(Repost) Organization Tips: Paper

This is a re-run of a set of posts by Elisabeth Woods from January 2014.  Enjoy while she takes us through our hot spots and areas where we need to address the clutter.  To quickly look at the posts without waiting for them to be pulled again, see this listing:

Reshape my thinking

Hot spots

Practical Tips for Organization


Paper, paper, paper!  I can’t help but hear Leo the paper eating lion in my head when I see the piles of paper that seem to appear as if by magic in my home.  Where does it all come from?  And how do I make it go away?  There has got to be a better plan than breaking into the Lincoln Children’s Zoo in the dead of winter to feed all those papers to Leo.  Instead I give you these practical ideas.

Kid’s paper

Have a place to file your child’s best artwork or school papers.  There will be a some that you will want to keep.  An expanding file folder or small filing cabinet can easily hold these treasures in an organized way.  Have a folder for each child divided by year.   Be very selective about what you keep.  Try to limit it to less than 5 or 10 items per year.  If the artwork is particularly good or meaningful to you, consider framing it and using it to decorate your home.

Have a place to temporarily display your child’s work.   A small bulletin board in the family room or clothes line strung along a wall can easily display a few of your child’s papers.  Make a rule that you have to remove an item before putting another up.  Allow your child to help decide what to display.

Take digital photos of your child’s artwork.  Once you have taken the photo, throw away or recycle the original.  There are many ways you can then have those photos available to show your children or other relatives.   You can upload the photos to a digital photo frame and hang it on a wall or put it on a desk.   You can make a photo book of your child’s artwork.    You can use the artwork as a desktop background on your computer or phone.

Allow your child to keep some of his papers in a special box.   A cardboard storage box that you can purchase at an office supply store will fit under a bed.  I gave one to each of my children and allowed them to decorate the boxes.  Then I sort through their papers, keeping what I want and I allow them to decide if they want to throw away or keep the rest.  Any paper they want to keep goes in their boxes under their beds.  All other paper is thrown away.  Papers in the trash are not allowed to be rescued.  This system has cut down to the amount of paper that was piling up around the house.  When the box is full, take 1/2 an hour and help your child sort through their papers again to make room for new ones.  This will teach your child how to make decisions about how to determine if something is worth keeping.

Other paper

Mail –  Sort your mail when you bring it into the house.  Immediately throw out anything that you don’t want (junk mail).  Invest in a mail hub. This may be an inbox system or a wall unit.  There should be a place for bills and a place for all other mail. Don’t let the hub overflow.  Take time once a day or every other day to open your mail and deal with it.

Newspapers and magazines – If you subscribe to a magazine or newspaper, you should evaluate whether the subscription is a blessing or a clutter collection.   After you have read your periodical, feel free to throw it out or recycle it.   Don’t keep back issues of any magazine for more than a year.  If you haven’t needed to refer to it in 12 months, you never will.  If you find that you are not reading your daily paper or you haven’t read your monthly magazine before the new one arrives, then it is time to cancel the subscription.

Advertisements and catalogs – I subscribe to the local paper just for the advertisements.  I look through the grocery store ads and make a list of what is on sale and where it is on sale.  Then I put those ads and my with my reusable shopping bags so that I can price match the ad when possible.  When new ads come on Wednesday, I discard the old ones.  You may have a similar reason for holding on to advertisements or catalogs.  Make sure you discard or recycle any ad or catalog immediately that is not useful to you.  Have a designated location for storing the ones that are useful until they are expired.

Other paper – You probably have a variety of other paper that you are given regularly.  For example, we give you a MOPS newsletter each meeting.  My pediatrician usually gives me an information sheet at well-baby check ups.  All this information is helpful in general but useless if it ends up at the bottom of a paper stack never to be seen again.  A basic file cabinet can be very useful for storing some of the other paper you may have.  Be judicious about what you keep.  If you are likely to never look at it again, don’t bother filing it.  On the other hand, some papers you may have little cause to use regularly, but when you need them, they are important to have.  An example of this is the student handbook for my child’s school.  I have a school file for all important school information.  My husband also files anything that we may need for taxes, such as pay stubs, medical bills and EOBs, and receipts for charitable donations.  I have a file box just for the owner’s manuals that come with our home appliances.  When something goes wrong with the refrigerator or lawn mower, I know exactly where to look to find the owner’s manual to help me trouble shoot the problem.  Taking a little time to file now will help you find what you need to find when you need to find it.


Paper can take over if we don’t stay on top of it.  What ideas can you share with addressing the paper issue in your house?  What tools do you use to capture the art work in your house without actually keeping it out and all over?  How often do you do a fire-drill on your hot spot?