Friday, March 18, 2011

Project: Simplify - Hot Spot #2: Paper Clutter

This week's Hot Spot, paper clutter, is probably my biggest problem area. Mostly because I am a list maker. And a list freak. I could make a list of my lists. Shopping lists, to do lists, wish lists, errands to run, library books to check out, the kids clothing sizes and inventory, birthdays, gift ideas, craft ideas, scrapbook layout ideas, yada, yada, yada. Get the idea?
So, not only was I excited about tackling this weeks project, but I also got a little overwhelmed when I started thinking about every little piece. I grabbed a box and start collecting every loose paper I could find. Papers on the kitchen counter, mail, magazines and Morgan's artwork on the mudroom counter, papers and receipts in our inbox, lists and coupons on the chalkboard in the kitchen. No, it wasn't a ton, but it was enough.
So, Monday night, while watching House, I started sorting through the box and making piles: to recycle, to toss, to shred, to file, for Mark to review, and take action. I also kept a notepad nearby to make notes to myself. Like reminding myself we should purchase a fireproof safe. I filed the papers that needed to be put away and called it a night.

On Tuesday, I kept the 'take action' box out on the kitchen table and when I got little bits of time, I'd pull some out and process them. I do my best to just touch mail, papers, receipts once and get rid of them, but some linger longer than they need too. Part of this step included consolidating lists, or throwing them away all together.

What I was truly eager to tackle was our file cabinet. I put it on my list of things to do this spring - perfect timing! Mark picked up a file cabinet for me to store all of our paperwork in back in December. At the time, I just put our files in it and didn't bother (or didn't have the time) to get rid of the unnecessary papers. It's organized. I have categories and sub-categories set up. I have had them set up for years, and am pretty good about keeping our important papers filed away. Except it's been a long time since I went through them and tossed what we didn't need anymore. Or really didn't need in the first place.

On Tuesday night, one drawer at a time, I started pulling out our files and purging old utility bills, tax records pre-2003 and instruction manuals for things we didn't even have anymore. The 'to recycle' and 'to shred' boxes continued to fill up.
I found that most of the space was being taken up by old, old, old bills. Another goal of mine will be to stop printing unnecessary bills and invoices. I am going to just write down the amount and save the PDF on the computer to reference later, if need be.
On Wednesday night, I reorganized the file cabinet and its categories. I also took the time to print new file folder labels so everything looked nice, neat and uniform. No more handwritten labels or vague categories. Except the tax files. I left those alone since we only open that drawer once a year. The real test will be if Mark can find what he is looking for without asking me. :)

On Thursday, I set out an unused itso storage tray on the mudroom counter to collect our mail.
We have a 3 drawer Trofast storage cabinet just outside our mudroom door in the garage that we use to separate our white paper, newspaper and magazines/catalogs for recycling. I am going to continue to make a better effort to recycle the obvious junk before it even makes it in the door. We'll see how that goes.
I also emptied the inbox trays in the closet above the file cabinet. I kept the top one for Mark to keep his notebooks and sketchbooks. The middle one will be for papers to file. The bottom one will be papers to recycle.
I also moved the little mail sorter, which holds an envelope for receipts, a calculator and our checkbook.
Not bad for a few days time! Some other paper clutter areas I want to tackle in the very near future include, the (2) binders I keep for magazine clippings (mostly holiday and kids craft ideas) and a small file box in the same closet as the file cabinet that is full of really old paperwork. Stuff that's 10-15 years old that I just haven't been able to toss because I'm afraid someone is going to ask for it. Let it go, Nicole! I am also in the process of transfering all of the ongoing lists I have into Evernote, so I also have access to them on my iPhone through their app.

Thanks for looking and thank you for all of your kind comments last week! 3 more weeks of simplifying. I can't imagine a bigger project than paper. How'd you do this week?


  1. looks like your system was already working fairly well. Good job!

  2. Looks like you really tackled a lot. Paper can sure add up. Love your first before and after picture.

  3. Everything looks so clean and organized now! Good job!

  4. Everything looks so clean and organized now! Good job!

  5. Thank you for your comment!! You are so right- yea for clean counter tops and double yea for brownies. Not so much of a big yea for pounds though. Love your results!!! It looks fantastic!!