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Paper clutter: 4 ways to simplify your household paperwork filing system


Technology and paper clutter (photo:

Paper clutter. It is the most frequently mentioned clutter in America! Whatever happened to going paperless? Instead, we all have our own printer-scanner-fax combos! We have super-sized our home offices. In fact, many of us now have a "home office" whether or not we have a home-based business. That is something to think about. While you are thinking, consider decluttering and simplifying the household paperwork filing system.

When my filing cabinets and paper storage boxes became full, I knew it was time to make another effort to unclutter the household paperwork filing system. As I hunkered on the floor, weeded out, reorganized, and made new files, I learned a lot about household files:

1. Some files can and do age out over time. Clutter happens because Life happens. Life moves along, but the paperwork created by the life event (a purchase, death, job change, hobby...) lingers, and lingers, and lingers.

2. Files that get too thick can be split. One way to split them is to look at dates and separate them chronologically (2002-2007, 2008-). Another way is to give each subcategory its own file (A vacation folder might become several folders: Vacations Abroad, Vacations USA, Vacations Local).

3. Several thin files on a related topic can sometimes be consolidated. I think I found a craft folder and a hobby folder that both held similar things, and then I found  a long-term plans folder and a retirement folder. Keep an eye out for redundancies that may creep into your filing system.

4. Finally, keep an eye out for files that can go to long-term storage in a file box. Not everything in the family file cabinet needs to be referred to regularly or even stored there. Tip: If you pull out files you aren't using very often, you can leave empty folders in the cabinet with a sheet in each that refers you to the location of the file box, or you can keep a file index listing of all your folders and indicate which ones are in the file box as opposed to the file cabinet.

If you can shred and recycle instead of purchasing another file box, that is great, but don't be hard on yourself if your choice is to get another file box. The trick is to keep your household filing cabinet from getting too crowded to be functional for you. Life happens and as long as it does, it will continue to generate paperwork that we will file. 


  • Julie Durr 5 years ago

    Paper is a struggle to keep under control. Thanks for the tips.

  • Dawn Gagnon, SC Home and Living Examiner 5 years ago

    This was a great article, lots of great suggestions for one of my own person problems..paper clutter!

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