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Even in the connected world we all live in today, there’s still a lot of paperwork that comes into our homes.

Physical tax documents, printed receipts, schoolwork, postcards from your mom’s trip to Costa Rica – as much as we all like to think we’ve gone totally paperless, there’s still a good amount of paperwork that comes into our lives, and more of it needs to be kept and dealt with than you might be expecting, no matter how satisfying it always is to toss out junk mail.

Like any other house clutter, this paperwork can start to pile up and become a mess all on its own, adding to the stress you feel when you can’t find an upcoming bill or your tax return goes missing when it comes time to file. If this is starting to sound like something you’ve been dealing with, read on for a few of our favorite tips for organizing paperwork:


Sort all paperwork as it comes in: Except in rare circumstances like loan paperwork from a bank, most paperwork that needs to be held onto long-term after it comes through the mail. Devise a system to sort it all as it comes in the house, either by recipient (your mail goes here, dad’s mail goes here) or by type (bills, letters, catalogs you intend to order from) immediately when they show up to help keep them accessible and out of the way. A few mail organizers can go a long way towards helping everyone stick with these systems.


Figure out how long you need to keep it: For both incoming and currently-existing paperwork, you’ll want to figure out how long it needs to be kept around and what purpose it serves. Papers that need to be kept a short time such as volunteer schedules and party invitations should be put in a more visible and prominent place than long-term paperwork like tax documents and warranty information which won’t need to be referenced as often. Sort these accordingly and make sure everyone is clear on their needs and usage.


Separate paperwork by how long you need to keep it: Once this is all set, you’ll want to establish homes for both your temporary and long-term paperwork. Short-term paperwork that needs to be kept somewhere visible like concert tickets, wedding invites, or permission slips for school should go on the fridge, taped to a cupboard door, or kept on a specific entryway table near the front door for easy access when you’re ready to leave. Paperwork that needs to be stored for longer should go on a desk organizer in your home office, and larger amounts/longer documents could be moved to storage bins that are kept somewhere safe such as the hallway closet or on a shelf in your home office. Avoid storing paperwork in areas like attics or basements where they may fall victim to mold or other types of damage.


Identify which papers don’t need to be kept: Of course, all the clever paperwork storage in the world won’t help much if you find yourself constantly hoarding paperwork well past the time where it can be reasonably helpful. Every once in a while, review your on-hand paperwork to see what’s no longer usable – outdated insurance information, catalogs from last year, manuals for appliances or home exercise equipment you no longer own – and purge them as able. Recycling is best in these situations, but however you can get rid of it, you’ll be happy to have so much less clutter.

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