Joyful Downsizing Tackles Paper in the Home Office

Kim Kubsch

“Tackling Paper in the Office” is 13th in a series of articles featuring techniques for decluttering your home—one room at a time. As owner of Joyful DOWNSIZING and a Sun Lakes resident, I am passionate about helping boomers and seniors declutter to simplify their lives, organize remaining items, downsize unwanted stuff, and be ready for any type of future transition, whether a surprise or planned.

This month, we will tackle the office. To operate a household, a business, or to be an employee requires a lot of paperwork. As you clear the clutter throughout the office or work area, keep in mind that 80% of what we keep we never use … according to the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO). As you clear your home office, continually ask yourself these two questions: “Will I ever use this document or this file?” and “Can I access this paper document via the Internet and, therefore, dispose of the paper version?”

Clutter Clearing Guide for working through the paper clutter:

* Sort your paperwork into Short Term, Long Term, and Discard/Recycle piles. If a shredder is not part of your office equipment, create a shredding pile. Staples is a good source to take for shredding. You weigh your papers and box, and they subtract the box weight. A typical shredding cost is 99 cents per pound. You feed the papers into the big trash bin yourself.

* Pick up a piece of paper. Ask yourself, “Do I need this?” If not, put it in the discard/recycle pile.

* Long Term papers include appliance manuals, warranties, service contracts, yearly bank statements (monthly only for current year), credit card contracts, legal documents, education records, diplomas, transcripts, employment records, family health records including vaccination histories, health benefit information, income tax returns and supporting papers (last three years for state and federal), insurance policies, yearly loan statements, password list, receipts for items under warranty, safe deposit box inventory and key, tax receipts, charitable deduction receipts.

* What to do about notes from workshops or events? Do you ever go back and read them? Try releasing them and refer to the Internet for the notes, should you need them.

* Now review your saved piles and determine those which have information you could potentially retrieve online. Don’t store anything in paper form that you can access online, unless having a paper document gives you a feeling of security.

* Finally, it’s time to declutter the desktop with the added challenge of keeping it clean. Try magnetic desk accessories to corral clips. Also acceptable are a pencil cup, phone, a photo frame that makes you smile, a small, divided stand to hold only a few current file folders labeled with a Sharpie pen to make the font more visible.

A cluttered office is a path to an inefficient life. Reserve five minutes at the end of your day in the office to organize and/or file necessary paperwork. Scan or input business cards, organize computer files and documents, and put items back in their place. Once you have decluttered your office space, you will feel lighter and pleased with yourself for all your accomplishments as you look forward to beginning tomorrow with a clean slate!

Stay tuned for future articles about organizing craft/hobby areas, digital organizing, drawers transition preparation. Contact me to schedule a free 30-minute consultation at 480-720-8566 or email [email protected]; or visit