Project Simplify – Tackling the Paper Clutter

Paper Clutter is a HUGE problem for me.  It is something I have struggled with for as long as I can remember.  When I was growing up, my parents (love you guys!) didn’t have a great way of managing paper, and so I learned to live with, and look past, piles and piles of unfiled, unorganized papers.

So when Tsh announced that this week’s hot spot for Project Simplify was Paper Clutter, my heart sank.  This is a big one for me, and although I knew that I needed to start taking care of it, I wasn’t sure I was really ready.

Here’s the my problem:

  • I am a piler.  I manage (if you can call it that) paper by putting it in piles to take action on “later”.  But then “later” never really comes.
  • And then something else does come up, and I need to move the piles, so I whisk them away to another room, or stick them in a basket, again to look at “later”.  It aggravates me that I do this, but it is just the way I have operated for so long.
  • Also, I keep lots of paper.  I am one of those, “What if I want to look at this again someday?” people.  The reality is that I almost never will, because I can’t even find the paper, but still, that is the mentality that I have to fight against.

So, that’s how I got to the place that I am today. I knew I had a lot of work to do!

Here’s the side table in my dinning room where my papers, and other random stuff, usually piles up. 

Reluctantly on Wednesday, I gathered as many papers as I could find, that were strewn about here and there, and even retrieved a basket from under my nightstand that’s been there for oh, at least six months. “Later”, right?! And here’s what I came up with.

I followed Tsh’s plan of putting all the papers in one box (I actually had a few baskets) and then sorting them into take action, shred, and recycling.

Once I had that part finished, I had one basket left with the papers, and a few other miscellaneous things, that I wanted to keep. I went through that basket and purged one more time, just to make sure I wasn’t keeping anything that I really should be getting rid of.

But, then I hit a wall.  Even though I had purged my papers, I still didn’t have a good place to put them, and they threatened to end up another pile waiting to be put away “later”. So I decided I needed to finally tackle the filing system.

Before Kaelyn was born, I organized all our papers at our old house and put together a very detailed filing system, but I hadn’t really updated it since then.  Besides our filing cabinet, I also had two filing boxes full of files.  My goal was to purge those down and only keep papers that would fit into the filing cabinet.

In going through and purging our files, I realized how pointless it was for me to keep all of these papers, that I hadn’t touched in almost four years, and that I really DID NOT need them.  This went a long way in changing my mindset on what papers I really need to keep.

This also created a huge amount of paper that needs to be shredded, and fortunately our city is hosting a clean your files day next month where you can bring up to 50lbs. of paper to be shredded and recycled – for free! Of course, I had kept the city newsletter with this information on it, so I wrote it on my calendar, recycled the newsletter, and now I have my box of paper waiting to take so I don’t have to waste my time sitting and shredding all that paper.  I was very excited about that!

I also took a little time to clean up my desk, which easily gets over run with stuff just being tossed onto it.

So, here’s what it looks like after all that hard work!

I think I need to come up with some better decorating or something for this table so that it is not such a clutter magnet!

One of my empty file boxes and my newly cleaned out filing cabinet.

I wish that I had a better before picture of my whole desk, but you see the empty baskets on the floor.  Also, I moved my shredder over from my bedroom and plan to use it on a much more regular basis now! You can also see all the extra file folders and holders that I cleaned out from my filing cabinet next to the shredder.

I have to admit, this will still be an ongoing process. Here are a few things that I plan to use to help keep future paper clutter to a minimum.

  • Scanning and keeping digital records. I think this is going to be my saving grace as far as paper goes.  I can keep a copy of the paper, in case I might need it later, but I don’t have keep the actual paper.
  • A small upright filing system. (You can see this on the floor next to the chair in the above picture.) This is kind of like a vertical piling system for me.  I have used it in the past with success, but hadn’t kept up with it.  So I cleaned it out and plan to use it to process my incoming papers.
  • A home management notebook. I put one together last spring, and it has been a great way for me to be able to store papers that I need, or want, to access on a regular basis, like my calendar and schedule, meal plans, blog posting schedule, and more.

Whew! That was a lot. It feels so good to know that I have dealt with so much paper, and I know have a good system in place to hopefully help to keep things from getting so out of hand in the future!

And, it was 65 degrees here yesterday! Which was a good reminder for why I’m doing this.  We spent a lot of time outside the past two days, in between purging sessions, and I’ve loved it.  I want to tackle this cleaning and organizing now, so that when the days are consistently like this, we can be outside as much as we want!

How is your spring cleaning going?  Did you clean your kitchen this week?  Are you organizing some other area around your house?


I have another fun reveal to share with you soon too! My blog is getting a makeover and should be done over the weekend! I’m so excited to see it all come together. Stay tuned for that!

I’d love to see more of you! Be sure to subscribe to receive posts in your inbox or reader.  You can also connect with me on Twitter and Facebook!


    • Emily says

      Thanks Mary! Paper is definitely my nemesis too! It feels really good to have that done though!

      I worked on it a few different days, at different times, so I’m not sure how long it took me overall. I would say probably at least 5-6 hours! Yikes, when I think about it like that – it’s alot! But, because I was doing it as part of Project Simplify, I gave myself the deadline of having it done by Friday, at that really helped!

      Good luck on tackling your paper clutter!

  1. Beth Sutton says

    Congrats Emily! Way to go! I’m amazed you got that all done. What’s that? You’re coming to do mine next? Great! :) Only one question: is that shredder under your desk plugged in? I’m concerned about my favorite little fingers that play in there!

    • Emily says

      Thanks Mom! Yes, the shredded is unplugged except for when I’m using it. Thanks for making sure your grandkids are safe! :)

  2. says

    Wow! You did a great job! I have paper clutter to tackle, but I just couldn’t do it last week. Dosen’t it feel great to have that done?!

    Warrior MAMA Lisa

  3. says

    I hear you! I started a “to be filed” pile when I was pregnant and tired; my son is 6 now, and I still haven’t gotten to the bottom of the pile! But I got inspired just before Lent when my church’s visiting pastor asked if anyone had an end-table he could borrow and I realized my pile was sitting on a small table that had no other function. Taking the table out and setting the pile on the floor made the pile seem smaller so less overwhelming. Then I decided one of my Lenten disciplines would be FILING AT LEAST ONE PAPER PER DAY. (About half of them get filed in the recycling bin as they’re now outdated.) Some days I do a whole handful. I’m not sure I’ll finish before Easter, but at least I will have made significant progress and proven to myself that it is, too, possible!

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