Home Neat Home: PAPER

In my last post about managing clutter, several of you mentioned all the PAPER that comes into a household. Add paper to the list of things that come in under your nose and before you know it you have a large pile that needs sorting. Here are some of my tips for paper management.

Follow These General Steps

  1. Go paperless – if at all possible! The first step to organizing anything is always to minimize.
  2. Attempt to digitize – If you can take a picture, save to your phone notes or computer folder, do it.
  3. Have an inbox/outbox spot – for those papers that will be leaving your house within the next day or so.
  4. Have a storage spot for those papers you do need to save – from kids’ art to taxes, everything needs a spot.

That’s the general, so what about the specific?


I sort mail as soon as it enters my house. I make two piles: recycle (80% of mail) and read. I immediately recycle everything I can, noting anything that might need to be unsubscribed from. Even in my read pile, I remove extra pages and just keep the ones that need attending.

Bills that need paying go in a special slot next to my computer. Because online bill pay is so fast, I knock these out in one minute the next time I open computer. (Since the bill is basically ON my computer I see it and remember.) I have all of my one-time, irregular bills (doctors, dentist, annual insurance payments, etc) set up in bill pay. All of my recurring monthly bills are paid through autopay and paperless billing.

Magazines + Catalogs

Most catalogs I give myself the afternoon to browse and if I haven’t looked at it by the end of the evening, it gets recycled. If I really need something in a catalog I can just go to the website!

I have dramatically decreased the amount of magazine subscriptions I get. I used to get over a dozen, and now I get two (HGTV and Cottages and Bungalows). Thomas gets 3-4 subscriptions. Both of us have a magazine spot. Mine is on a shelf in the living room and his is in a basket next to his nightstand. I chose each spot based on where we both tend to read magazines the most (me on the couch and him in bed.) I try to implement the FIFO method of first in, first out and read them in order that they came.


When an invite comes in the mail, let’s say a wedding invite, I tack it to my bulletin board and buy the gift that week. Once the wedding details have been digitized into my calendar and the gift has been ordered, I recycle the invite. (Sorry if that sounds harsh – I give them lots of love before I do!) This method ensures I never miss a gift, and I like to think I’m sometimes one of the first gifts to arrive (which is exciting for the couple!)

School Papers

This could probably be its own separate blog post, but here’s my short version!

Art work that is especially sweet or impressive gets displayed. (See above – “things that make my heart happy” = my bruther!) Other art and school papers (less impressive drawings or worksheets) go into a special basket I have for incoming art. I empty this basket about once every two months. If Mazen hasn’t asked about a particular project by then it’s probably not that important. Anything I deem especially nice goes into a keepsake area in our downstairs closet and everything else gets recycled.

School communication gets either digitized, immediately returned to his backpack folder, or recycled. For example, this past week his picture day paperwork came home. As I was unpacking his backpack right after school I filled out the sheet, wrote a check and put it right back in. I try to deal with papers right on the spot so I can cross them off my mental list and not have any paper clutter to move around the kitchen.

We do have our lunch menu posted on the bulletin board since I do reference that daily. I am subscribed to his school calendar online = digitize.

Coupons + Tickets

Same principles apply here – digitize it and recycle. I keep little coupons that don’t have bar codes right in my wallet, and I try to use them as quickly as I can. Coupons with bar codes or tickets to events I save in the Notes app on my phone, either just the code or as a photo. Then when I’m at an event or need to use the coupon, I just pull it up on my phone and they can scan. If you don’t have it with you, you’ll never use it!


The last category of paper I could think of was important documents, like taxes or insurance papers. We do have two filing drawers in our desk where I keep important papers. Honestly these could be thinned out significantly, and that’s a task on my to-do list! Just try to keep a FIFO system going here too. For example, when I get the new year’s insurance papers I can recycle the previous year’s.

What have I missed?! I hope the whole world is slowly moving paperless, because nothing is more satisfying than having things organized digitally and not wasting a single tree.

Please share your paper methods!

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