Getting Organized in 2013: Taming the Paper Monster

| January 7, 2013 | 49 Comments

Woman behind a large pile of papersIf there’s one thing that tends to pile up around my house, it’s paper. The kids bring home permission slips and drawings and math review sheets, the mailman keeps bringing bills and ads, and we get handed everything from church bulletins to flyers advertising free kitten and puppy vaccines to business cards of landscapers (we live in Florida, so this is year-round!) on our daily excursions. Most of us have “hot spots,” which are areas that tend to accumulate clutter around the house, and in my house, it’s the kitchen table: It seats eight, but there are only four of us, so a pile of papers at one end doesn’t impact our family dinners.

Since many of us have made getting organized the new year’s resolution, and we’ve already talked about organizing the schedule, it’s time to get those paper piles under control! Here are some tips on keeping paperwork organized:

  • Know what’s important to keep. Any tax forms need to be filed right away; don’t even think about leaving them in your “paper pile” for any length of time. If you own a business and save receipts, again, take care of them immediately. Bank statements, if you get them in paper version, also should be checked and filed right away.
  • Arrange for electronic billing for everything if possible. The amount of paper coming into our home has been drastically reduced since signing up for electronic billing and automatic deductions from our checking account. I usually only write three or four checks per month, really just for the kids’ activities that don’t take debit cards. Instead of getting your electric, phone, car insurance or health insurance bills via mail, see if they will send you an email instead.
  • Deal with mail as soon as it comes in. When you do get bills, either pay them immediately or schedule the payment. If you are doing this electronically, all you need to do is set it up with your bank to release the funds on the date that you specify. If you are going to write a check, then write it out, put it in an envelope, and write the date to mail it on the envelope where the stamp goes. Keep the envelopes in order, and when it’s time to mail one, stick on the stamp (covering the date) and stick it in the mailbox. Throw junk mail into the trash or recycling bin right away; don’t even open it. If you receive a letter and need to write back, record the return address in your address book (paper or electronic!) and toss the envelope.
  • Teach your children to go through their backpacks as soon as they get home. If you need to sign a permission slip, do it right away. Don’t save every paper they bring home; compile them in a folder, and each week or every couple of weeks, go through and only keep the best ones. It can be hard to throw away children’s schoolwork, but you can’t realistically save everything. Send some of their artwork and their best spelling tests to their grandparents; they’ll put them on the fridge for a week and will throw them away themselves!

If you can get your paper under control, you won’t have to squash down a sense of dread every time you go to your desk to pay bills, and if you’re like me, you won’t have a pile of mail and various paper clutter on your dining table!

Do you have any great tips for getting the paperwork monster tamed?

Comments (49)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Jo-Ann Brightman says:

    Thank you for these tips. I shall show them to my husband becasue he likes to keep everything!!!

  2. Cassandra D says:

    I’m glad I visited your blog since getting organized is one of my 2013 resolution.

  3. Lynnette Watkins says:

    You read my mine!! One of the things I plan to concur this year is my mounting paper. I just started when the kids bring anything from school I read it decide if I need to keep it or not then put it immediately into the recycle bin if not important.

  4. Huguette English says:

    That’s one task I have to get to this year and soon! Thanks for the tips 🙂

  5. Stephanie from CT says:

    one tip for saving childrens artwork, is take a picture of it, and save that instead.

  6. Julie Wood says:

    I just went through a lot of paper last night! I tend to stuff paper in drawers instead of dealing with it. Last night I filed a lot of my important paperwork. I need to deal with my paperwork when I get it! This would save me time!

  7. juli guthrie says:

    My biggest enemy is my emotional attachment to everything my boys do at school. I have learned over the years to part with quite a bit of it though.

  8. GayAnn Wright says:

    I’m very sentimental and tend to hang on to things and keep too many articles from magazines and newspapers when I probably won’t be able to find them when I need them anyway. Just could look it up online!
    Makes me feel good getting cleaned up but I just have a hard time getting started.

  9. Helga says:

    Thanks for these tips, we definitely need help with this!

  10. Wendy T says:

    My tip has to do with those papers you save because you just might need the info one day. Scan it, and file it away on your computer…just in case.

  11. Chrystal D says:

    I’m guilty of the same thing! I need to use some of these tips to help me get rid of some junk!

  12. Emma H says:

    Thank you for these tips. The area things build up for me are the two desk spaces by my computer. I can never seem to keep it under control.

  13. Bashir Ahmed says:

    Thanks for sharing the tips, as usual all your tips and posts are amazing.

  14. Lamar Bowen says:

    Getting organized is key to getting productive.

  15. Holly Trudeau says:

    Yes! We let bill paperwork pile after paid, instead of filing away, & it gets to be a mess! I am trying my best to file once every month at least to get rid of the paper monster in the cabinet! Thanks for the tips!

  16. RonLeyba says:

    Paper shredder will always be a friend. Also, here at my place, we can sell used/scrap papers per kilo to local buyers. Thanks for the above tips.

  17. omg, I KNOW. Paper is a killer in my house. I so need to follow these tips. I’m so bad I can’t let it go!!

  18. Meg says:

    my little girl is in 1st grade and she thinks that i should keep every graded paper or portrait she had brought home since preschool and this is multiple papers a day!! Maybe these tips will help us get more organized for 2013.

  19. Giveaway Gal says:

    great post! I am very unorganized

  20. Rita M says:

    I’m the “paper-keeper” in our family so this is going to be tough!

  21. Susan Johnson says:

    Electronic billing has really come in handy, not only in reducing the paper waste, but also the time filing it all, when you can print out an end-of-year statement on everything… what a time saver!

  22. db0 says:

    Thanks! Good advice.

  23. Elizabeth Rodriguez says:

    I love your tips, I am really bad about having papers everywhere. I am going to try to do some of the tips by adding them into daily life one at a time. Hopefully I will have a clean organized desk very soon! Thanks for sharing!

  24. jules p says:

    thank you for all these ideas to get my clutter gone! I needed this!

  25. Betsy Barnes says:

    One tip that is helping me cut down on the paper clutter, is I go through the mail as soon as I get it 🙂

  26. Minta says:

    Great tips..I need all the help I can get.

  27. Cristina says:

    I have a hard time getting organized, so I appreciate the tips to help me get started!

  28. Sarah Z says:

    This is also a resolution of mine. I have signed up for the e-statements when I can, and I go through mail right away. I even have a to-do bin ready in my office!

  29. Lauren Rochon says:

    Thank you so much for these tips. I do not have kids yet, but whenever I child I babysit draws me a picture, I have a VERY hard time throwing it away. When I have kids, I will be tempted to keep all their artwork, so keeping those organized will be a challenge for me. Thanks again for the article! 🙂

  30. Kathleen says:

    Scan and save…throw away most papers.

  31. Dorothy Boucher says:

    this is something definitely a must do on my list this new year.. getting organized , every time i try something gets in my way.. Thanks for the article 😉

  32. Susan Broughton says:

    I think that papers are the hardest to organize

  33. amy says:

    Great tips!! Thanks 🙂

  34. maureen says:

    As of right now I only get 1 bill in the mail: our annual property tax (the city isn’t yet in the 20th century!). Such a relief!

  35. Alison says:

    Thanks, good ideas, I need these, and will try to use this. I wish I had ideas to share, just need them

  36. Michelle Proper says:

    Great advice! Paper trail gets pretty long here! HAHA

  37. illy junus says:

    great advice, i really need those tips to remind me again about my monster in the house 🙂

  38. Renee says:

    I feel like I am a paper hog my house is so clutter with papers and other stuff.

  39. Jeanine says:

    Lots of great little nuggets in this post- thanks for sharing!

  40. Kami Dumis says:

    Thanks for this topic. I use electronic billing but I still get so much junk! I need a shredder and it’s at the top of my list.

  41. Susan Broughton says:

    Organization is one thing I need to improve on. I always wanted to try electronic billing but I’m of the old school and not up to date on how to do things and normally I would use trial and error but bills are must too important to do that on. So maybe one day I will find someone to help me out!

  42. becky says:

    Great Tips! I needto invest in a paper shredder.

  43. denise smith says:

    love the advice thanks for sharing

  44. LaShelle Lee says:

    Great tips, i so need to get organized

  45. Terri Herman says:

    Thanks for some new ideas and reminders for some I already do. I do well at the beginning of the year, then I lose it!

  46. polly says:

    i have so much paper in different piles on my desk…thanks for the ideas!

  47. ANN*H says:

    LOL this is a subject for all of us I think. My small pile of papers are on the kitchen table – so I remember to pay certain bills etc. Being the older generation I tend to forget things more. I do try to sort that pile out weekly then throw or file some of that pile . My major files I try to go thru once a year. You will be surprised at some of the things we keep.

  48. Nicole Becker says:

    I am so unorganized so thank you so much for the tips to organization!!!

  49. Jo Ann Moffatt says:

    As others, getting organized in 2013 has been one of my New Years Resolutions. Thank you very much for the helpful tips!

Leave a Reply