Get Organized Challenge Week 5: Paperwork


How much of the clutter in your house is paperwork?!  Ugh.  Yeah, I know.  Mail, papers, receipts, notes, blank notes, post-it notes, workbooks from various things, the user guides to some appliance you bought 7 years ago, and if you have kids then I can’t even imagine the amount of school projects stacking up.  There’s just . . . papers . . . everywhere!  We’re going to do this, you guys.  We’re going to get you moving in the right direction in a mere 30 minutes.  You will see the surface of your dining room table again.  You will not have to avoid that one section of your kitchen countertop anymore.  You can do it!


Things you’ll need:  2 trash bags (cause you have more papers then you think you do) and your phone or whatever device that will play your favorite music

Time needed:  30 minutes

Instruction:  Follow these 10 simple steps!


Step 1:  Turn on your favorite music, set a timer for 30 minutes, and DO NOT let your paperwork overwhelm you.  It will not defeat you.  You can do this.

Step 2:  Gather all the paperwork laying around and stack it in one massive pile on your dining room table or living room floor.  Yup, just pile it all together, it’ll be okay.  Collect papers from around the kitchen and all the papers lying around just anywhere and everywhere.  Heck, throw your magazine stack in there if you want.  Grab all those ads you received from Bed, Bath, and Beyond and the latest catalog from Macy’s.  Just pile it all together in one giant stack.  You got this!

Step 3:  Sit next to the pile and in a very quick rapid fire fashion (requires upbeat music playing in the background) you’re going to “divide and conquer this stack.”  You are going to move at a very swift pace putting things into the following stacks:  1.  Trash (put directly into the trash bag.  If you feel you need a shredder and that’s holding you back from tossing things, just rip up the papers into tiny pieces and let them freaking go), 2.  Keep for life (e.g. tax papers, mortgage papers, insurance papers), 3.  Immediate action (e.g. bill that is due next week)  4.  Not sure.  Those are your categories so just get going.

Step 4:  Order my favorite file box from Office Max with the hanging file folders.  Most of these challenges do not require a purchase, but the paperwork you are keeping is important enough that I’d encourage you to splurge for the box (or 2) with the file folders.

Step 5:  If you purchased the items from step #4, you’re going to write labels for each folder:  “Insurance,”  “Mortgage,”  “Will,”  “Tuition Papers.”  Whatever categories apply to your life.

Step 6:  You’re going to file your “keep for life” stack in the box.

Step 7:  You’re going to take immediate action on the “immediate action” paperwork.  Don’t set it aside and say “I’ll do it soon.”  No, no.  Open the bills and pay them now.  Open the invite and RSVP to the party right now.  In 5 minutes all the “immediate action” items can be taken care of — boom, there goes another stack you can trash.

Step 8:  You’re going to revisit the “not sure” pile and make a decision on what to do with those papers.  Go with your gut.  They either land in “keep forever,” “immediate action,” or “trash bag.”  You are not going to feel bad about throwing out catalogs.  You just aren’t.  You’re going to walk them over to your recycle bin if you want to rid yourself of the guilt.  I know Restoration Hardware sends you a beautiful catalog, but unless you incorporate it intentionally into your home décor as a coffee table book, then you need to just let it go.  I know you like the lamp on page 5 of the Crate & Barrel catalog, but you’re going to make an electronic note in your phone about it instead and/or take a photo of it and you’re going to let the catalog go.

Step 9:  Brag to at least one person about your new file box system while you find a safe place for it to live forever.  You’re also going to consider ordering another one or two based on papers you know are hidden somewhere else in the house that you’re ignoring.

Step 10:  This is the most important step, okay?  Listen up.  Going forward, when you get the mail or bring home paperwork, you’re going to make a decision in that very moment of what to do with it.  You’re going to toss it, file it forever, or you’re going to take immediate action and toss it.  You will hereby commit to avoiding stacks of paper in the future.