Decluttering Paperwork

If you struggle with piles of paper throughout your home and wish there was a way to get a handle on things, then this is a guide you will want to read over. Get a simple approach to decluttering paperwork and take another step closer to home office organization.

Do you feel buried under a pile of paperwork? Do you spend long stretches of time searching for missing receipts or misplaced bills?

This tends to be a normal occurrence in many homes. In fact, the average American household has over 300 pounds of paper scattered throughout rooms, drawers, and even in vehicles. Today we are going to tackle this problem head-on and give you some great tips to help you get control and win the paper struggle for good.

Follow these simple tips and before you know it, you’ll be able to find anything in minutes – without wasting hours digging through folders or cabinets. Plus, your home will look and feel so much better once all that excess paper is gone.

Decluttering Paperwork

When it comes to organizing papers in your home just the thought of getting started can be pretty overwhelming. This is especially true if you have never decluttered your papers before. To make things easier we are going to break this project into much smaller steps. All you need to do is work on one at a time and watch your paper organizing system begin to take shape.

What is the fastest way to declutter paperwork?

If you are looking for quick, then use this list to tackle the paperwork in your home.

  • Sort your paper clutter into 3 piles. Current, file, and shred.
  • Set up files for this year’s current papers.
  • Put older papers into storage totes labeling each with the year.
  • Put a basket in your kitchen to toss in any papers for the week.
  • Set up a weekly paperwork day to go through this basket and keep things where they belong.

If you have not done a paperwork sort and declutter before you will want to jump down below for the step-by-step guide that will help you to do a thorough job no matter how much paper you have accumulated over the years.

a basket sitting in front of a stack of paper clutter copy 2

Decluttering Paperwork Step-by-Step

When it comes to decluttering paper, things can get overwhelming pretty quickly. I have things broken down into an actionable list that you can work through one step at a time.

Step #1. Gather up all the papers you have.

With so many sizes of paper finding a way to hold them all without making an even bigger mess is key. I suggest using a clothes basket for this part as you can hold a large number of papers of all sizes without the risk of dropping anything as you work.

Just walk your home and pick up any papers you find. Get them all, every single one.

Step #2. Sort.

When it comes to sorting papers, bigger is better so you have enough room for all the piles you will need. I like to use a bed or a kitchen table for this part.

You want to have enough room for all the piles you will start with and be able to leave the project without the risk of things getting messed up. You can use index cards as labels for each pile as you make them.

A few ideas are:

  • Mortgage
  • Credit card info
  • Medical, Dental, Eye, Therapy
  • Utilities
  • Investments
  • Statements
  • Loans
  • Schooling
  • Legal
  • Insurance
  • Home upkeep and improvement
a bed with piles of papers sorted on top

Step #3. Shred.

As you are sorting through your papers, have a trash can close by to toss in anything that you are going to shred. You can also use a plastic tote or another clothes basket if you find you need more room.

Have a cardboard box for papers you can recycle, such as old magazines or newspapers.

After each sorting session, you can shred the papers you have collected to keep this from getting too big to do in one job.

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Step #4. Know your dates.

Not all papers need to be kept forever.

Know the dates for each paper, so you are only keeping what you need to have. If you are not comfortable shredding documents, you can keep them for as long as you would like.

Step #5. Store 2 years and older.

If you are going to keep papers older than the current and previous years you will want to store them in a way that is easy for you to access them. You can use manila envelopes or a file box with the year written on the outside.

If you are not a fan of envelopes, you can label a small tote for old papers that you can then keep in storage.

Be sure to put the date on each tote and store them with the oldest tote in front. Each year when you add your papers for storing the previous years, you can shred older papers.

If you are doing this project before tax season, then you will want to put keep the previous year’s paperwork in a temporary container until you are done using them. Once taxes are done you can move those papers up with your other older files.

Step #6. Current files.

Current papers are for the year you are in now. Keep things from getting chaotic by setting up a system that you can use to hold current papers in an organized way. Files work best for this. You can set up a hanging file folder for each category of paperwork.

A few ideas are:

  • Home
  • Auto
  • Money
  • Debt
  • Utilities
  • Medical
  • Insurance
  • Family

Inside each hanging file folder, you can have individual folders breaking things down in a way that fits your family and stage of life.

So, for example, in the Auto File, you can have a folder for each car that your family owns. Inside of those files, you can keep all the maintenance receipts and records done to each vehicle keeping the care conveniently all in one place.

Step #7. Set up an incoming paper basket.

The thing about paper is, it is always coming into the home every single day.

The best way to keep paper clutter from going crazy is to contain those papers the minute they show up. You can do this with a simple basket. Do not overlook how great baskets work for papers.

A family command center is a great way to streamline all things paper in a home.

Command Center Resources:

If you usually toss mail and other papers on your kitchen counter, put a basket there labeled papers/mail. Put any papers inside of this basket as they come into your home. This tip will keep the papers where they need to be instead of all over the place.

Short on space? You can hang a file organizer on your wall to put incoming papers into. These work great and hold more than you may realize.

2 plastic file bins on a wall full of paper clutter and books

Step #8. Keep it that way.

Set up a paperwork day each week to deal with any new papers. Go through your paper basket tossing any junk, responding accordingly to those that need it, and then file what you are keeping when you are finished.

By routinely touching and taking action on important items, you will never need to worry again that you have missed something.

Having a plan for papers is the key to an organized home. Save time and money going forward, and always know where important documents are so you can access them whenever you need them. By following these steps, you can be sure to get rid of any unwanted paper clutter and keep your home organized.

Decluttering paperwork doesn’t have to be frustrating. Just keep up with the daily influx, have a system that is easy to keep up with, and set aside an hour each week for upkeep and you will never have to deal with a paper mess again.

More Paper Clutter Resources:

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