This is some sample text.
Learn More

House Station #2 (paper organization)

{House Station #1}
**warning: Long post ahead. You may need to grab a snack. :)

Finally sharing my new system for paper organization! At the Power of Moms retreat I attended last September, we learned about an organizational system called M.O.M – Mind Organization for Moms. I didn’t follow this system exactly, but did take bits and pieces from it to create a paper organizational system that will work for me in my house. I’m sharing what I came up with, but if you’re interested in learning more about M.O.M you can read about it here.

The first few days I worked on this, I rounded up all of the paper in my house. Paper in every folder and stack and pile. I sorted everything, trashed A TON, and categorized the paper I needed/wanted to keep. This is the time consuming not fun part.

I think this bag was the 4th or 5th trash sack – seriously! I got rid of a lot.

I already have a filing cabinet in my garage that is organized with a lot of our paper. This is for paper we need to keep, but don’t look at often. The bottom cabinet holds a lot of my old teaching files while the top cabinets hold other important papers. Things like instruction manuals for kitchen appliances, stuff we’re saving from college, yard/landscaping information, tax information, etc. Information we need to keep but that can be out of sight, out of mind.

The paper I’ve been organizing is the paper that comes in and out each day – information that we need to refer to more often.

I don’t have a home office (if you do, that would be a great place for something like this) but I do have a big storage space under my stairs that is kind of a catch all for random things.

It’s also where we have our printer/copier/fax machine set up. Kenny and I both use laptops so we don’t really even have a desk for computer work. We work best on our couches in front of the TV. :)

I have a simple bookshelf set up in this space and I’m using it to organize our paper.

Here’s what I’m loving about this location. It’s close – downstairs by the kitchen/living room so it’s easy to get to and check often – but it’s also out of sight. I can close the closet door and it doesn’t clutter up a room. Like I said before, if you have a home office, great, but if you don’t, think about a place in your house you could set up a desk or a shelf to dedicate to getting control of your paper.

One tip I loved from M.O.M was to have an inbox. A place to set all of your in coming paper until you have a chance to go through it. I made an inbox for me and one for Kenny. They are the top files. His is on the left and mine is on the right. Notice mine is empty. I like an empty inbox. :) Each of the files below are labeled with categories that fit our needs. (I didn’t get a closer picture, but I just stuck mini label stickers on the left corner of each tray.) Some of my categories are:
“extra curricular” which holds all of the information about the girls’ swimming lessons, gymnastics, dance studios I’m looking into, etc.
“real estate” because we are starting the process of looking for a new house and need a place to keep that sort of information.
“girls’ school” for things like calendars and other important school information.
“businesses” for business/contact information. Example: the contact info. for the window cleaners we used last time we had our windows cleaned.
You get the picture. Use your stacks of paper to determine what each category would be for you. The idea is that you go through your inbox often and when you do, you do one of three things — throw the paper away, complete the action needed (fill out the form, make the phone call, whatever it is you need to do), or file the paper in its location to have on hand if/when you need it.
No more stacks of paper that grow and grow! Only keep what you need. Go through your inbox often so that things don’t pile up. In fact, I have to take Kenny’s inbox pile and set it in front of him every few nights so he remembers to go through it. That’s the thing with having all of your paper so organized. It’s off your brain which is the best, but it also makes it easy to forget it’s there waiting for you!

The only reason this next shelf holds vertical paper files instead of horizontal ones is because I just used organizers I already had on hand at my house. I had these colorful files left over from my teaching days so I just used them for other categories. Some of these include a file for receipts (I don’t keep every receipt, but I do keep ones for bigger items and clothes – seems I’m always returning clothes if they don’t fit the girls right.), a file for coupons, files for our church stuff, a file for Kenny’s Charger Season ticket information, etc.
This system is working really well so far! I love having a place to set the mail out of sight until I have a minute to go through it. I love that when Kenny asked about a coupon for getting our car washed the other day I knew right where to look. I love that when I needed to return something at Target I knew right where to find the receipt. And I love that when Kenny asks where this or that is I can say “check your inbox.” I’ve told him to check his inbox so many times that now he is constantly teasing me about it. He’ll say stuff like “where are the crackers I was just eating?…oh wait…I’ll check my inbox.” (glad he amuses himself)

The bottom shelf I’m just using for extra paper and folders. I also keep my camera and video camera here so I can grab them quick when I need them.

Top holds extra paper, my trusty timer, and the green file folder you may remember from this post. Since I don’t need to use it for Kenny’s stack anymore, I’m using it for my “someday” folder.

Part of the M.O.M system suggests having a “someday” file for projects/ideas you have that you just don’t have the time for right now. I love having a place for this random information I want to save.

My categories for my someday file are:

Home Decor Ideas (stuff I’ve cut out of magazines, etc.)
Worth Saving (random quotes, great articles on different topics, etc.)
Projects for me
Projects for the kids

I’ll have time for this file at some point – probably when I’m not spending so much of my time changing diapers, doing laundry, and cleaning off the high chair. :)

This is the part of my little system I’m loving the most. I used to write everything down in my planner. My to-do list for the day was mixed in with a grocery list and stuff I wanted to do, but didn’t really NEED to do right away. Things like “finish a layout” were mixed in with “fill out school forms” – school forms were due the next day and clearly needed to be a priority whenever I had a minute.
Now I keep a small calendar/planner for important dates in my purse, but this binder is at home holding all of my lists.

Binder Categories:

Immediate Actions- list of things I need to do right away – things that are time sensitive – top priority.
Important Actions – list of things I’d like to get done sometime in the next couple of weeks.
Current Projects – projects I’m working on
Running Lists – A page for each of my running lists I always have going on. My running lists are titled:
To Organize (always have spots in my house I’m working on)
Goodwill (Kenny likes me to write down all the stuff I’m constantly donating to goodwill for tax purposes)
Grocery Store
Costco (three stores I visit the most)
November Posts (list of blog post ideas when they pop in my head)
Goal Review – place to write my goals

This binder has changed my life! Ok – maybe that’s going a bit far, but it has made things much easier for me! :) If I have time at home to get something done, I work on my immediate action list first, and then if I’m caught up with that stuff, I work off of my important action list. My important action list is stuff that is usually more fun — things I want to do vs. things I really need to do. Mostly I just love having this information all together organized in one place. No more post it notes all over the bathroom mirror and lists going on in three different notebooks.

At the end of the binder I have this red folder to hold papers I refer to often. You know – really important stuff like the aerobics schedule for my gym and when Nordstroms half yearly sale starts. Gotta stay on top of things! :)

The main idea behind M.O.M is that you have everything organized so that it is “off your brain” – you aren’t thinking about and worrying about all of your paperwork and stuff that needs to get done. When you have a system that helps you to to stay on top of your life, it will free up your time for more important things — like your family. Again, this system above is not M.O.M — I took ideas from that and created my own system. If this is overwhelming to you, come up with something that isn’t. The system you use doesn’t matter, as long as it is something that will work for you.
This is working for me. And just thinking about my paper being so organized gives me a really warm fuzzy feeling inside. :)
xoxo, Erin
Join the Conversation

39 thoughts on “House Station #2 (paper organization)

  1. Yea…have been waiting for this. I do almost the exact same thing but done in binders w/ tabs, binders seperated by school, church, household, etc…but sometimes its too much effort to get the appropriate binder, file,etc then I tend to forget abt it. Sooo, maybe I’ll try this instead. Do you not use Inboxes for your girls? OK, my big struggle is BILLS…we have alot of bills/statements that come in medically wise and I cannot stay on top of it all or even for the day to day bills, when to pay, what to keep, etc…thoughts?

  2. Can I just tell you how much I love this post!! I was just telling a friend this morning that I’m sick of all the papers taking over my kitchen counters. Thank you for sharing, I may have to give it a try.

  3. So.Overwhelmed. But…of course I am amazed as always. :)

    The ‘paper’ situation in this house is SCARY. I’m talking several piles and bags of stuff just shoved wherever. It seems so impossible to fix that I never even attempt it.

    But you know, now that you’ve posted this…it will be turning and churning in my mind.

    We’ll see if anything gets done about it.

    I’m totally envious of your space to store this stuff though. That’s awesome!

    Butch wants to cut a hole in the drywall under my stairs and create a space like this. Heaven help me.

  4. Wow! That looks like a fantastic system. I have been trying to get up the courage lately to commit to being more organized, to free my mind from the stress of NOT having a system. I think I can use some of these ideas. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Oh Erin, I only wish we were friends in real life — with our love for order and organization, I know we’d get along just famously! I’m doing the whole paper tossing process right now, and just wrote a similar post this morning! The POM is so infectious!

  6. Erin, I read all about it on the Power of Moms site and have started using some of these ideas myself. I didn’t go as indepth as you, but it works for me. I LOVE having an inbox for both my husband and I.

    Also, I referred to you on my latest post. Hope that’s ok :)

  7. Love these ideas! I have been an organizing fiend lately and I am so much happier. I love organizing my home. I have been doing a lot but, as you know, there is always more to do!

    One idea about the bills (re: Amanda’s comment): As soon as I bring the mail into my house I open it and sort it. Nothing fancy, just throw away the junk, open the bills and put them with the envelope (or toss the envelope if I am paying online) and put them in the bill-paying slot of my pretty new paper organizer I got at Target. Catalogs I try to look at quickly, and other stuff gets immediate action or filed in the proper place.
    Not sure if this is exactly what you were looking for, just my ideas for dealing with the daily mail. I actually like doing it because I am weird like that. :)

  8. Wow this is such a great system. We just moved and my son started school. There’s a lot of paper here. I love all your organizing tips. Hope you’ll show more!

  9. As soon as we “finish” off the back part of our house I need to get my paper info worked out! I have really important documents like my post Navy stuff, etc. And that should really be in a safe considering it has my social all over it!

    Funny response by Kenny! Sounds like him and my husband would get along swimmingly! :o)

    Happy Friday Lady!

  10. I love how organized you are Erin.
    Thanks for sharing this post.
    I know it took you some time to do this post, but I sure got a lot out of it!
    I can’t wait to do some of these things.
    We have a closet under our stairs that looks just like yours and I have been racking my brain with exactly how to organize it.
    I might just do what you have done with yours. It would be a great office space/catchall area.

    PS- I know you aren’t big on the cooking, but I posted an really easy and yummy chili recipe today. You might just wow everyone you know with it!

    Happy friday my friend.

  11. So, any thoughts that you might every have need to travel to AZ? I am just saying I have some papers all over my home office that might need to meet you. :)

  12. I am in love with post and got so excited when I saw it. The hardest thing right now is finding an area for these items. Thank you so much for taking the time to share this with us. I’m glad you found something that works for you. I hope to get paper organized very soon.

  13. Thank you! You motivate me like none other. I was reading this during breakfast and started tackling paper. My kids and I are still in our jammies. And we are in Maryland- so it’s almost 4pm!

    Thanks for the tips. I especially love the vertical organizers- I too have those leftover from my second grade classroom. Perfect for paper!

  14. This is great! I have been just a blog reader of your blog for some time now, this is my first time posting a comment on here. Thank you so much for sharing this! I have just started the M.O.M. system as well, and love all the little “extra’s” you have going on with your system. I have a quiestion though, what kind of paper do you use in your big binder? Is it just regualr lined paper, or do you use something else? Thanks! :)

  15. Great tips, Erin. Paper is so overwhelming at times. Agree being aware of the Nordstrom sale is important. Don’t want to encourage it :D but love Kenny’s sense of humor.

  16. I love all your organization tips on your blog.

    Thank you for all your great tips, good details, photos, and how-to’s. It is wonderful and so helpful.

    I just linked your toy organization post on a recent post on my blog. I’m in the mood to organize toys before Christmas and used some of your tips!

    I found your blog, I believe, through Sarah on her Clover Lane blog.

  17. Erin, Thank you so much for this post! I have a couple of questions. You say you don’t keep most receipts. Is that true even for credit card/debit card receipts? Do you keep paid bills? If so, how do you file them?

    Our paper is driving me crazy!

    To the anonymous poster who asked about the green file holder, I found the exact one on clearance at Target this past weekend.

  18. I really enjoyed reading your post about paper purging and organization. Thank you for sharing such a detailed process. It takes time and I appreciated it.

  19. ah paper!!…I do the same thing: round up every piece of paper…and sort through it…it’s such a great feeling to go through everything…and get rid of stuff! Job well done: i love your organizational system.

  20. These are great techniques in maintaining a clutter-free household. A lot of people will surely find these tips helpful in addressing their paper clutter concerns. Thanks for sharing a very informative article.

  21. I am having a difficult time finding a method for my papers too. I really liked the someday file. I have one of my own that I use to clear my tables and desk. I just called it a new use for the action file, but it seemes to be working for me.
    Thank you for posting.

Shop my instagram

View All Posts