Papers ~ how to declutter and organize documents

When it comes to papers, they seem to end up everywhere in our house and our office. Having a new mentality about them — discarding them entirely – is quite beneficial. When you have this new rule, you will only keep what is important, which in today’s digital world is usually a pretty limited quantity. Not only that, but it is also a more environmentally friendly decision.

Steps how to declutter and organize your papers:

Step 1. Prepare your place and boxes for decluttering

Step 2. Gather all the papers and make a pile

Step 3. The joy check process of paper

Step 4. How to store and organize paper the KonMari way

Step 1. Prepare your place and boxes for decluttering

Choose a place where you can gather all of your papers in one place. In this case I find to have them stack on the dining table by categories the easiest way, but a floor or bed in the bedroom will serve the purpose. In this category, prepare only one box for discarding.

Step 2. Gather all the papers and make a pile

It is important to gather all of your household’s papers. From your birth certificates and diplomas to tiny post-it notes.

When making a pile of papers, sort the papers in three major subcategorized piles:

1. Pending (currently using) ~ these are the papers that need immediate action within the next few days or weeks, such as bills, forms, letters, notes etc. No matter how outdated some of the papers are, we only need to categorize the piles at this stage before doing a joy check and discarding them in next step.


2. Frequently accessed ~ contracts, recipes, instructions, current projects, etc.


3. Infrequently accessed ~ certificates (birth, death, last will, marriage, divorce), warranties, greeting cards etc..

Step 3. The joy check process of paper

1. Basic rule: discard everything ~ meaning you should choose which of them will be kept with the understanding that the rest will be thrown away. We are approaching the papers as if the decision to get remove them all is already been made, but we want to check if there are some worth keeping. By using this opposite approach, we will end up with just amount of papers we need.

2. Start with a pending category, with manuals as a subcategory, or with post-it notes that you no longer require.

3. Manuals ~ discard the manuals, you can get them online or contact the manufacturer. If you are a person relies heavily on their handbook, leave it but rip off the portions of the manuals that are not in your language.

4. Credit card statements and pay slips should all be replaced with electronic versions. unless they are required for year-end tax preparation.

5. Seminar and course materials

The knowledge is received during the seminar itself from a great professor and group of students. To declare the seminar was a success, we must be able to put what we learned into practice. Having that much material acts as a safety net, preventing us from putting what we know into practice. I personally have one document on my device with bullet points for the details I need and know I can`t remember, (although that is often easily reachable on internet.). It serves as a handy recipe that I have close by when I need it. Everything else is given away or thrown away.

6. Greeting cards

Once you finish reading them, their primary purpose of expressing a greeting is fulfilled. Keep only those that spark joy. Organize them with sentimental items if there are too many.

7. Warranties

Keep them in a single, well-organized file; don’t subdivide them because that will just lead to accumulation. They are only used once a year, so there’s no need to waste space on many files, plus you can check which ones are expired when you look for the one you need. Keep the receipt and warranty together.

8. Here are some questions to guide you through this joy check process if you find it challenging to make a choice:

a) When do you need this?

b) How long have you had it?

c) How often do you go back and look at it?

d) Can you find the same content on internet?

e) Have you already saved it on your computer?

f) How much a problem would it be if you didn’t have this?

g) Does it really spark joy?

9. Burn or shred the document if you are afraid to just toss it away due to the information it contains. Although not the best choice for the environment, burning the papers that stood for something significant to us or a difficult time in our lives may be quite cathartic. It might stand for the ultimate release, providing closure and inspiration for a fresh beginning.

10. Thank the papers that you have let go – this is the final and important aspect of joy checking. They are an incredibly helpful tool that helped you when you needed them. If you don’t get a chance to say “thank you” to each paper before throwing it away, give the whole box a big embrace instead.

Step 4. Storing and organizing your papers

The same three categories will assist you in organizing your saved papers:

1. Pending papers

Papers that require immediate attention, usually in the next two weeks, such as bills, forms, letters, etc.

Keep them upright in a magazine file and go over them once a week. It is ideal to set aside a specific day for this task, perhaps on a Sunday morning with a cup of your favourite beverage. When you’re done, you will either throw them away or place them in one of the next categories.

If there is a whole family in the house, have only one pending box per person. Keep the box in the entrance way, so that any paper you bring inside the house is stopped for going any further and you will easily find it. If that is not the option, the kitchen, some other room or closet will work just fine. The only thing that matters is that every new piece of paper is placed directly to this box until you are ready to sit and go through them.

2. Frequently accessed papers

Papers you use often such as contracts, recipes, instructions, current projects, etc. Keep them in the file folders or harmonica map or clear pocket display book by each topic.


For any that spark joy put in the display book with clear plastic pockets or make you own personal scrap book.

3. Infrequently accessed papers

Papers you rarely need but are important such as certificates (birth, death, last will, marriage, divorce). Place them in the register folder or accordionfile.

Remember to select folders and maps that reallyspark joy for you or have a special meaning. The harmonica map on the picture belonged to my great-grandpa which makes my paper storage even more special.