Ultimate Paper Organizer

Follow these simple steps to file right and find your life.
White File Cabinet

White File Cabinet

By: Sarah Welch and Alicia Rockmore
Similar Topics:

Remember when computers were going to eliminate paper entirely? Phrases such as "paperless office" were used when describing our eventual clutter-free days. So why is it you are still swimming in a sea of paper and your filing cabinet is still stuffed like a turkey? The reality is we are a nation of paper hoarders -- sometimes out of habit and often out of necessity. Whatever the case, there's no reason to give in to the mountains of mail. The art of filing is a skill that, once mastered, will save you countless hours (and gray hairs).

Filing Is Your Friend

First, conquer the fears you may have about that tax document disappearing. This concern is universal and prevents the best of organizers from throwing anything out (What if I need it someday?). Another stumbling block is decision making (Is it important and if so, where do I put it?).  Lastly, there's the visibility factor. Everyone is busy these days. There is a legitimate anxiety to feeling like if a time-sensitive document is tucked away, so is any chance of paying a bill or RSVP-ing to a party. Our successful system will help you confront and resolve these fears and stay on top of your correspondence.

Little by Little

When we talk to busy women across America, they tell us that the trick to getting and staying organized was to do a little bit every day.  Of course, even this can be difficult if you have the proper system in place to facilitate filing. Our approach to organizing your papers can be done a little at a time. Once in place, this system will feel as doable as brushing your teeth. Try our method to keep all of your papers in the proper place.

#1: Keep Them Separated

If you do nothing else, separate the mail that requires immediate action from items that are simply for safekeeping. This will quickly cut the filing headache in half. Place now items in a durable folder or plastic sleeve. Use an attractive wire or fabric "inbox" for notices or copies you will need to file for safekeeping.

#2: Stick to the Basics

Classify your papers as you receive them. Name them in simple and broad terms so you don't end up with a system to rival the Dewey Decimal system. We like using names based on the purpose of function of the item (e.g. "Insurance: Home," "Child 1: School," or "New Business"). This will make it a snap for you (or anyone) to find the appropriate file later. Be sure to write down the entire list of file names before you create them. This will avoid any redundancies and inconsistencies before putting pen to folder.  If the thought of creating a complete system is too much, build it up slowly -- adding one or two new folders every day until you have finished. Keep extra supplies on hand so that it's easy to add additional files going forward.   

#3: Six Makes a Habit

Commit to filing for six minutes each day (two at the start of the day, two at lunch and two in the evening).  You'll be surprised at how quickly those piles disappear. Lastly, carry the action-item folder with you and whittle away at its contents as you have "down time" throughout the week. 

Sarah Welch and Alicia Rockmore are the co-founders of Buttoned Up, a company dedicated to helping stretched and stressed people get themselves organized. They are also co-authors of Everything (almost) In Its Place.

Next Up

Organize Paperwork With an Action File

HGTV.com shows how to make daily paper management easy with an Action File.

How to Organize Your Move

Moving is one of the most daunting tasks you'll ever have to do, but you can make it easier with these expert tips and solutions.

Start Organizing by Thinking Small

Tips on how to tackle your next organizing project.

Organize Your Life

Learn how to live the simple life with our 10 steps to help you get back to basics, from Mission: Organization's Monica Ricci.

Free Yourself From Paper Clutter

Keep paper in its place by using the following tips to cut down on paper clutter.

Save Time, Save Money: Tips for Paper Handling

Digging documents you need out from stacks, piles and paper sacks stowed deep within closets slows the pace of household paper handling. Try these tips to speed and organize paper chores. Get the job done fast!

Save Money on Organizing Products

Shop sensibly and save money with these tips for choosing organizing products.

Get Organized With the Help of These Websites

These resources will help you stay on track when it comes to fighting clutter.

Start Up Your Organizing Engine

Check out these three tricks for kicking the “I’ll organize it later” habit.

Guide to Keeping Organized

Learn how to keep your space organized with five key tips from professional organizing experts.

On TV

Renovation Raiders

6:30am | 5:30c

House Hunters

7:30am | 6:30c

House Hunters

8:30am | 7:30c

House Hunters

9:30am | 8:30c

House Hunters

10am | 9c

House Hunters

10:30am | 9:30c

House Hunters

11am | 10c

House Hunters

11:30am | 10:30c

House Hunters

12pm | 11c

Fixer Upper

1pm | 12c

Fixer Upper

2pm | 1c

Fixer Upper

3pm | 2c

Fixer Upper

4pm | 3c

Fixer Upper

5pm | 4c

Fixer Upper

6pm | 5c

Fixer Upper

7pm | 6c
Tonight
Tonight

Fixer Upper

8pm | 7c

Fixer Upper

9pm | 8c

House Hunters

10pm | 9c

Fixer Upper

11pm | 10c

Fixer Upper

12am | 11c

House Hunters

1am | 12c

Fixer Upper

2am | 1c

Fixer Upper

3am | 2c

Stories We're Following

Shop This Look

Found a living space you love in HGTV's Photo Library? Get the look in your own home with products from Wayfair.

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.