Welcome to Day 6 of the 10 Days to a Tidy House Challenge! A few days ago I shared a crazy idea that I had with you guys: decluttering and tidying up your house in just 10 days. (You can read more in the introduction to the challenge HERE.) It must have struck a chord with several of you, because I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the response! So, thank you for joining me. I’ll be posting pictures and lists of the items I’ve decluttered on my Facebook page throughout the challenge. You’re welcome to follow me and share your own experience as well!
Hello! We’re halfway through our challenge now! I hope that you’ve seen some great results as you’ve tidied the clothes, books, and toys in your household. Today we’re moving on to the area that absolutely terrifies me and which I feel least qualified to write about–papers.
We are going to interpret “papers” fairly broadly. For our purposes papers include:
- Bills and financial documents
- Tax info
- Junk mail
- Letters and cards
- Notes from school
- Kids’ masterpieces
- Invitations and schedules
- Medical records
- Catalogs and phone books
- Manuals and warranties
- Life necessities (birth certificate, marriage licenses, social security cards, etc.)
Whew! That is quite a bit!
Today’s challenge is one that you certainly need to collaborate on if you are married. Perhaps your spouse is the one who typically handles bills, or maybe they are in charge of all school-related information. Even if you are the one who keeps on top of all of the paperwork, your spouse should still know where everything is and be able to access your system. In the case of an emergency, each spouse should be able to handle the entirety of bill-paying, medical records, and other essential tasks.
So, let’s begin!
Today we will:
- Gather all papers
- Throw away unnecessary ones
- Organize documents to save in simple system
- Put a plan in place for reducing clutter on a daily basis
Gather All Papers
If you are like me, you may have papers strewn about the house. I have bills in a stack in the office, records in two different file boxes, coupons dumped into a drawer, kids’ papers on the refrigerator, etc. Personally, all of this paper clutter stresses me out. It seems noisy and demanding, and I constantly feel as though I’ve forgotten something. Let’s gather the papers into one place (like an office, a desk, or a table) so that we can begin sorting.
Throw Away Unnecessary Papers
In her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo states that we actually need to keep very few papers. She argues that people typically hang onto papers longer than necessary out of fear. I can see her point (and we will be discarding many papers), but I still want to err on the side of caution.
With that said, there are still MANY papers that we can throw away immediately:
- Catalogs and phone books (seriously when is the last time you used a phone book?)
- Magazines you have already read (I am relentless about this. As soon as I read a magazine, I toss it. If I want to save a recipe, I copy it down right away. Otherwise, into the trash it goes.)
- Magazines you’ve had for six months but haven’t read yet (If you haven’t had time to read them yet, you probably won’t make time now. Plus, you most likely feel guilt whenever you see them. So, dump the guilt and dump the magazine. You may want to consider cancelling your subscription, though.)
- Junk mail (These go right in the trash each day when I am sorting mail.)
- Kids’ art work (We’ll get into this later, but you most likely don’t need everything your child has ever made. My advice? Keep a few excellent, interesting pieces from each year of their lives.)
- Birthday cards (We display these in the kitchen for a few days and then throw them away.)
- Manuals for appliances you no longer own
- Warranties that have expired. (Many warranties are for one year only. To help you remember this, write the date of purchase on the warranty before you store it. That way you will know when it is no longer valid.)
- Warranties for items that cost less than $100. (This is our cut-off point. We don’t keep the warranties for inexpensive items. They just take up space. However, we do have the ones for our laptop, etc.)
- Tax information more than 7 years old
- Receipts for tax purposes more than 2 years old
- Medical receipts and records that have already been acted upon by the insurance and that you aren’t claiming for taxes
Toss these all in the trash and move on. Let’s get some of the weight off of our shoulders!
Organize Documents to Save in a Simple System
Now that you have the documents we will be keeping, it is time to organize them in a way that makes sense to you. This is the part that often intimidates me! But, I’m going to tackle it today.
Marie Kondo does not advocate going out and buying a bunch of supplies and storage to help you stay organized. She says that we often have all of the items that we need already in our homes. So, take a quick inventory to see what you have and brainstorm what you might need.
There are a few options:
- Filing Cabinets (Some people swear by them, however, they can seem very big and bulky if you don’t have a lot of space in your house. If you have a lot of paperwork–for a small home business, for example–this may be for you.)
- File Boxes (Smaller and portable. A good option if you don’t have a ton of papers and have a smaller space.)
- Fireproof Boxes (For those documents that you absolutely do not want to lose–the life necessities.)
- File Folders in a drawer
Here is the system that I will be implementing:
- A Fireproof Box for our birth certificates, social security cards, marriage license, teaching license
- One File Box for Tax Information–this year’s and previously filed
- One File Box for Medical, Insurance, and Warranties
- One File Box for Children’s Work (This will be a brand new one! I am going to keep one file folder for each child in the box. When a great example of their work comes, or a report card, etc. I will place it in their folder. At the end of the school year, I will pare down the folder a bit. I will label the folders with the child’s name and year. Then, next year I will start new ones!)
I’ve found a few articles helpful in thinking about how to organize a home office:
Organizing Family Paperwork: An Easy System by Early Bird Mom
My Top 15 Tips for Organizing Paper Clutter by How Does She
If you’re thinking about going paperless, this is one of the best articles you’ll find:
The Ultimate Guide to Going Paperless by Just a Girl and Her Blog
Put a Plan in Place to Keep the Paper Clutter Minimalized
Now that you’ve organized the papers, it’s time to make sure that you don’t find yourself overwhelmed again in just a few days. These tips can help:
- Commit to sorting the mail as soon as you get it
- Keep a small box on your desk labelled “To File” and BE SURE to empty it once a week
- Decide on a day (like Sunday) that you will sort and file everything each week
- Respond to invitations immediately and then write them down (along with any relevant info) on your calendar and throw away the original
- Utilize Google Calendar or a paper calendar. When you get any papers from school with important dates (field trips, conferences, etc.) record those on the calendar and then toss them.
- Dump junk mail as soon as you get it.
- Keep an index card box for coupons.
- Consider starting a file system for your children’s artwork
I’m actually feeling energized about this now! I think that taming this paper mess will really add to my overall feeling of control and calm in my house. I hope you feel the same!
Today’s Action Plan
To recap, here is today’s action plan:
- Gather all papers
- Throw away unnecessary ones
- Organize papers with a simple system
- Put a plan in place to keep the papers organized
Catch up on the Challenge
I would love to hear any tips that you have for keeping your papers organized. Seriously. I could use any advice that you have!