All That Paper (and How I Organize It)
May 4, 2011
Hey busy ladies and gents, I know I’m not alone in the constant barrage of papers that enter the house on a daily basis. From mail to magazines to school notices, paper clutter piles up so darn quick you could drown in it. Despite my best efforts to go paperless, I find there is still a constant stream of paper, paper, and more paper coming through the door.
It used to pile up in my house until I thought it would eat me alive. It used to give me such anxiety, but I finally developed a system that really works for me. The real key for me was eliminating as much as I could, and then finding a place for what was leftover. I think that’s the key for keeping just about anything organized: purge often, and have a place for what remains, then you’ll stay sane.
My method for paper organization isn’t sexy and I’m no organizational pro. I was asked about a month ago by a reader how I keep it all organized, so here are a few of the tricks I use to control my paper clutter.
1. Identify It. It took me years to figure this out, but now in hindsight it seems so simple. The very best trick I ever came up with was sitting down with my piles of paper clutter and making a list of exactly each type of paper that was coming into my house, then creating a solution for each one.
2. Have a Tray for It. I weed through my mail the instant it comes through the door. Much of it goes into the recycle bin, if it’s junk mail or some unwanted solicitation. I try to call catalog companies that I’m not interested in to take me off their mailing list. Bills, notices, or invitations I need to respond to right way go into my kitchen ‘To Do’ tray that I go through once a week.
If you’re looking for ways to reduce junk mail or catalogs, I mentioned a few resources here in this article about kicking clutter to the curb.
Another trick I use for invitations or anything that needs immediate attention is attach it to this custom sized memo board I built last year and hung next to my back door.
3. Make a File for It. My blog is a small business now, so I keep whatever papers, contracts, or payments I haven’t stored and backed up online in a simple file folder.
The same story for the credit card statements, loan papers, insurance documents, and bank statements I get in the mail (or print from my online files). They’re stored in either plain plastic hanging file folder bins I mentioned here that I found at Target, or I file them in my office credenza. Birth certificates, wills, and other important legal documents all have their own file folder.
4. Make a Binder for It. We’re a busy family, with school calendars and sports schedules to keep up with, so I keep a family binder next to my wall calendar filled with everything I need, and it’s easy to grab when I need to access that information quickly. If you’d like a free download for how to create a command central family binder, be sure to grab it over at Simplify 101. If you prefer the online method, try About One, a great place for you to organize all of your family’s information in one place, from babysitter or caregiver information, to health history, to home maintenance.
The same is true for my blog, I keep a binder with my calendar and all of my ideas stored in one place next to my computer, so whenever I have an idea or need to refer to a recipe, it’s all here.
I keep my sketches in here too, for whenever I have a DIY idea or a piece of furniture I plan to refurbish. I used to have them on pieces of paper scattered all around my house and office, but I’ve become habitual about storing blog ideas and sketches in my ‘blog binder’.
On the right is my original sketch for last year’s Christmas card holder.
5. Create a Basket or a Box for It. I keep this coupon basket on a shelf by my back door, so anytime I know I’m headed to shop for groceries or retail, I’ve got my relevant coupons ready!
Receipts go into a big box until I enter them into my bookkeeping files and then I store them in a big ol’ envelope for when it’s time to do my taxes.
All moms know kid art and schoolwork quickly piles up, so I sort through it and get rid of just about anything I know won’t make me tear up and go “Aww”. I keep seasonal cards or artwork in art boxes, and minimal amounts of their proudest schoolwork in basic boxes in a drawer in the dresser in my entry.
Finally, I think it’s essential to . . .
6. Own a Label Maker and Paper Shredder. My Brother label maker makes it so much more fun and fancy to keep my files organized. I love my Brother. And my brothers. I love both my Brother and my brothers. The former in the most lovey dovey affectionate way, the latter in the “Hey yo, how you doin?” way. Just needed to get that straight.
And it goes without saying, having a shredder is key for your own security, so I shred anything with a bank account, credit card number, or any personal information about me or my kids. Plus a shredder makes great Easter basket or gift box liner with tissue paper, right?
Like I said, this is only my method, and I found it’s what truly works for me. I like having anything out in the open in stylish trays, baskets, or containers, but if it’s hidden away, heck an old box works just fine for me. It’s how I keep it all filed away and all straight in my head.
Not sexy, certainly not magazine worthy, but what’s much more important, it’s what works for me! And I truly think that’s the key, find a place for everything and develop a method that works for YOU!
What is the one way you stay on top of of all the paper that comes into your home? Do share, we could all learn from your technique!