Step 4 of organizing all that paperwork!

Step 4: Sort items by category and location. Inbox for your active pile, expanding file for current, filling cabinet for long term, storage bins for sentimental, envelopes for receipts

Now that we’ve done step 1, step 2, and step 3, you have five piles of keep, the next step is to go through each of those piles and find a permanent home for them. If you can do several of them in a night, great. Just make sure you take a break after each one. If you’re short on time and can do one a night, no big deal. This should work within your time constraints. Again, you may run into more shredding and recycling, which is great! Remember our key question throughout this paper organizing process: “What do I need to keep?

Your active pile will be the most fluid with stuff going in and out frequently. Try to keep a small basket in a set location, such as on your desk or in the corner of your kitchen. Schedule a time each day/week/every other week to go through the papers and toss/shred/ file anything that you need to keep. Personally, I keep a small paper holder in my kitchen and go through it every couple of days. That may be too often for you.

You can use an expanding file for the current folder. I’ve also used these in a filing cabinet with a “Current” label. Again, this one will have some in and out documents. Take a look at the documents you have in there and that may lead you to the right place to store them.

Long term storage can be kept in a filing cabinet with labeled hanging file folders so you can easily file anything away. You may prefer to scan these items and keep them saved electronically. If that works for you, awesome! As I’ve said before, I’m a paper girl so I don’t keep too much saved electronically, but that’s just personal preference.

For the sentimental stuff, we like to keep bins in our storage area (basement for us, but it could be your attic, garage, under bed). If you are short on space, you may want to go through them yearly and clean out anything that is outdated or that you no longer think you’ll need. Each person gets a set amount of space: one bin for each person. Again, electronic storage is a great option for this. I keep all of my kid’s art stuff saved in a folder on Google Drive, then I don’t feel bad when it doesn’t make it into her scrapbook or to a grandparent.

With receipts, I keep all of the current month’s receipts in envelopes (one for each account) and then reconcile them with my bank statements once a month. Anything that may have a return at some point, such as Wal-Mart, Target, Lowes, etc, I move to a new envelope that is “Saved for returns.” Every couple of months, I clean that out. Since most of our stuff is groceries and food, it’s a very small folder. You may want to just keep a folder for the possible returns and not worry about the rest. Again, that’s totally up to you!

The best part of this step is that you can totally customize it to fit your life! If your family doesn’t keep receipts, then don’t keep them! If you already have bins in the basement for some of your sentimental stuff, then go through them and purge/add as necessary. If you have a place that paper tends to pile up at, then add an inbox right there. This is the part that you can customize to your life, which is a great way to make it a habit!

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Organizing Champaign-Urbana

Professional organizer in Champaign-Urbana, with a philosophy of reduce, arrange, maintain.

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