organize papers

Organize Papers

How to organize papers effectively

Why are papers everywhere?

  • Even in our digital age, we accumulate receipts, tags, warranties, mail
  • Papers saved over the years for events like tax season
  • Coursework we intended to refer back to from seminars/classes

The guide to success

  • Create a pending box for “to-do” items
  • Have a file folder or file box with dividers
  • Separate sensitive documents for shredding
  • Save shredding for last, shred everything at the same time

How to set up to organize papers –

  • Gather a manageable amount of papers in a pile or box. Pile an amount that is reasonable to sort through in your set timeframe.
  • Ready your supplies
    • filing cabinet/folder accessible
    • labeler or labels to write down each category
    • Recycling bin/bag
    • Shredding bin/bag
    • Pending box (to-do items)
    • phone or camera nearby
  • Create labels for subcategories. A few examples are:
    • Tax
    • Medical
    • Auto
    • Work
    • Manuals/Warranties
  • Have extra blank labels on hand for new categories you discover as you go.

How to Joy Check papers?

  • Step 1: Pile all papers on large surface
  • Step 2: Pick up papers or a binder one by one.
  • Step 3: Joy Check
    • What papers make life easier?
    • What documents are essential to keep for the future?
    • When did you last refer to these papers? (Seminars/Coursework)
    • Have you ever used this for reference?
    • Will you reference this? If so, when?
  • Step 4: As you sort, subcategorize keep papers in separate piles or a filing cabinet
  • Step 5: Separate and pile empty folders, binders, and notebooks. At the VERY END you will be able to see all of these together. This is the opportunity to joy check and pick the ones you want to keep and use!
  • Step 6: If you want to digitize your documents, I recommend to take photos at the end of each paper session rather than at the very end of ALL papers. This helps to break up the monotony of paper sorting while helping you to digitize your documents as you go.
  • Step 7: Recycle discards & shred sensitive documents
  • Step 8: Designate a home for your papers to live. Perhaps in the office or a cabinet.


  • Have a “pending box” for all incoming mail
  • Attend to your pending box regularly to avoid build-up
  • Store all papers in one spot ex. office

Need help to organize papers?