Paper can easily take over your home if you let it. Try this simple (and inexpensive) idea to organize paperwork so your home stays neat. As a bonus – this can also be a good place to charge your devices.
Are you drowning in paper?
Even though you may have a fantasy of a paperless home, you probably have a stack of paper on your countertop right now.
- Your favorite store sent you a coupon.
- Your son’s school sent home a calendar for January.
- Your taxes are due soon and you need to have a place to store away receipts and W-2s.
That all happened to me this week. So I get it. I’m living it.
But it’s the new year. Which means that if you are like me, you need some purging and some organizing. Where better to begin?
It’s time to organize paperwork.
I needed to find a solution for the paper that came into our home every day that we wanted to keep – even if it was just short-term. Things like coupons, rebates, bills, receipts and school papers were piling on the countertops.
We both know there are very few things that make a kitchen look messier than a stack of papers – even if they are in a pretty basket. (Check out more tips to keep your house looking “put together.”) And I’ve found that when you just start piling papers, you can’t find what you are looking for until it’s too late. (In other words, I was constantly being asked where things were and I was constantly finding coupons that were already expired.)
So, we set out to create space in our kitchen for some of those papers. And now, my counters look clear and I have a hard-working area for paperwork.
You won’t see it here. It’s hidden AND accessible.
You can do it, too. Try it out.
Inventory your paperwork storage needs.
What types of paper is ending up on your kitchen counter and staying there?
We have made a habit of immediately opening and tossing/shredding mail that comes into the house. But there would undoubtably be items that weren’t destined for the trash. And they also didn’t need to go to long-term storage.
So, what paperwork needs to easily accessible for your family – on a temporary or permanent basis? Some ideas:
- School paperwork (I’d suggest everything except kids’ artwork, which can add up quickly and probably needs another solution)
- Tax documents
Once you know what you are working with, you can design a solution that makes sense.
Clear out a (small) space.
The key to everyday paper storage is keeping it small and accessible.
You really don’t want a giant filing cabinet – because then you’ll be more likely to fill it up with stuff you don’t need. And you want it to be easy to use everyday – so find a spot close to where you open your mail, unpack backpacks, and find yourself dropping paperwork anyway.
Over the holiday break, I cleaned out our cabinets to make them a little more efficient. In the process, I managed to clean out an entire cupboard. This was previously housing lots of junk and tools that needed to find a home somewhere other than the kitchen.
I immediately realized that it would be the perfect HOME BASE for our open floor plan. It’s right where we typically sort through paperwork anyhow. A place where those counter-cluttering items could live while they were needed or until they found a more permanent home.
Find the best organizers to fit your needs.
Next up, it’s time to find your storage.
This can be as simple as a box or basket if you don’t need anything larger. But I’d suggest something you can actually use to organize and file. This makes it easier to find what you need.
I brought home this small acrylic filing box from Target and 6 hanging file folders. Limit the size of what you choose and the number of folders. You don’t want this to become a dumping ground – but you want room for what you have.
Once I had the supplies, I set to work. I created six labels for the items we find on our countertops.
- One for each member of the family
- One for tax paperwork
- One for the rental properties
- One for reference (which is where I store any extra stuff I just need to have on a short-term basis – like checks that I deposit digitally and wait to shred until they are actually in my account).
I’ve also found spots to store my notebooks and planner – so I can easily grab them.
Bonus: Make the space work for other counter cluttering items.
Once I got our filing set up, I realized this area would also make a great charging station. Because those cords also have a tendency to clutter up our countertops.
The laptop works perfectly inside the file, but could also be placed next to it. And I even have spots for Henry’s R/C toys and other gadgets and devices to charge.
Step back and pat yourself on the back. (And then keep it up.)
You did it! You cleared the countertops of clutter. Your house looks neater and you’ll actually be able to find the papers you are searching for.
Here’s a few tips I’ve learned along the way:
- Make your new paper file your first destination for papers. Don’t add another step to the process by setting the papers on the counter or in a basket until you “file them.” You want to take out the middle man and immediately store those papers away. This will make it a habit and keep your counters clear and clean.
- Don’t let this area get overstuffed. (Trust me, it’s easy to do.) Take a few minutes every week or month to review what’s in your files and clean them out. (Toss the items you no longer need and file/scan the items you want to hold onto but don’t need at arm’s-reach.)
This process is super simple – I’m wondering why I didn’t do it sooner. And so far, everyone in the family is loving that there’s a place to store those must-have papers without someone throwing them in the trash.
What is your biggest paperwork organization conundrum? Share it in the comments.
Do you want a printable checklist that will actually help you keep your house clean?
And if you like it, then put a pin on it.