Spring Cleaning & Organizing Paper Clutter}

Paper clutter!  One of the worst enemies of a productive and otherwise clutter-free household.  It drives me crazy how quickly the mail piles up in our house!  I have started making a point to address the mail each day, instead of waiting until it’s out of control.

Now, as soon as the mail comes in, I toss the trash, set aside the bills, and sort the magazines until I have a chance to read them.

I like to keep magazines by my bed so I can read before going to sleep.  Also, I can never read a magazine while James is awake.  (The basket is from West Elm).

As for the rest of the paper clutter in our home, it’s nothing a few file organizers and my trusty labeler can’t handle!

My principles for organizing the paper clutter are really simple.  It’s just hard to get going sometimes, especially if its gotten really out of hand.
Don’t run out and buy any new organizing supplies until you’ve sorted through things so that you can better see what you need.  You can go buy the pretty organizers later- think of it as your reward for all that hard work!
  1. Gather all the papers into one large surface area 
  2. Sort into piles, putting like categories together
  3. Break the categories into subcategories for filing 
  4. Create labels! 

Here’s my process put into action with a few major categories in our house:

Here’s the whole big mess before I sorted through it.
Then I sorted and put post-it notes on top in anticipation for labeling.

And finally, using a file from The Container Store, I made labels for each section.

Is it just me but are coupons all the rage these days?  I’m obsessed with Extreme Couponing- in the same way I’m fascinated by the Real Housewives.  I don’t want to be them, but it’s fun to watch.  I do like to save money though, but have been terrible at using coupons, despite my best efforts.  It seems I’d checkout and the in the car on the way home remember I had a coupon or the one I wanted to use was expired, but now I’m determined to be more organized with my coupons.  
This goes for all those discount codes the retailers offer too.  Since those “30% off” or “save $50 for every $100” deals comes along every month, I don’t buy clothes without them at places like Express, Banana Republic, and Ann Taylor Loft.
I got a mini accordion file at The Container Store for receipts, coupons, and gift certificates.  I keep the coupons I need for the week in the very back so I can find them easily.  And I edit the folder every few weeks and trash the expired coupons or the receipts I no longer need.  Long-term receipts I need to hold on to (like furniture or electronics) are moved to our household file drawer.

The file isn’t tiny, but it fits easily in my purse, so I keep it with me all the time.

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I created a file for documents pertaining to James before he was even born, but the papers still pile up as he grows.  If I’m not ready to file things away yet, I’ll at least put everything in a basket together so that it’s contained until I can get to it.  
Then I just sort it into his files, which I currently keep on his bathroom counter.
This file is from Target, but I added a piece of scrapbook paper to the inside and some stickers to make it more fun.

I hope sharing how we deal with some of the paper in our house helps you in your own home!


  1. May 25, 2011 / 3:52 am

    I'm with you on the couponing… I try so hard, but I always forget I have them until I've already left the store! 🙂



  2. May 25, 2011 / 4:02 am

    Ditto to the Michael Kors! 🙂

    Paper clutter is the thing that I battle with the most. Just looking at this makes me want to start cleaning my office. In fact, that's exactly what I'm going to do now…

  3. May 25, 2011 / 4:02 am

    The MK bag is a couple of years old but I still love it! I think it's from Nordstrom, but I can't remember??

  4. May 25, 2011 / 5:07 am

    keep these tips coming – not only do you have great ideas, you are getting me motivated!!!! thank you

  5. While My Sailors Aweigh
    May 25, 2011 / 3:51 am

    Great post! Great advice! … but most importantly, where and when did you get that Michael Kors bag???

  6. Elsa
    May 25, 2011 / 4:17 am

    I'm pretty good about keeping paper clutter organized, as long as I give myself a few minutes once a week to clean things up and file away stuff. But…our warranties and manuals box is a disaster, you've inspired me to tackle it soon.

  7. Cassie {Hi Sugarplum!}
    May 25, 2011 / 4:27 am

    These organizing posts are out of control! you are so seriously organized!!! great tips…I'm saving this post for 'someday' ;

  8. classic • casual • home
    May 25, 2011 / 4:55 am

    Wow, great tips. They say you should just handle a piece of paper once before filing. So hard in practice.

  9. May 25, 2011 / 10:45 am

    Love it! I have always been one to sort the mail right over the trash can!! No point hanging on to all that junk mail. I have files for EVERYTHING!! Be sure to make copies of important receipts as they fade over time. I staple mine to the inside cover of the manual. Oh, and I am loving that MK bag.

  10. Michaela
    May 25, 2011 / 5:53 am

    Awesome post, Megan! I love your tips. I'm currently watching Extreme Couponers and blogging, so funny! It's insane…in the best way possible. This youth pastor just bought $800 worth of groceries for the homeless! Amazing.

    Labels and files are great ways to stay organized in the paper department (:

  11. May 25, 2011 / 11:31 am

    very helpful! i really like that mini container for coupons, i didn't know they make ones that small and i could use one.

  12. May 25, 2011 / 2:13 pm

    Isn't organizing the BEST feeling in the world!!! You are definitely inspiring me to do a little redo of some files.

  13. May 25, 2011 / 3:13 pm

    My paper clutter has been out of control for some time now and I am just now tackling this problem. One thing I found helpful for all of those instructional manuals you get, I find the electronic version online and store it in a file on my external hard drive. I rarely use mine but in the instance I need it I just look it up on the computer.

  14. May 25, 2011 / 3:13 pm

    I still need to organize my manuals the way you did!
    For my paper clutter, I set a timer for 15 minutes and go through the mail for only that long. Usually it's enough to deal with it and that way I don't get overwhelmed! And if I don't get to it all in that time, it's ok, because I know I will be able to the next day. I do the same thing with emails.

  15. May 25, 2011 / 3:22 pm

    Thanks for sharing Megan! I love to organize, too – but because I'm OCD about it and want to do it perfectly, it doesn't get done as often as it should!
    You have great tips!

    P.S. if you want a reward for all your hard work, I've got a fun giveaway going on at my blog!

  16. May 25, 2011 / 3:53 pm

    Paper clutter and the mail are my worst enemies! I rather clean the bathroom then have to sort through all the paperwork. Thanks for all the great tips!

  17. May 25, 2011 / 4:22 pm

    Hi there! I just stumbled on your blog via Dwellings by DeVore. I love it! I'll add it to my reader.

  18. Kelly Krugh
    May 25, 2011 / 11:37 am

    Love this post and the one before! Thanks for the tips!!!

  19. Amanda
    May 25, 2011 / 1:28 pm

    ahhh the label maker! Isnt it addicting?!
    So I think we need another summer blogger meet-up!!! I know its kind of a drive for everyone-but it would be fun to meet up here in The Woodlands- Market Street area- we have a ZGallerie, Tiffanys, SurLaTable, and a GREAT little boutique shop called Maggie's .

  20. May 25, 2011 / 7:51 pm

    omg. its like the refrigerator incident ALL OVER AGAIN- girl, you got me on the floor, receipts EVERYWHERE trying to make sense of the mess I have created, lol. AHHHHH! Why can't I blink and mine be just like yours? You rock. xoxo shel

  21. May 25, 2011 / 8:10 pm

    Thanks for all the great ideas! I love the coupon file folder. I always seem to forget about those great coupons until it's too late!

  22. Katie
    May 25, 2011 / 4:02 pm

    These are great ideas, Megan — Thanks for sharing!

  23. May 26, 2011 / 3:15 am

    Yes! That's what I am talking about! I love these tips. I do the same thing where I just pile up all my mail and newspapers from 4 weeks ago and it catches up with me. Fast. Great advice though. Definitely going to be putting it to use.

  24. Courtney {a thoughtful place}
    May 25, 2011 / 10:39 pm

    Girlfriend . . you have some skilz like no other. So impressed. Love the James file and how organized that counter is. WOWZERS.

  25. May 26, 2011 / 3:57 am

    You are so good at organizing that stuff! Maybe if we had a Container Store here I would be better. No, probably not. I feel the same way about couponing though. Never use them at the grocery store. Who wants 5,000 boxes of cake mix or cheese whiz anyway? But always use the discounts for Banana Republic, Gap, etc.

  26. Traci
    May 26, 2011 / 12:58 am

    These are great ideas! I need one of those accordian files for my purse. Sadly, we don't have a Container Store.

  27. emily
    May 26, 2011 / 4:23 am

    Such great tips! I can always count on your to have excellent ideas! Keeping up with all of the paper around our house is one of the more frustrating things!

    Hope you're doing well! With all the craziness, I've missed chatting with you!

  28. May 26, 2011 / 3:14 pm

    Great advice! My kitchen is where all the papers pile up. My husband put a load of his papers "to shred" in grocery bags and stuck them by the shredder – weeks ago. I wonder who he thinks is going to do the shredding? 🙂

  29. May 27, 2011 / 8:14 pm

    Great tips! I sort my mail the same way and I think it definitely helps!

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  34. June 28, 2012 / 7:38 am

    Spring is indeed a great time to organize our homes especially in dealing with paper clutter. A lot of homeowners find this as a difficult task, however, these tips that you have provided are surely helpful in making it easier. Thanks for sharing.

  35. June 16, 2013 / 1:28 am

    well done!! you have definitely designated a specific space for each and every paper that comes your way. post-it's are my go-to stand-in for initial sorting & label preparation as well! we're keeping 3M in business, girl! 😉

  36. July 2, 2013 / 6:59 pm

    Great ideas! What do you do with your old magazines? That's my biggest problem.

  37. July 28, 2014 / 11:37 pm

    Thanks for the ideas! I'm going to be deep cleaning and organizing my mountains of papers. It's a constant war on papers in this house!

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