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How To Get Rid of File Clutter {15 Minutes At A Time}

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Today's mission is to get rid of file clutter from your home filing system, because you know not everything you once filed in there is actually worth keeping, right?

This mission is designed to be done while working on the Organize Your Home's Filing System Challenge here on the site, which is part of the 52 Week Organized Home Challenge.

Organize Files Challenge
The reason this is such an important mission is that part of having an organized filing system in your home is making sure you're only keeping things in it that you really and truly need. There's only so much space in your file box, or the file drawer or cabinet, and if you're trying to shove even more papers into a too crowded space it makes you not want to file at all.

Plus, getting rid of old and useless papers makes it easier for you to find the stuff you do really need to keep and access periodically with less frustration, and less time wasted.

How To Get Rid Of File Clutter During This Mission

How to declutter file clutter 15 minutes a time, to clear out your file drawer or cabinet of old papers and make room for the stuff you really do need to file in there now {on Home Storage Solutions 101}use this Pin it button to save to Pinterest
Depending on how many files you've got, and how old those files are, this may not be a 15 minute mission for you. Instead, this may be a 15 minutes at a time mission.

With any mission that you need to work on in 15 minute increments make sure to give yourself a few minutes of those 15, at the end, to do any clean up needed, so you don't make a bigger mess in the process. That can include putting things away, putting stuff in the recycling bin, or shredding papers.

To go through these files, you're going to approach it in the exact same way that you approach big stacks of paper you've got lying on flat surfaces. The advantage you have with your filing is that you've most likely already done an initial sort with it, and have it labeled, at least partially, with what it is.

Therefore, you're likely to find that going through these files actually takes less time to sort through than a large stack of random paper piles you've got lying around.

To help you, here are a few resources on the site you can use:
  • 4 Questions To Ask Yourself When Decluttering Paper - This article will help you feel comfortable in making decisions of what to keep and what to get rid of, because
    it can be a bit nerve wracking sometimes, especially when decluttering file folders, because, after all, at one point you thought this was something you needed to keep.

  • How Long Should You Keep Papers {Including Printable Cheat Sheet} - this article explains how long to keep various documents, such as tax returns, bills, insurance paperwork, and more, which is exactly the type of stuff you will come across when decluttering file folders

  • 15 Types Of Documents You Should Shred - when you do decide to get rid of certain paperwork from your old files, some of it can go in the recycling bin, but other papers should be shredded for your privacy. Here's how to know what types of papers need to be shredded.

Make It A Habit To Purge Old Files Annually To Keep File Clutter At Bay From Now On

Declutter files from file cabinet annually
Once you've cleared out perhaps years of accumulated paperwork from old files, you know you never want to take on such a huge decluttering project again.

But here's the thing. File clutter is going to creep back up on you, inevitably. That's because I suggest, as part of your weekly paperwork session that one of the tasks you do is file more paperwork that comes into your home. Over time it builds up.

So what's the best way to deal with that paperwork from now on, so the task never gets too overwhelming? It is to do an annual purge of your file folders, looking through everything and getting rid of anything that has gotten too old to need to keep, or that is no longer useful or relevant to your life.

You can learn more about how to declutter files in your file cabinet annually here.

Make Sure You're Ready To Shred A Lot Of Paper When Doing This Mission

When doing this annual purge, or the initial decluttering session of these files, make sure you either have a paper shredder on hand to shred any documents that should not be trashed (and recycled) whole, or that you use a shredding service if you've got a lot.

This can be a very satisfying decluttering mission, because you'll most likely get rid of a lot of paper clutter and really consolidate the contents of your file drawers. To get you inspired I've collected some photos sent in by readers, below, who've already done the mission, so scroll down to check them out.

Photo courtesy of Librarian Avenger

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Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to paper clutter.

Results When You Declutter Old File Folders

How to declutter old files from your filing cabinet or file box so you can get rid of the paper clutter and instead fit in the new papers that you do need to keep {on Home Storage Solutions 101}use this Pin it button to save to Pinterest

As promised, here are some photos from readers who've already done this mission, to show you what you can accomplish with 15 minutes of effort, at a time.

The photos above were sent in by a reader, Tamara. She said of the first photo, "Went through an older file cabinet. I have nothing left in it. I moved a few files to another location but now the cabinet is empty! Do I get rid of the cabinet? Something to think about."

You too may find yourself getting rid of lots of files during this mission, because one, you may have saved things you didn't need, ever, or you may have needed them at the time, but after several years they became less useful and could be tossed (or shredded, or recycled).

Then, Tamara explained about the bottom photo in the collage, "This is what is left!" In addition, she said, "I have removed all five of the file boxes that have been accumulating over the last several years. It was a lot of work but I had to attack it all at once so that I wouldn't get discouraged. I scanned a whole bunch of things and filed some that way."

Once you've gotten rid of the clutter you'll be left with a lot less stuff in those file drawers making it so much easier to find what you need more quickly!

Lots of bags of shredded paper accumulated by a reader, Taig, who decluttered her file drawers {featured on Home Storage Solutions 101}

This photo above is from another reader, Taig, who also worked on this mission. She said, "This is the shredded paper from 3 file drawers. In addition, about 10 pounds of un-shredded paper and files went to recycle this week. Only 5 more drawers to go!"

Great job Taig! When you're working through this mission you're likely to accumulate a lot of paper that needs to be disposed of in one fashion or another. Make sure as part of your 15 minutes at a time that you're disposing of the paper, and not just letting it sit there. After all, it's still clutter in your home until you completely remove it from your home!

You can throw it right into the recycle bin, shred it as you go, if you've got a home shredder, or if you've got a lot it may be worth it to you to use a commercial shredding service that shreds the paper right in front of you, just so you don't have to spend more time shredding it slowly, yourself.

Want To Do More Decluttering Missions? Get Started With Declutter 365 Today!

Declutter 365 missions: 15 minute missions for your entire home

Once you declutter one type of item in your home I bet you'll want to declutter some more. After all, decluttering gives you a great reward for even a small investment of time and energy.

The Declutter 365 system is designed to help you declutter, over the course of a year, your entire house, with just 15 minutes of decluttering each day!

Hundreds of thousands of people use this proven system to get rid of their clutter, and bring peace and calm back to their homes.

Declutter 365 works to guide you to clear the clutter without overwhelm, focusing on just one small area at a time, and without making a huge mess in the process, so you see consistent forward progress without all that "messy middle" that makes it even harder to function in your home than before you started.

In addition to building a daily decluttering habit, the Declutter 365 program, along with the accompanying 52 Week Organized Home Challenge, teaches you the skills, habits, routines, and mindsets necessary to maintain the clutter free and organized state of your home from now on, so it'll never be as messy and cluttered as it is right now, ever again.

If you haven't already, make sure to get your copy of this year's Declutter 365 annual calendar here (it's FREE!), find today's date, and do 15 minutes of decluttering on the day's mission. Then, repeat again tomorrow, and again and again. Over the course of the next year, if you do this 15 minutes per day, you'll declutter your whole house!

Click here to take me to this year's Declutter 365 calendar

Get This Paper & Filing Decluttering Checklist + 32 Other Decluttering Checklists For Your Home

Right now you're decluttering your papers and files, and there's a lot of types and varieties of these around your home.

Get your 2 page paper and filing decluttering checklist, plus 32 other decluttering checklists, to help you declutter your entire home here.

Get this paper and filing decluttering checklist and 32 other decluttering checklists for your home {on Home Storage Solutions 101}

I've done the hard work of breaking down these tasks into smaller more manageable steps for you, so you don't get overwhelmed or worry you're forgetting a task, and you can go at the pace you want, whether that's fast or slow.

In addition, you can tackle these decluttering tasks in whatever order you want when you use these checklists!

Click here to learn more about 33 Decluttering Checklists Pack

Related Pages You May Enjoy

Getting Clutter Free 15 Minutes At A Time Hall Of Fame

Getting Rid Of Paper Clutter Hall Of Fame

Go From How To Get Rid Of File Clutter To Home Page

Comments for Results When You Declutter Old File Folders

Click here to add your own comments

by: Anonymous

Easy answer - SCANNER
I had someone clean up my files and when they left I said "What Do I Do Now". Less than a month later I purchased a scanner. Fabulous!!!

1. Paperwork is easily accessible on your computer
2. Paperwork is out of the house, but easily accessible
3. No need to review paperwork annually to purge
4. Don't need to figure out how long to hold - It's on your computer

Many printers also have a scan function. Since I have a business, I purchased a separate scanner, that will hold & scan 50 pages at a time.

by: Anne

I am afraid of scanning important papers. I feel that even if I put them on a zip drive something could happen and I have lost all my paper trail. I can I feel good about putting my stuff on a zip drive or in the computer.

shredded paper
by: midtownmama

Remember that shredded paper can go into your compost.

Caveat with Composting
by: Lora

Yes, you absolutely can compost shredded paper. However, please be aware that if you use your composted material for edible gardens, such as herbs, vegetables, and fruit trees, some ink is toxic, as well as carbon paper that is used in triplicate forms and cash register receipts.

by: Cynthia

I shredded my files and bagged it in a yard wasted bag, because it was much and you can put plastic trash bags in the recycle.

by: Rebecca

Could I scan paperwork and download to a disc.

Shredded paper mulch
by: Diane

Shredded paper makes great mulch in our potted berries, vegetables, and fruit trees. Once it gets moist it dries into a mat like covering. But still allows water through, and seriously starves weeds for sunlight. I have also used it in the chicken coop for bedding with success, but the hens rejected it in the nest box.

I use binders for filing, instead of file folders
by: C. Ramirez

I keep binders.

1 - current bills

2&3 - past 2 years (every year I shred the oldest year's data).

THEN I have binders for specifics such as medical for me, husband, my kids and so on.

If there are items that I need to hold on to such as ongoing invoices or ?? That is in another binder.

And so on and so on.

Basically I keep binders instead of files and cabinets. I used to use cabinets and found that, for me, I would just keep filing and filing.

In jobs past binders worked for a lot and thought I would go that route and it works. I buy my binders at thrift stores - SO MUCH cheaper.

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to paper clutter.

Click here to get your Declutter 365 products for 2024

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When you work through the Declutter 365 missions, and accompanying 52 Week Organized Home Challenges, you'll be able to declutter your home one mission at a time, organize what's left, and learn the skills, habits and routines to maintain your space from now on.

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