If you’re like most people, organizing paper piles, whether they’re part of your filing system or just something you plan to “deal with later,” is a huge cause of stress. Luckily for you, figuring out how to declutter and organize everything in your life, including your files and papers, doesn’t require a complicated system. You simply need to develop good organizational habits so you can have a place for everything.
Try this system of seven simple steps for keeping your papers organized:
1. Reduce first
This first step will eliminate much of your paper clutter. There’s no point in organizing or filing anything that should be tossed in the trash.
Go through all of your unfiled papers, one at a time. Throw out as many as you can and file the rest.
If you’re worried about documents containing sensitive information, consider shredding them, or even tossing them all in a box or bag to take your your local bank or recycling center if they have regular “shred days.”
2. Create a command center to process paperwork
I love the beautiful, customizable Erin Condren command center, which is perfect to add to your entryway and save important papers, notes, and lists.
Add a mail organizer and organize bills into “To Pay” and “To File” compartments.
3. Use a simple filing system
Depending on your lifestyle, your paperwork could quickly become overwhelming. My kids have asthma and food allergies (i.e. lots of doctor appointments, medications, etc.), plus we own a farm, so we need to track inputs, outputs, and ALL.the.things.
Originally, I had a super complicated filing system and tracked individual expenses in their own folders, but I finally simplified everything into “bank statements,” “personal expenses,” like our electricity bills, water, mortgage, etc., “farm expenses,” “farm income,” and “medical records.”
When in doubt, a simple, alphabetical filing system seems to work well for everyone. Don’t overthink this step. Just create a file and label it. Put them in your file drawer alphabetically.
4. File everything immediately
Go through your entire pile of papers and file them. In the future, file any papers as soon as you get your hands on them.
If it’s a bill, pay it and then file it. If it’s something that just needs to be filed, then file it. If it’s no longer needed, toss it in the trash. If you have a command center and typically designate a day to pay bills and file, then sort the mail accordingly, but make sure you process it weekly, at a minimum.
The key is to never create a stack of papers that you plan to deal with in the future. Just deal with them right away to save a lot of aggravation.
5. Keep all the necessary materials readily available
Always have spare folders on hand. If you need to file something, but need to create a new folder, you’re going to start a pile if you run out of folders. Have spare filing materials ready and waiting.
6. Try to reduce your incoming paperwork
With the right approach, you can greatly reduce the number of documents you’re filing each month. Sign up for online banking and bill pay and automatic deposits and withdrawals.
You can probably find all of your banking statements and recurring bills (like utilities) online for several years. If there is a transaction that needs to be researched, your bank will have access to those records.
Also, there’s so much that can be found with a quick search of the web. Most reference materials, such as software manuals, can be found online.
Take this a step further and start recording notes on your phone. If you love writing and taking notes like I do, try using RocketBook to make your lists, daily plans, and take notes. You can take a picture of each page and send it to your Google Drive, Evernote, or wherever you store documents online.
7. Transition to an online filing system
Many documents and files can be stored on your computer or online. Check out the “cloud” programs offered by Amazon, Apple, and many websites for storing documents.
Keep digital records of your contact lists, ideas, logs, bills, and household budget.
Every time you get a new piece of paper, ask yourself if you really need to keep a hard copy or if it’s available online. Maybe you can scan it and store it on your computer. Check out programs like Evernote to organize all your paper files.
Impactful Habits, Organized Home is an amazing course that can help you create systems to organize your entire life, but the best part is that it has an entire section to help you transition to a paperless system.
Getting your filing system under control is one of the best things you can do for yourself. It makes finding your papers much easier. It also eliminates a lot of clutter from your workspace, home, and your mind.
Piles of paperwork are stressful. Get these stacks of paper out of your life and you’ll feel better. You’re also helping the environment when you find a way to reduce and recycle all of the unnecessary paper in your life.
We simply no longer require copies of every single item that comes along. You’ll be amazed by how much better you feel when you file away your papers immediately, or even stop the paper clutter before it even enters your home.