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It isn’t hard to rid your home of paper clutter. In fact, in this post, I’m going to teach you how to organize paperwork in your home, so that you can easily keep up with it! If you follow my exact instructions, you’ll never have to worry about how to organize paperwork clutter ever again!
The Type A personality in me loves systems! Having systems in place helps remove any decisions that aren’t necessary from your daily routine.
Systems remove the wasted time of wondering what to do with something and provides a solution that you don’t have to think about.
While it isn’t particularly a favorite thing for Type B personalities, like my husband, it helps a lot in maintaining a tidy home. My husband has come around to loving it, which tells me they work well for anyone!
Having systems for your paperwork eliminates paper piles from accumulating in various places within your home.
Let’s dive into the step-by-step processes:
- How to organize paperwork already in your home
- How to get rid of paperwork you don’t need
- How to organize paperwork with a paperless system
Step 1 // Gather all of your paper and sort it into piles
The first thing you want to do is gather and sort the paperwork that isn’t filed away in your home. You’ll want to put them into the following categories, if applicable:
- Junk Mail
- Kids’ Artwork and Homework
- Flyers / Handouts
- Owners’ Manuals
- Medical Documents
- Tax Documents
- Important Paperwork
- Journals / Diaries / Notebooks
If you have anything else that doesn’t fit into these categories, then make a separate pile for them.
Step 2 // Declutter each paper pile
Second, you need to work through each pile to determine what is needed and what can be tossed [recycled]. Here are some tips to identify what is and isn’t needed.
Only keep what you need for tax documents or for balancing your checkbook.
The receipts that are necessary for tax documents should be put into a file, folder, or envelope until you can digitize them.
The receipts for balancing your checkbook need the same system but note that this isn’t going to be permanent. If you don’t need the receipts beyond balancing your checkbook toss them.
When it comes to junk mail, there should be a number or website you can visit to remove your address from their list. This takes some effort, but the reduction in the mail you receive is worth it!
You can also visit this FTC article for additional ways to reduce your junk mail. It also has ways to reduce telemarketer phone calls and junk emails, if you want that information.
When it comes to bank statements and bills, odds are paperless billing is an option. You may have to visit their website to set this up, but once you do, say hello to a reduction in your mail!
[I was finally able to go paperless with my insurance invoices, which eliminates 24 pieces of mail annually from coming into our home.]
This may not seem like a lot, but when you add up your electric, water, insurance, bank statements, etc., it makes a HUGE impact on your incoming paperwork.
Plus, you can receive all of these via email and store them in a special folder within your email system for safekeeping.
If you have a place to display your kids’ artwork, do so until the next piece comes through the door, then switch them out to display the newest one. Keep your favorites in a folder or scrapbook, and remove the others from your home.
Please keep in mind that the artwork is made for you, not for them. Your kids aren’t going to want each and every art workpiece they’ve ever created when you decide to give them to your kids.
Be mindful of this, because it can really reduce how much you’re storing and allowing to take up space.
Flyers / Handouts
I want to encourage you to snap photos of flyers instead of accepting them. This eliminates the need to bring them home in the first place.
For the ones you already have, snap photos of the information you need, mark them as a favorite for easy access, and toss the flyer/handout. You can also mark them in your calendar if taking a photo doesn’t seem like the best option for you.
Most owner’s manuals can be found online. Download them onto a hard drive or cloud-based storage [for safe keeping], then toss the physical copy.
The only reason you should keep an owner’s manual is if you cannot find it online.
Only keep what is necessary for future doctor appointments. If you went to the doctor for a cold, this isn’t important enough to keep.
A lot of doctor offices are transitioning to online programs that store your medical documents, so it may not be necessary to keep anything on hand. You can simply download what you need onto your computer and that is it.
I suggest keeping your current policies on hand should you need to call in a claim. However, there maybe a digital option that your insurance company provides.
You could significantly decrease the amount of insurance paperwork you receive in the mail by going paperless.
You should have access to online banking and online statements. There is no reason to have bank statements in paper format, which is great news because that means a lot of space gets freed up in your home!
Always consult with your Accountant about how long you should keep tax documents. The great news is that you don’t have to keep them forever.
I personally keep mine for 10 years and do away with any that are older than that.
When it comes to loan or mortgage paperwork, keeping the originals or scanning them are up to you.
I encourage everyone to create a digital copy so that if anything were to happen to the paperwork, you still have them in a digital form.
If you filed your warranties online, as most require now days, there isn’t a reason to keep a paper copy. The manufacturer’s system keeps all necessary information on hand for you.
Have a lot of recipes written out on random papers or printed out several to try?
Consider creating a recipe book or going digital. This will help you organize your favorite recipes and cut down on clutter significantly!
Journals / Diaries / Notebooks
I’ve always been one to decluttered used journals and notebooks. However, I have wanted to make an ebook of any that I feel since I started journaling in 2019.
This could be a great way to store your most cherished memories in a more private way, too.
- If you don’t access your old notebooks for any reason, declutter them.
- If you have half-used notebooks, consider using them up instead of wasting good paper. I have done this with notebooks more times than I can count. They work just the same.
- If you have notebooks that haven’t and won’t be used, consider donating them to a school or domestic violence center for kids to use.
Step 3 // Set up your organization system for the papers that remain
Once you’ve worked through all of the piles, see what remains, because this is where your in-home system creation starts.
You’ll want to have a file or folder for the different categories you need. Only create categories based on the piles that remain and how you would like to organize them.
Don’t make additional categories that you think you may need in the future. Stick to the things you need right now.
Once you have that done, put each pile into their coordinated category. Then it’s onto putting your paperwork into a system that works for you.
Here are a few paperwork organization options for how to organize your paperwork:
An expanding file folder is great for when you have a lot of small categories or need to keep track of receipts in a systematic way.
It is an easy way to quickly file things away and stay organized.
Storage box organizers are a great incognito way to store your paperwork. It provides the same organization as a file folder, but blends with your home’s aesthetic.
A letter tray is a great option if you tend to forget about paying bills if they are filed away. This gives you a visual place to put them until it is time to pay them.
You can also use this as an in between destination for things you need to make note of in your checkbook before filing them away.
A work of caution with a letter tray is to not allow things to pile up. Deal with your paperwork weekly, if not daily!
A filing cabinet is great because you can lock them if you wish. I chose this particular filing cabinet because it combines the letter trays and filing cabinet in one.
If you aren’t an out of sight, out of mind person when it comes to paperwork, this is an effective option for your paperwork.
A home office style filing cabinet is a great option if you love the idea of a filing cabinet, just not the idea of it looking like a filing cabinet.
This particular home office style filing cabinet offers the same features as the one above, except there is one less drawer and it doesn’t lock.
Step 4 // Create a system that keeps paper clutter away
Now that you’ve reduced and organized your paperwork through all the tips provided, here is my simple system for new paperwork coming into your home:
Deal with your paperwork as soon as you get home.
- See if you need to call any solicitors to be removed from their mailing list, move to paperless billing, and what can be tossed.
- Put anything you’ll need for tax purposes or checkbook balancing in their appropriate file or folder.
- Rotate the kids’ artwork, if needed. Remember for the piece[s] you remove, file away or remove completely from your home.
At the end/beginning of each month, do these two things:
- Balance your checkbook and toss what is no longer needed.
- Digitize the receipts you need for tax purposes and toss the physical copy.
- Having this system in place and working through it each day will ensure that your paper is never cluttering your home again!
Step 5 // Recycle paperwork you no longer need
Don’t simply toss unneeded paperwork in the trash. There are many ways you can use unneeded paperwork.
- Shred then recycle
- Use in your compost bin
- Use as a weed barrier for your flower beds and garden
- To start fires
There is a greater chance of your identity being stolen when you simply throw away your paperwork. Don’t run that risk!
How to organize paperwork using a paperless system
This may seem daunting, but I promise it isn’t. The less paperwork you have coming into your home, the less you have to thing about how to organize paperwork.
The benefits of a paperless system
Before I get into how to organize paperwork using a paperless system, let me share the benefits of a paperless system.
A paperless system reduces clutter.
With less coming into your home, the less you have to organize.
You actually free up time by switching to paperless, which means you get to spend more time on the things that are most important to you!
A paperless system is eco-friendly.
By reducing the amount of resources needed to mail you something, you are helping to save the planet.
It isn’t just paper that you’re reducing, but the plastic windows, stamps, sticky bits to form and seal the envelop and more!
The amount of resources you’re helping to reduce is more than you know!
A paperless system increases privacy.
When you decrease the amount of mail you’re receiving, you increase your privacy. It is one less way for someone to learn something about you or steal your identity.
How to go paperless
Before we worry with new paperwork coming into the home, you need to convert all of the paperwork you already have on hand.
From there, you will deal with new paperwork coming into your home.
It takes a little work to set up, but so does any new system you create. Trust me, it will be well worth it!
Create a system for the paperwork you already have
There are a few different tools you’ll need to help you set this up the right way the first time.
You can rent a scanner or purchase one. This will help you take your documents from paper to scanned documents stored in a folder on your computer, external hard drive, or cloud device [like Google Drive].
Something like the letter trays mentioned above will work for your Inbox. This is just a place for paperwork to go before being scanned.
Store your passports, birth certificates, and titles in a firebox. These are things that you need the originals to, so a firebox is a great investment to ensure they stay safe.
I personally recommend using Google for your digital needs.
- Google Drive – Stores documents
- Google Calendar – Sets up important reminders
- Gmail – Stores receipts emailed to you
These three things are my personal solution for how to organize paperwork with a paperless system.
Schedule a time to scan your paperwork
You need to scan in the paperwork you have already as quickly as possible, but this doesn’t mean you should neglect normal responsibilities.
Schedule a time each week for you to scan your paperwork.
You can also organize them into the necessary folders as you scan.
If you choose to organize as you go or do batch work of scanning for so long then organizing it all, doesn’t really matter.
What matters is that you get caught up with what you already have and can keep a simple system for when new paperwork needs to be scanned.
Audit your Inbox
As you scan the items from your Inbox, look to see if there is a way to digitize it.
For example, bank statements should have a spot where they are promoting e-statements or a paperless option. Same goes for your regular bills.
Make note of these things and follow up once you’re done scanning.
When it comes to random mailings, scan the document for a way to stop it from coming.
This is honestly the hardest part of implementing a paperless system, but it is so worth it!
Have a backup system
There are three options for backups, and I’ve already mentioned one.
- Online cloud software
- Local backup
- External hard drive
I’ll go over each one quickly to help you determine which is the best option. I do suggest using at least two of these to ensure you don’t lose anything.
Online cloud software
As previously mentioned, this would be Google Drive or Dropbox. An online cloud software is something only you can access, but you have the ability to access it from any computer, as long as you have your login credentials.
A local backup is storing things on your computer. If your computer dies, so do these files. But it is great for quick access and doesn’t require the internet to access the files.
External hard drive
An external hard drive is like an extension of computer storage. It stores things on a thumb drive, CD, or a true external hard drive.
Depending on what you want to scan and store can depend on which type of external hard drive is best for you.
Additional tips for how to organize paperwork //
Tip 1 //
I do NOT recommend a basket to store paperwork for sorting later. This opens the door for forgetting to make bill payments and keeping the clutter cycle going.
If you use a letter tray, be sure you stick to your system. Don’t let it drown in paperwork.
Tip 2 //
If you aren’t excited about your organizing system, change it! If you’re putting things in a filing cabinet, but you dread going into when needed, then try a multi-pocket folder.
Don’t change what you do daily, just change the environment.
Tip 3 //
When in doubt about what you need for tax purposes, contact your CPA. Since everyone’s taxes are different, I’m not going to suggest anything specifically that you need to keep.
Note that you can store these things digitally versus physically.
I hope you learned exactly how to organize paperwork in your home and are excited to get it all decluttered! If you have any questions, let me know below in the comments.
Keeping your papers organized isn’t difficult when you have a simple system in place. Pair that with consistency, and you’ll never have to worry about paper clutter again!
If you enjoyed this post, be sure to take my Tidy Home Challenge that will help you declutter and organize other areas within your home!