Sunday, March 11, 2012

Home Organization- Controlling the Paper Clutter

     I must confess that within a closet lies my most uncontrolled mess- the infamous paper clutter pile. The filing box holds needed and unneeded papers from years ago, and meanwhile newer papers were just stacked to the side. I had even carried this stack from residence to residence over the course of our last two moves because I hadn't gotten to the courage or diligence to tackle this mess. While attempting to gather documents for filing taxes this year it quickly became apparent that the time had come to get to business with my clutter pile. 
     I began by pulling everything out of the box and stack. When all in one pile it was completely overwhelming, which is one reason I had yet to complete this task. In situations such as this, I prefer to use a method I used often in college called "divide and conquer." A task is always much easier to accomplished if done in small bits. Plus, there's the satisfaction of seeing progress along the way! So, I divided my pile into five more piles and began working on one pile each day. 
Here it is- my big paper mess now taking over the living room,
but this time with the purpose of getting it under control.
  What else puts more pep in your organization step than cute labels! I love look of matching file tabs and folder labels. I really believe this makes a difference in creating uniformity and fun. Other supplies used were scissors, marker, and glue stick. Because I reused my file folders, I had to back them with another layer of paper to cover the previous writing on the folder. I would also highly recommend having a paper shredder.

Another struggle with the paper pile and filing is that I tend to keep everything. I really wasn't sure what was necessary to keep and what wasn't, so I kept it all.  However, I've now gotten some guidelines for filing. For instance:
  • Tax returns and documentation= keep 7 years in home filing system 
  • Personal health records (physician(s) & contact info., health history, medications/treatments ect)= always keep current in home filing system 
  • Medical records= Keep 5 years from the time treatment for ailment is discontinued in home filing system 
  • Medical insurance (premium statements, doctor bills, copies of prescriptions, hospital bills etc)= keep 5 years from the date of service received in home filing system 
  • Life Insurance= keep for life of policy plus 3 years in home filing system 
  • Home insurance= keep 5-10 years in home filing system 
  • Pay Stubs= keep 12 months in home filing system
  • Bank statements, credit card statements, utility bills ect= Keep 3 months in home filing system
  • Employment records= always keep in home filing system 
  • Vehicle service/repairs= keep in home filing system for duration of ownership 
  • Diplomas, transcripts ect= keep in home filing system or safety deposit box 
  • Inventory of household goods= keep in safety deposit box with a copy in home filing system
  • Citizenship= carry card & keep stub or copy in home filing system 
  • Birth & marriage certificates= always keep in safety deposit box 
  • Vehicle title(s), purchase receipt(s), license(s) etc.= keep for duration of ownership in safety deposit box
  • Jewerly and/or papers and other valuables= keep in safety deposit box for duration of ownership
      And so, after a week of lots of sorting and even more shredding I'm so pleased to have this job done! Having a file and folder for everything will certainly aid in keeping things organized. I also use the file box for papers other than important documents. I have some generalized paper that I like to keep handy such as organization sheets, planners, crafty ideas, menu ideas etc. It's nice to have a place for all paper items in our home to be contained. For shorter term files (like the 3mo time frame for monthly billing statements), I can just place the new in front and take an old from the back. For all other files and folders a yearly clean out and update is now much more doable. Keeping important documents and paper clutter organized is very important because you never want to need something and then have to dig for it or even not find it at all. I believe that good organization within the home is an important homemaking skill in properly managing the home, and I especially believe that after the effort of this project of mine. :)


The file box with all
it's lovely labeled



  1. Ahh, I've been working on clearing out and re-organizing our file cabinet. It's a huge task and one that I had put off for years! But it feels so much better to be getting a handle on things! Thanks for the tips!

  2. Totally agree with the comment above.

    Thanks for the tips.


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