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You sit down at your desk (or kitchen table); you have no room to type because it’s covered in papers.
Your kids come home with tons of school work and you toss it on the pile.
Your job requires plenty of paperwork as well so that adds to it.
You love to learn and you print all of your resources for later use, no matter the cause.
Receipts from lunches, Christmas cards, bills, reminders, all overflowing becoming one of your mind’s biggest stressors.
Sometimes, it can take so much time to root through all of your papers just to find that one page you were looking for that you decide to print a new copy, order another magazine, or grab an extra menu because it’s just easier. But then that gets added to the never-ending pile you already have.
Paper clutter can pile up quickly if not dealt with on a daily basis.
In fact, it can pile up quickly even in 24 hours!
So what do you do if you have let it go on to a point where you are feeling overwhelmed by paper clutter, at the idea of going through it? Whether it’s taken three years or three hours to get there…
When paper piles up on your counter or in your living room, it seems far easier to just put it all in a box to hide away or scoop it into a drawer instead of actually organizing it.
But there is a better way!
Having that mound of papers drives me INSANE so I want to share some ideas I have found helpful on how to declutter paper piles.
When I started to get overwhelmed by my paper clutter, I did what I always do, headed to my computer and began to research how to overcome paper clutter. After going reading through multiple other people’s methods I developed my own, a system that actually works and I call it: The Box Method.
Of course, one size does not fit all, so feel free to adapt my method to suit you! The point, is to help with the overwhelm not cause more!
The Box Method Process – How To Declutter Paper Piles
The saying “things always get worse before they get better” is very true here.
Go around your home and gather ALL of the papers, combining them all into a large, overflowing pile.
All of the random papers, mail, flyers, all of it. Be sure to check the drawers in your kitchen, countertops, and piles you have made previously.
When I did this, my pile seemed to grow three times as high. However, having it all in one place meant that when the pile was complete, keeping up with my organizational plan would be far easier moving forward.
The second step is to get three cute boxes. Yes, the cute part is important!
Making sure they are pretty and something you like to look at will help you stick to this process in the future.
I personally love these. They’re inexpensive and you can order them off Amazon, ideal!
With these boxes, ensure sure they are large enough to accommodate your overflowing pile of papers as well as papers in the future. Keep in mind where you are planning to keep them as this will influence how big or small they need to be!
I suggest keeping them wherever papers seem to pile up the most, on your desk, kitchen counter, by the front door…
Then label the boxes “File”, “Shred” and “Recycle”
The third step in my process is to begin going through the pile and putting the papers in each box. This is the part where we actually organize the piles of paper!
Be sure to go through the entire pile. Allow yourself enough time to focus on the papers and organize them. I know I am the kind of person who, if I get distracted, may not come back to what I was doing with as much effort or enthusiasm.
The papers that will go in the “File” box are those you wish to keep, and we will work on the filing part later in this post.
The “Shred” box is for papers you no longer want or need but that might contain personal information about yourself or your family that you do not wish someone else seeing or getting ahold of. Examples are bank statements or bills.
The final box is “Recycle”. Whatever DID NOT make it into one of the other two goes in here to be disposed of.
If you’re not sure what paper clutter to keep or what to throw away, you can try asking yourself these questions:
- Would this information be useful again? No, then toss it!
- If yes, can I summarize the information in a notebook or binder?
Often times, you can even reduce the clutter by combining some of the information or try creating a binder or a notebook especially for it.
Maybe it’s takeout menus and you have a lot of them that you use. Put them together so you do not have to go rooting for them when you need the numbers. Create a binder and put them into it with tabs.
If you are like me and love learning and printing out all of the information to use again, you can attempt to summarize the portions you found useful and label the notebook for the topic, rather than keeping every single print out!
Still unsure then try asking yourself these questions:
- How hard would it be for me to get this information again? If it would be super easy, like a bank statement where you can print a new one off online whenever you want, then you probably don’t need to keep it.
- How up to date is this information? Let’s face it, if the information is out of date unless you might need it for historical evidence, then you may as well toss it!
- Is it actually worth my time and effort to file the paper and then have to deal with it again at some point in the future?
Ok, the hard part is done!
Now we apply what the box title is to the pages within the box, so the fourth step is to recycle and shred the papers within those boxes.
If you are wondering how to get rid of papers without shredding because you don’t own a shredder, there is an easy answer. You can tear them by hand or use scissors until they are in small, unreadable, pieces.
Or you can buy a super cheap shredder off Amazon.
But don’t worry about filing anything yet, we will get to that file box later! Handle the shredding and recycling boxes first and see what a lovely clean and clear area you now have!
Then, once you have dealt with ALL of the other papers, leaving only the box with “File” on it, you are now onto the fifth step.
Step Five: How to organize your home files
How do you organize years of paperwork at home?
Should you use filing cabinets, binders, something else?!?
For me, I love binders. They give a clean look to my office and are much easier to label and grab. I recommend 4 specific binders to start with:
- House stuff (if you’re a homeowner)
- Joint stuff (if you have a partner or have housemates that you share things like bills with)
- Personal papers
You may need more, and that is perfectly ok, but remember you can add dividers to these binders.
For example, I have many friends who LOVE to coupon. They have a binder dedicated to their coupon collection, keeping it organized by type, store, etc. So don’t be afraid of creating a binder that works for your lifestyle.
The binder themselves are like the title of a book, the main subject. Within the binder, you add dividers to act like chapters of that book. For example, finances can be the book, and within it, anything that has to deal with your finances are the chapters, like savings accounts and retirement planning.
I also find when using this system it’s best to always file the newest papers at the front of each “chapter.” This will help you keep records in order, make the current pages more accessible and make it easy to throw away those that are out of date and not relevant anymore.
Tax forms are always papers you go back to in the future. I like to keep up to six or seven years of financial records, and no more than three years of anything else. This makes sure that I have them if and when I need them, but don’t have so much that it causes a whole new headache.
There are many, many different types of filing systems but I always find the easiest and simplest are the winners.
You also need to consider where you will store your binders, consider your available space, ease of access and desired location. Make sure the binders are large enough to accommodate the addition of new papers over time but also fit in your home.
Make sure you store these items in areas that make sense. If you need or want to use these pages on a daily basis, hiding them in the back of the closet is the worst idea. Creating a bin, binder, or folder system that is on your desk or even on your counter, keeps them organized and at your fingertips.
YOU DID IT!!
The pile is gone, the stress fading away, three boxes are sitting by to keep your paper clutter to a minimum.
I don’t want to call this the seventh step, but it kind of is. We need to ensure we work on reducing paper clutter in the long term, so it never becomes so stressful again otherwise there wasn’t much point to all this paperwork decluttering we’ve been doing!
Step Seven: How to reduce paper clutter in the long term
As papers come in, deal with it right away. Put it in it’s correct box and then once a week go through each box and empty them out. This way you will know if anything is urgent as well as keep the paper clutter down.
You can also go paperless with bank statements and bills.
You do not NEED hard copies. Have them emailed to you, check them for accuracy, and save a digital copy in a file on your PC. This reduces your mail and as much need for envelopes and stamps.
Don’t keep magazines and newspapers once you have read them.
If there is a specific article you want to reference, tear it out, and save it in a binder.
And be sure to unsubscribe from magazines you are no longer interested in. Money-saving and clutter saving!
Don’t keep appointment cards, flyers, or other calendar-related papers.
When you are home, put them directly onto the calendar. I like using Google calendar because you can add as much information as you like. If you prefer a physical calendar, use color to differentiate between things or different people in the household to help keep it organized as well.
If you want to eliminate your paper pile altogether, you can scan everything into your computer where it can be organized into digital folders and files, USB drives, and even sent to the cloud.
Just make sure you create a back up of all this information!
Your mail and storage process matters. Create some easy to follow paperwork policies to apply when you receive papers.
For example, if I get mail, I will go through it all and place it in the three boxes, getting rid of everything in the shred and recycle boxes weekly. Another example is if I receive an invitation in the mail, I will promptly answer, place the date on the calendar, and throw away the invitation.
Decluttering your paper chaos is one step in decluttering your home. Continuing throughout your home will help you feel more at peace and keep the clutter away for good.
In fact, you can download my FREE decluttering guide right here right now to help you continue to get control over your home, and remove that feeling of overwhelm!
Just click the button below and it’s all yours!
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Seeing the organized binders, the paper piles gone, it gives me such a sense of ease. A feeling I want for you too!
There are always papers multiplying around the house but hopefully, this method can help you keep those piles under control!