Organizing paper clutter can seem daunting but I’ll show you how to get organized, and stay organized with these few easy tricks.
Paper clutter is a hot topic this time of year because everyone is thinking about getting organized and tax season is right around the corner! Although I’ve written about how to organize paper clutter a few times, I still have friends asking me tips for how to manage their bills, taxes, important documents, etc. so I thought I’d revisit the topic again, this year.
I know the task to organize paper clutter seems like a daunting task, but I promise you, it’s not. Paper organization also doesn’t have to take you a long time, in fact, I’ve helped a few friends organize their paper piles, using the same organization system I use, and it hasn’t taken us long at all! So gather those stacks of papers on the kitchen counter, and lets get to work!
How to Organize Paper Clutter
- Colorful hanging file folders
- Label maker (this is the one I use)
- NeatDesk Scanner
Rules for how to organize, and maintain paper clutter:
- Never keep more paperwork than you need to! You have to hold onto your tax information for 7 years but that isn’t the same for your bills. Never keep more than a years worth of your bills because you don’t need them (if you ever need to go back and look at an old bill you can probably find it online) and they will lead to more paper clutter than you need. Toss what you don’t need!
- Organize bills by months, not by company. This will reduce the amount of folders you have and make it easy to go back and look things up, by date, if you ever need to.
- Use colorful file folders to differentiate between bills, tax documents, insurance info, personal files for individual family members, etc.
- I have an individual file for each member of our family. Each one contains their passports, birth certificate, social security cards, old papers that might have sentimental value, like schoolwork (for example I have some of my college papers and report cards, since things weren’t so digital back then), etc.
- Use a label maker to label the folders so everything is clearly marked and easy to find.
- Shredjunk mail that has any sort of account numbers on it. Don’t throw these away but don’t keep them, they are trash, a.k.a. clutter.
- Shred old bills, or recycle them if they don’t have account numbers on them.
- Opt out of junk mail all together. Visit optoutprescreen.com, “by opting out through the website or calling the number (1-888-5-OPTOUT) you will be removed from their pre-screening list at the main credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, Innovis, TransUnion). You will need to provide your Social Security Number and other personal information, but don’t worry, this site is legitimate. OptOutPrescreen.com is endorsed by the Federal Trade Commission. (source)
- Scan receipts to store them digitally so you don’t have piles of them in your office home. Purchasing something like a NeatReceipts mobile scanner can be priceless for reducing clutter. I have a NeatDesk scanner and I use it to scan and organize my receipts, which makes tax season way less stressful.
- Go through your file cabinet once every couple years and shred anything that’s no longer relevant. Put a reminder in your calendar so you don’t forget to do it! We accumulate more piles of paper than we could ever possibly need, and we hold onto things that we’ll never need again, so get out the shredder, turn on the Frozen soundtrack and “Let it go!”. If you don’t like shredding, or it’s too painful for you to “Let it go!” then hire your kids to do it. I keep a bag next to our shredder and when it gets full I pay my kids $5 to shred everything for me.
I have been using this filing system for years and it’s still working great!
For even more inspiration on organizing paper clutter, visit these posts:
- How to organize taxes and keep them organized for 7 years
- How to organize bills
- How to organize papers and reduce paper clutter
- How to prepare for next years taxes, this year
For your convenience this post contains some affiliate links. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.
Great post! I am inspired! I tackled my upstairs mail blow up area this weekend (which you’ve posted tips on before) and found that the two problem things were kids art & incoming mail, so now they both have a tray and the desk has been clean for going on two days! ( amazing! )
Jennifer Bell says
Your section on stopping junk mail is incomplete. Opt-out Prescreen only stops junk mail from credit card companies. For all other junk mail DMA Choice is the place to go. You can also use catalogchoice (dot) org to opt-out of junk mail. Paperkarma is an app that stops junk mail as well. Just take a photo and they try to stop the junk mail for you.
I love all of your organizational skills and the great way you add color to them.
Pnina Hornung says
I’m interesting on file organization. I would like to know how can i buy it?
Here are the hanging file folders I use – http://amzn.to/1THjkNN (affiliate link) I love them and they make it so easy to organize everything!
Victor M. Reyes says
Thank you so much! I am in the process of decluttering the papers in my office and in my home. I will take a before and after picture and post it on Instagram.
Bethany Davis says
We can’t wait to see! 🙂
-Bethany (Anna’s assistant)
Hello Anna & Thank you so much for writing such a motivating post!
Omg, you have NO IDEA how much i not only needed to read this & come across your website but also how much I needed someone/something to encourage me to organize my surroundings.
Long story short I am a newly wed to a marine who’s recently deployed for a 4th time in his career, and 1st time since being with me. He’s been gone since the 18th of Dec, so let me start off by saying it’s been “interestingly tough”..to say the least. Right after getting married (not even 2 weeks) we got our first house together here on camp Pendleton (marine base) & We both only have eachother for family and since were not from here we have no friends (we I dont). Trying to make friends here is next to impossible to say the least. Basically what I’m trying to get at is even though I have “all this extra time” because my husband’s deployed and we have no kids, I am starting to feel like I have no time to organize my home, which is now my work space as of recently. About 2 weeks ago I decided to jump back on the internet “retail resales” wagon- again, after a year break & having 4 years of SERIOUS, dedicated experience before my break. I’ve started up again on EBay & will be reopening up my website, im looking into different affiliate programs, mainly Amazon, and maybe a couple other sales ventures with Amazon. But just after 2 weeks i literally can’t bring myself to ORGANIZE AND STAY ORGANIZED, and not just with papers but with my sale items & personal belongings too…. Any advice for someone who’s having this issue? How do I get organized, especially since I mainly work in my own bedroom (I live in a 2 story 2 bedroom home) & everything’s kind of “mixed” together, it’s not hoarders level but I know if i don’t get a hold on it, it will get there.
Thanks so much again, I’m gonna start with shredding my old bills! And Ill keep an eye out For your reply
My best regards & God bless – Brittany (age:26)
Hi Brittany! Honestly to help with the clutter, I would start by looking through all the organizing posts available on my site, then pick a room and do one room at a time until you’ve worked your way through the house. I know it sounds like a lot but if you do one room at a time, it won’t feel so bad. 🙂 Good luck!
Hi Anna – I absolutely love all your organizational ideas. I’ve started the file process using one color for the monthly bills, another for the seven years worth of taxes and already what a difference. My question for you is what did you use the other colors for as I can’t find a post on them?
Hi Lindy! Here’s a post that explains what I do with the rest of them. 🙂 https://askannamoseley.com/2013/01/how-to-organize-papers/
I was trying to open some of the links that you provided of your past articles but it keeps taking to where is I have to sign in and use a password. How do I register?
Ela Johnson says
One way I keep paper clutter down is I subscribe to online bills and statements. I then save them to folders I have set up for those accounts in my email server. If I want a tax document or statement, I just check those folders.
I keep a paper box and a paper bag close to where I sort my mail. I cut off the name, address, and any account or customer numbers and place them in the bag. I put all the rest of the paper in the paper box. When the paper bag is full, I shred everything and put in my compost bin; or take the bag out to my burn cage for a controlled burn. As for the paper box, I put the top on them put in the garage until I have enough boxes for a run to the recycling dumpsters. Then all I have to do is toss the whole box in instead of having to sort.
Any magazines I recieve I recycle by taking them to churches, schools, nursing homes, etc to be reread by others or used for craft projects. After that, I put into recycle boxes.
For tax info that comes in, I only keep what I have to. Everything else goes in recycle box or shred bag. The keep stuff I put in a file binder after I’ve scanned it. Once I have all items scanned anf filed, I put the e-file on a thumb drive. I then send the file folder and thumb drive to the accountant to do taxes. The thumb drive can be used for several years worth of tax info and the accountant can put the completed taxes on the drive. It takes up less space than paper.
Those are some great ideas – thank you for sharing!
Good article–thanks! (I’m not sure whether anyone else has mentioned this already–r even if it’s an issue for other people–but your links are difficult to read in the light blue/turquoise/grey colour you chose. Just thought you might like to know…)
Karen Bacus says
Just FYI … I had all of my files in various colors, made organizing easy. It was nice until my house burned and all of the colored files became soaking wet. The colors bled through onto everything that was filed in them. Ruined all of the papers that had been filed. I have not used a colored folder since.