How to organize paper clutter

March 27, 2011

I recently showed you how I was starting to get control over the paper clutter in our house, once and for all. I had let it get waaay out of control, and it was time tame the paper monster around here.

It involved a lot of shredding – make that an INSANE amount of shredding:

But I prevailed people, I prevailed!! I have ridden (ridded?) our home of all the old paper that was creating clutter, found a home for the rest of it, and (pretty much) kept up with what has come into the house since then.

I think I’ve finally figured out a process that works for our house, so I wanted to share it with you. :)

The first couple of steps are total DUH moments, but they’re the ones that were the biggest issues for me in the past. Most days, I get our mail in the car – cause I’m lazy like that.

And that caused my first problem – the mail was piling up in my car daily. Cause I’m lazy. :) I littered my car with it and created a pile I had to catch up with when I did take it inside.

So my first tip for you – get control of how much mail you’re getting. Over the years we’ve changed many of our bills to paperless, so we get emails instead of mail.

I luuurve catalogs like you wouldn’t believe, but sometimes we start getting one we don’t care for and those add to the paper clutter quite a bit. About three years ago, I found a site called Catalog Choice, and so far we’ve unsubscribed from about six catalogs. Love. it. (Cause it works.)

One of my readers mentioned a site a couple of months ago that’s already made a huge difference – Opt Out Prescreen. It allows you to opt out from credit or insurance mail offers (that you have not initiated). It has really cut down on our junk mail, and it only took a couple of weeks for it to kick in. 

My next step was to figure out a way to corral all that mail in the car, for the lazy days when I didn’t want to address it immediately. I grabbed an old laptop bag and now it sits next to me every day.

It’s not super large, so once it starts to get full, I know it’s time to address it and take it inside. It’s SO much better than having the paper strewn all over the front seat. My friends and hubby appreciate not having to move a pile of paper when they take a ride. ;)

The next step is to address as much as possible before I get in the house. I’ve had trash bins out in the garage for the mail for over a year now, but I wasn’t using them.

So I put our monster shredder out, next to the the bins:

Part of my paper issues were because I’m a bit of a freak about what we shred -- basically everything. :) I tear our address off of catalogs, prescriptions, junk mail with our address – everything.

So the shred pile was always HUGE. Now, I deal with it before I even walk in the door. It’s SO awesome to walk in with one piece of mail instead of five. ;)

Every Monday I empty the shredder and put the shredded paper and other to-be-recycled items and take them to our local recycling center.

I’m doing it!! I’m actually keeping up with the paper! WHOO HEW!

Next up is getting it taken care of inside. Anything that needs to be addressed but-I’m-not-going-to-address-right-now is put into a decorative box on top of the dresser in my office.

Right now it’s full cause I’m going through magazines and have a ton of inspiration pics to file. Normally, once it gets about half way full, I know it’s time to address it.

Anything left (invoices, utility bills, etc.) that I need to file goes into a bin in the top drawer to be filed in the basement:

But there’s always items I want to keep upstairs, easily accessible. I had tried wall mounted organization before, and they never worked for me. It all seemed to be just another “pile” of papers.

There were three different subjects I needed to keep organized – my inspiration pictures from magazines, stuff for the Bub (notices from school, game instructions, toy assembly) and general household stuff I didn’t want to keep downstairs (instruction manuals, phone numbers, receipts).

And when I saw the cover of Better Homes and Gardens a few months ago, it hit me. They had the prettiest, simplest binders and they were exactly what I had been looking for all my life.

Or at least what I had been looking for all of a few weeks. :)

I found them at Naked Binder and I LOVE. But they needed a little somethin’. Some honeysuckle blingity blang. I’ve been adding little touches of that beautiful pink color through the office here and there. Just a smidge:

paint chip tags

I wanted to label the binders without labeling the binders, you know what I mean? So I busted out my Silhouette and and made some cutie new tags.

I picked out some paint chips in the pretty pink color and used my Silhouette to make images of a house (for the house binder), an idea “cloud” for the inspiration binder (couldn’t decide between the cloud and a lightbulb, but thought the cloud was cuter), and an “E” for the Bub’s binder.

I just cut my tags out of paint chips with a paper puncher, then glued two back to back, and put my little images (on vinyl) on top:

And they are just the cauuutest (free!) tags I ever did see!:

organizing paper

The last step of my paper process is to take the to-be-filed box from the drawer downstairs every few weeks or so. I completely reorganized all of our hanging files after I went through all of the paper. Everything is filed by the most basic titles -- house, medical, etc.

I wanted to make sure the filing was as simple as possible – no standing there for five minutes trying to figure out where to put each piece of paper.

The hanging folders are organized alphabetically, the taxes by year.

I also have a couple magazine file holders on hubby’s desk down there, near the scanner. I keep the Bub’s artwork in those that I want to scan…eventually.

And finally…I’m DONE. Whew!! :)

Yes, it’s lots of steps. But it’s what works for me. I finally learned that I am NOT a get the mail, take it in, sort, shred, deal with, file it immediately kind of girl. I’m just not. When I was trying to force myself to be that, it didn’t work. I ended up with piles everywhere.

Now I still have piles everywhere, but they’re organized and they have a purpose. Solutions for taming the paper monster are different for everyone – so this may not work for you. But if you’re a procrastinator like me, it may work great. ;)

Finally, we wanted a heavy duty safe for important files that would be fire safe and had a lock, and this Sentry file safe was the answer: 


Hope my crazy getting the paper under control process, or at least a part of it, helps some of you organize the paper insanity in your lives! If you’ve figured out what works for you, are you the git er done kind, or a break it into a million steps kind of chick like me?

I love hearing what works for you! (And it may help someone else!)

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