How I Organize Without Using A File Cabinet

by Kristin
Paper clutter is one of the biggest "stoppers" of being organized, isn't it? Having a catch-all place on the counter, in the office or bedroom for papers, is a common dilemma.
Often these piles of papers are so large that they start to topple over, causing even more frustration. Honestly, it's probably that pile screaming "please declutter me" as it can't even stand up straight anymore! Been there!

I have become so frustrated with paper clutter in the past, that I now am the complete opposite. You will rarely find a pile of papers in our house, except maybe on the top of the fridge - that is my husband's "domain". Whatever he gathers there, is his business. Bonus is that we are tall and most can't see on top of the fridge. But when it starts to get a few papers tall, I tend to be the nagging wife and ask him to please clear it off. As much as I think it may annoy him, there have been a few times when I hear "oh, that's where that went!" It is a rather humorous time, actually. I thankfully am married to a man who has embraced my desire to organize life with less, so he is NOT a messy person! He may be more of a saver than me, but he doesn't cause me clutter stress, thankfully (I know many husbands do).

Getting rid of paper piles and organizing your papers is difficult when you do not have an appropriate or proper place to put them - hence the PILES! I used to have a 2-drawer filing cabinet that we used to store our office supplies and important papers. When we moved a year ago, I realized that all of my papers (after going through them at least 5 times) fit into a 1/4 of one drawer. It became pointless to store this big piece of "furniture" (nice way of saying it, right?).

Back in high school, I had received a small black, filing box. Why I needed that big of a system back then, I am not really sure, but I was a SAVER. Over the years, I have revamped and changed the tabs from high school, school subjects, drawings, etc. to more adult headings such as medical, insurance, cars, retirement, etc. AND...I can still fit everything I need into this filing system!


1. I did create a home management binder that has helped me organize my daily papers, monthly bills, birthdays, and stamps/envelopes, and what not. That has prevented me from having to haul out my black filing system and now I just have to grab the binder and track our bills right from an easy binder.

2. I do not keep papers that I can find online. We pay the majority of our bills online, which has cut down on the bill tabs I have to keep track of every month. We only keep the current month's papers. Bank statements, I do not keep because I can print anything off from our online account.

3. I do not keep all of our receipts, unless it is a big purchase and has a warranty tied to it.

4. Anything that is labeled as a "keepsake" goes into our keepsake box. This includes special letters/cards, small collections, or any mementos we want to keep.

5. We do not keep papers that we "might" use someday. After almost 8 years of marriage, we have realized that the "might time" never comes. We keep what we want to keep, and recycle/throw away the rest.

6. So what DO I keep in this filing system? Tax information, health/home insurance, medical, resume, retirement, vehicle, and even a folder called RANDOM. Yes, even this girl has a folder called random. Lets be frank, there are just some papers that really fit no other category, except random!

The joy of having your own filing system is that you can make it what you want. If you need a whole filing cabinet, that is up to you! I am not saying that it is wrong to have one. I just know that many struggle with paper clutter and I wanted to share how we deal (or don't deal) with our paper clutter. Being able to say "no" and dealing with papers when they come in, is key. Going through your filing system every other month or every 6 months, will also help you keep tabs on what you have. If you haven't used it, will you ever?

If you are looking to downsize your filing system, take out the papers you think you may need. If after 6 months or a year you still do not touch them and they are not pertinent house/insurance documents, get rid of them. Again, if you can find the information online, do not keep the papers then, unless you frequent them often!
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
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  • Silvana Costa Silvana Costa on Oct 11, 2020

    I have so Much plastic bins and bags full of papers what do you recommend

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  • Teddie Simpson Teddie Simpson on Feb 03, 2015
    There are even a lot of manuals I trash like the ones to a electrical screwdriver or a ceiling fan. They can be found online and downloaded. I have kept the biggies like the refrigerator, stove, air and heating system.
  • Elaine Elaine on Apr 23, 2016
    When sorting through papers to keep, I watch for unusual receipts that might be nice momentos someday. For example, I have the old canceled check that my dad wrote to the hospital when I was born over 60 years ago. Checks aren't returned with statements any more, but some receipts have value like that- like receipts for engagement/wedding rings, wedding gowns. first cars, first pets, etc. A generation or two from now, those will be fascinating to our heirs. Maybe a tab called Archive or Vintage?