Controlling Paper Clutter

“It’s Easier to Keep Up Than to Catch Up”

Paper is one of the most common areas that I hear from my clients that they would like to conquer. It is a basic problem that everyone struggles with! It seems that everywhere we turn, we are collecting paper – whether it’s junk mail, bills, receipts, paperwork from school, tax documents, to-do lists, post-its, business cards, etc. The piles of paper that accumulate and seem to multiply overnight are a constant source of stress – whether we realize it or not! But the good new is – it is something that we actually have the power to control and do something about!

Here are some suggestions to get AND KEEP your paperwork organized!

First of all, Start Now! Start with the paperwork that you receive TODAY, not with what has been accumulating for months (or even years!) We will get back to conquering those old piles. However, first we need to set up routines for today so that those piles don’t get worse. You will be amazed that once you set up a system and it’s running smoothly, most of those piles that you accumulated in the past can either be tossed or shredded. But again – that’s a project for another day. Let’s start fresh TODAY!

Most importantly, remember…

Perfection is not your goal – Improvement is!

Most of our papers come in the form of mail. Here are some tips you can easily put into place to improve your mail clutter.

Think of your incoming mail in 4 categories:

  • Garbage (or recyle)
  • Action Papers (i.e. bills)
  • Reading Materials (i.e. magazines, flyers)
  • Reference Papers (i.e. insurance documents)

Garbage –

The Critical First Step – Open your mail near your garbage can! Throw away or recycle all of the junk mail and ads immediately!

Action Papers –

Next, open each piece of mail that needs your attention. Toss the outside envelope (and the inside envelope if you pay bills electronically.)

Separate your bills and keep them all in one place. I only use file folders that I can file vertically. I have a file on my desk in a vertical desk top organizer labeled “To Pay”. Filing things horizontally (i.e. piles) leads to stacks of papers that end up growing with extraneous paperwork and things can easily get lost that way.

I also have a vertical file on my desk labeled “Future Action” for items that need my attention that aren’t bills, but are still time sensitive.

Reading Materials –

Place items that you want to read where you will actually read them – perhaps on your coffee table or your nightstand or even your car if you spend time waiting in your car for kids, etc. (but be careful not to start accumulating paperwork in your car!)

Reference Materials –

Next, file any documents that you need to keep for future reference (i.e. statements, insurance documents, etc.). Again, using a vertical filing system. Do this immediately if you can. Yes, it will take you a couple of extra minutes – but that is nothing compared to the time that it will take later to try to find that document if it is not filed in its appropriate spot. Just like all of our other possessions, every piece of paper needs a “home”. This includes our important papers. It’s the only way we will be able to find them when we need them. Another option is to have a vertical file folder on your desk labeled “To File” – but I strongly suggest just taking the extra couple of minutes and file them where they belong immediately rather than having to handle that same piece of paper again later. Plus, if you end up needing that paper before you file it in its “home”, you’ll need to needlessly go through all the papers in that To File folder to find it (a waste of your precious time!)

How to Create a Filing System:

There are many ways to create a filing system. The most important thing is to create something that you will be able to easily maintain. Some people like all of their files in alphabetical order. Others prefer broad categories and then sub files within each category. There is no one “right” way. Do what works for you! The important part is that it needs to make sense to you and you need to use it!

Use a file cabinet or smaller file holder depending on how many files you have.

Common categories if filing alphabetically are:

  • Insurance (separate folder for each type of insurance – auto, homeowners, life, medical)
  • Automobile Maintenance
  • Medical Bills – Current Year
  • Bank Statements
  • Credit Card Statements
  • Home Improvements
  • Tax Documents – Current Year

Common categories if filing by category are:

  • Finance (subcategories could be bank statements, credit card statements, etc.)
  • Medical (subcategories could be insurance, bills, health articles, etc.)
  • Personal (subcategories could be pets, travel, home improvement, etc.)
  • User Manuals (include warranties, receipts, etc.)

If you are a visual person, consider buying some colorful files or labels. It may sound silly, but this can help make the filing process more enjoyable and you will be more likely to maintain it.

An electronic filing system is also an option that we will discuss in a future blog post. However, as much as we hear about going paperless in the future, it is unlikely that that will ever likely happen 100%. You will always need a paper filing system at home (or at your office). There is no better time to get that started than Now!

And the most important thing to remember is –

Perfection is NOT your goal – Improvement is!


As Christmas is fast approaching, and we are still spending much more time at home than ever, consider giving Clutter-Free Gifts this year.  There are many benefits to Clutter-Free Gifts:

  • They are easy to shop for…none of them require a trip to the mall.  Most of them can be purchased online or at places you are normally going to.
  • Clutter free gifts are generally more thoughtful than your typical knick knack, coffee mug, clothes or kitchen gadget.
  • After months of being home a lot more, I think we all realize that most of us do not need more “stuff” to have to find spaces for and dust around.

For a gift to be considered “clutter free”, it is usually

  • Not physical
  • Consumable
  • Filling a need

Here is a list of some favorite clutter-free gifts.  Try giving some of these to your loved ones this year.

  • Wine or Beer Club Membership
  • Flowers or an Outdoor Plant
  • Gift Card to a Favorite Restaurant
  • A Round of Golf
  • Miniature Golf
  • Audible Gift Card
  • Netflix Membership
  • Hulu Membership
  • Hello Fresh/Blue Apron or other Home Delivery Meal Kits
  • Prepared Meals for the Freezer
  • House Cleaner
  • Professional Organizer
  • Yard Service
  • Gas Gift Card
  • Master Class or Other Online Course
  • Coffee Gift Card (Starbucks, Dutch Bros, Human Bean)
  • Grocery Store Gift Card
  • Homemade Baked Goods
  • College Fund Money
  • Charitable Donation in your Loved One’s Name
  • Sponsor a Child (Compassion International, etc.)

Note that these aren’t just holiday gift ideas, they can be used at any time of the year!  I hope you see something on the list that your loved ones would like.  But remember, it’s not the gift that counts, it’s the love that you give them all 365 days of the year that they treasure the most!

Share your ideas! f you have any other ideas for clutter-free gifts, leave them in the comments below!  I’d love to hear them!

Creating Your Perfect Pantry

OCTOBER is THE perfect time to get your pantry in shape!  Wouldn’t it be nice to have it done before the holidays when you spend a lot more time in the kitchen? That busy time of year is quickly approaching (I’ve even seen Christmas trees in the stores already – what’s up with that?)  That’s why now is the perfect time to Just Do It

Trust me, if you follow these four simple steps now, then during the next 3 months (plus!), you will save money, save time and save frustration!

Consider this . . .

Do you have a hard time finding what you need in your pantry?  You know it’s in there somewhere, but you can’t find it!

Are you embarrassed to ask someone to grab something from your pantry because of what they might think when they open those doors?

Do you buy things at the grocery store that you already have, but you didn’t realize it because you didn’t see them in your pantry?

Do you pull things out of your pantry to use and realize they expired long ago and you need to throw them away?

Does your family just throw things back into the pantry without regard for where it goes?

If you answered yes, to any of these questions, then keep reading,  I can help you!  (No judgement zone here . . .My answers used to be Yes to all of the above!)

I have spent a good part of my adult life with an unorganized pantry.  Don’t get me wrong . . . I love it when it’s organized; and I have organized it often!  I organize it.  And then I re-organize it a few months later.  Only to have to re-organize it again a few months after that.  I’ve spent a lot of frustrating moments searching for things that I know are in there but I can’t find them;  throwing away food that has been forgotten about and expired, finding moths have invaded my dried goods, oh, believe me . . . my list goes on and on.  Remember – this is a no judgement zone!

But I’m thrilled to share with you that I have the solution!  Or at least the solution for me – one that I have been able to maintain for quite awhile now, which is the key!  Remember, what works for one, does not necessarily work for all, but in the hopes that this will help you, I want to share what I learned through trial and error.  And I want to share it now, while you can still do it before the rush of the holidays.

Here are my four simple steps for you to be able to create a pantry that is organized, functional, and actually pretty nice to look at!  And even better, a place that you will want to keep organized, because of the joy it brings you.  You may be thinking . . . “A pantry can bring me joy?”  Well, I think it can.  Maybe it’s just my weird Organizing Gene that makes me feel that way. But just try it . .  you may be surprised!

Step One . . . Take everything out.  Put it all on your kitchen table or counter.  As you are putting it on your table, group it into categories, like canned goods, pasta and rice, snacks, cereal, baking items, sweets, etc. 

Step Two . . . Get your garbage can.  It’s time to purge!  Throw away all of the expired items.  Throw away all of the bags or containers that only have crumbs left in them.  Either throw away or put in a separate pile to donate to a local food pantry or friend, items that you know you are not going to eat or cook with but that are still perfectly good.

Step Three . . . Visualize your Perfect Pantry.  Now comes the fun part!  Decide how you want your pantry to look.  You’ve seen the pictures in magazines and online of the products you can buy to re-package and group your pantry items and make your pantry symmetrical and eye pleasing.  You can go that route, but it’s not necessary.  Now that you know what you will be putting back into the pantry, I suggest you first see what you have around the house that you can use.  Chances are you have some baskets or other containers that you can use to group like kind items together to get you started. If you don’t already have some, and you would like to purchase containers, you have a lot of options.  You can find containers in every shape and size and in every budget category.  Try Dollar Tree, Target, TJ Maxx, Home Goods and the Container Store.  I have found great products at all of these places at reasonable prices.  You should measure your shelves (width, depth and height) before shopping since there are so many shapes and sizes available.

Although it’s not necessary to buy product to organize your pantry, I’ll tell you from personal experience that once I did, I was able to keep things much more organized.  Plus, after making the investment in the space, you will have more of an incentive to keep it looking nice.

Step Four . . . Implement your plan!  It’s time to put things back now.  This may take a little trial and error.  So don’t be surprised if you end up moving things around a little bit over the next few days.  Remember, you are trying to create a system that you can maintain, so it’s worth the effort. Put things you use the most where you can easily reach them.  Keep them grouped by category. Save the bottom and top shelves for items that you don’t use as often – or for those extra containers of condiments or bulk items that you like to keep on hand.

I admit . . . It’ll take you a little bit of time and effort to create your perfect pantry.  But I promise you, it’ll be worth every single second!  Here are just some of the benefits you’ll enjoy immediately . . .

  • Lower your grocery bill . . . You will spend less on groceries because you won’t duplicate purchases.
  • Less waste . . . You will use things before they expire now that you can see them.
  • Faster food prep time  . . . It will take less time to cook dinner and pack lunches because you can find things easily.
  • Easier for your family to find things AND put them away (the putting away part is not a promise, but it is more likely to happen now!)
  • A pleasing space to look at (you may even be tempted to leave the pantry door open – just so you can show it off!).

Good Luck and Happy Organizing!  By taking these steps, you’ll be one step closer to creating another Amazing Space in your home, just like the homeowner below!  Leave me a comment below and let me know how it went!

If you like the idea of being organized, but simply don’t have the desire or time to do it yourself, another alternative is letting me help you! Let me do what I do, so that you can do what you do!

Fall Organizing Tips – The Magic of 3

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Today is the First Day of Fall!  I’m sure you’ve all heard of Spring Cleaning, but Fall is a Fantastic time to do a little decluttering and organizing as well! Here are 3 THINGS that you can do now that I guarantee will make your Fall and Holiday season much more peaceful and enjoyable and give you the time to focus on more important things like quality time with friends and family.  

1 – Go through your closet and get rid of things you didn’t wear this summer.  Have you heard of the 80/20 rule?  They say that 80% of the time, you wear 20% of your clothing.  I wasn’t quite sure if I believed that or not, so into my closet I went!  Sure enough… I have 18 pairs of casual pants, mostly jeans (in various shapes and sizes – no judgement please!).  How many are my go-to jeans?  3!  Yep…That’s even less than 20%!  Why am I keeping the others?  For that day when I will fit into them again? For that day when I will have the “perfect” top to go with them? We all know “that day” is not likely to happen.  And IF it does….I’m buying myself some new jeans –  not wearing the ones that have been collecting dust for years!  How much more joy and peace would it give me to see that extra space in my closet instead of the reminder that I have bunch of things that I can’t wear?  Take the challenge and go do some counting and see how many of your clothes you actually wear!

When getting rid of items, make it simple – only focus on one category – shirts, pants, dresses, shoes or swimsuits – However “small” you may think the accomplishment is, it’s still an accomplishment that I guarantee will make you feel so much better and at peace every time you open that closet door!

2 – Get ahead of the holidays – Start getting ready for holiday guests.  Are you like a lot of us that have a “guest room” that somehow turns into a catchall space for that extra stuff that doesn’t actually have a “home” in your house?  Wouldn’t it be nice if when you knew you were having overnight guests, you could do fun things to get ready for their stay – rather than scrambling the weekend before or the few nights before just to find the bed that you know is hiding underneath all that stuff? Don’t wait until Thanksgiving or Christmas to organize that guest room – no one needs more things to do around the holidays!  If you start working on it now (even just 15 minutes at a time!), you will have it done in plenty of time.  This will give you a chance to maybe even make a trip to Target or your favorite home décor store to add a couple of cute decorating items to your guest room, or buy new sheets or pillows, which is guaranteed to make you and your guests smile!

Before and After Photos – From Mess to Success!

3 – Get ahead of the holidays – take an inventory of your gift-wrapping supplies. It happens to all of us – at least it happens to me more often than I care to admit (but I will!).  We’ve shopped for the perfect gift.  We are pretty proud of ourselves that we found the perfect something for the perfect someone and then we wait until the last minute to wrap it.  Only to find that out of the many gift bags that we have somehow over-accumulated, there is not one single bag that is the right size!

Right now, before gift giving season arrives is the perfect time to go through your gift bags, tissue and wrapping paper – purge those that you know you won’t use and figure out what you need to have a good supply of bags (small, medium and large) and wrapping paper to be prepared for the season!  A great place to stock up on bags and tissue is your local dollar or 99 cents store.  Although I am tempted and occasionally do buy colored tissue, I like to stick to the white tissue so that it goes with any bag I want to use. And don’t forget the scotch tape!

The Magic of Three – Whether you choose my 3 suggestions for Fall Organizing, or pick 3 ideas of your own – I encourage you to choose just 3 THINGS that you can do now to help make your Fall Season more peaceful – write them down in a visible spot and then do them!  A lot of us have a tendency to have a To Do List that becomes way too long and turns into a Wish List that just doesn’t end up happening.  If you choose just 3 THINGS, you will be less overwhelmed and way more likely to do them.  I guarantee getting just 3 THINGS done will make you feel at peace, give you joy and turn areas of your home into Amazing spaces!    

If you find yourself wanting to put any of these or other ideas into action, but don’t have the time or desire to do it yourself, contact me – I would love to help you turn your spaces Amazing!

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~ Karen

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