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Paper Organization {Series}
Take Control Of Your Paper Piles

Paper organization is a huge topic because these days it seems more than ever, despite the promises of a paperless society, we're even more inundated with these slips and sheets everywhere we turn.

The ultimate paper organization series, with tips for dealing with paper clutter, systems and habits for dealing with paper as it comes in the door, plus organization tips for many types of paper that is common in the home {on Home Storage Solutions 101}use this Pin it button to save to Pinterest

Consistently I ask, "what's your problem area for organization?" and many many people answer with a single word -- paper.

It's no wonder, and you are definitely not alone if that is your answer!

Paper can quickly accumulate into pile after pile, shoved into boxes and file folders, cover your flat surfaces, and can even make mountains that you've got to wade through.

But it doesn't have to be that way, although I will be honest and say it is a never ending battle.

Paper keeps coming into your home and life so the key to tackling the problem is to face it head on, and design systems and habits to deal with what has accumulated already and then to take control of it from now on so it never gets this overwhelming again.

So those are the topic we're going to focus on in this newest series here on the site. Organizing paper.

This is not the type of topic where I can just write one article and tell you everything you need to know and expect you to just "get it."

The ultimate paper organization series, with tips for dealing with paper clutter, systems and habits for dealing with paper as it comes in the door, plus organization tips for many types of paper that is common in the home {on Home Storage Solutions 101} #PaperOrganization #OrganizingPaper #OrganizePaperuse this Pin it button to save to Pinterest

Dealing with paper effectively is a mind shift, that takes both differences in thinking plus changing some potentially deeply ingrained habits that are unintentionally causing you to accumulate paper clutter.

This article is the introducion to the series, and it is also the place where you can always come to find all the relevant articles on the site, since I've rounded them all up on the page.

This series can be read concurrently while we're working through the paper organization section of the 52 Week Organized Home Challenge, which runs for 8 of the 52 weeks, or you can focus on these ideas whenever you want to get this area of your life more organized.

So let's get started!

Dealing With Your Current Paper Clutter

Before you can organize paper you've got to winnow it down to what needs to be organized. That's because honestly a lot of the paper you've got in your home right now doesn't need to be there. It's just clutter.

So the first section of this series focuses on getting rid of your paper clutter.

  • The Only Strategy That Works For Organizing Paper Clutter - Are you sure you even want to "organize" paper clutter? See why this is an imporant thing to consider to see if you're in the right mental head space to actually conquer your paper clutter once and for all, or if you need to have a mind shift to focus on the better strategy which will work, instead of trying to organize clutter.
  • How To Declutter Your Piles Of Paper - this article discusses strategies and tips for how to declutter and deal with your accumulated piles of paper, including 4 questions to ask yourself so you can identify what it clutter (probably 80% of what you've got) from the few items you actually should save for reference (20% or less of what you've currently got in your home most likely).
  • 4 questions to ask when decluttering paper

  • What Documents Need To Be Shredded - many people, and rightfully so, are scared to throw away any paper for fear of releasing personal identifying information. And while this is a valid concern, and some papers definitely need to be shredded, it is a HUGE undertaking to shred everything. So this article will help you identify criteria of what should definitely be shredded and what you can throw away (or recycle please!) without fear when working slowly through your paper piles, decluttering them. It includes my top 15 list of documents to always shred!
  • How long should you keep papers? Home document retention schedule, plus printable cheatsheet
  • How Long Should You Keep Various Papers - some papers do need to be held onto for a certain period of time, or maybe even forever, while others that you should have kept for a couple years can now easily be tossed because they've gotten old. This article provides you with guidelines on how long you should keep various types of papers so you can feel more comfortable with what you're saving versus getting rid of. It also includes a free printable one page cheat sheet of the various time periods for retention for quick reference.
  • How To Declutter & Get Rid Of Junk Mail - One of the biggest causes of paper clutter in your home is junk mail, like the stuff they send you all the time in the mail you never even asked for. Here's how to get it out of your home, plus tips about how to make sure it never re-accumulates again.
  • How To Declutter Manuals And Warranties - Instructions for what owner's manuals and warranties to keep versus to get rid of, plus ideas for digitally organizing manuals to be able to get rid of even more paper piles in your home.
  • How To Declutter Old Receipts - With time receipts pile up in our home, in our purse, on flat surfaces, in a drawer or box. Here's how to declutter those old receipts and only keep the few receipts that are important, since most of them are just clutter and can be discarded.
  • How Long To Keep Tax Records & Organize Old Tax Returns - Old tax returns, plus back up documents, need to be saved for a specified amount of time to protect yourself in case of an audit, so here's information on how long to keep these records and to organize the old tax returns within your home filing system.
  • How To Get Rid Of Old File Clutter - Before you can organize your papers in new files you've got to clean out your old home filing system of papers that are now unneeded. Here's how to do it.
  • 6 questions to ask when decluttering kids art and school papers
  • How To Declutter Kids Artwork & School Papers - Some papers are harder to get rid of for emotional reasons, and that includes kids artwork and school papers. I've listed 6 questions you should ask yourself when decluttering these papers so you can decide which ones to keep versus get rid of without the indecision and guilt.
  • Create A Home Paper Shredder Area {Plus Keeping Up With Your Shredding Pile} - As you come across papers that need to be shredded you need to place them in a designated area that you know is for future shredding, and then you need to keep up with your shredding pile. This article discusses how to do that.
  • Criteria For Choosing The Best Paper Shredder For You - With all this talk about the need for shredding papers, regularly, as part of paper organization, it may make sense for you to get a paper shredder for your home. Not all paper shredders are created equally though, so make sure to know what criteria to look for in a shredder before you buy one. I've listed what I think is most important in this article.
  • Decluttering & Shredding Paper 15 Minutes At A Time - Now that you know how to get rid of the paper clutter, you've actually got to do it. I suggest 15 minutes at a time, so it doesn't get so overhwhelming. Here's the Declutter 365 mission that you might have to do quite a few times to deal with all of it!
  • How {And Why} To Use Paper Shredding Services - There are times when shredding all your paper clutter before disposal, yourself, doesn't make sense, including when you have a huge paper decluttering session. In such instances this article explains a better way to get rid of this excess paper, by using a document or paper shredding service.

Developing Systems & Habits To Control Paper As It Comes In The Door

Once you've dealt with all the paper clutter you've already accumulated you'll quickly become re-inundated with paper clutter if you don't develop systems for dealing with paper as it comes in the door. That's because it just keeps coming, and doesn't care that you spend a LONG time decluttering what you already had.

To keep from getting re-inundated with paper clutter you need to treat all the paper that comes in the door differently, from now on, than how you've treated it in the past. That includes needing a couple of routines that you do habitaually, to keep on top of all those sheets of paper as they come in the door.

  • Daily Routine For Organizing Paperwork - In this article I discuss how and why to create a daily routine for organizing paperwork as it comes into your home so that you can keep paper clutteer from accumulating and feel in control of the paper that comes into your home instead of overwhelmed. I've provided a list of four choices you can make for each piece of paper, and ideas for how to sort this paper daily.
  • Organizing Paper Using A Weekly Paperwork Session - this article will provide an overview of the weekly paperwork session that I discuss in several of the Challenge articles, explaining how the weekly session is the backbone of your new paper organizing system. (This weekly task is so vital I've included it in my essential household chores list that I believe needs to be done, even when you're in survival mode because of work or life.)
  • How To Make A Tickler File For Action Items - Some papers are just for possible reference later (and we'll discuss below how to file them in your filing system), but other papers require action. Maybe not now, but in the future action is needed, or you know a specific date you'll need to have a piece of paper again in the future. Here's how and why to make a tickler file for the action items you find amongst the paper coming into your home.
  • How To Organize Mail, including as it comes in the door
  • Opt Out Of Junk Mail - Here's instructions for how to stop junk mail from coming into your home, because that's better than having to deal with it once it has arrived. It's a simple step that can reduce overall paper clutter!
  • How To Organize Bills - an overview of the entire process, including as bills received, and after they've been paid
  • How To Create A Paid Bills File - my suggested system for organizing paid bills, and for when and how to dispose of them after a certain period of time
  • How To Create A Tax Organizer to collect current year's tax documents, as received, to get ready for tax preparation
  • How To Use A Receipt Organizer - this article discusses how to keep track of receipts as you receive them so they don't become overwhelming for you, and just accumulate in the bottom of your purse never to be seen again, by usinge either a receipt organizer or receipt envelope
  • How To Organize Warranties & Manuals - How to organize warranties and manuals in your home in three ways, in your home filing system, in binders, or digitally.
  • How {And Why} To Declutter File Cabinet Annually - Since you're always getting new papers to file, you've got to regularly clear out older now useless papers from your filing cabinet, I suggest annually. Here's how.
  • Set Up A Routine To Organize Photos - We all know what happens if you let physical photos pile up, or digital photos stay unsorted for too long. It's a mess. Make organizing photos easier, both for physical and digital photos, by setting up routines and habits to do it regularly, with tips in this article.

Tips For Organizing Specific Types Of Papers

Again, along with talking about developing systems for different types of clutter as we went along, many of the Organized Home Challenges also provide tips about organizing specific types and categories of papers. So along with the challenges listed above, here are more, plus additional articles that I've identified would be helpful.

Electronic Files: Going Paperless

getting rid of paper clutter hall of fame

I hope these resources and articles will help you with your own quest for paper organization.

Don't forget to tell me below in the comments what your biggest obstacle is for dealing with your paper piles to make sure I'm hitting the topics that will help you the most as a part of this series.

Click here to learn more about how to save 50% off on select 2024 Declutter 365 products for this summer!

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