Decluttering | General Organizing | Paperwork

How to Get Household Paperwork Clutter to Stop Piling Up

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What NOT to Do with Household Paperwork

What commonly happens when household paper piles up, is we get tired of having it laying all over the place so we put it in one giant pile just to tidy up. We plan to go through it later, but sometimes later comes much later than planned and the paperwork pile just keeps growing.

Meanwhile, every time we need an important piece of paper, we have to sift through the entire pile to search for it. Time is wasted, and we may or may not find the important piece of paper we are looking for. If we can’t find things when we need them, stress and chaos builds.

Avoiding the Dreaded Paperwork Pile

The busier we are, the longer we may put off going through the pile.  Once that paperwork pile has been established, we have created a job for ourselves, going through it all and figuring out what to do with it. The bigger the pile is, the more dreaded the job, so you don’t do yourself any favors by putting the job off.

Paperwork blog

It’s Time to Put a Stop to the Paperwork Pile

There are two main steps:

1. Set up designated paperwork containers for each category of paper that comes into the house. This can be decorative bins or baskets, simple office file bins, or vertical hanging bins. It really matters less what type of container you choose and more that you like them, and that they are functional.  It is also important that you place them in the right location so that they are really accessible. You want to be able to toss paperwork into your containers with minimal effort.

2.  STOP yourself from putting all of the paperwork that comes into your home on the kitchen counter, dining room table or into a pile. Instead, establish the NEW HABIT of immediately placing each piece of paper into designated containers.

Creating the New Habit is Key

This is the pivotal turning point. Once a few weeks have passed and you have been repeatedly forcing yourself to place paperwork into the containers, you will wake up one day and realize that you are suddenly doing it without any effort.

Paperwork blog

Just like brushing your teeth every day, paperwork goes into the bins without your having to even think about it. At last, the paperwork clutter has disappeared, you can find what you need when you need it, and your countertops and other surfaces are clear and clutter-free!

There are 4 primary paperwork containers:

To File, Action, To Read, and Important Info.

The free downloadable Paperwork Flow Chart below, was created for you to either print or save on your computer and refer to. This flow chart includes step-by-step directions, specifying what kind of paperwork goes into each container. It also has suggestions for other optional helpful containers you might benefit from depending on how your family is structured. Instructions for emptying the containers on a regular basis are also included.

Paperwork Flow Chart

You might want to temporarily post this flow chart near where it tends to pile up in your house – usually the nearest flat surface like the kitchen counter. The flow chart can serve as a string around the finger, reminding you and other family members to put the papers where they go instead of dumping them on the kitchen counter.

Don’t Have a Family Filing System?

The second biggest reason that people struggle with paperwork piling up in the kitchen is that they have never taken the time to set up a family filing system in the first place.  So as paperwork comes into the home, there is no place for it to go.  You will need to have a family filing system in place in order to clean out your TO FILE bin monthly.

Though technology today has allowed us to go paper-free in many ways, there is still some paperwork that has to be filed. If you don’t have a family filing system, taking the time to create one will take some time to put together initially, but this time investment will serve your family for years to come and is well worth the effort. Once this is done, you will easily be able to clean out your TO FILE bin monthly, and paperwork will stop piling up everywhere. If you want help with this project, I can help either virtually or in person. Email me at to get started.

Setting Up Your Paperwork Containers

I recommend you first see what you have at home to use for the containers. Bins, boxes, baskets, office files, or vertical pockets, any of these will do as long as they are large enough to hold a standard-sized letter, and are at least 2 1/2 inches deep. I have also included some ideas below that have my seal of approval.

Hanging 3 Tiered Hanging File Holder

Design Styles Hanging 3 Tiered Hanging File Holder


4 Stackable Desktop Letter Trays

4 Stackable Desktop Letter Trays


Vintage Wooden Mail and Paperwork Organizer

Vintage Wooden Mail and Paperwork Organizer


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  1. Laurie Ortman

    Laura helped me get my papers in order, system is working great!


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