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Paper sorting and organizing can be extremely overwhelming. We receive so much of it on a daily basis and while recycling the junk mail is easy, what the heck do we do with the rest of it. Today I will walk you through the steps to reduce virtually all of your paper and allow you to free up space and time when dealing with it. While we are talking about home papers today, if you want to see ideas for Craft Paper Storage you can find that here.
Let’s first prepare ourselves for what we are about to do. You will need a garbage bin, recycling box and a way to shred papers. Local office supply stores may offer shredding by the pound. I picked up this SHREDDER and I recommend getting an Identity THEFT PROTECTION ROLLER. We will go in detail on which items need to be shredded vs marked out.
Next, we need to do are gather our papers in one place. Often the dining table is a good place. Take out every bill, insurance policy, manual, etc. And put them on the table or work space you have designated for this event. The vast majority of this paper sorting and organizing will be going into the recycle bin. Therefore make sure you have the space! The few items I recommend doing in a separate purge is photos and books.
Now we are at the sorting stage of our paper sorting and organizing. This will go surprisingly quickly. First ALL manuals can be recycled. If you plan to move in the next 2-3 years you can set the items that stay with the house aside in a box in the attic. All manuals can now be found online and that is much more convenient than sorting through boxes of them to find what you need. Plus I bet at least 1/3 of your manuals are for things you no longer own or need.
Once you have the manuals purged, next remove any junk mail. I use my ROLLER STAMP to mark out my address in abundance of caution. But basically just put it all in recycling.
Put all mail that has to be opened aside in one pile. This is a good activity to do at the end or when watching TV. The same with any paper bills you have out. You will also want to make a pile of magazines you want to read through. Put them in a place and give yourself 30 days, I like to take a sticky note with purge by date. Whatever hasn’t been read and recycled simply needs to go in the recycle bin on that 30th day. Also, consider getting them digitally on your tablets as well.
Are these paper a necessity?
Now that we have purged the excess, how the heck do we decide what is necessary to keep! This can be hard and overwhelming but here are some easy guidelines to follow:
First of all we need to cull out the important documents from what is left. Those include but aren’t limited too: birth certificate, social security cards, passports, global entry cards, immunization records, car titles, etc. You however do not need things like homeowners and car policies and that brings us to the next segment.
The second question I want you to ask is can I access this online? If the answer is yes, go ahead and recycle generic things and shred items with your name and personal information on it. Things like your homeowners and car insurance policies can be downloaded and stuck in a folder on your computer. These are often bulky and lengthy and you can always sign in to access them.
Scan to Save
Next is can I scan/photograh this to save it? If an item can be backed up via a quick scan or photo on your phone, go ahead and scan it, then recycle or toss it. When I get things like receipts for items that have warranties. I immediately scan it and throw it in a folder called “home receipts”. Rarely do I need to access them again. But when I do, I have them all in one place. I like the app Tiny Scan Pro. It’s about $5.00 and super easy to use. It creates PDF’s of items you photograph, then you can upload them to the cloud.
Each year for my taxes I scan all of the items, sort them into folders and send them to accountant. Then I back them up on a DVD (or hard drive) and file them in a water and fire proof safe.
Does this have a special meaning to me? You will come across papers that may make you nostalgic or things like your children’s artwork. For this I recommend keeping a box then at the end of the school year or year, cull through and keep just a few pieces that are good memories for both you and your child. This will allow you to reminisce and allow them to be apart of the process. Be sure to date things on the back or with a sticker. After many years things tend to start blending together. Keep one LARGE TOTE for each person in your family for memories. This will keep you to just the items you value and reduce the clutter and overwhelm. Be ruthless but with compassion. These memories can’t be recreated like a bill or policy. But a few items will be more special than all the items.
Once you have selected the things that must be saved and you want to save. You can now pretty much ditch everything else. Nope I am not kidding. Quickly go through the pile that is left. It is unlikely anything of these things are meaning to you. Do a quick sort to be sure you didn’t miss something important and give yourself permission to recycle the rest.
To Shred or Not to Shred
This is a quick one. When you are sorting and organizing papers you will need to shred some of them to protect yourself. If it involves your home (home owners insurance, etc) you shred. Then any junk mail that is a credit card or bank offer – shred. I like this SHREDDER. The rest you can mark out with the IDENTITY THEFT ROLLER and recycle. You cannot recycle shredding. So unfortunately that goes in to the garbage. Or you can see if anyone owns a bunny or gerbil and would like it for their cage!
Now that we have our very small collections of really important papers, what should we do to protect them? I recommend a fire and waterproof safe. This SAFE is for things like jewelry and personal items, it also has a bin for papers. Then for just paperwork utilize this SENTRY SAFE. The first place thieves check is often the master closet. As that is where the majority of people keep their safe’s. I recommend finding a safe but alternative location for them. However if you plan to store fire arms in them, the master closet is likely the safest place. Abundance of caution is never a bad thing!
Paper sorting and organizing is a chore you can do in just a few hours. And the results can be amazing. You now have your important documents in a sealed and safe place. Therefore, you aren’t going through stacks and stacks of mail, junk and memories. Bonus I guarantee you have freed up a LOT of storage space.
Since completing my first paper purge several years ago, I have never once regretted it. I keep our paper storage to the bare minimum and have found new uses for my file drawers. I can’t wait to see how much storage you find when doing your own paper storage and organizing! Be sure to join me on Facebook and show off how much you have done!