I’ve received a lot of requests for an updated paper organization post in the past few weeks. And while a lot of the systems I use are the same, I have switched things up and simplified a few things in our new house. So today I want to share with you my entire paper organization system. I hope this helps you set up a maintainable system that works for you in your home!
My Entire Paper Organization System
Let’s first start by talking about mail. I think this is a hot topic because it seems to be something that can pile up quickly if we don’t take action on it right away.
My first piece of advice when it comes to mail is to NOT have a mail bin. This might seem out of the ordinary. However, I believe that having a place to set your mail also gives you an excuse not to deal with it. Instead, I recommend getting your mail and dealing with whatever you receive immediately.
Sort your mail next to a trashcan or recycling bin. Purge anything unnecessary. Create a system to deal with specific types of mail you receive often. These might include bills, coupons for stores you visit frequently, invitations, magazines or catalogs, or other important papers. If you don’t have a system for these things, they will quickly become clutter. Here’s how I deal with them:
- Bills – I pay them immediately. I keep my checkbook easily accessible and stamps and pens are located in our junk drawer which is right next to our kitchen island. I write the check, put it in an envelope, and put it on our entry cabinet to be placed in the mail the next day. I keep our budget binder handy on our refrigerator so I can easily mark down what the bill was as soon as I pay it. (I’ll talk more about this later on in this post!) If the bill is auto-drafted, then the paper copy goes into our “Bills” hanging file above our desk in our bedroom. These are filed at the end of the month.
- Coupons – I ONLY clip coupons I anticipate I will use. They get stored in a small section in my wallet. Honestly, I don’t clip a lot of coupons. I mainly only use store specific coupons (i.e. Kohls, JoAnns, etc.) which can generally be found online anyways.
- Invitations – If I receive an invitation to a baby shower, wedding, or birthday, I immediately write it down on our calendar and in my planner. The invitation gets placed in the file above our desk labeled “Important.” I generally keep this just so that I have all the information for the event (i.e. time, date, location, registry info) at hand if I need it. Once the event has taken place, I recycle the invitation.
- Magazines – We subscribe to three magazines. One is mine and my husbands and the other two are for my son (LEGO and Ranger Rick Jr). My older son keeps his magazines in a crate by his bed until he has had a chance to look through them. Once he has done so, he is really good about throwing it out. (I guess I’ve rubbed off on him!) The magazine that belongs to my husband and myself is stored in a basket under one of our nightstands. We usually read it in bed so that makes the most sense. Once we are finished, we also recycle it.
- Catalogs – I generally don’t keep catalogs. If I’m going to purchase something it’s almost always online. On the rare occasion that I do want to look through a catalog, I put it on my nightstand and it’s generally purged within 24 hours after I’ve had a chance to browse through it. If you do enjoy looking through catalogs, I would make sure to find a spot to keep them. Make sure this space is limited so that it forces you to purge often.
- Important Papers – If we receive a paper that needs to be kept (i.e. an item for tax purposes, voting registration cards, etc.) they get filed in our filing cabinet. I will share more on our filing system shortly.
If we receive packages in the mail, they are opened immediately, the packaging is put in the recycling and the items are put where they belong.
I hope this helps to explain how we handle mail. Mail never accumulates on our counters or kitchen table. It’s dealt with immediately by either myself or my husband. Once you have a system in place for everything you might receive, dealing with the mail becomes a breeze. We can open and sort our mail in generally 60 seconds or less.
The majority of our filing system is kept in our master bedroom closet. This keeps it out of reach of our little ones. Plus, it’s out of sight and I find these items to be an eye sore!
Our filing system is still set up in the same manor that I shared about last year. This system has been working for us for 5+ years and I couldn’t recommend it more. I actually just went through and did my annual file clean out and it took me less than 30 minutes! I promise that it doesn’t get much easier.
Above my filing cabinet, I have a wicker basket from Target that stores a few binders I reach for fairly frequently. The red binder on the far right holds the few warranties and manuals we store. I keep them organized by category in page protectors. If it’s something I can pull up online, I don’t keep it.
The tiny black binder holds anything important from my son’s school. Again, I don’t keep a ton of information because I just don’t need to. I can find most information online at the school district’s website.
The remainder of the notebooks and binders in this basket are organizing things related to this little blog of mine! 🙂
I also keep a small basket in our closet on a shelf. It stores all things related to our house including mortgage information, paint, cabinet, and flooring brands/colors (from the builder), our builder’s warranty information, etc. Basically anything related to our home is stored in this basket for easy access. A lot of these papers don’t fit into a regular filing cabinet since they are printed on legal forms so it was just easier to store it this way.
The three shelf cube organizer is from the Better Homes and Garden’s collection at Walmart. It stores our printer and all other office related supplies out of sight, but easily accessible to our desk and laptop. The baskets are also from Walmart and are part of the Better Homes and Garden’s collection. They aren’t super organized inside! But they make storing and accessing things like printer paper, ink, envelopes, thank you notes, my label maker, and other office related items super easy! It’s just a toss and go system! 🙂 The tray on top of our printer holds lose leaf lined paper that I often use for notes and to-do lists as well as our old iPad that my 6 year old uses on occasion.
As you can see in the picture above, our desk is located just around the corner so I can easily hook up the computer to the printer. It was super handy that the builder had placed a plug-in inside our closet! It’s definitely one of my favorite features in our home.
The final place that we have paper in our home is on the side of our fridge. I’m not one to keep things on the front of my fridge, but utilizing the side panel for organizational purposes has made the most sense for us for now. I keep a family calendar on the top left. I found this one from Kathryn at Do It On a Dime and it’s working great to keep us all on the same page. I hole punched it at the top and hung it from a 3M Command hook. Below that is where my son’s chore chart lives. It’s low enough for him to easily access it.
At the top, I usually have a magnetic notepad to keep a running list of grocery and household items we run out of throughout the week. However, I ran out of paper and need to replenish!
We really try to limit the amount of papers we actually keep in our home because we both know that paper clutter can really creep in and accumulate quickly. Our paper organization system is pretty simple and easy to maintain. If you have ever thought about going completely paperless, I highly recommend the ebook The Paperless Home by Donnie Lawson. It’s very detailed and thorough, but very simple to understand.
Let me know if you have any questions regarding our paper organization system in the comments below! Or feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.