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Mastering Paper Piles with a Streamlined Filing System!

A pile of papers on the desk
Conquer Paper Piles

Piles create confusion, frustration, and a total waste of time and money.

US News says the average person spends about 150 hours a year looking for misplaced information which spells disaster for productivity. No more wasting precious time and money. It’s time to conquer your paper clutter. Learn how to conquer paper clutter and regain control of your workspace with a highly efficient filing system.


1. Necessary materials:

  • 3 small boxes, one for recycling, shredding, and questionable.

  • Sticky note pads, index cards, sharpies

  • Small desktop file box

  • Hanging file folders, manila folders

  • Notebook and pen for jotting notes

2. Prepare Workspace:

  • Need a large flat surface such as a table, floor, bed or countertop

  • Grab all loose papers in the house first.

  • Taking your sticky note start creating categories such as auto, banking, legal, credit cards, health, mailouts, kids, school, home, taxes, and investments.

  • Put big sticky notes on the table and space them about 12 inches apart.

3. Sorting Process:

  • Take your piles of paper and start sorting them into the categories such as Medical, Auto, Banking, Junk, etc. I also will use paper-size tubs for sorting to keep papers contained.

  • Toss ads, coupons you won't actually use, items that are no longer useful, items that can be found online or duplicates.

Papers being sorted on the table
Sorting papers to be files

  • As you're sorting it's vital that you try to decide by one glance if the paper is junk or unimportant and avoid putting it in a category at all.

  • *Remember: If it takes you more than 2 seconds to decide whether to keep or toss, put it in the category it belongs in and decide later.

4. Retention guidelines:

  • Take the sorted category piles that are the easiest to make decisions and decide what needs to be kept and file in a permanent filing cabinet. File papers like tax returns, loans, mortgage papers, medical, and current investments, by main category in your permanent filing cabinet.

  • Refer to Retention Guideline Sheet

5. Prepare Desktop Filing Box:( This is to contain the “kept” mail that needs action)

  • Get your Desk top filing box ready to file your everyday/actionable tasks and documents from the mail box.

  • Create labels for your hanging folders- they should be simple, broad in scope and an easy name for retrieval. Use small sticky notes to use as temporary names until you know exactly what you want to call the file.

  • Create action tabs on a hanging file folders such as To Pay, To File, To Read, Kids, Coupons, Tax related, etc. You may want to create just one action folder called “To Do” to cover all basis instead of separate To pay, To file, etc. folders.

Filing Box
Filing Box with Papers

Say good-bye to disorganized stacks and hello to a well-organized, efficient system that will transform your paper management skills. If this process seems a bit overwhelming I'm here to help.

Kim's Organizing Solutions

Professional Organizer


Kim Miller

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