How to Organize Your Paperwork

If paper clutter is a problem in your house, you aren't alone. Despite predictions of a paperless society, we haven't gotten to that point yet. In a short time, paperwork can accumulate and become a major inconvenience. If you don't pay your bills because you don't see them or unsuccessfully seek a warranty when a major appliance breaks, paperwork clutter is costing you more than your peace of mind. It is costing you cold, hard cash. Pick an afternoon and tackle this problem once and for all.

If it is worth keeping, it is worth a folder in your file cabinet.

Step 1

Gather all the paperwork scattered around the house and place it in one area.  Choose a room with a large table or another flat area on which to work.

Step 2

Place a trash can near your work area.  As you go through the papers, throw away any that are outdated or unneeded.

Place bills to pay, letters to mail and any other paperwork that requires you attention into an action pile.  Place all other papers into a to-be-filed pile.

These file papers can be further sorted into subcategories such as bills, credit card statements, insurance documents, bank statements, articles to keep and taxes. 

Step 3

Place the papers in the action pile on your desk or another area of the house where you can see them.  Quickly flip through them and pull out any that need immediate attention.

Place those on top of the stack of papers.  Pick a time in the next three days to sit down and start on the paperwork in the action pile.

Handle the most urgent items first.  Schedule an hour every three days to work on the action pile until every item has been taken care of.

Step 4

Create a file folder for each category of paperwork and place the papers into them.  Paid bills, bank statements, autos, taxes, kids, insurance papers and warranties may all find a home in your file cabinet.

Label every file clearly and file the folders in alphabetical order.  If you want to take your organization one step further, color-code the files.

For example, color all financial folders green or use green folders.  Use blue folders to hold all papers related to your children.

Continue to categorize and color-code until all paperwork has been filed. 

Step 5

As you bring your mail into the house each day, stand next to a trash can while you look quickly sort through it.  Much of the mail you receive can go straight into the trash can.

Once a week, go through any paperwork that has accumulated during the week.  Throw it out, act on it or file it.

If you let paper maintenance slide, you'll soon be back buried in paper clutter. 

Things You Will Need

  • Trash can
  • Files
  • Filing cabinet or file box
  • Folders


  • Maintain, maintain, maintain. Every month (or every other month if you don't have a lot of paperwork) go through the files and toss old papers.

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