How to Manage Paper Clutter At Home
Let’s Talk Paper Clutter!
Even if you manage to move most of your bills, statements, etc. online and recycle junk mail as soon as it comes in the door, I’m going to bet that you still have paper piles cluttering up your kitchen counters.
Paperwork is stressful because we overcomplicate it. We think we need lots of different files and complex systems. It also feels like it is going to take a LOT of time.
My method is simple. Two boxes. 15-minutes of focused time per week.
Get Two Magazine File Boxes
Why magazine file boxes?
They are portable.
They keep your paperwork standing up so you can see everything at a glance.
They don’t hold too much or too little.
You can store them in a cabinet or turn them around to reduce visual clutter.
15-minutes a week
Systems don’t work unless you do.
Set aside a regular weekly time you can commit to and Put. It. On. Your. Calendar. Every. Single. Week. You will be using this time to pay bills, add things to your calendar, etc.
Because we have been following this method for a while now, 15-minutes every Tuesday night at 8:30pm after the kids are in bed is all we need on most weeks.
If you are overwhelmed by paper piles around your home, 15-minutes a week is a great place to start. If you do more - great! - if not, progress is progress.
Set Up Your Boxes
Box #1: “The Emergency Room”
This is where all incoming paperwork needing ACTION other than filing goes to be triaged and dealt with.
Unless it’s urgent - like a school permission slip for tomorrow’s field trip - you can let things sit in here until your weekly check-in.
If the idea of waiting a week to deal with things stresses you out - you can deal with it sooner.
Whenever you choose to triage your “Emergency Room” you will save time having everything in ONE designated spot (that isn’t a pile on your kitchen counter.)
Box #2: “The Airport Lounge”
This is where you put anything that is waiting around to get to its final destination: your filing box or kids’ memory boxes.
If it’s in this box, you can trust that you’ve done everything you need to do except filing. In our box this usually looks like paperwork we are saving for taxes or sentimental cards.
If it sits in this box for a week (or two or three), before getting filed it’s OK. The world will keep on spinning.
What I love about this method:
I love the idea of dealing with paperwork as soon as it comes through the door, but honestly? Stopping what I’m doing to pay a bill or fill out a form the moment it appears doesn’t fit our busy life. But I CAN drop something into a box.
Same goes with filing. It’s just not gonna happen.
Instead, I just wait until the “The Airport Lounge” is crowded and then carry it to where we keep our files and put everything where it belongs.
Thanks to this 2-box method and our weekly check-ins, Juan and I are more on top of things than ever.
I also love how it makes dealing with paperwork and our family schedule a shared responsibility.
We both know where to find the paperwork we need and what needs to get done. No nagging, no questions, no frustrations, just teamwork-making-the-dream-work.
Magazine File Round-Up
Ready to give it a try? Here are some pretty magazine file boxes I’ve found. Yours don’t have to be pretty (ours aren’t), but sometimes having something beautiful to look at can make everyday chores feel a bit better: