3 Ways to Organize Household Paper Clutter in the New Year
Paper clutter is the worst, right?! Mail, receipts, warranties, invitations, tax forms… we just can’t escape the amount of paper that shuffles through our households on any given day. Thankfully, each of us has established a few systems in our homes to keep this paper clutter organized.
A Fresh Start
The good news is that all of these “solutions” don’t take a ton of time or money to create. And the better news is that it’s still January, which means it’s the perfect time to whip your paper clutter into gear before that pile ‘o paper starts accumulating on the counter. <– isn’t that the worst?!
We hit up Michaels for most of our supplies for today’s projects because they really have so many items to make organizing functional AND stylish!
Tackling 3 Types of Paper Clutter
Today we are each tackling a paper clutter “problem” we experienced in 2017 so that it is solved once and for all in 2018.
Maybe you can relate more to Casey’s systems today, where she is going to show you guys how she refreshed her household filing system or how she keeps her receipts organized and documented.
Or maybe you have a system that already works for you in those categories, but would love to hear how Bridget has addressed the problem of corraling all of the paper clutter that has come with the new purchases since buying her new house. Assembly instructions, warranties, furniture receipts, and even extra parts for these new items, we are sharing a simple way to keep it all organized. So much to organize — let’s dive right in!
1. Create a Filing System
Finn and I try our hardest to avoid bringing paper clutter into our homes. We pay all of our bills online, opt for electronic credit card statements, and digitally save all of our tax forms each year. But there are still plenty of papers that come through our doors, and we’ve always just stuck them in a file cabinet in our guest room.
We have 2 large drawers in our file cabinet…one for Finn’s papers and one for mine. Finn is pretty good about purging his drawer, but mine was getting incredibly full. I think it’s because I had a bunch of random categories that worked 4 years ago, but don’t make sense for me today. So I end up just shoving papers in wherever there was room. Fail. With a fresh year, comes a fresh start and I knew it was time to get this cabinet into shape!
The first thing I did was completely empty the cabinet, and I made 3 piles. KEEP, SHRED, TOSS. Anything with personal or financial information went into the shred pile, random papers went into the recycling, and I was then left with my keep pile.
What to Keep
Here’s a list of some of the documents we keep on file…
- Birth Certificates
- Marriage Certificate
- Social Security Cards
- Mortgage Information
- Tax Forms
- Car Insurance
Once I had my (much slimmer) keep pile, I wrote down a list of all of the categories that were represented and started to divvy up the papers.
I purchased both file cabinet folders (with hooks on the ends) and then normal file folders. That way I could make the cabinet folder the category, and the normal file folder the subcategory. For example, I have a “Playbook” folder and inside I have subcategories of “Taxes”, “Mementos”, “Important Documents”, etc.
Now let’s discuss the gamechanger to our filing system…a label maker! I found this at Michaels and it made organizing a hell of a lot more fun! For a girl who has terrible handwriting (lefty problems), I so appreciate a label maker that makes things look clean and perfect.
With this one you buy the tape separately and then load it into the electronic label maker. You can then type your words directly into the system, changing the font and sizing as you go.
Once you click print, it prints right out at the top automatically!
There is then a button you press to “cut” it off, and you take off the backing and simply place the tape directly onto your folder…Easiest (& cutest) label maker I’ve ever tried.
I actually enjoyed sprucing up my file cabinet, knowing that I could create fun and colorful labels to beautify my little drawer! Now I’m committed to maintaining my system, so everything is easily on-hand and ready when I need it.
2. Track Receipts
Receipts are another sore spot in my daily life. Because I’m self-employed, I have to hold onto a majority of the receipts I get so I have them come tax time.
I save them in my wallet, and then every week I go through and file them away. This used to mean I was just throwing them in a big Ziploc baggie in our file cabinet, only to deal with them months later when I would input them all into a spreadsheet (the worst day ever). But this year, I’m trying my best to stay on top of all of those receipts!
I purchased a small accordion folder and created labels that say “TO FILE” and “FILED”. Now I place new receipts directly into the first compartment, and once I input the receipts into my yearly spreadsheet, I move them to the other category.
This little pouch then lives in the front of our file cabinet, so it’s easily on hand and ready for those receipts. So far I’ve kept up with the 3 weeks of January receipts, and I’m hopeful I can keep the 2018 receipt train moving straight ahead!
3. Corral Household Warranties & New Purchase Parts
Buying a bigger house comes with the need to buy some new stuff. From buying little things like new CO2/Fire detectors, to buying bigger items like a new crib (!!), I have done my fair share of purchasing over the past few months.
I have found that a lot of these purchases come with instructions, warranties, or just general maintenance care. The items we needed to build also come with Allen wrenches and extra parts “just in case”. This is all wonderful, but this paper and these mini parts were quickly becoming a hot mess because I didn’t have a plan to keep it organized. Not good.
This year I vowed to get all of this “new home” paperwork and these parts in order. I bought two containers at Michaels, a few file folders, and used the same label maker to finally get this mess in order.
This solution was SO easy, yet has been extremely effective so far. I labeled my file folders by room and put the paperwork and warranty booklets in the corresponding folder. (i.e. The crib instructions can be found in the nursery folder, while the garage door opener info can be found in the garage folder).
Then I put ALL of the files into the clear box. I love this because warranties can often be thick and bulky. Matt and I use a filing system just like Casey’s, but having these big booklets in there can become a bit of a mess. Plus, having all of the instructions/warranties in one place makes it easier for me to store them and easily get my hands on them when I need to.
Organizing Extra Parts from New Furniture
I bought this next, more segmented storage box in the jewelry section at Michaels and LOVE how effective it has been at keeping all of those “tiny, extra parts” organized. The compartments are all adjustable, and it’s two-tiered so it fits just about anything I have needed to store so far.
I wrapped some washi tape on the extra parts so I know exactly what they are. This was seriously SO easy, but such a game changer so far.
Our crib will eventually need to be lowered as Baby Mac grows, so making sure parts like the crib’s Allen wrench is accounted for will be important in a few months. Having one place to store all of these little gadgets is amazing. Now I store both boxes together in the basement and my paper clutter problems from the new house have been solved.
Get Organized Now to Save Stress Later
We know creating these systems takes a bit of time, often extra time that we just don’t seem to have. BUT, we promise that investing in an organization system that works for you and your family now will save you SO MUCH stress throughout the year.
Hopefully, one (or all) of these systems means no more countertop piles, no more frantically looking for that one mystery receipt, and no more freaking out when you know you have that warranty somewhere but have no clue where it went… FIVE years ago!
We’re all about saving stress around here and these simple solutions do just that.
Anyone else get bit by the organizing bug this month? We’d love to hear what solutions work for you and your family.
I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m married to Finn & mom to Rory and Ellis. Together we’re creating our dream home in Chicago, one DIY project at a time.