Conquer Your Clutter

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Tips & Tricks

Simple Paper Filing Systems

The managing paper struggle is REAL.
Frankly, it’s very easy to underestimate the amount of paper items we collect over time.

Utility bills, medical papers, receipts, tax documents, manuals, warranty . . .
the piles seem to multiply!

What begins as an innocent-looking small stack of mail can quickly become a seemingly endless pile of paper “stuff”. Poof! We end up with paper piles of clutter all over our home.

Then when important papers get mixed in, making it too risky to just toss the whole bunch, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed — where do you even begin?!

We get it. Our homes had these same paper issues!

Why are papers so hard to sort and organize?

Do you know what a banker’s box is?
It’s a cardboard box for holding papers with an either brown or white lid and hand-holding openings at the ends. If that doesn’t help job your memory, they’re about the size of 5 gallon-size milk jugs.

As a child, I remember seeing stacks of banker’s boxes in my parents’ garage.

I remember thinking, “What do they need all those papers for?
As an adult with a busy household, I now get it.

Did you know?
A single banker’s box can fit about 2,500 papers. 

It’s no wonder that sorting a pile of papers can feel exhausting!
If you had a room full of 2,000+ objects — it would be a BIG undertaking.

But we’ve got this.

With a few practical tips and a thoughtful filing system, we can make a paper organization system that works for you and keeps those papers from piling up.

The secret is in the systems! 

Organizing Paper Tip #1:
Start with Decluttering

Figure out which papers you need to keep by asking yourself these questions: 

  • Can I find this a document online?

Bank statements, bills, paystubs, and medical records are often easily available online. If you don’t have an immediate need for a physical copy and can access it digitally, feel free to toss it.

Bonus Tip: Some bank statements only go back 12 months, so set yourself a Google Calendar reminder at the end of the year to download anything you think you’ll need as a backup copy online so you never worry about tossing the paper ones (or better: shredding them!) if they come in the mail.

Once this system is setup, log into your accounts and make sure to set everything to Paperless Billing. Better for your clutter busting and for the planet.

  • Is this older document still relevant?

Papers for items you no longer own or basic tax documents older than 7 years may fall into this category. Search “How long should I keep records?” on to confirm how long you should keep tax-related documents for your specific circumstances. 

Simplifying your papers into these starter categories will make the filing process much more manageable.

The goal: make filing automatic!

Organizing Paper Tip #2:
Choose a Paper Storage System 

Consider the volume of papers you plan to keep and allow some extra space for future additions. This proactive approach prevents you from outgrowing your system too quickly.

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  • File cabinet
    A traditional file cabinet offers a classic and comprehensive storage solution, allowing you to categorize and store documents systematically.

    If you have the space for it, it’s a great option for putting papers away quickly while you’re working.

  • Hanging folder file box
    Using clear or opaque boxes with handles provide a more portable and visually-accessible solution, making it easier to retrieve and replace documents as needed.

    This option is great if you want to store it out of view like your garage or a closet.

  • Magazine file holders
    This method not only adds a touch of simplicity to your organization, but also gives you easy access to your papers. The horizontal arrangement makes it convenient to flip through files, providing a visual overview of your documents.

    This solution tends to work great for home offices that use a closet for storage or you need to be able to see your paper types at a glance.

When you factor in a little extra space, you create a buffer that allows your filing system to adapt over time. We want to streamline, but also have a system that fits you long term.

A few of Our Favorite (Organizing) Things!

  • Hanging file folders
    Standard size. You can pick one color for the whole system or get fancy using different colors for different types of categories (Medical, business, personal, ect.)
  • Label maker
    We like this printer because it auto cuts labels to fit perfectly in file folder tabs with .75 label tape.
  • Paper shredder
    If you have a small amount of shredding to do on a regular basis, an at home paper shredder is very convenient. Otherwise you can check out our 2024 Springs Disposal + Recycle Guide for the cheapest place to take large amounts of shredding.

Organizing Paper Tip #3:
Label, label, label!

Labeling is the secret sauce that can turn an ordinary filing system into a thoughtful space for your documents.

Create clear labels for categories that make sense to you.
Some of our clients tried using systems that had pre-made labels that just didn’t work for their own workflow or life, so it simply didn’t stick. Use words and categories that fit what you’re already doing or that make the most logical sense to you.

Whether you lean towards specific categories or opt for broader, more generic ones — the goal is to make it easy for you to locate and file documents without thinking about it. It also helps everyone else in your household to automatically file with you.

Sponsor A Space Storytime!

Sponsor A Space is our community-sponsored non-profit that supports Colorado Springs neighbors in need with professional organizing support that helps move their lives forward.

Earlier this year, we were paired through our social services partner with an elderly client.

Unfortunately, she struggles a brain injury, physical limitations, and memory issues, making it incredibly hard for her to keep track of papers. 

She was desperate to maintain her independence (understandably!), which hinged on her ability to stay on top of bills and paperwork for housing and supportive services.

We worked with her to sort through papers and organize everything into clear categories. 

She texted us this a few weeks later after filing taxes: 

“THIS FILE SYSTEM IS PERFECT. So easy to use that it makes me FEEL organized.

No more panic and embarrassment!

Thank you!”

– Sponsor A Space Client

This testimonial highlights the transformative power of a thoughtful filing system.

This practical transformation helps her stay independent AND it gives her a tremendous amount of emotional relief! Thank you to all who made this opportunity possible.

From Paper Pile to Peace of Mind

Wrangling papers can often start as a daunting task, but with these tips, you can turn chaos into order.

  • Declutter
  • Choose a suitable storage system
  • Label-label-label!

When tax season rolls around or you need to reference that refrigerator warranty, you can effortlessly locate all the necessary documents. Your future self will thank you!

Which paper pile will you tackle first?

Statistic source:

At Joyful Spaces, we provide low-stress organizing sessions in Colorado Springs to help you conquer your clutter, and transform your space to make it creatively efficient, so you can get back to what you actually love!

We know that you want to be an organized person who has it all together.
In order to do that, you need less stress from mess.

The problem is — you're surrounded by clutter, which makes you feel overwhelmed. We believe that getting your space organized shouldn't be so hard.

You shouldn't have to do it alone either!

February 21, 2024

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