8 GREAT WAYS TO BATTLE PAPER CLUTTER

I've got spring cleaning on my mind with the 60-degree weather we've been having, so I have a few posts lined up on the topic. The first is this - how to battle that seemingly ever-present paper clutter! The mail each day. The coupons and giftcards and invitations and this that and the other thing. Where to start?! We have a pretty good system down in our house, and rarely have piles of paper anywhere anymore. Here are the best tips for keeping the paper clutter to a minimum. Granted - I don't have school-age kids, and I know that is a whole other ball game, one that I cannot speak to. I'm sure Pinterest has great ideas!

FOOLPROOF TIPS FOR CORRALLING THE PAPER CLUTTER

1. Filing system // I talked about this in detail in last week's post, but having a system for filing important papers and documents is crucial. It doesn't have to be fancy, but having a designated spot to put bills, retirement account statements, medical records, etc. keeps those things easily findable and most importantly, off the horizontal surfaces in your house! I don't necessarily file papers right away, but I have a tray that sits on top of the file box so I can collect things that need to be filed throughout the month in one single spot, rather than having them float all over the house.

2. System for daily mail // Our daily mail routine is simple: I check the mailbox, and decide right then and there if it's to be opened or recycled. Example: mortgage statement: open. Pottery Barn Kids catalog that will fill me with envy and greed (how did they even get my address?!): recycle. The recycle pile gets taken immediately to the paper recycling bin as soon as I get inside. The open pile, surprisingly, gets opened! And then we deal with all that stuff accordingly. Taking five minutes each day to actually open and sort your mail and not letting it pile up on the counter, the island, the coffee table is such an easy way to keep paper clutter at bay!

3. Place for coupons // If you use coupons, even infrequently, having a specific spot for them is so helpful. We rarely use coupons, but I keep the ones I save in two places - grocery coupons get stored in our Dave Ramsey envelope wallet which lives in my purse, and all other coupons (like ones for Shutterfly or random stores) get clipped to a magnetic clip on the side of the fridge. This way, I'm not always hunting down the coupon when I want to finally order the 20% photobook from Shutterfly or whatever I might be buying.

4. Place for gift cards // All of our gift cards are stored in a fabric pouch in my wallet. Occasionally, Matt has a random fast food gift card in his car or wallet, if it's somewhere only he frequents or somewhere close to his work. We keep the gift card balance written in Sharpie on the back of the card so we don't have to keep track of receipts, and all the gift cards are always in my purse if I find myself out and about!

5. System for manuals // I recently recycled most of our appliance/electronics manuals after someone clued me in to the fact that you can find them online, but prior to that, all our manuals lived in a designated bin in a cupboard. Now, I have them as PDFs in a file on my computer, which is even better. If you can't or don't want to store them electronically, just designate a drawer or a bin or some kind of container and toss new manuals in the minute you get your new gadget.

6. System for "to be dealt with" papers // We have a tray that sits on top of our printer that is a drop zone for all things that need to be taken care of. Whether it's a bill that needs to be paid, an account I need to call about, an invitation to a shower we can't attend but I want to order a gift for, etc. Everything goes in that tray and I know if it's in there, it needs my attention before it can be filed, recycled, shredded or trashed.

7. Somewhere to keep invitations // Our system for this is simple - the fridge! I know people are either in the "clutter free fridge front" camp or the "magnet all of the things" camp, and we are definitely in the latter. When we receive an invitation, I quickly check my calendar right away to figure out if we can attend the event. If we can, I try to rsvp immediately by email on my phone, and the invite gets taped to the fridge (I keep a roll of washi tape in a kitchen drawer for this purpose). If we can't attend, the invite goes into the "to be dealt with" tray, and I rsvp that we can't make it and order a gift (if applicable) before recycling the invitation.

8. Paper recycling bin // Last but not least, having an accessible bin to toss papers in is so helpful. I bought a cheap flexible bin at HomeGoods that is stashed in my office, and we throw all of our paper in it. Thankfully, our city recycling program is awesome and doesn't require us to sort material, so once a week or so I just dump the bin into our curbside recycling bin and we are good to go. But, many churches and such have paper recycling bins in their parking lots - you can go here to find a recycling center near you.

Any other tips, especially for alllllll the things that come home with kiddos? We're still a ways off from that, but I'm all ears to file away for future! xo!

family filing system

With a family of soon to be four people plus a dog, as well as a business I operate from home, the papers can easily add up. After several years of trial and error, I've implemented a pretty easy filing system that keeps our paper clutter to a minimum and ensures that our important documents are easily accessible. In the spirit of spring cleaning, I'm sharing the system with you today! I basically have two systems: one for personal papers, and one for business papers. Let's start with personal.

PERSONAL FILING SYSTEM

1. File box for important documents, organized with file folders. I bought a cheap file box at Staples and a pack of plain manilla file folders. No bells or whistles here, folks. And no need for a giant filing cabinet, either. This black file box holds all of our current personal files. This is where I keep things like our dog's shot records, all the receipts and records for maintenance on our cars, information for memberships and loyalty cards (like our zoo membership, children's museum membership, etc. each have their own separate file), so on and so forth. Notice I said current files. At the end of the year, once our taxes are done, I move all the files that are no longer current, like that year's mortgage statements, that year's tax file, etc., to a plastic tote bin in the attic. If you're short on space in your actual living areas (like we are!), there's no reason to keep five years' worth of receipts at your fingertips. Put them in a bin and store them on a shelf in the garage instead.

2. Letter tray to hold "to be filed" pieces throughout the month. When I open mail that I decide needs to be saved + filed, I toss it in a tray that sits on top of the file box. The papers collect there all month, and I file them in their respective folders on my monthly maintenance day.

3. Fireproof safe for valuable documents. The final step in the personal filing system is a fireproof safe to hold those really important documents, like birth certificates, social security cards, marriage certificate, passports, etc. You could get away with a simple document safe, I'm sure. We have a larger one, because at one point I was storing my external harddrives in there as well, plus now Matt will need a spot to store some of his duty gear that we don't want to risk Xavier getting ahold of.

Tips + tricks: go paperless as much as possible! Our mortgage was the only thing we were receiving a snail mail statement/bill for, and I just changed that to paperless last week. Now, all of our bills and statements are emailed to me or accessible online, and we pay all our bills online as well. It cuts way down on the amount of paper to be filed! I keep a "bills" folder and a "receipts" folder in my email account, and file both the emailed bill/statement, as well as the emailed receipt once it's paid, so I can access them easily if necessary. Also, I do have a shredder, which is stored (not plugged in) unless I'm using it. As I come across papers that need to be shredded, I just toss them on top of the shredder until there's a sufficient stack and sit down to shred the pile all at once.

BUSINESS FILING SYSTEM

My business filing system is similar, and really simple. There are two pieces to the puzzle and that's it!

1. Expandable folder for receipts. I bought an expandable file folder, organized by month, to file my business receipts. Whenever I use my business debit card, I file the receipt for that purchase in the appropriate month's slot. At the end of the year, once my taxes are done, I put all the receipts into a manilla envelope and store them in a bin in the attic so I can start fresh for the new year!

2. File box for important documents. Every business situation is going to be unique, but I personally don't have much of a need for a file cabinet, since my business is 100% online and I don't have contracts, collateral, or any real documents to keep track of. This file box - which is a separate box from our personal files - is honestly mostly empty, but I like having a spot separate from our personal files to store any business papers that need stored.

Tips + tricks: Obviously if you have employees or are doing a lot of contract work, you might need more space. I think the key is to evaluate what you truly NEED to save, and don't feel obligated to save every single piece of paper if it's not truly necessary.

I know that our needs will get more complex as our kids grow and we have more things to keep track of, but I'm hopeful that since we already have a system in place, we can continue to tweak it as necessary and just add more boxes or maybe upgrade to a filing cabinet someday if necessary. I also love the idea of creating a photobook of your kids' artwork and school projects by photographing them on a white background and creating a book each year of the pieces, rather than saving every single thing that comes through the door.

Do you have a filing system for your family? I'd love to hear any other tips and tricks you've found. You know I'm always trying to make things more efficient around Casa Keinsley! :) XO!