I pull these out and shred them.
    • As I pay bills, review bank statements, investment statements, pay statements etc. I file them in the current months folder.
    • Tip* I don’t put anything in these 12 month folders that should be kept beyond 1 year. Make sure those items go into the file cabinet or fireproof box.
  • Current Year Tax Folder
    • Anything needed for the current years tax returns put in this tickler file.
    • Simply pull the file when it’s time to do your taxes.
  • Current Year Medical Folders
    • One for each household member.
    • When the year is up or the folder is getting big go through and purge or file to your cabinet.

4. Two Drawer File Cabinet

This is where you are going to file away more permanent documents. Pretty basic stuff here:

  • Top Drawer
    • Tax Files
    • Vehicle Loan & Title Work
    • Mortgage Documents
    • Investment Documents
    • Insurance Policies
    • Employment Documents
    • Healthcare and Other Benefit Information
    • Medical Documents
  • Bottom Drawer
    • Folders – 1 for each purchased item (ex. washing machine, tv, new garage door, computer, phone)
    • Containing, receipts, owners manuals, and warranty info

We are getting more and more digital, YAY! Pretty soon I think I will eliminate the 2nd drawer folders altogether and simply keep a digital file for each using photo/scan. Manuals are generally available online.

5. Small Fireproof Box

I would put anything of value, difficult to replace, or irreplaceable into a fireproof box or safe.

  • Marriage License
  • Passports
  • Will
  • All my jewels and diamonds…wink, wink.

Well that’s it. Never again feel overwhelmed by paper clutter or waste your precious time moving piles from one place to another. Don’t sit in another “don’t know where to start, procrastination spiral”. This easy system will have you organized in no time!


Sort the rest into the 4 compartment container on your desk. I actually keep mine tucked into a cabinet and I have it labeled so everyone knows what’s -what.

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