I don’t know about you, but I’ve found that one of the greatest obstacles to getting organized is staying on top of the paper clutter. Don’t you think it’s ironic that while we live in such a digital society, our homes continue to be flooded with paper?
Junk mail, bills, legal documents, tax records, school records, medical records, car records, receipts, warranties, owner’s manuals, and an insane amount of other documents that are just “too important” to throw away, or we have to keep because we “might” need it again some day.
Psst… Don’t forget to pin this for later so you can easily refer back to it!
And where do you keep all those documents while you’re waiting for that “someday” to appear? Well, to be honest, the options aren’t exactly pretty–a massive metal filing cabinet, stacks of cardboard boxes, a messy pile stacked sky-high, etc.
Personally, it drives me crazy to waste space on something as useless as a bunch of papers we never look at! We used to have a large metal filing cabinet that held all of our paper documents. What a pain (and an eyesore)!
After decluttering my entire home, I was determined to get on top of this mess. Though it took some time, I was able to purge and declutter all our paperwork. We went from a large metal filing cabinet to one small drawer in a desk. It’s so discreet, you can’t even tell it’s being used to hold files! Don’t despair, because I’m going to share with you exactly how to get rid of the paper clutter in your home, too!
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Essential Supplies for Organizing Your Paper Clutter
There are two things I highly recommend when organizing and decluttering your paperwork: a good quality scanner and shredder. (My recommendations are below.) Trust me, these two things will make getting rid of the paper clutter SO MUCH easier!
A good scanner and shredder will save you so much time and frustration, not to mention they will pay for themselves in the long run. So go ahead and get them NOW so you can begin tackling that paper clutter ASAP!
We have an all-in-one printer/scanner that works well for us. It makes scanning important documents super easy. Just put it in the scanner, press the button, and you have your scan. Plus, since it’s also a printer, we get a lot of use out of it! These types of scanners are very budget-friendly and easy to find.
We also have a magic wand portable scanner for those random times when we want to scan something really quickly and can’t get to the printer/scanner. (This came in handy during our last move when we needed to scan important documents and our printer/scanner was packed away.) The scanning wand is so small you can easily fit it in a purse or bag!
If you have a large amount of documents you’ll need to scan, you might want to consider a dedicated scanner with an auto feed feature. These are a little pricer, but they’ll save you a ton of time (and possibly your sanity) if you have a lot of documents that you want to keep!
If you don’t have a lot of space and don’t want to spend too much money on a shredder, you can get a shredder that sits on top of an existing trash can and just shreds right into it. We used to have one of these, but we eventually upgraded to a shredder with a trash can attached. Why? Because these shredders can’t do crosscuts; they just shred everything into long strips.
If you want a shredder that can do crosscuts, you’ll need to get a shredder with the trash can attached. If you have a lot of stuff with personal information that you’ll be getting rid of (think social security numbers, account numbers, credit card numbers, personal records, etc.), you’ll definitely want one that can do crosscuts!
For a little more money and even greater peace of mind, you can get a microcut shredder. These shredders make cuts that are even smaller than a regular crosscut shredder. This is one of the most secure shredders you can buy, as it basically turns paper into confetti!
How to Get Rid of the Paper Clutter
Now that you have the equipment you’ll need, let’s start getting rid of that paper clutter! Depending on how much paper clutter you have, sorting through it all might be a long process. If your paper storage area has turned into a clutter-tossing zone, don’t get discouraged! Set a little time aside each day to chip away at the pile, and you’ll find you’ve taken control of the paper clutter before you know it!
Step 1: Gather your papers. Gather all of your paperwork into one spot so you can easily see it all. Get it out from filing cabinets, boxes in closets, bins under the bed, stacks of paper in the office, drawers in the kitchen, etc. Hunt it down, and let no paper go free!
It can feel overwhelming once you see how much paper clutter you really have stored around your home. But instead of focusing on the mountain of paperwork you need to tackle, think about how much less clutter will be in your home… and what you’re going to do with that extra space once you’re finished!
Step 2: Sort through the paperwork. This step may take awhile, and that’s totally fine! Chip away at it a little each day, and that mountain of paperwork will disappear before you know it. You’re going to want to sort all of your paperwork into three piles:
- Keep: these are the papers you want to keep original copies of. Here’s a helpful list of papers you should keep and how long to keep them for. Other than the papers on this list, the majority of your paperwork should fall into the next two categories.
- Scan (then shred): these are the papers you want to keep, but you don’t need the actual paperwork. All those files sitting around in your filing cabinet that are “super important” but you’ve never even referred to? This is what you want to do with them! You can keep the information without storing boxes of files in your home.
- Shred/Toss: these papers you don’t need to keep at all and are ready to be tossed or destroyed. Anything with any sort of personal information on it should be shredded. Identity theft is AWFUL and a very real threat, so don’t make it easier for people to get their hands on your information!
Step 3: Organize the paperwork you’re keeping. You should have very little paperwork that you actually need to keep at home, so it should be pretty easy to find a place to store it all, especially considering you should have extra space from all the papers you’re getting rid of.
A small filing cabinet, a drawer in a desk, or something more secure like a lock box or safe are perfect for storing the important paperwork you’ll need to keep. Some file folders are also helpful for keeping things sorted and in order. The most important thing is that the storage solution works for you and your home. It should be easy to use and access and help you keep your paperwork organized.
Step 4: Scan the paperwork in your scan pile. If you have a lot of papers to scan, this can get tedious and might take awhile. This is why a good scanner is crucial! I recommend putting on a favorite music station or working on this while binge watching your favorite TV show. It will make the process much faster, and you’ll make progress without even realizing it! Once you’ve scanned your paperwork, make sure to put it in your shred pile.
Choose a good, secure place to store the digital files you just scanned. If you want to be able to access your files from any device, you might want to check out a cloud storage service such as Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, or Dropbox. You can always also store your files locally on your computer hard drive. If you do this, though, I highly recommend using some sort of file backup system (like an external hard drive) in case anything should happen to your computer.
Step 5: Shred the paperwork in your shred pile. It’s time to start chipping away at your shred pile. If you have a truly massive amount of documents to shred, it will definitely take some time to get through it all with a home shredder.
If you don’t have time to do this yourself, you can bring your documents to a facility and have them shredded for a fee. Or check to see if your town has a “shred day,” where you can bring documents and they’ll shred them there for you for free. (Even if you decide to dispose of your documents in this way, I still highly recommend having a home shredder on hand to deal with documents as they come in so they don’t pile up out of control again.)
Step 6: Come up with a system to deal with paper as it comes into the home. Now that you’ve gotten the paper under control, the most important thing you can do is keep it that way! Some ways to cut down on paper from coming into the home include:
- Sign up for paperless statements from your bank, utility companies, etc.
- Cut down on junk mail. Opt-out of credit card offers and remove yourself from direct mailing lists.
- Create a family inbox where you and your family can put all the papers that come into the home. Then once a week, sort through the inbox and empty it out. Either keep and file, scan and shred, or throw it away/recycle it.
The bottom line is… create a place for it and deal with paper as soon as it enters the house so it won’t pile up out of control! This is one of the most important things you can do to have a clutter free home!
Dealing with Owners’ Manuals
You know where I don’t look when I need to look up something about an appliance or product we own? In our massive box of owner’s manuals! Typically, by the time I really need one of those manuals, I just don’t have the time or patience to dig through a bunch of manuals to find the right one. I’ll search for it online before even trying to find it in our home. So what’s the point in keeping a big box of owners’ manuals?!
I started a folder on Google drive for my owner’s manuals. Whenever we buy something that comes with a manual we might actually need to refer to, I search for it online. (Most companies keep copies of all their manuals online!)
I download a PDF copy of the manual and store it in a folder on Google drive. That way if I ever need to refer to a manual, I can pull it up on my phone with the press of a button. That means no useless manuals laying around, and I don’t have to tear my hair out trying to find the right manual during a stressful situation, such as the washer overflowing!
I hope this helps you get the paper clutter in your home organized and under control. With as much technology as we have today, there’s no need to have all that paper cluttering up your home! It can be a long process, but if you do a little each day, eventually you’ll see all those stacks of paper slowly disappear, leaving you with a paper free home!
If you enjoyed this post, you can pin it for later to save it for future reference. If you’re ready to tackle the rest of your home, it’s actually pretty easy to declutter your entire house in one weekend! Happy decluttering and paper shredding, friend!