Has your kitchen island become a dumping ground for all things paper? Or maybe it’s your desk? Or your front table? The fact is, when you have a family it’s tough to organize your paper clutter. No matter what you do, it seems like more paper always appears! In this post, learn how to get rid of those pesky paper piles (and stop losing important things) with 3 steps to start organizing your family’s paper clutter. Our busy family of 5 has been using this exact system for 5 years to keep the school papers, junk mail, real mail, kid’s artwork, bills, receipts, and coupons from piling up. I can’t wait for this solution for organizing paper clutter to work for you too!
so my guess is, if you’ve arrived at this post, you’ve been asking yourself one of these questions lately:
- how do i get rid of paper clutter once and for all?
- what’s a good way to eliminate paper clutter in my home?
- what’s the best way to organize papers so that they stay organized?
- how do i declutter mail, bills, school papers, receipts, and other common papers that pile up?
so let’s answer these! if you are overwhelmed by paper clutter, it’s likely you just haven’t found a solution that works for your lifestyle. there are PLENTY of answers for paper clutter on pinterest but not all of them will work for your unique family. no matter how pretty a solution for organizing papers might look, it will only work if it is something you can keep up with in real life.
controlling the paper clutter
because here’s the thing. it’s not just about controlling the paper clutter. it’s about the space you open up in your life when you figure out a system that works for you and your family that works long term. getting rid of paper piles means you can find things more quickly, your mind can rest without so many visual distractions, and in the end you will SAVE time by managing all the paperwork that comes into your home.
when i decided to find a solution for my family’s paper clutter, it was mainly because i was just sick of looking at it. when i had one child it wasn’t so bad. but now that i have three, the amount of paper that piles up from mail, school, invitations, bills, etc. is endless! where does it all come from? so my goal for our family system was probably similar to your goals for getting your papers organized. i wanted something that was:
- doable in real life so that i would maintain it on a daily basis)
- inexpensive so that i didn’t have to save up for new, expensive organization tools
- simple so that i could stick to it long term
if this sounds like what you want, i can’t wait for you to follow these 3 steps to organize your family’s paper clutter!
STEP 1 to organize your paper clutter
decide where to set up your solution for organizing your paper clutter. where does most of your paper accumulate? if your paper piles up in your laundry room, don’t try to set up a system to organize it in your basement (you won’t do it). if your paper piles up on your front table, don’t try to set up baskets, folders, or files in your mudroom. if your paper piles are in your kitchen, don’t try to buy something cute at hobby lobby to hang in your office. it will be cute, but the papers will still be in your kitchen because you don’t have time to walk them to your office!!
in our house, our kitchen is our paper hub. when it comes to mail, school papers, artwork, bills, etc. it all somehow makes its way to the kitchen island. so for Step 1 i decided our system for organizing papers needed to be in the kitchen.
i have always admired this simple paper clutter solution from the sunny side up blog. i really wanted it to work for me. i even searched for it online, sure i could find SOME WAY to make it work in my home. but as i considered our open concept, i realized i do not have the wall space for this in my kitchen – my paper hub. i thought to myself, “it would be so great if i could hang this in our mudroom and collect all our paper there.”
yes, it would, but that wasn’t going to happen. like it or not, the kitchen is my paper hub. trying to force the mudroom to be my paper hub would only result in more paper in more places. i had to let go of this idea.
keeping your paper hub in mind, you can move on to Step 2.
STEP 2 to organize your paper clutter
sort your papers into categories. most everyone’s papers can be sorted into basic categories. knowing what KINDS of papers pile up in your house will help you choose a system to keep them more organized and off your counters.
looking at our papers, i could see most of the papers on our counters were either:
- mail – including coupons and bills
- papers from school
- papers from sports or activities
- other random lists and post-its
i decided i needed a category for each child in our family and then another more “random” category for the other common papers we have. so my categories were really basic because simple was my goal:
RELATED POST: Get Rid of Your Family’s Paper Clutter for Good
RELATED POST: How to Organize School Papers the Easy Way
so for step 2, sort your own papers into categories for yourself and then consider your categories when you move on to Step 3.
STEP 3 to organize your paper clutter
based on your categories, decide on a system that will work for you in real life. it’s ok to start to browse pinterest here or do some googling. but if you want to save yourself a ton of time, read on to check out the system that i landed on because it is doable in real life FOR ANY MOM, inexpensive, simple, AND PRETTY. it has also lasted for 5 years without ANY CHANGES and i am thankful for it every. single. day.
for our system, i knew it needed to be cute, because it would be out in the kitchen, but i knew it couldn’t be complicated.
when i decided on our system, i knew i wanted it to be pretty because it would be visible in our kitchen. that was the only way i knew i would stick to it – if it was in the kitchen and it was visible. but i knew it couldn’t just be pretty. it had to work in real life with my real family and our real categories.
probably like you, i am best at sticking to things that i can do when i am in a hurry. when i am in a hurry, i can sort papers into basic baskets or files that are within reach. when i am in a hurry, i cannot sort things into smaller categories or do anything complicated or that involves going into another room with the paper. i’ve tried that and it didn’t work. so for myself, i needed a way to get the piles off my counters quickly, and then maybe come back later (like, waaaaayyyyy later) to further sort the papers.
after careful consideration, i purchased a set of wall pockets from the container store. at the time, they were the most inexpensive option i could find in the store that also fit my needs. now, there are SO MANY options on amazon. which is great because i checked today and the exact ones we have are no longer at the container store.
but i found a lot of pretty, practical options on amazon.* some of these will stick to your walls, some are hanging, and i am also going to add some desktop options to the list. ours hang on our pantry door, which is a great way to put that unused space to work for you!
here is a good look at ours (please excuse the bad kitchen lighting. i do not promise good photography skills here. but i do promise systems that will work for your family!!!) you can see that we have a pocket/file for each child. the bottom pocket is for my random to-do’s. i put bills to pay in there, gift cards i want to keep track of, recipes i want to make for dinner, etc.
one of my favorite parts about this system is switching out the file folders. here are some pretty file folder options on amazon.* but can i tell you? i haven’t updated the actual design of the files in about 2 years!! that is how well these work for us. i did switch out the labels for these cute silver ones. i also took out the papers from each file at the start of the school year (more on that in this post) but otherwise these just hang here, keeping ALL the paper clutter off my counters! and now that i am writing this and snapped this most recent picture (above) this morning, i cannot wait to update the files with one of these options:
i also often spot cute file folders in target’s dollar spot, target’s office supply section, and even at the dollar store. so if amazon isn’t a good option for you, be sure to check out those spots as well!
a few days after i finished our system, i shared it with a friend (back in 2018, can you tell by the quality of this picture and the design of her folders!!!!). a week later i went to her house and look at what i found! she stuck her file pockets right to her kitchen walls using command strips. she also used scrapbook paper with her kids’ names printed on it for the front of the pockets (instead of files). know what else i saw? NO PAPER CLUTTER ON HER COUNTERS!!!
over the years our own family’s files have also had a few different looks, here’s one of my favorites. you can’t go wrong with navy!!
now, you’re probably wondering…but what do i do with the papers after the files in this system get full? the 3 steps in this post will help you start to get your family’s paper clutter organized. to learn the easiest way to handle your papers when your go-to system gets full, you can head to this post for our family’s easy solution for getting rid of all the paper clutter for good!
and if you’re looking to get other parts of your home organized, you can grab my favorite 5 Steps to Organize Any Space right here! this handy cheat sheet is part of the FREE Grateful Home Starter Kit which is filled with my favorite resources to help you practice daily gratitude, simplify home life, and love the space you’re in. you can grab it FREE RIGHT HERE.
Let’s review the 3 steps to start to get your family’s paper clutter organized:
- STEP ONE: decide where to set up your solution for organizing paper clutter.
- STEP TWO: sort your papers into categories.
- STEP THREE: based on your categories, decide on a system that will work for you in real life.
getting your family’s paper organized will free up so much time – both mentally and physically. it will also cut down on the number of decisions you have to make in day because you already know where to put half the things that are coming into your house in a day! what does this mean?? more time to spend on the things that matter most to you as you live your most grateful life!
OTHER RELATED POSTS:
How to Organize School Papers the Easy Way
Save time Every Morning With This Easy Way to Organize Kids’ Clothes
Get Rid of Paper Clutter for Good
Why it’s Important for Kids to Help Out Around the House
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love this erin! clutter also is a stressor for me! i’m going to give this a try!
What a great idea… Love it! Question: what is your strategy for keeping yourself organized after the initial declutter? Do you go through the folders once a week? How do you keep track of things that have a due date??
best questions tristan! staying organized is probably the most challenging part. it’s easy to be excited in the beginning and then become less enthusiastic as you go. check back this week for clutter control : part 2. i’ve been battling this for the past year, tweaking the system, and i will share what has worked for me. happy holiday weekend!
Love this! I like clean surfaces so hanging files, especially your pretty ones are such a good idea! Command strips! They are my new best friends!