January 17, 2011

Well, last week I was decluttering the craft/tool/decorative stuff area in our basement, and that before was pret-ty bad. This week I’m tackling the clutter that doesn’t make a big mess physically, but it does take up a lot of space in my head. It’s presence wears on me, makes me feel completely unorganized and occasionally costs us money.

It’s the PAPER. (Dun dun duuuun.)

I swear to you – it is the one thing I just can’t get it figured out. It. drives. me. NUTS.

It’s like laundry. I ignore it as much as possible. :)

But like laundry, it’s kinda hard to ignore. Bills and socks and all that good stuff. 

My process with paper that comes in our home is to not really bring it into our home. I let it pile up in my car till it’s just ridiculous. Then when I can’t find the so-and-so bill, I grab it all, dump it on the floor and sort.

That happens about once a month. Or so. Or less. Whatever.

Anyway, I’m determined to conquer the PAPER this year. No more junk mail as the floor mat in the car. I’m going to figure. it. out! YEAH!

But first, I needed to go through the piles we already have. And it ain’t pretty people. We’ve had piles going in the basement for quite a while now – and I knew I had to address those before I started a new paper process.

The first pile was just random papers, cards, stuff that I had laying around:

Not so bad huh? Yes, it is so bad, but once you see the other piles, you’ll realize this was CAKE.

My problem with the papers is not having a spot for them as soon as they get in the house. (Because the file cabinets have been stuffed to the gills for ummm…years.)

My other problem is I’m a bit of a hoarder when I comes to the paper stuff. I keep cards from birthdays and anniversaries forever and ever and EVER. I also keep little pieces of paper that are a memory for me – ticket stubs, business cards from favorite restaurants, whatever. It’s one of those things I just can’t give up. I think I’m going to start scanning them all into the computer, so I can save the words and memories, but still keep some space.

After the first batch, I had this pile to shred:

Funny how the pile looks so innocent and short. It was a TON of paper.

It was when I addressed the next set of files that I realized something:

The teeny tiny shredder that overheats in two minutes just wasn’t going to cut it. :)

I went out and got the biggest, baddest shredder I could find (at Target):

Awww yeah – POWERSHRED baby!! :)

I need that sucker by the time I went through the last of the files:

Hold me. Please?

It took forever. I’ve been at this for three days now. Well not three days, 24/7 – but you know. It’s taken a long dang time.

The latest shred pile:

It’s killing me – I’m only through half of that pile, and I have THREE trash bags full:

I will never, ever buy gift bag stuffing again. :) And I’ll be vacuuming up this stuff for weeks from all over the house. Awesome.

All of this is going heading out to be recycled when I’m done. I’m betting I’ll have seven trash bags.


Some things I’ve realized when it comes to the paper clutter:

1. Being organized saves you money. I found a warranty for our windows we didn’t know about, and we have two that need to be replaced. SCORE!

2. I don’t really need to keep ALL of my class schedules from college. Really.

3. I think I’ll get by without the product pamphlet for our $10 can opener. Maybe.

4. We will never, ever go back to credit card debt:

buh bye credit

(Two years of credit card bills.)

5. Three trips to the hospital in pre-term labor and then five days in the hospital when the Bub finally came (three weeks early!) equaled some crazy debt that added to that pile up there. :) (I think I had blocked those numbers out – sheesh.)

6. And finally – it’s funny how some things never change:

All these – still true all these years later. Hate my ears, still don’t make my bed, stay up way too late, still hit snooze about five times in the morning, hate math, eat too much, and still hate to change my sister’s diaper.


I just have one little pile left to sort through – then I’m reorganizing it ALL. I’ll show you my (new) methods soon and let you know if they work. :)

So, is paper your nemesis? Have you ignored the growing piles for years like me? Or have you found a process that works? Do tell! PLEASE. I’m begging.

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  1. So so so me a few months back! Gah! Shredding and shredding, emptying, shredding! Oy.

    I do have a place my mail goes into now. Three categories:

    -Pay me
    -Shred me
    -File me

    And I try to take care of it as soon as it looks kinda full. And I really try to file.

    p.s. I REALLY hate credit card offers, and the shreddings thereof.

  2. UGH...I HATE PAPER!!!! I have been putting it off like crazy. I have 2 baskets full of paper, junk mail, just everything that I need to go through. One day, right? Lol!

  3. Honey, you have a friend in me. Paper is just one of my nemesises. Or is it nemesi? Anyway, it is RIDICULOUS.

    So you know what I posted today? It's sad, but true. We have rented a dumpster. Yes, ma'am--for the next two weeks, we will have a bright orange dumpster parked in our driveway. Why? Not because we're doing anything exciting. Oh, no. It's because I am FINALLY getting rid of all this paper. And a million other things that aren't worth taking to Goodwill, much less selling. This dumpster will hold up to TWO TONS of junk. We're talking major decrapification. But it's happening, baby!

  4. Paper is on my to-do list. I usually do it at the end of the year and get rid of the year's statements. I find paper to be extremely overwhelming. Hate it!

  5. I'm hearing ya girl! Paper is the enemy... My bookkeeper says that she loves piles of paperwork. She crazy.


  6. That paper from grade school--hysterical.

  7. Oh, dear,
    I can relate!

    Have a terrific Tuesday. ~Natalie

  8. I gave myself a whole year (2010) to go through every paper in the house. I am basically done the purging,so now I need to organize what is left (and hopefully find out I can purge more!) and more shredding. I have done a rough organization of putting like items with like items but still need to organize it a little more neatly and take a better look at a few things to decide if I can purge it after all. (My original purge was a quick sort. but the fact it took a year tells you how much I had lol - well it didn't take every day of the year... but that was my deadline). Like you, I saved alot of sentimental papers, I still do, but some things that were sentimental before aren't so much now. I have tossed cards that didn't have a note inside it (eg. they just signed their name) unless the card itself had a special meaning. I kept all our wedding cards and the sympathy cards for example, but not holiday or birthday cards unless it was special. It was hard because I kept it all for years and years. Some of it moved with me from the first time I moved out of my mom's house! yikes!

  9. I fact that is what i spent ALL DaY working on...and i am still not done. I can't wait to see what kind of "system" you are preparing for yourself. I am still not so sure what i am going to do...but i must do something as we have moved our office into the dining room...the first room you see now. UGGH! Thank you for all your posts! They are great!

  10. HAHA that letter was a crack up. And OMG I totally should have posted a pic to my party post of my truck (yea I drive a big ole pick-up truck) and all of the mail everywhere. It's really quite ridiculous. I hate mail with a passion. The floorboard is COVERED in mail! So nope, no solutions from me. :)

  11. HA! I love the school paper, so honest! I still have a paper clutter dilema here, but I have found a couple of things that help. I used to be so unorganized that I'd pay bills late because I had forgotten that they had come. So I bought a basic Mead type notebook, and on each page I list the bills that are due for the month. As soon as a bill comes in, I write it in the notebook, separate the perforated thingy that you mail in, nest it in with the return envelope, and put it in the notebook. Then I file, throw away, or shred the rest of the bill, whichever you choose to do. Also, I go through my file cabinet and shred everything that isn't necessary every January. Heating bills, phone bills, etc. from the previous year. you can look that all up online now anyway!

    Congrats on tackling the paper, it's daunting! :)

  12. YES, paper is my nemesis! My work office, my business office, and my home office (also known as the spare bedroom) are COVERED with stacks of paper. If I put things away, I forget about it (like your warranties), and if I leave it out, it looks horrible and takes up valuable space. I've always been a paper-saver and a paper-stacker.

    I have business colleagues who give me stacks of papers, assuming that after I use them, I'll shred or sort them. I got "a look" from one colleague who saw me sifting through a box for an old paper that I'm sure she could find in seconds in some binder.

    I'm most organized at my "day job", but that's because all of the papers that come in are of a similar type and make sense sorted in binders.

    I usually use the "don't think about it" method when it comes to dealing with papers. Not a good one, for sure!

  13. 1986 was 25 years ago?! I think that "work in progress" letter is hilarious! THOSE are the kinds of paper worth keeping! But, oh, I dread the paper clutter too- luckily, my babysitter likes to shred!

  14. P.S. If I ever hired someone to help me clean or organize, the first task would be to go through a paper purge.

  15. What saved me when I did my gigantic pile of papers was Office Depot shredding. I paid $1 per pound and it was out of my life :) It WAY beat spending a several hours and too much frustration with the dumb shredder getting overheated and jammed, and just the time of doing the shredding. It was awesome....

  16. Oh gracious...paper is most definitely my nemesis both at home and at work! GAH! I've got piles of crap EVERYWHERE. And, want to know the saddest thing? took my kitchen being flooded by an unknown many years-long leak from my dishwasher to literally destroy my entire kitchen...cabinets and finally get me motivated to clean the crap OUT! that's done, it's just the rest of my house that's loaded up with paper.

    Sorry I can't provide any ground breaking ideas on how to keep paper at bay...but...thanks for providing me with some much needed inspiration!

  17. I assume you 'get' your mail from somewhere and that's why it's in your car?

    Bring in all your mail and shred that which you don't want immediately. Leave your shredder by your entry door or something.

    We leave our bills in a box by the computer and when either of us sees bills in it, we pay them asap online. Then we file bills away by month. At the end of each year, we throw all the bills away. Or you can throw them away 6 months at a time.

    If you like to keep cards, then I have several decorative boxes where I keep those, an anniversary box, a birthday box etc. I plan on going through and scrapbooking those one day, that's why I categorize them like but I supposed you can do them any which way you want to.

    As far as warranties go I found a really cool idea that I plan on implementing soon- fill a binder with those plastic protector sleeves and slip warranties and instruction manuals inside each sleeve. That way you can keep them all in one place that's easily accessible. I know this is really simple but it was ingenious to me. :)

    Good luck Sarah!

  18. i dont know what to do with paper either!! i got stacks and bins and boxes every where!! it is ridiculous!!!

    my husband always comments on the piles of papers everywhere haha =) poor guy

    i dont even know what to do with the important papers like our birth certificates!! i did a post about that today! maybe i am just a younger mom but i have no clue where to put our birth certificates or car loan papers or deeds or anything!!

  19. Sarah, I have the best tip ever for getting rid of mountains of paperwork without using a shredder. Get a bucket with some water and put the papers in it. In a day or two is is complete mush. Seriously it really works!

  20. You know, for all of the junk mail paper that everyone gets I'm surprised there are any trees left on the planet! My house is probably full of 100 dead trees in paper form. :)

    I hate it, I have no idea how to wrangle it, other than I pitched a TON when we moved a year ago... and now I just have to keep on top of it. Everyday I try to sort/pitch but it still gets me sometimes.

    Just wait til the bubs starts school, incoming paper goes up by like 200%!! Seriously! At least you're getting organized before this happens. :)

  21. Yep, paper sucks. I kinda sorta have it under control, but it still sneaks up on me. The worst thing in our house is all the stuff that comes home from pre-school and daycare. I'm a bad mom...I throw a lot of it away. I keep the stuff that has handprints and that's about it.

    I want to have a better paper plan when we move into our new house and I can find a permanent spot for stuff.

    Love your blog! It's like I'm talking to my BFF!

  22. I can so relate. Paper is everywhere. I'm pretty good about recycling and shredding right away,but I always have a huge stack to file. I just finished helping my dad sort through 6 large totes. After days and days, we finally got it down to a shred (4 totes) and recycle (2 totes).
    I was so scared for my shredder after 2 large bags-like your white ones-that we took it all to my brothers fire pit and after about 2 hours and one stinky hubby, it was all burned. I think that was the easiest way to do it. Easy for me-probably a pain for my hub. :) Not to mention all the sut he had all over him. Haha. And Sarah, who commented, I had no idea Office Depot did that. I'm sure that's what I would've done instead.

  23. We sign up for paperless everything (bills, etc.) and about once a week I shred the junk mail. I also totally hoard greeting cards, ticket stubs, friend's wedding programs...I keep them all in scrap books. Nothing fancy, I just glue them to whatever cardstock I have on hand. Yes, the books take up room but it's organized! I've thought about scanning it all in to the computer but for me its just not the same when you can't hold it in your hand!

  24. I don't know if you've ever heard the acronym OHIO. Only Handle It Once. When you open the mail, put it immediately where it needs to go instead of on the car floor (or the kitchen counter in my case). It would really come in handy if I actually followed it. I have to say paper is a problem here too. Especially when 3 of my kids come home from school with endless amounts of it. Good luck!

  25. ok so what I started doing is saving ALL junk mail - all extra paper - all credit card offers etc - and putting it in a BIG bin - then when winter comes along-viola I use it to heat my house - ok not all of it - but I tell you it throws off some great heat - I have central heat and live in FL - but it still gets cold her where we are - so viola - a win win ! good luck
    Carol in FL

  26. Best bet so far for us was to move the shredder to the front door. Literally, you almost (but not quite) trip over it on your way in. It is just tucked away under our consul table by the door. Junk Mail? Shred it immediately! It NEVER piles up anymore!

  27. I hear ya loud and clear. The paper around here is choking me! Good Luck. Great post. Blessings, Joanne

  28. hi my name is heather, and i am a piler (is that even a word?);of paper that is.

    i finally had my dad build me a mailbox sorter. you know the ones those cute little organized teachers at school have? they were WAY too pricey for the size i wanted and i knew my dad could build it for half the price. well, at least the same price, but out of wood and not CARDBOARD! it is still unfinished as he just did it over christmas break, but it will soon have some nice trim added and then some nice pretty black paint.

    i have to say with both my husband working from home and three kids who bring home so much CRAP everyday from school it has been nice. everyone has their own "mailbox". i had him build extra shelves for coupons, catalogs, and all the crizzap that i don't have time to look at when everyone throws it all on the counter. now it all goes in it's little section of the mailbox where i can deal with it on my own time and not freak out about the HUGE PILE O' CRAP on my kitchen counter!!! and i can actually find the really good coupons when i need them, instead of finding them at the bottom of the pile 6 months later when they have long since expired!!!

    i guess on his next trip down to visit i'll have him build me one for the office. UGH!

  29. Oh, you do make me feel better! I'm HORRIBLE about paper! I'm always afraid I'll throw away something important, but if it doesn't have an obvious home, it just ends up in a pile somewhere. I hate it! Let's just go digital about everything, right?

  30. Ha! I am glad there are other people who horde useless but memorable pieces of paper. :)

  31. YES!! I am a paper hoarder! What? That tiny scrap of paper with 4 numbers on it for who knows what? I had better keep it. Just in case I remember what it is for and need it! I have worked the last 3 days on decrapifying my house. I still have probably another 3 days ahead of me. I am happy that my shredder can do around 12 pieces of paper at a time. It eats staples too. Plus the kids love shredding my piles for me. Cleaning and keeping the kids entertained... Yes, I heart that machine. Thanks for the post! I'm so glad I'm not alone.

  32. Ha! I had piles all over my bed, earlier today~trying to organize the "paid bills" pile that is starting to become overwhelming, piling up, in front of the filing cabinet!
    This is the year, that I plan to purge paper! Get my all online statements only, etc...
    Glad to hear that you're gonna use that shredded paper for gifts! I like doing that,too! One thing that helps me, with the daily mail is to open it at the garbage can, outside, before I even come into the house!
    I'm hoping to get the rest of my pile filed away,shredded or tossed by tomorrow! For now, it's a smaller, more organized pile, back on the floor, so I can get into the bed!

  33. Uh, I'm speechless....I just can't relate Sarah. You know my motto if it isn't used it is outta here and I do mean out the door that day.
    I'm the anti-hoarder. Read my recent *Clean and Clutter-free post. You'll hate me. *Smiles*

    Can you go paperless for bills? I know many places offer. Take your name off mailing lists so you don't get so much junk. I hope it all is sorted and shredded soon. You'll feel great getting that chore done.

    Good luck! ~Melissa :)

  34. When you get your paper under control, you are welcome to do mine!


    I tend to throw mine in a big drawer and go through it a few times a year. Still, it's amazing how paper piles up so quickly.

    Good luck on your new system.

    The page from your childhood is cute. Reminds me of this book I had to make in the 3rd grade. My mom kept it, whick I always thought was crazy, yet as an adult, I'm glad she did.

  35. How about a tickler file for your bills and anything that is time related? For instance, you're going to a concert and have tickets. What to do with them? Place them in your tickler file. That's only one scenario. You can google that if you're not sure what it is.

    Another book that is very helpful is Getting Things Done by David Allen. He'll help you eliminate all those papers as well as to empty out your brain so you don't have to try and remember everything you've stored there.

    Hope you find this useful. Btw, that grade school paper is priceless. Interesting to see how we don't change much.


  36. Oh my goodness, my hubby and I went through *part* of our paper chaos the other night...only our bills...and unfortunately, I did not consider the ramifications of a huge stack of shred on our little shredder...I killed it about 1/4 of the way through the stack :(

  37. I had to laugh when I saw this, I JUST sat down...finally exhausted from all the office organization. I spent the whole day tackling our papers, photos, memory boxes, etc. Man, I really had to get ruthless with the school memories box. Do I really need perfect attendance awards from 2nd grade?! I can't believe I saved some of the stuff I did. I look forward to your organization tips, I haven't decided how to handle all of it yet.

  38. I did this a while back.... SO. NOT. FUN.

  39. I think you've created a possible new "intervention" topic: Paper. I have gotten older and wiser and realize that my bad habits started at home. My parents go through their collection once a month to pay bills and find things too, so I don't feel so "lowly". As a teacher I've saved every little drawing and "you're the best" note I've received. Some of it has to go! But I have to tell you the paper you found was precious, and so typical of most of us as little girls. We truly are not born diva's; we grow into them!
    Thanks for the inspiration.

  40. Can I join Paper Hoarders Anonymous too?

    I'm so the person with 4 numbers on a piece of paper that I can't throw away because I might just remember what they mean and need them...

    My Mum is just the same- it's definitely genetic. And she keeps giving us more paper- interesting articles, funny pictures for the children, copies of letters...

    And yesterday, I was talking to DH (who thinks he's tidy and organised because he stuffs everything into 1 of 3 drawers or 4 other piling places) about the need to create a proper system with an in tray for mail, so I'm with you all the way!

  41. Thank you for this post - it reminded me that I need to opt out of credit card offers again. My last opt out expired, and I can definitely see a difference in the junk mail pile that needs to be shredded!

    One thing that has helped me is moving my file cabinet to an inconspicuous spot near the front door. I'm much more likely to file immediately if the cabinet is right next to me. And I have all the files that I don't need to access often in portable file boxes, stored away in the back of a closet. That way, my every day filing all fits in one drawer, and is less overwhelming.

    Good luck with your purge! It feels good to get it all under control!

  42. To say that paper is my nemesis would be overstating, but I definitely can relate to the piles getting out of control.
    Great job on getting all that paper out of the house.
    Nicely Gitter Done!

  43. Your scanner is your best friend! I scan my paper and send it to a gmail account. They will archive it forever. You can access it from anywhere. All bills are paid as soon as they come in. It was painful in the beginning but it works out the same after you establish the routine.

  44. I'm sorting here, too. Oh, my, I relate on every level. My favorite thing I uncovered was warrantees to appliances that are in a house we no longer live in!

    And I decided I could say goodbye to my Western Civ book from college over 25 years ago!

  45. Oh DEAR Lord. I HATE paper, and I despise shredding. My paper pile is out of control You've inspired me to do better. My husband will thank you. Happy shredding!!

  46. AAHHH paper! How I hate it!

    At one point I was getting 10 credit card offers a week. TEN! I eventually put my mailing address on one of those "Do not mail" lists -- kinda like the "do not call" lists for telemarketers. I really wish I could remember what the website was to share, but I'm sure you can google it. And I swear, I haven't had a single credit card offer since!! And since Hubs and I recently got out of credit card debt, I won't be needing any offers, thank you very much! :)

    Now... if only I could come up with a way to get rid of receipts. THEY are my nemesis. They just pile up to the point where I want to scream. If you have suggestions on that one, I'm all ears!

  47. Kudos to you Sarah for getting it done! I have to do this, too, and have been wondering if our little shredder can handle the load. I can't think that we need anything from the box marked 1987!

  48. I completely understand! I have always had trouble letting go of paper, but my tech-genius husband has me on several kinds of back-ups, so I feel completely comfortable scanning everything in and letting it go.

    I use the NeatReceipts portable scanner. It doesn't do double sided scanning (but their desktop version does from what I understand.) It has been a process the past 6 months for me as well. All of the old greeting cards (you can still read the hand-written notes on digital copies:), bills, recipes, manuals, you name it!

    I would definitely recommend it! (Of course, I am the opposite of most, in that I ALWAYS have time:) Keep at it, you're doing well!

  49. Weird, I just did this last week! I have a shredder too. We've moved several times so that really helps keep the clutter down, but paper gets out of control. I need a really good filing cabinet, mine it old and trashed. love the letter LOL!

  50. Just in case you ever have more greeting cards, I wanted you to know that St. Jude's Hospital accepts the front of greeting cards and re-cycles them. They don't accept Disney, Hallmark or American Greeting). But it's such a worthy program. You can see more at this link: www (dot) stjudesranch (dot)org and then select "recycled card program". It doesn't cost much to mail the fronts of the cards, and it's such a wonderful program. That's worthy of a blog post, I think.

    And regarding credit card offers received in the mail. Do you know what my husband does? (pssst...don't tell anyone, cuz I don't want to get in trouble) He takes those credit card offers we receive, he tears off any part with our name on it, puts all that junk and sometimes other junk mail (again, nothing with our name on it) and mails it back to the credit card company in the self-addressed stamped envelope they mailed us with their credit card offer. That's bad, I know. But sometimes we get a good laugh about it, because we don't have to do anything but drop the envelope in the mail. No shredding, no recycling.

  51. paper has overtaken my house and car too! It is next on my To Do list (although it has been next for quite awhile). I had some systems in place that seemed to work, but stopped doing them and the paper is out of control again.

    1) Keep a tote in your car or garage and everytime you get out of the car fill the tote up with whatever doesn't belong...then take 5 minutes to put it away when you get in the house.

    2) I keep (or used to) instruction manuals, pamphlets, etc. in plastic sleeves in 3 ring binders.

    3) I have a control binder where all my bills go with a spreadsheet for paying them. When they come in, I indicate the due date and amount on the spreadsheet and file the bill in the plastic sleeve.

    3a) For paperless billing as soon as I receive the email, I indicate the info on the spreadsheet and delete the email (that is yet another inbox...ugh!)

    4) I have file folders set up and anything for the current year gets filed in the right spot. At the end of the year, save the things that need to be (ie., bank statements) and move to another drawer and shred the rest.

    Disclaimer...these only work if you do them daily...if it comes in, take care of it. I didn't and now I am up to my eyeballs in paper again.

  52. I have the SAME EXACT issue! With the new year I decided to FINALLY do something about it and it took me three days of working 8 hours to get it done! I had YEARS of bills, product pamphlets, birthday cards, ticket stubs of all kinds, junk mail, you name it. I shredded, and shredded, and shredded, but I don't have a mack daddy shredder, so...I burned it. Most of it.

    Threw it in our burn barrel and away it went! I feel guilty for not recycling it, but burning it was....almost liberating I guess you could say!

    It was hard getting rid of things that I thought were so special. Like cards, and ticket stubs. But I had to tell myself that I hold those memories with me forever regardless of having paper proof. And how often do I REALLY go back through this stuff? Um, once every 15 years I guess!

    Not anymore. :) I'm taking this new start and vow to throw things away, or file away really important things immediately.

    We have SO much drawer, cabinet, and closet space now! And I can see the floor of my van. lol

    It's nice to know I'm not the only paper hoarder out there. ;)

  53. The minute we bring the mail into the house, we sort it. All of the stuff we don't need goes into the trash (I tear the things with our name and address on it into tiny little pieces - which is kinda therapeutic actually ;) ). I then try to make sure everything goes up to the desk, but sometimes it does end up in a pile on the dining room table. Clutter drives me bonkers though, so my hubby and I try to keep on top of it. We don't really save bills because we do most things electronically...All of the paper work we do need, we put into our filing cabinet immediately. Usually when we do our taxes, we weed through the paperwork one more time to see what we can get rid of and what we need to keep. The key is to keep things organized on a daily basis so the papers don't get out of control.

    An idea for your cards and other things you like to save - put them in photo albums. I have like 6 pages front and back of movie stubs and many, many pages of cards but it condenses the madness and when you have to put it somewhere instead of a pile its easier to weed out the things you dont REALLY need to keep forever :)

    I'm a purger. Every few months I go through our apartment and purge - clothes, paper work, you name it. If it hasn't been used and it doesn't need saved, it goes out the door (and amazingly I still have EVERY SINGLE ONE of my closets full, including my storage shed!)

  54. Snow day at my house today. I'm doing the same with the copies of credit card bills. Why I need confirmation numbers from 4 years ago beats me. You are such an inspiration!

  55. we HaTE paper clutter around here and have some pretty strong rules to keep it at a minimum.

    1) mail gets sorted immediately, documents in filing cabinet, bills with receipts, magazines on "to read" pile, everything else recycling RIGHT AWAY

    2) receipts are entered in computer weekly, then stashed in monthly envelope--every month, monthly envelope is emptied

    3) filling cabinet sorted through every 6 months--even with a home business we never want to expand our 2 drawer filling cabinet which means it needs cleaned out frequently to keep it empty!

    Life really is waaay less stressful without all the paperwork :) I feel like I accomplished a lot everytime we drop off that box of recycling!

  56. 1. Open the mail while standing over the recycling bin (do this immediately from the mail box). Toss anything that doesn't need to be paid or shredded.
    2. Put the remaining mail in a place where it will make it's way to your office the next time you go there (mine's upstairs).
    3. Put bills in a little Walmart thingie on your desk, so when hubs gets paid, you just grab 'em and pay (online, eliminating more paper).
    4. Purge file cabinet a) monthly for last month's bills (if there was a problem it woulda shown up on this month's bill); quarterly or biannually for junk :) you're finally ready to part with.
    5. At age 57, I realize that I do.not.want my kids to have to go through 10 billion pieces of paper when I reach my eternal reward. So I already tossed all cards/receipts/school stuff, etc.
    6. Greeting cards: Hang them on my corkboard next to my desk. Enjoy daily. When it gets full, the oldest goes into the trash and the newest comes in.
    Yes, you probably already guessed that I was a secretary for 20 years. But I hope some of this helps! good luck.

  57. Well, I can't say I have a paper problem. All our childhood papers go into a big bin that is stored away. The kids artwork/papers from school go into a drawer on a craft cart to be put in their scrapbooks. The mail is looked at right away. Coupons go to the coupon bin in the junk drawer. Bills to the office. Invitations etc on the bulletin board that is on the basement door in the kitchen. The junk mail hits the recycling bin and that takes care of the papers. Oh and we have a filing system in the office that holds everything...warranties, old bills (to an extent), taxes, insurance etc.

  58. Oops, forgot to tell you how much I enjoy your blog!

  59. I have a catch all basket that I go through a couple of times a year, with receipts, bills, important papers, etc that need to be filed.

    I try to process my bills as soon as they come in. Most everything is automatically drafted so I just update my spreadsheet and drop the bill in my "to file" basket.

    Once a year, during tax time I go through my receipts, file cabinet and "to file" basket and I decide what I have to keep.

    This once a year dejunk process keeps my file cabinet from growing legs and running away. :)

  60. Paper is a problem for me too. I haven't come up with the perfect system yet. But what I DO have is a large paper box underneath the corner of my desk where I throw away anything that needs to be shredded. Once a year our local police department has a shred-a-thon and you are allowed to bring two large boxes to have shredded by these gigantic cross shredders. It's awesome because I give them a $5 donation and they take all the papers and shred them right there. It takes like 5 minutes. Awesome!

  61. I'm tackling the same thing right now. I have the same $8 shredder that overheats in 2 minutes. I was too overwhelmed with all the paper for a long time so just ignored it. Now I set a timer for 1 hour EVERYDAY and tackle only the paper clutter. I don't get overwhelmed and sure enough, the piles are (slowly) getting smaller! Good luck!

  62. We went paperless not long ago and I LOVE IT. My husband bought a Fujitsu ScanSnap document scanner, and we scanned EVERYTHING in our filing cabinets and got rid of all of them. It took a long time but it felt SO good to have space in our office again!! There are a lot of great programs out there for organizing your scans (which are saved as PDFs)--my husband just tags each scan with a few words so we can find it again. I was able to throw away all my old high school history notes after we scanned them--because I knew we had copies!! To make sure we don't lose anything, we have both a home back-up system (Apple Time Machine) and an online one. Now, any important papers go onto the "scan" pile on my husband's desk, and he scans stuff almost every day. The document scanner is REALLY fast and does double-sided scans, and you can load a whole pile of papers into the scanner and it will just zip through them all one after the other. I highly recommend it!

    But I'm not sure it will solve your attachment to greeting cards and ticket might have to start scrapbooking or something to take care of those! ;)

  63. Soooo, the paper shreds that you're finding

    I have a solution for you!!! If you spray the little buggars with Static Guard you can sweept them up MUCH easier and not stress your vacuum.

    Why do I know this? Yeah. Well I once thought it was a fun idea to shred docs in our family room---and so I did *most* of the shredding, then left the ginormous bag of shreds in the family room...unattended....and my 18 month old got into them. Oh yeah. He was GLEEFULLY throwing them and dumping them EVERYWHERE. It burned out our vac trying to clean it up.

    Static Guard and a broom, baby.

    Oh, and for the paper problem itself? Yeah. I'm reading your commenters ideas b/c I stink at it, too.

  64. I just recently started throwing away those receipts that go with the bank statement - once I check them off, into the trash they go. You can't read them after a few months anyway... This makes for a smaller folder statement for me to file. Also, I open the mail on the way to the trash bin and shred some things right then and there. And notes that come home from school? Note important things on my kitchen calendar, then toss the paper.

  65. PLEASE show me your new process. I need one, too. I have a filing cabinet and I do pretty well filing papers that come into our house for the first half of the year, but without fail, by mid-summer I start letting things pile up in my inbox and now it's completely out of control. I know I'm keeping stuff we don't need. I just don't know what can go and what MUST stay. Sheesh!

  66. PLEASE show me your new process. I need one, too. I have a filing cabinet and I do pretty well filing papers that come into our house for the first half of the year, but without fail, by mid-summer I start letting things pile up in my inbox and now it's completely out of control. I know I'm keeping stuff we don't need. I just don't know what can go and what MUST stay. Sheesh!

  67. I like that one of your ads is by That is all. :)

  68. Kindergarden is not for the "green at hearts"! The massive amount of paperwork that my 5 year brings home daily drives me mad... literally! Thank God I'm a thrower awayer!

    For our "adult" paperwork I have a small basket on the filing cabnet and when it's full... it get's files. And while I'm filing I pull out all old stuff that needs tossed =)

    Pretty simple but it works for us! If it's not in the filing cabnet, I know it's in the basket on top!

  69. I hate all the paper too. We own a business and I do all the bookkeeping from home so I feel like I have twice as much paper to deal with ALL the time!
    I have done several things that have helped cut down.
    1. I stopped printing out all my paid confirmations after i paid bills online. I never used them for reference and if i needed to I could always look it up online.
    2. I used to be the worst about receipts. I would keep receipts for everything, even groceries. And they would pile up so quickly and create an enormous amount of paper. Now I have a basket in my kitchen where i keep my to do lists, daily mail, etc. Inside the basket I keep a small envelope where I put my reciepts. But I purge it weekly now. As soon as the groceries from that receipt have been used and I know there is nothing I will need to return to Target or Walmart or wherever I throw them away. And I stopped taking receipts at the gas station all together. Just hit NO when it asks!

  70. First of all, the letter from 1986 is classic and well-worth the "hoarding" you've done!

    I'm NOT organized, but the paper was seriously driving me insane a few years ago, so this is what I do:

    1. Go thru the mail as soon as I pick it up from the mailbox, which I usually do while I'm still in my car.

    2. Throw away the junk in my car trash bag.

    3. If there is a bill, I walk in, open my checkbook, write it out, record it, get the envelope ready and put it in the "mail" slot.

    4. Throw away the rest of the junk from that bill (why save it? I've never needed the leftovers from a paid bill).

    5. I keep the few catalogs I receive in my car for down times and look at them then (carpool line, waiting for kids, etc.). Then I recycle them when I'm done.

    5. Fly Lady says spend 10 minutes on something, then just leave it alone. If I do that once/week in my "inbox" of hard paper, it's good.

    Now the one thing I struggled with was all the school work my kids brought home until "Tah! Dah!" A neighbor hired my daughter to glue in all her kids art work into these large tablets of paper. They measured about 1' x 2' -- she probably got them at Michael's or Walmart. Nothing fancy. My daughter finished in about an hour and my neighbor stored them in her attic.

    I must do that.

    And I can't wait to find out what your new systems are because I'm always up for trying to be more organized!

  71. Keeping all those bags of shreddies will invite critters into your home. Take them to an animal hospital. They use them for litter boxes for the baby kitties that have been declawed, so they won't get litter in the wounds. They'll love you!!!!

    And honey I am SO THERE with the whole paper angst. I feel your pain. YOU GO GIRL!

  72. I love to be organized - HATE to file (and I'm an Executive Assistant by day, go figure...) - the hubs is worse at filing than me which has = tons of piles of paper. I actually found a system that he & I both will use and is detailed/organized enough for me, yet simple enough for him. It's called "Freedom Filer" - it comes with premade tabs by month/even year/odd year and then some other special tabs for things like Home Info, Car Info, Banking, Pets, Warranties, etc. They have been a God-send! I just file the bills monthly (rather than by vendor), and at the end of the year, switch out the even year folders for the odd year folders - shred whatevers in the previous year. Voila - done. We also pay ALL of our bills via our online banking which saves a TON of paper, too! Good luck and thanks for sharing!!

  73. I'm being buried under paper too. OY. That's on my to-do list today actually.

    Personally, while it's kindof neat that you kept that paper from 1986, I think it should go in the shredder and here's why. Women in particular tend to keep a laundry list of everything that's wrong with us- everything that we feel needs to be fixed. It circles around in our brains and constantly tells us "You're not good enough." I think you should replace it with a list of the BEST things about you. What makes you awesome? You're an amazing woman and you should remind yourself of that, even in the midst of paper clutter. Write it down and post it on the bulletin board. :)

  74. It seems we're all against the paper devil. I hate paper. Right now we have our paper down to two plastic filing bins, but we have no kids, and we have a pretty great system for incoming mail, but I still feel like we have way too much.

    It sounds like you have to pick up your mail from somewhere or you have a long driveway (that's my parents!). We set up a small table area by the door with 2 magazine holders - 1 for bills, the other for everything else that's paper and comes in the house. As soon as we bring the paper in, it is opened, and sorted, junk mail thrown in the trash, cards, magazines put in the 2nd magazine holder. Then we just pay the bills from there.

    When you're finished organizing your paper devil, I'd like to see how you did it, what categories you used, and what things you kept where. I keep those sentimental things as well, and right now I don't have a great way of organizing those.

    One last thing, I saw someone once do lots of little collages/photo displays/shadow boxes of things they'd kept. I might put tickets to a game we went to, with a few pictures in there, maybe a momento I picked up while we're there, and hang it up. You would get to see it often, be reminded of the fun and it doesn't stay stuffed in a file box. Seems like a wonderful idea, if I could just get around to making the dern thing.

    Can't wait for a follow up post on this!

  75. Wow! Great job! WE just tackled our paper this weekend!! Shred, shred and shred! I just blogged about it ;)

    I totally have to recommend this blog...

    She just blogged a ton about the paper war!

  76. Oh my that looks all too familiar! I am trying to score a free filing cabinet from work so I can organize our bills, warranties, and stuff from the last 5 years or more. It's so daunting. Everything is thrown into boxes that are sort of organized. I can't wait to be free from it all!

  77. God, I love how REAL you are...your floor mat sounds just like mine!

    Great blog...

  78. I am fighting my own paper demons as well so I can totally relate to the trauma of going through it all. I think I have every birthday card or note given to me since I was old enough to read! Going through all the stuff is like going down memory lane, but some of it is just taking up precious space. I always feel better after I fill a box or two or three with paper to be recycled and I then move it out of my house and onto the curb.
    PS I loved your "note to self" from the 80's. Very touching (and definitely worth keeping : )

  79. I feel your pain...I keep EVERYTHING (ticket stubs, cards, letters, etc.)

    However, I do have a couple of solutions to some major issues...

    1. Occasion cards
    My mom is notorious for sending both my sons holiday cards and she will send each of them two a sappy one and a funny one. So instead of boxing them away, I have decided to use them to decorate. I took 3M Command Hooks that were clear (or you can use pretty ones, your choice) punched a hole in the holiday card and laced them all together with a holiday type ribbon and hung them over the closet door (I'll send you a pic if you want a better look)

    2. I'm a magazine hoarder (I cut out recipes, articles, tips, you name it) was using an accordian file to keep these in, but then that started bursting at the seams, plus I couldn't find anything easily. So I heard about this
    It's a scanner that you can just feed the sheet through and file it on the cool. I have mine ordered, so I'll let you know how it works, but REALLY excited about using it for my magazine issues, kids artwork, etc.

    So, hopefully those ideas will help you. Best of luck...I know how it is cleaning stuff out. Last time we did it we went out back and built a bonfire and burned everything (kind of gratifying for all those credit card statements that were finally paid.) Ahhhhh.....

  80. I just went through some of my 'paper' in the storage area of my basement last week and here is something I did:
    save some kids art/papers etc as a representation for each school year but the rest take a pic of with your camera and then TOSS IT OUT!! Then you can print the pic and put it into a scrapbook or a shoe box to show your kiddo's when they are grown and then give it to them to keep.

    Your welcome.


  81. ummmm...yeah. big problem here too. i can't wait to see how you organize your paper. i need serious help in this department!

  82. Because I grew up with a mother who had PILES all the time (and she still does) and I saw how by the time she got around to looking at stuff it was old, expired, etc....because of this I vowed never to let paper pile up! I handle the influx of paper every day, whether it be the mail, from the kids, whatever. I have a small "to do" pile on my kitchen counter that gets looked at all the time. Otherwise, papers go in the to be paid slot or the filing slots. And when the filing slots are full, then they get filed in the filing cabinets. I do admit that the filing cabinets drive me crazy as they fill up so fast! Then I purge. But never the whole cabinet at once...just enough folders to make room for more stuff! That way I spread out the shredding. But there is always a pile to be shred in the basement. Always. So, in conclusion, if you can master the handle-papers-as-few-times-as-possible part at the beginning, then you will be in great shape. So you have to do filing and file purging every 3 or 4 months. A lot easier than doing it for 3 days. Ugh! Good luck!

  83. I sooooooooo feel ya! Last year for Christmas, my every romantic and thoughtful hubby got me a 20 page shredder to help deplete our paper piles. I just wish the bucket were bigger!!!

  84. Here's a suggestion...when you are finished, put the shredder in the garage or wherever you come into the house with your mail. Shred what you don't need immediately, and don't even bring it in the house, then sign up for paperless billing whenever possible. It really cuts down on the paper clutter in our house! Love the school paper!

  85. We have two large drawers that sit on top of our dresser and when the mail comes in, anything we know we aren't interested in or want to keep immediately goes to the recycle along with the envelopes of what we do want. Then the things are taken to the large drawers and either put in mine or his. Bills are separated by month and put in gallon ziplocks and filed away.

    We pay almost every bill online too so there is less of a paper trail.

  86. Check to see if any paper recycler or document shred company is having a community shred day soon! I live in Kansas and there's a free shred day in Topeka this Friday. It's an hour-long drive from my house, but I'm going to take at least FOUR big boxes and bags to have shredded for FREE. It would take me more than two hours to shred all this junk, plus the expense of buying another shredder since I've burned through two already.

  87. Wow! That is great. I have gotten so much better about paper but the kids' artwork is still an issue. I have scanned some but not all. Our county offers free shredding services once per month or so. I haven't had to do that yet but may in the future!

  88. YES!!!!Paper is evil I tell you. About every 6 months I have to go through my bedroom, kitchen and office to get rid of, file and shred paper!! AGGHHH. I am THISCLOSE to going out and getting one of those powershredders! It has gotten so bad that now I am stuffing paper into my dresser drawer, nightstand drawers, closets!! Agghh where does it end. We must come up with a solution.
    I'm waiting...

  89. I'm not doing a whole lot better than you are. I do go through all the paper fairly often but I probably have a couple of years worth of crap to shred. It's all in a big bag hidden in a closet!!

  90. If you want to stop getting those credit card offers, go to You can sign up to block those offers for 5 years or permanently. The Federal Trade Commission website directs you to this link, so it's legitimate. I've used it and it works, but I think you do have to sign up again if you move to a new address.

  91. We went paperless last year with all of our bills and will never ever go back. It is awesome! I just made a file book. Check it out on my blog... everything fits in one little binder... pretty amazing actually.

  92. This was me at the beginning of last year!! Bags of shredded paper hauled out to the curb. But how wonderful it feels now to be organized, paperless and paid on time!!!

  93. Just wait until your son is in school and the amount of paper you get to deal with at that time. I have 3 kids in school and I have given up trying to stay organized with what they bring home.

    I totally feel your pain. :)

  94. I found a process that works! I go through the mail at the mailbox and take the junk in one hand and the stuff I need to open in the other. The junk goes in the trash immediately. The stuff I need to open goes in to a basket on my kitchen island.

    Once a week or whenever I have time I open the stuff I need to in the basket and trash the other stuff that wasn't important.

    Then one a month I go through and pay all the bills. Those go into an small accordion file I keep in a kitchen drawer. Cards or mementos or things to file go upstairs into a tupperware bin I have for each or their appropriate file folder.

    I also have tried to get most of my bills online and remove myself from mailing lists. I only keep my bills or pay stubs or account statements for a year not 7.

    That basket on the kitchen island was what changed everything for my though. It is in my face but keeps everything tidy and organized until I can get to it!

  95. If it was up to me, the only thing that would come into the house from the mail box would be my magazines and Netflix movies. The rest could go straight in the big trash can in the garage without ever setting foot in our house for all I care. All of our bills are auto-drafted from our accounts each month, yet most of the companies still send us a paper statement. We've signed up for as many paperless statements as possible which makes me sooo happy, but all companies don't offer that (WTF?). The only bill I actually have to write a check for is our burial plots (and just doing that once a month drives me nuts). I tend to shove it all in a basket in our coat closet and forget about it until nothing else will fit, and then I have to pry it all from my hubby's hands before he'll let me throw it out. Seriously, it's ridiculous! Yay for you getting organized!

  96. Our house had a broken pipe last year so while we were clearing out our storage closet, we started MASSIVELY purging...even the outbuildings! I got rid of all that extra paper stuff (except a small box of high school love letters from my hubby)...even the extra tulle and bells from my wedding 13 years ago! I feel SO much better!!! As for bills, we are paperless, too but you still have a lot- look forward to seeing the organizing for that. Thank you!

  97. Handle paper ONCE-that means bring it in and file, sort, or shred that day. It's an easy system to keep up with once you get it all under control.

    I used a mobil shredder company to purge a HUGE amount the first time around-well worth the 50 bucks it cost me.

    I am naturally organized. It's just in my DNA. My amazing hubby? just the we work on a system that works for BOTH of us ( see above).

    It's a HEAP o' work the first time around, but once you implement a system that works for YOU, (OH and also purge yearly in January) it's EASY to keep up with. Goodonya for starting!

    Here's a fun site that can help:

  98. OMG!! I think I'm going to have to call the police... you snuck in my house and started taking pictures!! Wait... if you did then why are all my papers still here?! *sigh*

    Let us know how it goes!!!

  99. I tackeled the big paper mess just a few days ago. My office actually has a floor!!!!

  100. Paper is one of my pet peeves in life! I've worked on it for years. My January blog entries have all been about home organization and dejunking. Two entries are about dealing with paper... important paper and not-so important papers. Here's a link. I hope this helps a bit. Thanks! BTW, I love YOUR blog!


  101. Someone may have already said this, but ...for those momentos: buy a large metal ring and punch a hole in the top of each card, ticket, etc and hang from the ring. Add some pretty ribbon. All of your stuff is then neatly hung. You can do it by birthday, Christmas, family member, etc. Then, during Christmas bust out the Christmas ring(s), at Bub's bday- break out his ring, and so on. HTH. Good luck. I am pretty good at getting rid of paper clutter. Now we want talk about what my attic recently looked like. YIKES!

  102. Oh I so love that paper from your school days. That has to be a keeper.
    Paper is my downfall. I can't seem to corner it. I try, but just never works.

  103. That little school paper was the cutest thing ever! I know I'm playing Devil's Advocate here but.....Aren't you glad you saved that :)

  104. You are soo hilarious :) and that school paper was the cutest! I also have an "issue" with paper... I seem to save EVERYTHING.... even old phone, power, water bills... like why do I need to save those!

  105. We have made a dent in the paper. Here's how.

    First, we never let it get in the house. We have a blue recycle bin sitting right on our front porch directly under the mailbox. Obvious junk mail - gone.

    (Sure, not pretty, but it's functional.)

    Next, inside, the mail gets immediately sorted into 2 piles - keep and recycle. Recycle goes straight into the kitchen bin. Done.

    What about the shred pile, you ask? Well, I've managed to repeatedly jam my shredder on non-threatening "call us for insurance quotes stuff" that has nothing more than my (likely misspelled) name and address on it. And, seriously, anyone can get that info. So, I just recycle it.

    The hubby rocks. He is BIG TIME into paperless billing. Now, that scares the living daylights out of me. But, he's perfectly fine with it. So, he gets almost no real mail.

    (I'm still getting paper. Maybe next year I'll move to paperless billing, too. Maybe...)

    That's our process.
    Hope it helps someone!

  106. This is on my to do list. I hate to think about it! But since it's a new year and it's always fun to try and be more efficient I just invested in the Freedom Filer system. ( I have it set up and now I just have to go through all the back log of paper and file it. Seems like it will work~ looking forward to hearing what you're doing!

  107. Oh my goodness! That's me. Saving crap from way back when. Seriously! I have a pet shredder . . . and just above it a drawer full of "food". Send help . . .

  108. Actually, last summer I was doing the same thing you are now. I would let the piles build, then I would find a box, and hide it in the garage. Now, I think I have found all the boxes of hidden papers and shredded or tossed what could go. I just need to figure out what to do with all the years and years of birthday, anniversary and Christmas cards that I'm hanging on to.

  109. I sooooo need to tackle this same issue...but I'm Skeeerd! OH MY! I don't know where to start! Yikes! You've inspired me! Thanks sooo much! :)

  110. Oh, my gosh, I could have written this post today. I spent the 3-day weekend cleaning out the files and boxes and drawers full of paper in my home office and it was exhausting! I'm not even done yet. I try to do this every January, going through my files and boxing up everything from the year before, but it's a pain, for sure.

    Love that old note from '86! The best part about going through old papers is finding gems like that! :)

  111. Paper that has been shredded cannot be recycled into new paper. It can be used in yard waste compost (that's where mine goes) or like Kendra said above, take it to an animal shelter and let them use it for the kitties. Something about shredding it makes the fibers too short to make new paper. Our recycling company doesn't accept shreds.
    Love your blog!

  112. I HATE, HATE, HATE the paper! Wait till your Bub is in school. It multiplies, and of course there will be a lot that you want to keep, or have to keep. I recycle most of it unless it is a special art project or drawing or something that they've written and I felt was worth keeping. But also things come home that you need to keep for weeks so they have it to study. School papers suck. And I know we have way more bilk stubs and receipts and tax stuff that we need to go through. You have to keep the last 7 years. We've been married for 12 and I'm pretty sure we haven't cleaned out our file box since then. I think you've got me fired up to go through and start shredding....but I'll wait till the weekend when hubby can help!

  113. Paper is the worst! What seems so small and thin accumulates sooooo fast! My husband finally got a shredder which I've been trying to keep up with to get rid of all the junk mail and old piles that keep seeming to grow.

    The worst is when I find old bags or boxes way back from college or moving from apartments. I was the worst last minute packer and would just throw EVERYTHING into a bag or box saying I'd go through it later.

    Well it's later!!! Time for me to finally sort through all this collectable paper (aka… JUNK!) Lol

  114. Looking forward to your follow up with informative tips!! I feel like I want to tackle the paper clutter, but not sure where to start or what to do once I get started. Thanks in advance!

  115. I'm on my 3rd shredder in 5 years. I burn through those suckers. I think I should take that as a hint that I have too much paper clutter.

  116. I am SOOOO glad someone else has this problem!! I hate the paper clutter but still seemed to get overwhelmed by it! We have burned up 2 shredders and bought a heavy duty one only to over heat it! *Sigh* I would finally get to the point where I'd run up to my hubby yelling "I can't take it ANYMORE!!! Throw it out NOW!!" Lol.. but truthfully we did get our bank acct. broken into awhile ago, so it tends to make you even more wary... If you find a good system, please let me know.

  117. Haha this made me laugh today. I don't buy the Trader Joe recyclable grocery bags for groceries I tend to buy them to stuff all the papers in!

    I don't even go the route of shredders anymore too much time and energy. So in the summer I dump it all in the fire pit at the cabin and sing burn baby burn.. Or when they are doing training on a car fire I make my husband take all the papers in paper bags and put them in the seats of the car,then they start the car on fire and they wait for it to get going really good and then they put it out.. :) But I know not everyone has a firefighter for a husband, but I figured if they are starting a fire might as well make it worth their while!

    ps sorry for the long comment!

  118. I am doing the same thing, but my shredder is SO not as cool as yours!

  119. Trust me you're NOT alone! I have a pile or five of paper that I've been ignoring for months. It's no good though, it only breeds like rabbits.

  120. I have stacks and stacks of it too. Here's an article taht I like about what to do with cards, memory stuff, etc:

  121. I'm no paper expert, but it IS one of my New Years Resolutions. One solution that's helped me is to buy an inbox . . . one for me, one for the hubs. That way, I at least have a place to put the darn stuff. After that, in my ideal world, I would sit down once a week and go through the inbox . . . not pretending to be perfect at it, but it has worked so much better than the past!

  122. Sarah, I wish you could peek in my office right now, because you would surely feel better about yourself! Mine has stacks of papers all over the floor. Want lots of paper?...get a kid in special education! (I have had all three of my kids on IEPS at some point....and my one little 9 yr old guy with autism has FOUR 2" binders full of all his paperwork...and piles I need to file!) You have inspired me, I need to find a better system and I am looking into scanners right now! So if we stop having professional days and snow days, MAYBE I CAN GET ORGANIZED!! Love your blog! xoxo!

  123. Can't wait to see what you come up with. I hate all the paper that comes into this house, between the bills, stuff from school, and just stuff it can get out of contol fast around here.

  124. My #1 nemesis, absolutely.

    And, no, I haven't conquered it. Yet. I shall prevail!


  125. Did you find that little writing project in your piles?! That is too funny.

  126. I HATE paper too! I'm trying to get organized this year. I've already tackled my file cabinet. To keep it from becoming too cluttered I trashed anything that isn't important. I got one of those expandable file folders to keep the important stuff organized. I plan on doing this at the end of each year. Each year will have its own folder so they're easy to find if I need anything. This way my file cabinet won't be loaded with years & years of stuff like it has been :-) Good luck!

  127. That letter needs to be framed- maybe in your new office - in a pretty frame - really it's frame-worthy ;)

    The shredder is my bff. The one and only area where I am actually organized is with paper clutter, I'm actually getting ready to do a post about that!

  128. Looks like you have a lot of *help* so I'll try to be concise: this is a huge problem for me too, but this works for me - I have cute but cheap magazine holders from Walmart in a convenient location (my kitchen butlery) that are labeled

    MAIL (for unsorted mail that just needs to be dumped),

    CATALOGS (and if I don't go through them I have to toss some if it gets full),

    FINANCES (for bills and things to be dealt with twice a month),

    SCHOOL (for the stuff my kids bring home)

    CRAFTS (for the drawings I find all over the house that look too important to throw away)

    CARSON (for my husband)

    and MARISA (For me)

    I love it.

  129. This is a great tool for organizing the monthly bills (link below). It's called the Bill-Paying Organizer. I have used these for years and love them. When I get the mail each day, bills are opened and set in the front of this book (which is usually left open on my desk). Junk mail is tossed and a shred basket is kept nearby (about the size of a shoebox). Each page of the book is for one month. There are lines to record all the bills you need to pay and a pocket to put the bills in. The whole process takes 2-3 minutes each day and I haven't had a late bill in years! Best of all, I don't deal with the paper clutter anymore. I love this little book!

  130. I'm working on the bill/file clutter currently and I'll let you know how that turns out. To be continued.

    I do have a great system for personal clutter (stubs, cards, class schedules, etc.). Everything for the calendar year goes into a box labeled with the year. My husband is trained that his ticket stubs go in the box. I take the box and I make scrapbooks with the paper mementos and pictures we've taken. I'm not talking frilly paper embellished scrapbooks. I mean what you think of when you see a scrapbook from an older relative: photos mixed with newspaper clippings, letters, etc.

    Here's the kicker - whatever doesn't make it into the scrapbook gets tossed. So when I'm done putting X year into the scrapbook, if certain cards/papers/stubs didn't make it, they're gone.

    Knowing how I scrapbook and having an idea of what usually makes it into the book helps me frame my mind around what I even save in the first place. I don't save birthday cards for every birthday, but I did save all the cards we got for our wedding.

  131. I read this post earlier today and then had to get back to the toddler. But I was inspired to do all the filing/paying/shredding that was needed. I found a couple of great sites about Paper-what and how long to keep important documents. Hope I'm not repeating someone, I haven't read all the comments, but have gotten some great ideas from those I did read!

    I still have boxes of cards and my 6yo's daycare scribbles, can't decide what to do with those! LOL!!

  132. Good for you for tackling your paper! I've been there and done that. Any mail that comes through our house I immediately look at. I throw away junk mail and I put the bills (I pay them so it's my mail) in a sorter on my desk. My husband's mail (I throw the junk mail) goes on a ledge and he looks through his mail right away when he gets home. I don't keep copies of bills when I can look it up online/checkbook and I file anything that needs filing right away.

  133. Its nice to know that I am not the only one who struggles with the paper! I swear I keep every card that I ever get. I really can't help it, I just feel so horrible when I throw them out. I keep thinking "Someone took the time to read a bunch of long cards and choose the perfect one to give me!" What I do is keep them sorted by what kind of occasion they are in decorative boxes in our office. I know that one day I will have to cut down on them...but just not yet!

    Also, my husband got us a brand new (used) filing cabinet from work that is sitting empty in our basement! You have inspired me. I will sort them into that cabinet very soon! I just want to paint it first (its an ugly office-y color)

    My (sort of) method for keeping the paper down is to purge our files every January. I get rid of anything that it is not imperative that we keep. I hope to be rid of credit card bills some day!

  134. I think there are 2 types of people in this world...those that deal with paper and those that don't. I am the one in this marriage that deals with the paper. My husband "not" . I go thru the mail each day and immediatey sort the "keep" and the "waste basket" stuff. I tear up all the junk mail and garbage it right away. The unnecessary catalogs go to the recyle box right away. Anything that peaks my interest goes to the coffee table wear i will look at it in the evening (daily newspaper, magazines and catalogs that interest me). Bills go to their spot immediately. I could never live with piles of paper. My husband on the other hand can't deal with so he doesn't.

  135. I have the anal bookkeeper mentality, so my method may not work well for you, but here goes...

    Every day when I get the mail, junk mail goes directly to my recycle bin. Same with any catalogs that I'll never look at.

    Bills, etc. that require "action" go into a basket on my desk where I deal with them twice a month.

    Product guides and instruction manuals all go into a folder in my file cabinet. I'm amazed at how many times I need to find the instructions for some tool or appliance, but I can go right to my small file cabinet and find the right booklet.

    Catalogs that I do read stay front and center on a table in the living room or office. If a week or so goes by and I haven't looked at them, they go to the recycle bin. Can't stand the clutter.

    Fortunately, the town I live in recycles all types of paper, so the only things I need to shred are documents with private info such as SS# and bank account#. Everything else is recycled.

  136. It's too late now, but next time you have a bunch of stuff to shred, check with your bank. If you're on a friendly basis with the manager or supervisor, or even a teller, see if they'll let you bring your shreddables to them. They pay big shredding companies to come in and do that for them. Of course, I'm a retired banker, but I take my stuff to them and put it in their bin to be shredded---easy, peasy!

  137. There is a quote from the FLYlady ( that is becoming my mantra:

    "Right away is the easy way."

    It really is the easy way. I always tended to put off cleaning up or putting away not because I was lazy but because I was already on to the next thing. Coming in from having just picked up the mail? I couldn't be bothered with taking *2* minutes to sort and file the mail. Or putting away the groceries right then. Or whatever.

    Truth of the matter is, unless you are on your way to phone 911, you DO have a few seconds/minutes to take care of it right away--and avoid the hassle and stress later on.

    I can't tell you how LIBERATING it has been to start doing things right away. Everything is just so much more manageable, which makes me a lot happier.

    (The FLYlady has great ideas for taking baby steps to decrapifying your space--making a habit out of it, so you don't have to spend weeks on end purging.)

    Good luck in finding a system that you can get on board with. One idea I heard I-don't-know-when-or-where for cards and notes that have meaning to you: Glue the note into a nice hardbound notebook. Similar to a scrapbook, but without all the prettyfying, and a lot more compact. This way, you can flip through them and smile or get a confidence boost whenever you want.

  138. Oh yes. I hear you on the excess paper. I just ignore it and then do a massive shred about once a year. It's such a low priority to me that I leave it. I make my yearly trek to our church office ( my husband's a youth pastor) and camp out there to shred everything in their industrial shredder.

    That paper from your childhood is a riot. That's a piece of paper worth keeping.

  139. Holly: For those really important papers, have an 'emergency binder.' Mine is hot pink, so it's easy to see and memorable. Keep all your ORIGINALS of important documents in there (passports, birth certificates, marriage certificates, wills, trusts, deeds, important warranties i.e. car, insurance policies, bank info, etc.) in folders or in sheet protectors.

    It should also have a list of contact info for all the members of your immediate family, names and phone numbers for all your doctors, and copies of your driver's license and front and back of all your credit cards. If you own a fire/water proof box, keep it in there. If not, in the front of your file cabinet. If you ever have to evacuate your house you have everything you need to rebuild your life from a legal and financial perspective. It should also all be scanned and uploaded to your digital backup or your email account, so that if your house burns down while you're not home, you can get to it all.

  140. Funny...I just pulled EVERY PIECE of paper from the piles that were growing in my basement, as well as all my files, and completely reorganzed them. I love to file, but I couldn't keep up with the system I had created (WAYYYYYY too specific). So I re-filed things according to date. For example, all the medical/dental/vision bills and insurance statements that we had in 2010 went into one folder. SOOOO much easier and faster than filing the bills by doctor/insurance company/etc. I did the same thing with other bills. ALL my household utility/cable/yard bills go into one folder for the year instead of individual folders for each utility. It also makes it easier to shred a year of bills later when you can just pull all of that stuff at once. I applied this same system to bank statements, investment statements, credit card statements, home/car insurance, mortgage statements, charitable donations, taxes, etc. I am giddy now when I open the file cabinet and see a system with which I can keep up!

  141. You know who LOVES to shred papers? My 4 year old. And yes, I am right there, and he cant stick his fingers in it. I've been reading iheart organizings blog on dealing with paper. She rocks at this stuff! Last week I found every note since 5th grade and my report cards from K-4.

  142. Oh, I just read Stacey's comment about Flylady, and that's how I deal with stuff, too.. I swear she changed my life. If I had a blog, I'd blog about that. Lol

  143. That was a crazy amount of paperwork you had to get through and a great piece of luck in finding that window warranty! It's interesting when you decide to have a clear out, you can really find some interesting things. I found my only ever detention slip the other day, apparently I was in the wrong for allowing another pupil to deface my exercise book, I had forgotten that my friend had written how he disliked our math teacher in the back of it!

  144. I did a major paper purge a few years back, and yes, I had 3+ garbage bags of shred too.

    To keep up with the filing, I've switched to shoe boxes by year rather than file folders by category, and that works well for me. I have one for the current year and 7 for each year of the back taxes stuff. At the beginning of the year I pull the oldest box, shred the contents and make it the new box. (you can see here -

    I'm still working on how to control the incoming stuff though - the bills, the circulars in case I suddenly need to find a good deal on toothpaste, the coupons I feel like I should use but don't, the catalogs I like to keep for ideas, and the charities I may want to donate to. It's a disorganized mess and I'm lucky to find what I need when I need it.

    Good luck, I'll check back to see what good ideas you come up with.

    - C

  145. I did a major paper purge a few years back, and yes, I had 3+ garbage bags of shred too.

    To keep up with the filing, I've switched to shoe boxes by year rather than file folders by category, and that works well for me. I have one for the current year and 7 for each year of the back taxes stuff. At the beginning of the year I pull the oldest box, shred the contents and make it the new box. (you can see here -

    I'm still working on how to control the incoming stuff though - the bills, the circulars in case I suddenly need to find a good deal on toothpaste, the coupons I feel like I should use but don't, the catalogs I like to keep for ideas, and the charities I may want to donate to. It's a disorganized mess and I'm lucky to find what I need when I need it.

    Good luck, I'll check back to see what good ideas you come up with.

    - C

  146. HAHA! Soooo cute! I hate paper clutter too, but I purge too much and my hubbie gets upset because I end up throwing away stuff he needs... :P

  147. OMG - paper is SOOO my nemesis. I, too, am a hoarder, and all your examples resonated big time with me. I can't WAIT to see the solution you've devised!

    And don't be silly - of course you need to keep your class schedules from college. Every one of them. So don't even try to make me get rid of mine!

  148. Oh I love little treasures too. I've saved every movie stub since my hubby's and my first we save stubs from movies with our 3 1/2 year old son! And cards? Uh huh...right there with you. I keep all of our son's cards as well as my own. In doing that I realized I have to keep them well organized or risk passing on my papery illness to him! So, I began dating (month/year) each card I choose to keep with an archive safe pen. I then tie a pretty ribbon with the holiday or reason for card (Christmas, birthday, etc) so they are all wrapped together - the ribbon makes it so pretty too. I purchased one of those gorg fabric covered boxes from TJ Maxx/Homegoods (actually, I purchased 3, it was a tiered set)in the top box are cards from various people in my life. The second is for cards from my hubs and son, third box is for my little stubs, old photo calendars and other treasures. It's nice because when I want to have a moment I unzip the pretty boxes and pull out a little momento. It kind of makes it special AND organizes my little paper obsession into something that works for me and that I can handle.

  149. Totally feel your pain! It is a constant battle in our house - there are places to get off junk mail mailing lists - Direct Mailing Association, Opt Out Pre Screen, and, and call all of your banks and credit card companies and tell them to take you off the mailing list for advertisements. I posted about it this week, because we are going through the same de-clutter time. :-) Good luck! :-) Barbara @

  150. I have so much paper I need to go through it's just sad. Although, seeing you go through your's makes me want to want to organize our stuff. I used to save cards and ticket stubs but I had no way to keep them organized so I just ended up throwing it all away. However, I have a suitcase full of old papers that need to be shredded or filed. Why they're in a suit case? I'm not quite sure. That was some of my husband's creative packing. lol

  151. This is a great post, I collect craft paper so I have a hard time finding the best way to organize it..Now my husband has piles like this all over his work office...I can't touch it because he has every thing organized in controlled little piles...;-) All that shredding is therapy for me when I get a chance to do it with paper bills..


  152. I finally found a system that works well for me. I struggled for years with filing old bills and keeping everything straight. Piles of papers on the counter - once I did a major cleanup and a couple days later realized I had thrown away an envelope with $100.00 play money in it! Ooooo, I was disgusted!
    Anyway, my system is: all of my bills are sent to me online (no auto payments though, that doesn't work for me) and I download the .pdf form, then file it in an easy to get to folder called 'Bills'. I sort by company then month. Once I pay the bill online through my bank, I screenshot the payment window and copy/paste it with the bill. For the one or two bills I still receive in the mail, I scan them and shred the paper. I started this last year at this time and had NO issue keeping up. Worked like a charm. Then at the end of last year, I burned all of that to a CD and now I am starting over! Amazing!
    The only other major suggestion I can give you is that we have a small white garbage can right by the front door that all of the junk mail goes into immediately for recycling. I don't put anything that could compromise identity - that gets shredded.
    This also has worked wonders for all of the piles!
    Good luck! If you are interested in trying this, I have heard the OneNote (comes on Microsoft Office) works well for cross referencing and such.
    Best of luck!

  153. Out here in California, there are local places that do the shredding for you. When I lived down in San Diego, it was the local hospital. I don't remember the mechanics of it, but I didn't feel that my stuff would be invaded or anything. That would alleviate days and days of shredding--something I think we would all have if we were to sort thru our stacks of paper!

    Gail D.

  154. My first visit to your blog (found on a friends page). Thanks! I just bought a big file cabinet and file folder this week and haven't even started to tackle my paper stuff yet - I can relate and appreciate your comic relief!!!

  155. I had piles of papers everywhere, all the time and couldn't seem to find a way to stay on top of it all...until I tried this: check out my post here

    It has made such a big difference to me in helping me stay on top of the paper pile up syndrome!
    Good luck with all your organizing! It feels so good once it's all done!

  156. Oh. My. Gosh. It's not just me! I hate the pile on my kitchen counter. So I have a nifty woven basket thing with separators. Worked great...until it got full! I've gone paperless on some of my bills - especially the places that charge an extra $5 or so to keep sending a hard copy - and that helps (a little)! I sort and throw away mail immediately upon entering the house. I need a workable filing system at home - at work I have no piles! I won't allow! Go figure! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

  157. Paper IS my nemesis and I had to laugh at the whole entry, because it is ME. I can't wait to see how you win the war on paper!!! :-) (and then I will copy you, the most sincere form of flattery, ha!)

  158. LOL! That list from 25 yrs ago is priceless. But, wait, that can't be you! That would make you -1 ;-).

    FYI, our neighborhood has a shred-a-thon once a year and our homeowners dues pay for it. Want our shredder too? Then you can shred double fast.


  159. I keep the current years bills in a giant binder with pocket dividers for each month. I keep a small portable file thingy with the prior years. At the beginning of the new year the contents of the file thingy get shredded and the binder contents move. Now the binder is free for the current year. In my garage I have 2 rubbermaid totes needing to shred. I came across them cleaning out the garage.

  160. Are we twins? We must be twins! :) I love love love this post! It's me! and, especially I love the pic at the end! :) So glad to have "met" You!!!

  161. Oh my, look at all the comments! I think nearly everyone struggles with paper...unless they live in a cave or something, lol.

    I have *ONE* and only one file drawer in my desk. I REFUSE to go over that. refuse!! Every January, I go through and make a huge shred pile. I have the Boy shred it (after giving him a lesson on how to do it safely.)

    Also, I have an in-basket on my desk. I try to file for 5 minutes, a couple of times a week. keeps the pile under control. you can do anything for 5 mins at a time, no? and it keeps the pile from getting too HIGH.

    Remember in the 90s when "they" (??) swore that with computers, we'd be paperless "someday!" yeah right, computers cause more paper, I think! booooo to paper, lol! Good for you for getting yours cleaned out.

    Oh, and I also do a bit of shredding once per month, so the January shred pile isn't so out of control.

  162. I totally went out yesterday and got a power shredder from Lowe's! I spent two hours last night shredding the garbage bags of bank statements and doctor's bills from the early 90's I had stuffed under my husband's dresser. I ended up with three garbage bags full and a happy husband :) Thanks for the inspiration!

  163. My best method for organizing instruction manuals, warranties, etc. is by using binders and clear page protectors. Sometimes I really do need to check something in an instruction manual - like I never remember the process to clean my coffee machine - so I either hole-punch and stick it in the binder, or if it's too thick it goes in a page protector in the binder. I have it organized by category, e.g. kitchen appliance, electronics, computers, and the binder is right near my kitchen. Each manual is accessible when I need it and not buried in some filing cabinet.

    I also bought cheap magazine files from Ikea so that I can hide my papers when I don't have time to deal with them right away. One is labeled "to be filed" - when it gets full, then I go through the effort of actual sorting, but meanwhile I don't actually have to see the paper!

  164. Ha! I knew you then! And why on earth would a teacher make kids fill out a form about what they hate about themselves? If they did that today, there would be lawsuits filed.

    As always, love your blog, and love you!

  165. I agree with you 10000% :). I have no method, and can't wait to hear of your idea's!! I have only been in my house a little over a year, and I spent an entire Saturday going through paper. I sat on my couch in my pj's, and that's really the only thing I did. I didn't even go outside until that evening. I was excited when I saw this post because I can't wait to see how to deal with it! I went through everything, but it's starting to pile up again because there is no system. UHG! I love that your blog isn't just about renovation, but everything that has to do with a home :) I love reading your posts, and I read every word. Most everyone else I just skip to the pictures :)

  166. Shredder in the kitchen is a must! As soon as you bring the mail in go straight to the shredder. I also have our bills sent to me electronically that way I just save them to my draft Inbox and it cuts down the clutter.

    I am a sucker for items that have a special meaning so I got a photo box that is labeled for each person in our family and they can choose what special things they want to go in them. I throw out any anniversary/ birthday card that doesn't have a special message or like an actual heartfelt note. For instance, if it says Love, Mom and Dad and that is it...trash pile!

  167. I was reading through my Feb issue of Real Simple and found an ad that said “Tame your paper monster.” It is a company called neatco where you can purchase a NeatDesk or NeatReceipts scanner and scan all your paper products into your computer where it will file it electronically {insert halleluiah chorus}.

    It’s pretty pricey, but the magazine had a special 30 day trial code Thought about you when I saw it. I’m going to see if hubby can use it for work and I can borrow it. 

  168. I hate paper too! Not sure if anyone has mentioned this yet, but I was able to take a huge BOX of shredding to FedEx Kinko's and they dumped it into their locked shredding bin. Then a shredding company comes by and picks it up. And it was FREE! I was totally willing to pay ANY AMOUNT to get rid of the junk, so I was pleasantly surprised!

  169. Shred as you go; it's the only way to be sure. If you start letting it build up, it quickly becomes overwhelming. If no filing place immediately suggests itself when the paper comes in -- shred it.
    - - - - - - -
    chess sets and more

  170. This may be silly. I found a pair of "shredding scissors" on They have helped me cut down on my paper clutter.

    Instead of making a pile to go to the "big shredder" I just tear off my name or whatever I don't want passed along and cut/shred that part. I recycle the rest and voila no more piles of paper to be shredded!

    I keep a basket in the cabinet by the door for bills or things I need to file. I go through this once a week when I pay my bills.

    Now if I could only find a way to keep up with the coupons.....

  171. i think paper is everyone's nemesis. we all have to deal with it, even if some are organized. too much in the mail, doctors office and schools. just a waste really.
    i love having a paper shredder but to save some of it's life I try to only shred what is important. i tear out my name, address and any account info and toss the rest. i'm on my 2nd shredder and i still can overheat that baby.

  172. I feel bad for snickering as I read this, but I think we all deal with this darn paper issue at some point. I've come to learn to just TOSS cards - bday, anniversary, whatever - unless they are so sentimental that I just can't....because really - who cares if after I'm dead and gone - I don't think my kids would want a birthday card to me from my aunt.....right?! So as hard as it is - throw them!

    I do keep my bills - but all in an envelope by year - and then toss anything after five years. They say seven, but really, why?!

    As far as ticket stubs and stuff like hospital bills when your kiddos were born, I am (going to) one of those fancy boxes that hold pictures - one for each kiddo - and stick stuff like that in them - all neat and you can just shove little things in without worrying about them getting lost.


  173. Paper is EVERYWHERE and most of it is junk!

    A few tips:
    1. Since it starts in your car put a small bag in your car just for mail with a couple colored files in it or just put a couple files in a car pocket. Probably best to use the files with 3 closed sides.

    2. Do a quick sort the moment you get the mail. Put the bills in the "green" file, the junk in another color.

    3. When you bring the mail into the house before anything else, if you can help it, throw the junk away. Put the bills in a special place (by the computer, on the fridge, whatever works for you), but open them first and only keep the statement and the mail in envelope (unless you do it online, then just trow the mail in out too). Then do the final sort and shred any sensitive stuff right then.

    4. And then just have a basket handy to throw the "to be filed" items and do it when you have the time. At least if you are looking for something you know it is in one of three places, filed, basket or bills.

    If you really want to feel organized you can have another basket or a simple file for inspiration/memories, magazine cut outs, tickets from mind blowing concerts, ect. An instead of keeping paper tickets that will deteriorate with time take a fun picture of them or a collection of them.

    Hope that helps and good luck!

  174. This was a humorous read! I remember shredding last fall, and the little two minute shredder would over -heat, and just turn off until it cooled. Yeah. That is a lot of shredding. Glad you got it done!!! Thanks for sharing.

  175. It is simple......have a friend call and say they are heading over for coffee.....papers all get put in a pile spare bedroom door but be careful as prior papers may come falling out....close door quickly.

  176. I could have written this entire paragraph word for word!!!!!!!

    "My other problem is I’m a bit of a hoarder when I comes to the paper stuff. I keep cards from birthdays and anniversaries forever and ever and EVER. I also keep little pieces of paper that are a memory for me – ticket stubs, business cards from favorite restaurants, whatever. It’s one of those things I just can’t give up. I think I’m going to start scanning them all into the computer, so I can save the words and memories, but still keep some space."

  177. Paper is my enemy and my friend. Like most everyone, I fight major battles with paper. What I have found is that the busier I am with other activities, the more my paper piles up. I keep receipts, warranties and user manuals in a file together. Then I subfile as in Kitchen, outdoor, household, etc. My hubby is amazed that I can lay hands on most any item receipt/warranty, etc. This takes less time overall, but you must have a handy place that is easily accessible. Not on the top shelf in the garage or attic. lol


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