How to Combat Paper Clutter

Everyone knows that keeping files organized can be a daunting task. It’s not just a “one-and-done” cleaning event. Paperwork will keep coming into your life and it takes continual effort to maintain it. I think most people have had the feeling at one point or another that their paperwork is getting out of hand. Whether you are staring at a pile of paperwork on your desk, trying to get years of family photos organized, or overwhelmed by an overflowing table of mail to be sorted, paper clutter is adding to your mental clutter! We have a few tricks in our books to help out this common organizing issue:

  1. Sort quickly – implement a “one-touch” policy. As soon as a piece of mail comes in the house take care of it immediately. Whether it’s paying a bill, putting the paper in the recycling, or filing it away, avoid leaving it in a pile to deal with later. In order to this successfully, you need to have a system which leads us to our second point.
  2. Set up a system – how each person or family needs to organize their paperwork and files will be different depending on their situation. What works for a single person probably won’t work for a family or five who owns their own business. The important part is setting up a system that works for your family. You need to have a filing system that makes sense to you and has a place for everything.
  3. Schedule time to maintain – keeping your files organized takes work! As your life changes, your needs also change. Adding files and systems for different life events is important. Schedule a meeting on your calendar about once a month or so to make sure and take the time to maintain your files.
    While all of this might sound great, it’s easier said than done. Life gets in the way and sometimes paper clutter can build up and seem overwhelming. If you feel like you are struggling to keep up with your paper clutter, it might be time for an overhaul. When we enter a home to help organize paper clutter we can help guide our clients to determine what their needs are and focus on how to fix them. If you are looking for some help getting your organization system set up, we can help with that!
  4. Consider digital filing carefully – scanning and saving a lot of your paperwork digitally can be a great way to reduce the amount of physical papers in your life. But be careful not to digitize everything. That can quickly cause digital clutter. Digitizing can be a big task on it’s own if you try to do to much as well. The time it takes to scan, label, and sort your files can really add up; and the point of organizing is to make your life easier, not harder.

    Here’s a client story:
    “I met Laura in 2005, she was interested in getting help managing her paperwork. She had an infant and it had become overwhelming. Our Organizing Consultants worked together to create a system that would work for both her and her husband. We accomplished the task in a few visits. Now they could find everything!
    Two years later she called me, she now had another baby and a new house, which created a more complicated situation. We got to work getting all of the paperwork situated, adding new files for the new situations. Once we got them situated, we scheduled monthly appointments, so that I could maintain the system. In January of every year we purge the prior year and gather the documents that they will need for their taxes, so that they are prepared for their accountants.
    We also have helped organize photographs and a huge memorabilia collection that we have gathered into categories, scanning some and storing the rest. We still go once in a while to help on a project usually related to a home improvement project. When we work with a client like this, it is so rewarding, watching a family grow, mature and evolve, we get to know family members and other vendors.”

Get Started with the right tools:

  • File folders – we use these simple file folders. Make sure you have plenty of folders to ensure there are enough
  • Stackable File Folders – EZ Stax stackable file folders are great for sorting your papers, you can keep them in the stack or you can use this to help create categories*


*This post contains one or more affiliate links. What does that mean? If you click on any of those links and make a purchase, I will get a small commission that will likely feed my growing love for coffee! You should also know that I recommend products that I believe in or have used whether or not I get paid.