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Tackling Paper Organization Manually or Digitally

There are few items that are more time-consuming and frustrating to organize as paper.

Having organized literally hundreds of offices and garages, I've seen how quickly paper can accumulate and the truth is that nearly all of it has no value or reason to be kept. Most of the frustration that comes from dealing with paper clutter is directly related to our unconscious recognition that most of it should not have been kept in the first place. There is seldom any reason to keep mail, bills, insurance documents and other common paper clutter that tends to collect in boxes and offices with no real purpose. Fortunately, for the paper that doesn't need to be retained for various reasons, there are plenty of ways to collate and organize in a way to keep these important documents accessible and easy to locate whether retaining hardcopies copies or converting to digital.

Inspired Organizers Phoenix AZ Declutter Paper Organization


The most efficient way of getting started getting your paper organized is to gather all of your paper in one place whether it's a kitchen table, a desk or even a large trash can. This volume of paper can be a little intimidating at first, but fortunately, this first step is the easiest and something you can do while listening to music, a podcast or even watching TV. Whether or not you retain hardcopies of the paper you need to keep or convert to digital completely, it's important to sort everything out while purging all of the paper that you don't need to keep.


Once you have all of your paper gathered in one place, use a file cabinet or labeled accordion folders to sort your paper accordingly. This should be your permanent paper storing solution, so make sure it fits the space, is functional, and has the aesthetic that matches the location where it lives. 

As you start sorting your paper piece by piece you'll become aware of the categories of paper that need to be retained. Label your file folders with categories like bills, insurance, house receipts, medical, etc. Get more file folders than you think you'll need and have a LabelMaker or a sharpie on hand to create categories as you go. Color coding is another useful option to help you find categories at a glance after you've had the system in place for sometime. 


Any paper that you need to keep for the short term like bills and credit card statements should live in a wire or plastic multi tray on a desk where it is easily accessible. It will get you in the habit of not keeping unnecessary paperwork for long periods of time. Long-term paperwork should be filed away as soon as it comes in the house to prevent everything from piling up.

I recommend purchasing a paper shredder or at least having a shred bin where you can put all paper that contains your personal information to prevent your identity from being stolen. Office supply stores like Staples and OfficeMax offer paper shredding at a reasonable rate if it's something you only require infrequently. 

If you've ended up with a pile of 30 pounds of paper or more, it's a good idea to start with some ground rules for yourself about what kind of paper to retain and what to throw away. This is also where your filing categories can be useful. Certain categories should not be retained for more than a few weeks. Things like bills, coupons, short term work projects should only be kept for a short period of time. The sooner you set rules for yourself about what the length of time is for those different categories, the fewer problems you will have in the future with your paperwork piling up. You should also consider sorting through your paperwork 20 to 30 minutes at a time to prevent becoming overwhelmed. 

Paper Organization Inspired Organizers Phoenix AZ


Since the goal of organizing your paper should not just be getting what you have organized, but creating a system to keep your paper organized moving forward, keep a pad of paper and a pen close by and take notes that you use later to convert as many bills as possible to receive in your email. This cuts down on paper waste and makes paying bills every month easier to manage. 

As you sort and purge, it is important to keep a master document list containing things like insurance policies, birth certificates, passports, and other legal documents. You can put this list in the first pocket of an accordion folder or the first file folder in a file cabinet and keep all these documents on the list in that folder. This makes them easy to locate at those critical moments when they're required. 


You've heard it said a million times: we're living in a digital world. The sooner you can move as much of your information from paper to digital copy the less work it will make for you in the long run. Familiarize yourself with paperwork management apps like Google Drive, Dropbox, Evernote and others. You will find them priceless for not only your own paperwork, but for work projects and managing other aspects of your life that require documentation.

While there may be legal reasons to keep paper copies of documents in certain professions, for the vast majority of us, digital copies are acceptable. Literally every paper you've touched in your entire life can be stored on a external hard drive smaller than your cell phone. Organization is key, so find a document storing app that fits your needs and start creating those digital file folders to have a digital home for every document.

Just like every other type of organizing, the key to paper organization is having a system that works for you and your documents. Having preferences for digital or paper is fine as is having a preference for a certain type of paper organizing container like a file cabinet. Trying to organize paper without a solid system that is usable on a daily basis will just leave you frustrated and overwhelmed, and likely living under a new pile of paper.

Once you've got your system in place, the only thing left for you to do is slow down and take the time to throw out, shred or file every piece of paper that comes into your home. If you can maintain the discipline to do this, you'll never find yourself overwhelmed by your paper mess again. If you live in the Phoenix area, please reach out to Inspired Organizers at 480-435-2541 or email so we can show you how we can help organize all of your paper or any other space in your home.

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