Tag Archives: paper

Dedicating Space for Household Management


Do you find your household paperwork doesn’t have a home? Is your bedroom getting used for stashing unmanaged mail? Do you have papers and mail all over the house? Are you frustrated that your home never looks tidy? Many people use a large portion of their kitchen counter to manage notes and mail…and it spills over from there. But the kitchen counter space often doesn’t provide enough room for a tidy work space.

All these scenarios point to the importance of dedicating a space for a household management center.


The ideal location for a household management center is close to where this work usually gets done. Kitchen, dining room, living room are very common areas. Look where your paper is accumulating and see if you can dedicate a bit of space to make it an “official” work area. Active projects need to be out and accessible where you will really work on them. Where does the work actually get done?

If you have a more remote home office but don’t find yourself staging the mail and active projects there, you might find paper clutter creeping into the living space. It would be appropriate to create an active work station more centrally and store overflow and permanent files in the office. For example, if you find yourself most often sitting on your couch paying bills online, can you create a space there to catch incoming bills?

The Critical Bits:

  • Active projects: to-do’s and bills to pay
  • Active reference: family schedules and phone lists
  • Basic office supplies (stamps, envelopes, paperclips, post its)
  • Dedicated containers to get the recycling and shredding out of the way and off the countertop

Nice to Have Nearby:

  • Printer – can be hidden or made wireless so it can be stored in a back room or closet
  • Main household filing system – including past years taxes and permanent records
  • Overstock office supplies
  • Kids’ art portfolios

Instead of berating yourself for being messy, embrace the idea that household management needs dedicated space. And give yourself the gift of organization.


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Filed under Decluttering, home organizing, homework, Kitchen, Living Room, Office, organizing, Paper, paper organizing, Perspective, Storage, Work

The A.R.T. of Clearing Paper Piles


Does this dining room table look inviting?

Have you ever your faced dining room table or kitchen counter covered in paper, taken one look and turned around to find something else to do? Planning to host Thanksgiving dinner by shoving the piles into bags and sticking it in the closet to deal with “later?”

Despite the appearance of being hundreds of items, all paper piles boil down to only 3 types of items: action, reference, or trash.


These are items that need actual action – the “To-Dos.” Bills to pay, calls to make, items to research, forms to return. There are many ways to store this kind of paper but generally they need to be very accessible and fairly visible. For many folks storing them in a filing cabinet is too “out of sight, out of mind.”


These are items that are purely informational that you want to keep for reference either short or long term:

  • Insurance policies, medical records, financial, tax related, legal, etc.
  • Travel, art, leisure, self growth, parenting, job ideas, etc.

These can take the form of clippings, articles, printouts, and statements, mailed documents, books or magazines. Books and magazines are best stored on a bookshelf, loose papers are best stored in a filing cabinet. Freedom Filer created this concept of “Simplify With The Art Of Filing™” which is a great option for handling all of your reference files.


Self-explanatory! Shredding, recycling, garbage. It can be helpful to sort your incoming mail while standing over recycling & shredding bags. The quicker it goes out, the less pile-up of true junk happens.

Not being sure if you need to keep something often creates stress, anxiety, and confusion. Check out our prior post: Paper: to Keep or Toss? Problem Solved.

Try This!

Set the timer for 15 minutes and see how far you get with this method.  Enjoy the leftovers from your family meal rather than the aftermath from a hasty clean-up.




Filed under Decluttering, home organizing, homework, Office, organizing, Paper, paper organizing, Products, Strategies

The Best Wedding Gift Ever

Your child is getting married or graduating or having a baby…what is the most thoughtful gift you could give them that would last a lifetime? A filing system!

Now, a filing system may sound like the most boring, uninspired gift you could possibly give someone but bear with us while we explain…

A good basic filing system is an essential part of an organized life. Despite the promises of a paperless world, we constantly see people overwhelmed and confused by piles of paper in their homes. Often the problem starts at one of these of these major life events where suddenly the amount and types of paper coming in multiplies exponentially.

For a new graduate, having a central place to manage personal records, job history, and tax documents starts to teach them about leading an adult life.

For couples getting married, having a central place where all important insurance, ownership, certificates, account & tax documents are kept minimizes stress and will help them manage a life that will become increasingly more complicated.

For new parents, having a central place to keep health records, school paperwork, parenting resources, and sports/camp info prevents the stress and inefficiency of searching the house for needed documents. Providing a dedicated box for memorabilia/artwork is a great addition to a filing system.

You can easily set up a basic system in a portable file box, small or large, using categories you create or a kit such as Freedom Filer. The box doesn’t have to be their permanent container; they may already have a filing cabinet or one may be needed once all their papers are gathered.

Basic categories include:

  • Career
  • Health
  • Insurance
  • Finances
  • Personal
  • Resources
  • Vital Documents (passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate, etc.)
  • Taxes

Give your loved ones a head start on the challenges of paper management. A gift certificate to a professional organizer to help them integrate their papers into the system and further customize would be icing on the cake!

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Filed under Decluttering, Empty Nest, Paper, paper organizing, Products, professional organizer, School, Storage, Strategies, Wedding

Best Organizing Gift for the College Grad

Graduation JoyEven millennials need a paper system.

New grads today are totally hooked in to the digital world but there are still pieces of paper and information that need to be stored or managed. And they can’t always keep their birth certificate in your family file system.

In our experience, we find these documents unsorted, piled in a heap of the young professionals we have worked with.

Until digital pink slips and birth certificates are made legal, there has to be a place to store some of these things.

The categories we see most useful are:

Automobile Records

– Are pink slips electronic yet? And I don’t know about you, but my mechanic still gives me reports, warranties and receipts in paper format

Career and School Documents

-Things like diplomas (if they aren’t framed and displayed) transcripts, letters of reference are easy to find if there is a specific place for them


– Insurance card copies, benefits package information can get lost without a home


– Lease/Rental contracts and Renters Insurance docs would live in this category


– Bank statements, investment records, Tax receipts

Project/Action Files

– These are the most valuable for gathering research, pictures and other information in discreet categories. Though this category can be made completely digital by scanning and using online apps like Dropbox, Evernote, Asana, etc. … likely there will be some physical vestiges of a project that need a place to land

Vital Documents

– This file could house things like a passport, a birth certificate, a baptism or marriage certificate


Vital Records  - 1

For a gift, procure a desktop file or file tote…The Container Store has trendy looking file systems. Paper files work best in a hanging file system with plastic tabs to delineate categories, but file folders arranged alphabetically can work just as well…and are easy to maintain. Also, we’ve mentioned Freedom Filer® in past posts, but a few choice categories from that system would set them up for life.

Desktop File

This is one among many choices of desktop files available from the Container Store®



Even if your kid’s paper life is light now, you’re giving them a structure that will help them manage their establish skills they’ll need for a lifetime. Eventually, all documents will be electronically submitted and legally binding, but during this time, we are straddling the two worlds. A simple system for storing important information is helpful.

Oh, and, by the way, it will make the gift more exciting if you put a $100 bill in their “Financial” section or seed their “Vital Documents” file with the title to the new car you are giving them for graduation.





Filed under children, Decluttering, Empty Nest, Office, School

Organize Your Home Office with One Hand


Is your home office a room you conveniently close the door on and avoid at all costs? Do you survey the mess and feel your blood pressure rise? Have you taken over the dining table or part of the kitchen because you don’t have a dedicated home office space?

At first glance the volume of stuff in a home office can look like hundreds, if not thousands, of items. In reality, there are only 5 TYPES of items that make up a smoothly functioning home office. Hold up your hand and count them off…


  1. WORKSPACE. This is the necessary flat surface for doing work.
  • Make sure you have adequate room for computer AND some papers if possible
  • It’s a work space so don’t use it as a storage Only use for storing active papers and very minimal supplies
  1. EQUIPMENT. The electronic tools we use to get the job done.
  • Computer, printer, scanner, phone …
  • Try to keep them stored off the floor, cables managed
  • Keep easily accessible from workspace if often used


  1. SUPPLIES. All the usual suspects
  • Evaluate high use vs. low use (If you only write thank you notes a few times a year, don’t store 5 boxes of thank you cards in your top right hand drawer of your desk!)
  • Only use desktop if absolutely necessary for critical supplies: stapler, tape, 1 pen cup, paper clips…consider adding a wall shelf instead
  • Drawers and shelves work best for supplies
  • Stock desk or workspace with a small amount of critical supplies and store overflow loose supplies in sorted, clear lidded containers on shelves further from workspace.


  1. ACTIVE PAPERS. These are To-do’s and Active Reference.
  • Active reference usually means things like schedules, phone lists, and upcoming events. This is the one type of paper that can justify taking up some of your workspace.
  • Piles can work OK but go vertical over horizontal by using, magazine holders, desktop file sorters, or desktop file crates
  1. RESOURCES.  Files, books, magazines.
  • Files live best in a filing cabinet, not flat in a drawer or loose on a shelf
  • Consider real estate value when assigning homes. Don’t give over a prime drawer to low-use files such as warranties & instruction manuals.
  • Make sure you have enough shelving space to accommodate the number of book/magazine resources you need

Even if your “home office” can only be a section of counter or the dining room table, assess the space for how these 5 elements are being handled. Keep your desktop as clear as possible and use drawers and cabinets to hold what isn’t active.

Whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed, come back to this concept…use your hand as a visual reminder. Everything in a home office falls into one of five categories. Take it slow, you can focus on one element at a time and make significant progress.

It make take more than one hand to get yourself picked up to start, but once you have your systems in place, maintaining it should be quick and easy. And if all else fails, you can use your one hand to wave at the mess as you close the door on it.

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Filed under Decluttering, disorganization, General Organizing, home organizing, Office, organizing, Paper, Strategies, Work

How To Store Warranties & Instruction Manuals

Organize your manuals with a binder.

Organize your manuals with a binder

What do you do with all those manuals and instruction booklets you get when you purchase a new item?

Why to keep

Generally speaking we rarely refer back to instruction manuals and need to return items under warranty. That said, there are some times when they are useful.

Electronics are the items we most often have to refer back to for instructions. Having a manual on hand may be useful if you need to reprogram your cordless telephone or figure out how to use your scanner, for example.

Keeping the receipt with the warranty let’s you know when the item was purchased – and whether it’s still under warranty when it breaks!

The booklets often help you access the model number without having to get on your hands and knees to read the numbers on your range, for example.

A system, which includes the receipt, warranty and the instructions, provides an inventory of what you own for insurance purposes.

What to keep

Be realistic about the kind of instructions you’ll need to refer back to. Many small items and small appliances come with instruction manuals but are unnecessary for the consumer. Do you honestly think you’ll ever come back to the instruction manual for how to operate your smoke detector?

Purging out those kinds of manuals can reduce the paper by half. In addition, most manuals are available through the company website.

 Where to keep

Manuals and warranties are generally low-use items so don’t let them take up valuable real estate in your home. Wouldn’t you rather have useful tools in your kitchen junk drawer than rarely referenced booklets?

Here are a few of our favorite options for how to store them:

  • Filed by category, clearly labeled.  Sample headings: Appliances, Electronics, Misc., Sports, Tools, Toys
  • Binder(s) with plastic sleeves or file pockets to make it easy to toss in new manuals
  • Designated drawer or portable box

Get started! Go grab your stack of manuals and start purging. You’ll be surprised at how few you really need to keep and that will make storing them all the easier.

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Filed under General Organizing, Paper, Strategies

Easy Organizing for Tax Time

Getting Ready for Taxes Can Be This Simple

Getting Ready for Taxes Can Be This Simple

Have you broken out in your usual sweat anticipating tax time? Do you find yourself dreading the hours it’s going to take to round up the papers you’ll need to complete your tax planner? Being ready for tax time is all about keeping certain paperwork separate from others.

The most simple way to keep your tax paperwork separate from other papers is to create a box labeled “TAXES.”  If you want to get fancy, subdivide to create homes for:

  • charitable donations
  • childcare expenses
  • medical expenses
  • proof of income: W-2s, 1099s
  • tax documents

The home can be a file folder, envelope, or even a dedicated box. Anything that is easy to drop things into throughout the year.

If you’re keeping every single receipt and account statement, it’s worth asking your tax preparer to give you a list of documents you actually need to keep. Typically these are receipts and statements that prove expenses you claim as deductions on your taxes.

For paper organizing, it’s important to understand the difference between a general living expense and an expense you can claim as a tax deduction. For example, gas station receipts are a general expense, but if you use your car for business they could become a tax-deductible expense. There may be other reasons you want to keep every gas receipt – budgeting, MPG tracking, etc. but you may not need them for taxes.

If you want to take your organizing to the next level, consider the following:

  • use a money management tool such as Mint.com or Quicken® to categorize your expenses automatically so you just need to run a report at the end of the year (still need to keep your original deductible receipts)
  • use FreedomFiler® to manage your filing
  • have a professional organizer or bookkeeper come in monthly or quarterly to keep things straight

 If you can’t get it together for 2013, it’s not too late to set up a system for 2014!

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Filed under Decluttering, General Organizing, Office, Paper, Strategies