How to Organize Paperwork [in 30 Minutes or Less] – The KonMari Method

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Are you looking for ways to organize the paperwork in your home or office? If so, you’re in the right place.

This article is written so you can follow along– step-by-step–to eliminate the paper clutter you might be experiencing, so you may want to save this to Pinterest or somewhere so you can follow along and tackle your paper clutter.

If you’re here, it’s likely, you’ve had the experience of drowining in mountains of paperwork. Maybe, I exaggerated a bit about “mountains”, but you probably know what I mean.

If you’re like me and many others, you’ve went thru seasons where weird places in your house (or office) stack up with paperwork, and over time, it can get overwhelming. As an entrepreneur, you may have lots of paperwork, and if you work from home, it can pile up in all kinds of places! For me, I might have a pile on my dining room table or a stack on the kitchen counter, and I won’t even talk about the home office….

Hahahaha.

The paperwork can pile because:

  • You haven’t made a plan for how to deal with the situations it talks about
  • You’ve run out of organization ideas for the paperwork
  • You don’t prioritize organizing paperwork as a routine habit
  • Or, because you’ve overbooked your schedule and you’re overwhelmed in multiple areas

Over time, if you let it stay the way it is, you start to feel more and more defeated, you build up with limiting beliefs, and it damages your productivity and “mojo”, which is why in this post, we’ll be discussing how to organize paperwork. I’m hoping the tips I include in this post will help to improve your productivity and mood because it’ll clear your living space and show you that you can accomplish this and much more.

My Story

This year, I got overwhelmed AGAIN with the paper clutter in my house. I seem to have seasons where I’m very organized with it, and others, where it all “falls to shambles”.

When I got fed up, I decided to scroll Pinterest for paper organization ideas, and I came across the Konmari Method from Marie Kondo’s book “Tidying Up”.

I have to admit, I’m no Marie Kondo. Hahaha.

I still have alot of work to do on my organization habits, but it’s something I’ve been setting goals about and replacing my bad organization habits with better ones: little by little.

As it is, I don’t consider myself a very organized person (outside of my business processes), but I get anxious and uncomfortable once paperwork gets way out of hand. I think I can tolerate clutter more than most when I have goals in my business or personal life that dominate my attention, but when the paper clutter is out of control, it leaves an underlying discomfort, and I have thoughts like:

  • “Why can’t I keep this under control?”
  • “Why does this keep getting out of hand?”
  • and, the list goes on

It feels defeating.

Sometimes, I need to be more understanding of myself (and you may be able to relate) because even in my busiest times in life, I’ll still be hard on myself internally about the paper clutter, but overall, I like to stick to a consistent process of organizing paperwork.

I’ve had paper clutter processes, but over time, they get weaker and weaker, and I have to revisit the process, identify where its no longer serving me well, and create a new one. When I found the Konmari method, it wasn’t new to me, but it was motivating because it reminded me of a process I need to revisit, and a new way to approach it.

How the KonMari Method Works for Dealing with Paper Clutter

According to Marie Kondo’s rule #1, you discard everything.

I know this sounds extreme and it is. There are only 4 exemptions for the “discard everything” rule. The paperwork that you keep are:

  1. Memorabilia (birthday cards, pictures, love letters, etc.)
  2. Currently in use (bills, permission slips, school notices, reminders, etc.)
  3. Paperwork needed for a limited time (tax forms, warranties, etc.)
  4. Paperwork Kept indefinitely (passports, birth certificates, social security cards, court orders, etc.)

Aside from these 4 categories of paperwork, she says to discard everything, but make sure to shred anything with personal information on it!

What to do with Important Papers Laying Around the House?

After you’ve discards all of the things that aren’t considered memorabilia, currently in use, that you need for a limited time, or that needs to be kept indefinitely, then you can organize the other things by going digital, creating organization binders, creating a filing system, and by getting a safe.

1. Eliminate Paper Clutter by Going Digital

You’d be surprised how many things you think you need in paper form, but can easily be searched online. For example, many appliance instruction manuals or even warranties can be found online nowadays. Previously, this would take up full filing cabinets!

You can also:

  • Switch your bills to electronic reminders
  • Upload paperwork (that doesn’t require an original copy) into G Suite or cloud drive
  • Download an App to make it easier to upload documents into a Cloud Drive
  • Set a recurring reminder in your phone or on an app (like Trello or Google calendar) so you don’t forget to eliminate unnecessary paperwork routinely (weekly is recommended)

2. Create Organization Binders

Sometimes, it’s notes and paperwork that helps us to stay on track. For example, maybe you like to track your calories, write down important contacts, inventory your families’ clothes, or write a grocery list. Over time, even well-serving paperwork can turn into piles of clutter, which is why it’s good to have systems like organization binders.

Home Organization Binder

A home organization binder can have things like:

  • Important contacts
  • Meal plans
  • Grocery lists
  • To do lists or reminders
  • An inventory of your families clothes – This comes in handy if you find yourself buying or re-buying articles of clothing, or if you find that you’re caught off guard with when you should be replacing clothes. An inventory can help you to stay on top of what you have, when you may need replacements, and it can help you to identify spending patterns and plan better.
  • Weekly, Quarterly, Monthly, and Annual responsibilities
  • And more…

Small Business Binder

As a business owner, you also have business-related things to track. You have potential customers, days you should follow-up, office supply inventory, vendors lists, an editorial calendar, and other things.

If you like to keep hard copies of these items, it can turn into clutter, but maintaining a binder could help to make things look more neat and tidy.

You can grab a pack of binders (similar to those you see above) by visiting Amazon and begin on your way to taking control of the paper clutter. The ones in the image above can be found by clicking here:

1 Inch 3 Ring Binders,SEEKIND View Binders,Holds Up to 8.5″11″ Paper,Customizable Clear Cover,for Home,Office, and School Supply,6 Pack

3. Create a Filing System: Physical and Digital

Once you have your binders helping you to track things ongoing and your waste discarded, then you might realize you still don’t have anywhere to put:

  • New mail you’ve just picked up from your mailbox
  • Bills that you haven’t paid yet
  • Permission slips from the kids’ schools
  • Business paperwork that you need to fax and sign off, or other things like that

You can sort the paperwork and file it into a filing system like this one…

A filing system can sit on a table-top, hang on the wall, or fit discreetly (even in small spaces). If you like the one you see above, you can grab it on Amazon by clicking here:

Samstar Hanging File Folder Box, Mesh Metal File Organizer Box Hanging File Crate Folder Holder Storage Box, Letter Size, Black.

What to do with new mail before you have time to go thru it?

For many people, the new mail piles up all over the place because they don’t have the time to take care of all of the mail: call the sender, pay the bill, sign the form, etc. Can you relate?

A filing system will help you to organize paperwork that doesn’t go into the binders. When you pick up new mail, you may not have time to act on it right away, so it’s important to have a temporary holding bin that you routinely go thru.

You can hang a wall filer or something that’s easy for you to access, put the paperwork in there, and when you’re ready to sort thru it, you can grab the paperwork out of there. With this method, you won’t have paperwork stacked on top of the microwave or somewhere else they shouldn’t be. You could even avoid fire hazards with good paper organization systems.

The wall filing system you see above (and other models like it) can be found on Amazon here:

Smead Cascading Wall Organizer, 6 Pockets, Letter Size, Gray/Bright Pockets (92060)

What to do with paperwork that you need to hold onto longer as a reminder or something?

Let’s say you have something like a home warranty packet that expires one year from now, and you want to hold onto it–this is very common and likely. Some people are okay with going 100% digital for things like that, and others aren’t.

You can either scan it and upload it to your cloud drive, or you can make sure to have an area in your filing system for paperwork that needs to be held for a longer term. Just make sure to set reminders in your Google calendar or somewhere, so you remember to come back and discard of the paperwork you don’t need after the time period has lapsed.

If you’re looking for a more discreet filing system that makes it nice to file paperwork, but that also can be considered a decor item, then you can buy something similar to what you see above. It’s a filing system, but depending on the style of your room, it could also mix in well with other decor you have. Amazon has other options that may go better with your room. You can check out some of the options by going here:

BIRDROCK HOME Seagrass Rolling File Cabinet – Storage Organizer Box with Lid – Home Office Decor – Decorative Organize – Letter Legal Hanging Filing Container – Strong Durable Toy Pillow – Espresso

What to do with Paperwork that you need to act on fast?

You can have a filing system in your car and in your home where you keep paperwork that needs to be acted on fast. Things like field trip permission slips, invoices, or other things can be places in an organized location (not on top of a flat surface somewhere), and you can get to it at your earliest convenience.

You can organize paperwork even if you don’t want to use a bulky file cabinet. Take a look at this wall organizer! There’s many more like this on Amazon. Check it out.

MyGift Wall-Mounted Black Metal 6-Slot Magazine Rack/Document Organizer

How to organize receipts?

As entrepreneurs, it’s important that we have documentation of our purchases, so in case we’re audited by tax officials, we have a record of our purchases. As a result, receipts can be a source of a messy pile up. I’ve seen entrepreneurs who keep receipts in trash bags, folded and crinkled up in their purses (like me sometimes), or they can simply become a piling nuissance without a good plan.

Some interesting ideas I’ve found for dealing with receipts are drop boxes like this one:

Keep a mobile scanner or take a picture with your phone to immediately upload receipts into your accounting software (Quickbooks, or in Freshbooks), or onto a cloud drive.

4. Keep a Safe

Now, you should have your home management and business tracking taken care of, you have your mail and paperwork you need to hold onto taken care of, but you don’t have a place for your memorabilia and your important documents–this is where a safe comes in.

Paperwork like:

  • Social security cards
  • Birth certificates
  • marriage certificates
  • divorce certificates
  • court orders
  • power of attorneys
  • and other things need to be kept safe

You may want to use a scrapbook, trinkets, or photo albums for memorabilia, or you can keep them in your safe as well. It’s important to find a safe that’s fireproof and waterproof like this one here.

Conclusion

If you followed along and dealt with your paper clutter as we were going thru the steps for how to organize paperwork, kudos to you! I bet you feel much better with all of that out of the way.

If you were just reading and starting to visualize this in your mind, that’s great too. I hope this article empowers you to tackle your paperwork.

Overall, managing paper clutter is a series of habits. You may want to set reminders in your calendar, so you remember to go back and make sure your paper filing systems are working appropriately, and that you haven’t went back to old habits of “piling” or misplacing things. It’s easy to start something and not as easy to be consistent and maintain it.

If you have any questions about this or other suggestions for how you deal with paper clutter, let me know! Like I said, I’m not “Marie Kondo”. I feel like I still have a lot to learn about organization, so I’d love to hear your tips in the comments section below.

If you have any questions about this or other suggestions for how you deal with paper clutter, let me know! Like I said, I’m not “Marie Kondo”. I feel like I still have a lot to learn about organization, so I’d love to hear your tips in the comments section below.

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