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Do you ever feel like you’re drowning in paper? Like you just need to find that one piece of paper or your kid can’t go on the field trip today. You don’t realize she needs it until right before you walk out the door. You think “Crap! I forgot about that. I knew I saw that paper somewhere”.

Your daughter is crying because she can’t go on the field trip and you are getting anxious because you can’t find the permission slip. In the back of your mind, you are thinking “I can’t be late for work again.”

After reading this post, you’ll figure out how to handle your paper clutter so you will never have to be late to work over a field trip permission slip ever again.

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Steps to getting rid of paper clutter:


1.Get all of your paper in one place.

Get all of your paper from all over the house and put it in one place. Grab a laundry basket and check for paper everywhere. Your Vehicle, countertops, junk drawers, etc. Check anywhere you think there might be paper.

Throw all of the pieces of paper you see into the laundry basket. That way it’s out of the way because it might take a while to go through it all. When I did this the first time, I had one and a half laundry baskets filled with paper. Don’t judge yourself for how much paper you have.  


2.Sort the paper.

Now it’s time to start going through the big pile of paper and get it sorted out. Before you get started, grab a trash can and 2 empty containers/boxes. This will help you in the sorting process. Now gradually go through each piece of paper and sort them into one of three categories. 

Trash- Throw all of your junk mail and anything else you don’t want to keep into the trash right away. 

Shred- Toss the things that you no longer need that have your personal information on them into a box for shredding. Put anything with any part of an account number, date of birth, id number, social security number, etc. Anything with an identifying number on it goes into this pile. 

Keep- The keep pile is everything else. The things you are keeping could be anything from a field trip form for your daughter to a piece of paper for your child’s medical binder

3. Shred the documents

Go ahead and shred the documents. After that, you should only have the keep pile left. You have either thrown away or shredded the rest of the papers. 


4. Sort the keep pile

Now, you need to sort the keep pile. Go back through the keep pile one by one and sort them into one of the three categories below.


These are the things that require some form of action from you. Maybe you need to add a date to your calendar, fill out a field trip form, pay a bill, birthday party invitation, etc. Put anything that is a to-do item in this pile.


The mementos are things you want to keep in your memory box. Maybe the first time your child wrote their name by themselves, their first art project from school, your first Mother’s Day card, etc. These are anything you want to remember in the future. 


These are the things you’re going to file. They are things related to bills, money, medical information for your child, tax returns, etc. These are anything you need to keep for a certain period of time for your records. 


5. Put the keep pile where it belongs


Put these in a memory box and store them somewhere. Don’t worry about storing them where you can easily access them because it isn’t likely you’ll look at these that often. They don’t necessarily have to be easy to get to, they just have to be stored. 


These items need to be dealt with one by one. Fill out the papers, pay the bills, put the birthday invites on your calendar, etc. 


These items need to be filed in your file box. One thing I’ve started using instead of filing in the box is to save the documents online. Some items like auto insurance documents are online under your account, and others can be filed on Dropbox.

You just scan it and upload it to Dropbox. Dropbox is an online file storage company. You can create a free account and store data up to a certain data amount. It’s very safe and secure.

The free account has a pretty decent data storage limit, so, likely, you won’t even have to pay. You can scan items like school handbooks, certain bill payments you want to remember like medical bills, etc. Scan things that you might need later for reference. 


Steps to stopping paper clutter in the future:


Use a one-touch rule

Instead of throwing your mail on the counter, go through it immediately. Throw everything away that needs to be thrown away, do the to-do items or file in a budget binder, etc., and file the others. Don’t keep touching the same piece of paper.

You know before you started reading this post, you would move the paper pile from place to place to place. You would touch it about 10 times before you dealt with the pile if you were lucky.

I give myself about 5 minutes or so every afternoon to sort the mail and my child’s backpack papers and just go ahead and do everything right away so I won’t have to add it to my to-do list. 


Use an e-calendar

Use an electronic calendar like Cozi and put dates into your calendar immediately. You don’t have to save the appointment card from your hairstylist or doctor’s appointments for 10 weeks in your purse. Don’t even get the card, just stand right there while you’re making an appointment and plug it into your phone. 


Sign up for e-bills & e-statements

One of the best things you can do to stop paper clutter is to stop bringing it into the house. Sign up for e-statements for your bank accounts and regular bills. You don’t need a copy of your light bill from last December.

You don’t need to keep all of that. You pay it online and you get an email notification. You save the email notification into a folder called “Power Company” and you don’t need to keep any paper. 


Set up a system for the paper you want to keep

Figure out the types of paper you want to keep and set up a system for them. Here is my system for reference: 

1. Fireproof safe: 

Put anything in there you don’t want getting destroyed or anything you want to keep with your ID number on there.

Here's what I typically keep in my safe:

  • Social Security Cards
  • Birth Certificates
  • Marriage Certificate
  • Titles
  • Taxes
  • Other bills of sale, warranty information, etc.

2. Binders

The documents I want to keep are in binders. These are things I want easy access to.

Here are my binders:

  • Medical Binder (1 for each child) Here’s the one I use. 
  • Budget Binder
  • Recipes Binder with my recipes I love
  • Small Folder- my daughter’s absentee forms (I made a ton of copies and keep them in the folder for easy use), other things related to her school that I need to keep until a certain date (like fundraising forms, etc). 


3 File online with Dropbox:

Anything I want to keep, but don’t need the actual paper. This is a very small amount of things. 

  • School handbook 
  • Any files you have online (like the medical binder) so you can print off pages when you need them
  • Maybe some of your child’s artwork if you didn’t want to keep the original. 
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4. Take a picture on your phone

Take a picture of certain papers with your phone and save it to a folder called “Info for Later”. These are items you need to see quickly but you won’t be keeping for a long time. 

Examples of things I save to my phone: 

  • Sports Schedule
  • Holiday Schedules for the Kid’s School
  • Prescription numbers for easy reordering 

Some of these are things (sports schedule) I want to reference in the future, but I’m not going to keep them for a long time. I likely only need them for a few months or so and then I’ll never need them again.

You don’t have to be buried under piles of paper. You can learn to tame the paper piles in your home. You don’t have to run around at the last minute searching for field trip forms at the last minute ever again. 

What's Next?

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