Learn three simple ways to organize and decrease your paper clutter using these organizer-approved storage tips.
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked about paper clutter, I’d be a millionaire. And if I had the perfect answer to that question, I’d be a millionaire, too, because paper clutter is so specific to a person. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all method for keeping papers organized since every household has different circumstances, but I did come up with three general tips that will work for everyone, even if you don’t (and don’t ever plan on it) scan your documents into a digital cloud.
Don’t Be Afraid To Trash Things You Don’t Need
Keep These Original Hard Copies:
- Social Security Cards
- Birth Certificates
- Medical Documents, especially from procedures
- Car Titles and Original Loan Documents
- Home Buying/Selling Records
- Tax Return Info
- Major Purchase Receipts, especially if a warranty is involved
- Home Maintenance and Auto Repair Receipts
- Contracts/Legal Documents/Marriage and/or Divorce Documents/Birth and Adoption Records
- Anything that would be a major pain to replace later
It’s Safe To Ditch These Hard Copies:
- Bank Statements (you can pull these up from your account at any time)
- Recurring Subscription Info (always available on the provider’s website)
- Utility/Cable/Phone Statements (always available online for reference)
- Other Bills (as long as you’ve saved the contact info and account number somewhere)
- New Hire Paperwork From Your Job (as long as you’ve scanned important info into your computer)
- Anything that has been scanned, saved, and backed up into a digital cloud like Google Drive or Dropbox, preferably both for safety.
Assign One, And Only One, Paper Storage Location
If you want to use a filing cabinet, go for it, but only use the filing cabinet. Not a filing cabinet in the home office, an accordion file folder in your bedroom, and banker’s boxes in your attic. This is recipe for full-on panic attacks when something is needed ASAP and you’re zooming all over the house tearing every storage system you have upside down.
If you don’t have a lot of papers you need to keep on hand, try using a small filing container with a lid instead of a bulky cabinet. And if you scan digital copies of everything you keep, it’s safe to put all the hard copies in banker’s boxes on the top shelf of a secondary closet or under a bed.
Don’t Let It Pile Up
You can have the best organization system in the world, but unless you maintain it, it will get out of hand quickly. Aim to address any random paper stacks in your home at least once a week. Like the mail that’s on the kitchen counter and the kids’ artwork that’s on the shelf in the foyer, and all that mess of who-knows-what that ends up in your car’s glove compartment.
If something needs to be filed, go file it. If something needs action or payment, just do it and don’t procrastinate. If there’s junk mail in your mailbox, take it straight to the trash and don’t let it even touch your countertop. If homework needs to be signed, sign it and put it back in the backpack.
Having the self-discipline to stay on top of the paper that comes into your house will result in you never having to go through it again, aside from your twice a year filing cabinet purging to ditch outdated documents you no longer need.