Some of the most popular questions Bridget Stralko gets as a professional organizer revolve around strategies for organizing papers at home.
“Paper clutter is not always the reason clients are calling me, but everyone has it,” said Stralko of Unclutter It. “A lot of it has to do with the fact people get so much mail and paper bills, and they’re so busy that they don’t take time to go through it.”
If your counter or desk spaces are hiding under a pile of unsorted papers at home, keep reading for organizing tips from Starlko and another professional organizer to get your space in shape.
Organizing Papers at Home: Deal with Mail Instantly
Mail is one of the top sources of paper clutter at home. In fact, the average American receives 49,060 pieces of mail in their lifetime, and a third of that mail is junk, according to the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals. So, it’s important to sort and toss mail as soon as you get it.
“I suggest having a trash can in the car or outside, so when you pick up your mail it doesn’t even go into the house,” said Stralko. “We only bring what’s important into the house.”
Once you’ve tossed all the junk and kept the important stuff, you should put your mail in a spot where you can deal with it immediately or very soon, said Debbie Tebbe of Organized Happy Helper.
“If you live with multiple people, I recommend buying a magazine holder,” she said. “Put the names of each person on there, and then put their mail in correct space. Don’t let it get so full that you can’t put anything more in there. You have to go through your mail.”
Create a System for Organizing Paperwork
Keep papers off your counters and desks by making a system to organize bills, letters and other paperwork as soon as it comes into your space.
“Have some sort of command center where you put what’s important on a bulletin board or a place where you can address it that week,” said Stralko. “I’m also a big fan of file boxes. Have a file folder for each topic, and file anything that’s important. But once a year you need to go through it. It’s important to stay on top of whatever system you choose to use, so paper clutter doesn’t pile up.”
If you’re planning to use a file cabinet or box, Tebbe recommends buying multi-colored file folders and designating one color to a category. You could designate green for taxes and yellow for utility bills, or whatever color system works for you.
“This system makes filing more fun, because color coding makes the process easier,” said Tebbe. “Alphabetizing can get a little complicated, because you may forget what letter you categorized a paper under.”
Ditch Paper Clutter by Going Digital
Go paperless with as many companies as possible to keep papers from cluttering your home.
“Now that things like bills and bank statements are online, you don’t need physical copies of them sent to your home,” said Stralko.
If you want to keep statements and other things after going paperless, you can download a digital copy into a folder on your computer or in your email account.
“If you have no idea how to go digital, you can hire a professional organizer to teach you or do it for you,” Stralko said. “You can also call the billing companies directly, and they can help walk you through it.”