Essentials for Organizing Kids’ Papers + Memorabilia

You know that dreaded feeling when the kids go back to school and the papers start to flood in? Or on the last week of school when all.the.papers start coming home? It’s inevitable, overwhelming, and expected. Instead of being surprised, I choose to have a simple method for filing papers and artwork all year long. This keeps things from getting out of hand and it also gives us a plan. This isn’t the ‘right’ way to do things, it’s just how I figured it out – I hope it helps you to come up with a plan for paper too!

I have three kids – two in elementary school and one in middle school – this system has been in place for about 8 years and I can tell you that it works with one, two, and now three kids in school. You should also know that I was an art teacher for almost 10 years so I have a true love for kids’ artwork and my kids’ artwork is no different. This is how and what we save….

I have a couple rules in place for the kids’ papers (this is just what we do, feel free to come up with your own rules):

  • KEEP anything with a handprint or fingerprints
  • Limit the AMOUNT of what we keep – each kid gets a hanging file folder for each school year
  • Go through papers that we keep TOGETHER – this ensures important pieces to both of us are kept.

Here are our 3 essentials for organizing kids’ papers + memorabilia:

Stackable Letter Tray

This is where we keep the daily stuff – if something needs to be filed, needs to be filled out, or needs attention but not today.  The kids each have their own file and they are in charge of what’s in the file.  I help them sort through it when it gets full or if I’m remembering a permission slip for a field trip and go looking for it.  Looking for something similar?  Find it here.

Why this works: This gives the in-process papers a home every day and keeps them off the counters, and out of the bottom of backpacks.

Covered File Box

Each kid gets a covered file box with 13 hanging file folders – one for each year, pre-k-12th grade.  I bought red, yellow, and blue hanging file folders for the kids – they each have their own color.  During the year we put special papers, things with handprints, grades, and other items that we want to keep.  Usually during the first week of summer we go through the folder together and assess what we want to keep longer.

Why this works?  This forces us to keep just a small selection of favorites and curate them throughout the year.  Some day they might not want them but we look through them a couple times a year.


There’s always artwork that’s too big to put in our file boxes so each kid has an archival giant portfolio that hangs out under their bed or in their closet.  This is for those precious large pictures and artwork.

Why this works?  I’m sure in 10 years we won’t hold on to everything in this portfolio but for right now I like having it to look at and the kids enjoy going back through the years via their artwork.

My latest eBook, The Clutter Handbook has a whole section devoted to paper clutter if you found these tips helpful you’ll probably like my approach to clutter and paper clutter.

You might also enjoy this post – click on the image:

6 Simple Ways to Eliminate Paper Clutter


I’m a paper person and a list-maker. I love using a paper planner (the Clean Mama Planner is coming soon!), a homekeeping binder, a wall calendar, writing hand-written notes and cards….  I tend to err on the side of more paper than less, but I loathe paper clutter.  There’s a difference!

If you are looking for ways to eliminate paper clutter, start here:

  • Deal with it daily.  The #1 secret to keeping paper clutter to a minimum is to deal with it daily.  Processing mail, school papers, and any other paper that makes its way into your home right away is the best way to keep it from becoming overwhelming.
  • Get rid of unwanted mail.  There’s a free app called PaperKarma – just scan your unwanted mail, they contact the sender, and the mail is gone.  TrustediD is another company that gets rid of unsolicited magazines and junk mail (for free).  If you’re sick of getting those pre-screened credit offers you can go to OptOutPreScreen to get off that list.
  • Scan important papers.  Save them to an external drive or cloud storage.  Here are a couple I like:
    Evernote – a way to digitally remember everything
    Neat – digital scanning and cloud storage
    Doxie – digital scanning made simple
  • Send cards and invitations digitally. Paperless Post is adorable and they have a free section too.  I send out paper Christmas cards and birthday cards to family but for kids party invitations or just cute little birthday cards to friends, I like a quick emailed note.
  • Store photos digitally.  I’m sure that this is another post, but I use Shutterfly and DropBox, but there are lots of options out there for slimming down the picture stacks.  Print a book once every year or two and you’ll be on your way to keeping those photos updated.  If you’re behind, start with the current year and work backwards.
  • Store pdfs and printables digitally.  I store pdfs in Dropbox too.  Set up a folder for each category and you can quickly find any printables you need. Everything’s stored in the cloud and can be found on any device – easy peasy.  Did you know that if you have a tablet, like an iPad you can use printables paperless with an app like Notability that lets you digitally write on your pdfs and take notes with you anywhere?

Curious on how long you should keep paper for?  Check out this free printable guide!

How Long Should I Keep It? Infographic via Clean Mama

How about you?  What’s your best tip for staying on top of the paper clutter?

This post is part of a CLUTTER MINI CHALLENGE – go here to check it out!

clutter mini challenge

3 Things Every Command Center Needs

3 Things Every Command Center Needs - Clean Mama

If you’ve ever set up a command center (or wanted to), chances are you took a peek around Pinterest or your favorite shop or online retailer and were either overwhelmed by all the choices and options or not sure how to translate that into what might work for your family.  Today I’d like to share the 3 things every command center needs – hopefully this simple approach will help get your own simple command center started.

First of all, let me preface this by saying there are many different types of command centers, but the one that I’m talking about is a simple counter top version perfect for appointments, events, and family schedules.  Keep reading for some inspiration as well!

If you’ve tried to implement a command center and it hasn’t worked, I would argue that you most likely added too many components and made it more about how it looks/looked than how it would actually function.  Keeping a command center SIMPLE is more important and will keep it working for your family.  Start with these three things and you’ll be on your way to a more organized and efficient command center.

3 Things Every Command Center Needs:

  • calendar
  • organizer
  • 3 folders

Detailed Command Center Musts via Clean Mama

I put a small calendar on the wall, you’ll also see that our home phone is on this counter so if I need to make an appointment or schedule change, the calendar is accessible.  This calendar is just a simple one from Target.

An organizer is a component that every command center needs – there are many different types of organizers available in all sorts of designs and price ranges.  Find something that you love that matches your decor and budget and use it.  The one I used (and love) is from HomeGoods – discount stores like TJMaxx, Homegoods, and Marshalls are great places to find one of a kind, high end organizers at discounted prices.

Once you have an organizer and calendar, you need 3 folders to keep your most important information in and accessible.  Yes, you might be able to come up with other categories for more folders, but I think that keeping your categories simple and broad will keep your command center running more smoothly.  Come up with 3 categories that you think will cover the majority of anything that needs to be accessible and stored in your command center.

3 Categories for Command Center Folders:

  • IN PROCESS – paper that you know you need be able to access in the next month – memberships, coupons, etc.
  • INVITATIONS – birthday parties, weddings, dedications, etc.
  • SCHOOL (or work) – calendars, forms, phone book

Need some organizer inspiration?  Here are a few different options in a variety of finishes, styles, and price ranges.

Command Center Organizer Inspiration via Clean Mama


 How about you?  Would a command center help get your family info in a central location and make things a little easier?

Stay tuned for some exciting shop updates and the new Everyday Planner next week!  Sign up for emails on the sidebar so you don’t miss a thing!

How to Set Up a Filing and Budget System that Really Works

How to Set Up a Filing and Budget System that Really Works via Clean Mama

I’ve had so many requests for an update of my budget system and I finally have one for you today, just in time for the new year!  I have implemented a number of budget systems over the past few years and have lots of ideas for what works and what doesn’t.  There are a couple musts to make a budget system work and lots of ways to get to it to work for you.

Here are the MUSTS:

  • PLACE to keep, pay, and file bills – this can be in an office, a portable file cabinet, or a basket.  The location doesn’t have to be in the same place, but it can be, make it work for you.
  • TRACK your bills and payments – this can be as simple as a check register or as in-depth as a whole budget notebook.
  • ROUTINE – put budget and bill paying into your routine so it isn’t overwhelming.  I find that opening and filing bills daily and paying/tracking bills on Fridays is really helpful.

Here’s how I set up my filing and budget system – I hope it helps you get started!

Budget System via Clean Mama

I keep budget and bill paying supplies and records in my office.  I have a couple pieces of furniture and accessories that I love and I believe function really well for me, but you can choose different solutions or use what you have to accomplish the same thing.  (If you’re trying to get your budget in order the last thing you want to do is spend more money, right?)

FILING SYSTEM – here’s how I set mine up.  Depending on what you have that needs to be filed this can take minutes or days.  NOW is the time to get moving on this, it’s so much easier to start with the new year.

File Folders via Clean Mama

WALL SYSTEM – I purchased this wall system from Pottery Barn and I love it.  I have tried a couple other systems and found that this works the best for my office.  The components can be arranged to meet your needs and they get those papers that need to be dealt with in plain view.  I have 4 pockets with 4 different categories:

Wall Pocket Categories via Clean Mama

  • TO PAY – this is where I put bills that need to get paid during the CURRENT month.  I use a clothes pin to keep them all together and so I can quickly grab them when I sit down to pay bills.
  • TO FILE – these are bills and papers that need to find a home in the filing system.  I gather these for a month and then shred what can be shredded and file the rest.
  • IN PROCESS – these are bills that I might need at a moment’s notice – something for my business, important financial papers, things that are currently going on.  For instance, if you are re-financing your home you would keep all those pay stubs and other papers in this pocket until the deal is done.  Then file or shred.
  • CLEAN MAMA (BUSINESS) – I keep current contracts and other important papers here.  When I don’t need to access them anymore, they get filed.

BUDGET + BILL PAYING TRACKERS and PRINTABLES – This is my SECRET to staying on top of the bills, getting the bills paid on time, and getting rid of debt.  Having all the information handy in my homekeeping notebook is the key – I can take a peek and see if I paid the electric bill or what the balance is on an account.

Budget Worksheet and Bill and Payment Checklist via Clean Mama

Yes, I do online bill pay, but this system works in tandem with online bill paying.  I love it and my hubby does too – it’s great for accountability and all the bills, payments, and balances can be seen at a glance.  I have a few different budget kits in my shop, but I am currently using the Everyday Budget + Bill Pay Kit.  You can see all my printables in my shop here.

DESK – bill get paid and filed here.  I can do both from my chair and having everything at an arm’s reach make bill paying and filing easy and as enjoyable as possible.  This is the desk and file cabinet I have – I love the proportions and size.

Desk for Bill Paying via Clean Mama

With a PLACE to organize and pay bills, a system to TRACK bills paid, and a ROUTINE in place, you can definitely get your budget in order for 2015!  If you need some help getting your paper piles under control, you’ll appreciate this post: 8 Ways to Get a Handle on Paper Clutter.  What’s your biggest budget dilemma?

What Should I Keep? Sorting Through Memorabilia

What Should I Keep - Sorting Through Memorabilia via Clean Mama

This week’s organizing challenge is MEMORABILIA and I’m going to challenge you to make a little progress sorting through memorabilia. There really isn’t a right or wrong way to store memorabilia, because it varies according to the space you have, what you want to keep, and what’s precious enough to save indefinitely.  I have a pretty simple method for keeping special and important items – maybe my method will help you too.  Don’t make it too complicated or involved – simply create a couple specific spots/zones/boxes/bins to save memorabilia and then file it appropriately.

Establish ground rules for what you are keeping and what you are tossing – memorabilia doesn’t fall under the if I haven’t worn it in 6 months, or if it isn’t being used daily get rid of it, it’s different.  Everyone has a different interpretation of what they want to keep – that’s personal.  So, first things first, come up with your own rules and then follow my steps.

  1. Start with the really old stuff – if there are things that you have been holding on to for years and you know there’s no reason to save them anymore, spend a couple minutes this week doing a quick purge of those items.  Label the items that you are keeping by year (1993, 1995-1997) or by era (high school, college, grandma’s items, wedding, etc.)
  2. If you have kids, use a bin or a box to keep special items that can’t be stored flat like a special blanket or a special outfit.  Keep it in their bedroom closet so you can take it down and look through it with them – there’s no sense keeping items in a basement if no one’s ever going to look through them.
  3. Establish a method going forward that works for your family.  I keep the kids’ special papers in a large file drawer that has a file folder for each year and artwork goes in a large folder.  You can also take pictures of artwork and special pieces and save them digitally as well.  You can apply this method to any one in your home – file folders work great for keeping memorabilia.  Scrapbooks, digital or paper, are also a great way to keep the memorabilia out of the closet and in a special place.

That’s it – 3 simple action steps that you can take in a couple minutes this week – don’t get overwhelmed, just move forward and do a little work.  Only you know what is important enough to keep and what you can get rid of.  If this is too hard to determine for yourself, ask a friend or relative for a little help in the decision-making department.

Any tips to share when it comes to sorting through memorabilia?  Share them in the comments.


Three Ways to Organize Photographs

Three Ways to Organize Photographs via Clean Mama

This week’s organizing challenge is PICTURES and I’m going to challenge you to do just one thing to put a little order in your photo storage – organize or establish your system.   (September’s cleaning and organizing calendar is here).  If you struggle with photo storage like I do, this week’s challenge will be a good one.  Taking a couple minutes to add a little organization will be helpful and productive.  The problem for me with photo storage is that it is constantly changing – print vs. digital, scrapbook vs. digital scrapbook.  But in the end, what I really want is a photo album for my kids to go through whenever they want to to look at pictures of themselves growing up and in different stages of their life.  It’s fun to document the big and little moments because if it’s not documented we’ll most likely forget those little details (that turn into the big details).  If you don’t have a ‘system’ for organizing your photographs, take a little time this week to put something into place and get it started.  If you already have a system, take a little time to organize your photos so you’re caught up or catching up. My personal struggle?  I find that I don’t print photos like I used to and that’s upsetting to me – I have months on my camera and computer and I have to make the time to print them and put them in albums.

Narrowing down all the options, there are three basic ways to organize your photographs:


I use all three of these methods – photos are on my computer, camera card, and phone, then the best pictures make the photo albums and frames, and the other pictures are stored in a photo box by date.  Don’t you think this is complicated?  So many places to keep essentially the same thing?  And if I needed a specific photo from 2009, there’s no way I could find it.  So this week I’m coming up with a system – want to come up with your own system?  Hopefully this week is a good one to get you started on this complicated but important thing that is documenting our life!

Here’s what I’m doing:

LOOSE PICTURES: First off, I ordered a few of these from The Container Store – the larger boxes have 12 small boxes in them so I’ll use one for every year or two to keep important photographs in order by month (direct product link is under the picture).  You could use photo boxes, or archival envelopes in photo boxes or just not print any extra loose pictures and only print what you’re going to put in albums and frames.  That’s probably the method I’ll be heading toward once I get what I have already printed organized.

container store photo boxes


PHOTO ALBUMS: I’m going to go through the boxes of photos still in the photo envelopes and put them in albums – I have Project Life and I have simple albums – I’m going to just get caught up by doing the photos in the photo albums for now.  I know that I’ll just get overwhelmed if I try to get all creative as I’m getting caught up.  Maybe that will be something I tackle in 2015.  Put the best pictures in  photo albums – I have 2 years to get caught up on (anyone else with me?).  I’m going to get my older kids involved – they’ll love looking at the old pictures and they can always remember the details too.  I also like the idea of printing up a photo book at the end of the year in lieu of printing photos – I think that’s a great way to keep the prints down and have a beautiful keepsake for each year.

DIGITALLY: This is my last priority for this week but I plan to go through the photos on the computer and print any pictures that haven’t been printed for 2014  (I use Shutterfly and have it sent to my house).  If I get time, I’ll delete duplicate or not print-worthy pictures and clean up folders so folders for each month are in folders for each year.  Then I’ll send these files to my cloud storage so I have it all backed up.  I know that there are apps out there too – but I love using my camera and am not going to give that up for my iPhone (yet!).

How about you?  Do you organize your pictures three ways too?  Or do you have it down to a simpler system?  Tell us in the comments!  Motivated to get some memories organized?  Me too!

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8 Ways to Get a Handle on Paper Clutter

8 Ways to Get a Handle on Paper Clutter via Clean Mama

Paper seems to be most people’s biggest organizational struggle and it’s with good reason.  If it isn’t dealt with daily or weekly, it can get out of hand in a hurry.  I’ve covered a lot of ground in the paper department in the past, so I thought a little round-up of sorts would be a fun way to inspire you to do a little paper organizing this week.  My challenge to you would be to choose just one thing to do this week – it might be one of these topics and it might be something else, but SORT some paper for at least 10 minutes.

  1. Not sure what to keep and what to toss?  Try this FREE printable to get you started.
  2. Want to convert your file box or accordion file into a grown up file cabinet?  Check out this post (there’s a free printable here too!).
  3. Get a paper shredder.  And use it.
  4. Deal with your mail daily.  The ‘clutter’ task on the free cleaning and organizing calendar relates to de-cluttering every day and for me, that means a couple things, but mail is big.  I sort/toss/file mail every single day.  Here’s how I keep it off counters.
  5. Feel like you need to keep papers and lists in one place?  Try a homekeeping planner or binder – my favorite method of organizing paper.  This post shows how I set up a filing and budget/bill paying system.
  6. Wall calendars and planners are great ways to keep dates and appointments straight.  Using one that works for you is the only way this will work – otherwise it’ll just be more paper.
  7. For me keeping the kitchen counters clear is the number one clutter busting trick I have.  See how I do it here.
  8. Go paperless or paper-less.  I’m definitely more of a paper-LESS person – I will never go completely digital.   I love pens, paper, notebooks, planners, and all things office supply related.  I do paperless billing when I can and online banking, but I still write down all my bill paying in my homekeeping planner.  I don’t do a digital calendar or planner – I write it down on the wall calendar and in my homekeeping planner.  There’s something about the pen to paper that makes sense for me and is more conducive to how I’m wired.  Here are a couple ideas for paperless or paper-less living (I am not an affiliate for any of these, just putting the info out there:
  • Evernote – a way to digitally remember everything
  • Doxie Mobile Scanners – great for small items like receipts and checks
  • Neat – digital scanning and cloud storage
  • Want to send cards and invitations digitally?  Paperless Post is adorable and they have a free section too.
  • Digital photo storage?  I’m sure that this is another post, but I use Shutterfly and DropBox, but there are lots of options out there for slimming down the picture stacks.
  • How about pdfs and printables?  I store those on Dropbox too.  Did you know that if you have a tablet, like an iPad you can use printables paperless with an app like Notability that lets you digitally write on your pdfs and take notes with you anywhere?  If you have a Kindle or Android you can use Note Everything for similar results.

8 Ways to Get a Handle on Paper Clutter for Good via Clean Mama

What’s your best tip for keeping paper clutter away?  Share it in the comments!




Practical Ways to Get Rid of Paper Clutter

Practical Ways to Eliminate Paper Clutter via Clean Mama

This week’s focus is paper clutter and hopefully you’ve filed or shredded something this week.  On Wednesday I talked about a few simple solutions to eliminate paper clutter.  Today we’re going to talk about practical ways to actually set that in motion.  All the internet inspiration in the world isn’t going to file those papers or shred those old bills you have stacked up.  What it really takes is you, a lot of time (not going to lie), a lot more motivation and a little bit of inspiration.  So today I have a couple additional things that you can do to keep the paper away for good.  Do one thing or all of them and you’ll be a little closer to getting rid of that paper.  Ready?

  • Get a shredder (I’ve mentioned it in every post this week, but I’ll mention it again.)
  • Get a file cabinet, or file box, or an accordion file.  Something, anything will help!
  • Get rid of unwanted mail.  There’s a free app called PaperKarma – scan your unwanted mail, they contact the sender, and presto!  The mail is gone.  TrustediD is another one that gets rid of unsolicited magazines and junk mail (for free).  If you’re sick of getting those pre-screened credit offers you can go to OptOutPreScreen to get off that list.

Want to go paperless or paper-less?  I’m more of a paper-LESS person – I will never go completely digital.   I love pens, paper, notebooks, planners, and all things office supply related.  I do paperless billing when I can and online banking, but I still write down all my bill paying in my homekeeping planner.  I don’t do a digital calendar or planner – I write it down on the wall calendar and in my homekeeping planner.  There’s something about the pen to paper that makes sense for me and is more conducive to how I’m wired.  Cleaning tasks?  They go in the cleaning section in my homekeeping planner.  You can see what I use by going to my shop here.

Here are a couple more options and ideas for paperless or paper-less living (I am not an affiliate for any of these, just putting the info out there):

  • Evernote – a way to digitally remember everything
  • Doxie Mobile Scanners – great for small items like receipts and checks
  • Neat – digital scanning and cloud storage
  • Want to send cards and invitations digitally?  Paperless Post is adorable and they have a free section too.
  • Digital photo storage?  I’m sure that this is another post, but I use Shutterfly and DropBox, but there are lots of options out there for slimming down the picture stacks.
  • How about pdfs and printables?  I store those on Dropbox too.  Did you know that if you have a tablet, like an iPad you can use printables paperless with an app like Notability that lets you digitally write on your pdfs and take notes with you anywhere?  If you have a Kindle or Android you can use Note Everything or Springpad for similar results.

Any other ideas to add?  Leave them in the comments!


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Simple Solutions to Eliminate Paper Clutter

Simple Solutions to Eliminate Paper Clutter via Clean Mama

This week our focus is on paper and paper clutter.  On Monday I suggested that you concentrate on 5 main areas to get started in the big paper purge:

  • shred
  • clear your counters
  • deal with your mail daily
  • get a filing system
  • get others involved

I know that one week isn’t nearly enough time to focus on paper for some of us, but with clutter being a daily task, my hope is that you work on that if you need to as often as you need to, until you’ve accomplished your paper goals.

Today I’d like to show you a few simple ways I’ve eliminated paper clutter in our home with the hope that it gives you some simple strategies and practical solutions that you can put into place or change to meet your needs.

Paper-less Office Organization via Clean Mama

We have a multi-purpose office.  This is my ‘office’ section of the office, we also have an elliptical machine, tv, and an organizer in here too.  I love how this little section is organized – it works great for me.  I went from a desk about three times this size to this smaller one and I love that it forces me to keep it organized and tidy.  I’ve labeled the different sections so you can see how I’ve squeezed things in and organized.  I’ve done posts on some of them before – you can click on the links below for more specifics.

Keep Your Paper Shredder Accessible via Clean Mama

Keep your shredder accessible (if you have little kids keep it unplugged for safety reasons).  Put it in an office or place where you’re sorting and filing to keep the paper piles away.

Hidden Paper Storage via Clean Mama

On the other side of my desk is this storage unit from Costco.  The top four rows are for the kids and the bottom row is business and blog storage bins are for me.  Each of my cuties gets their own bin with a clipboard, supplies (stored in a metal cup to keep it contained and so they can grab it and bring it into the kitchen when it’s homework time), and books or binders for school.  I have a large backpack basket next to the homework bins to keep everything accessible for the kids.

Stop Paper Clutter - Create a Space to Drop Items via Clean Mama

Paper clutter starts in the kitchen (or at least it does in my house).  Create a space or place to drop items to keep them off the counters.  A small organizer to contain simple items and charge phones or other electronics is helpful.  If you are old school like me and still like having phone numbers out by your phone, keep them in a rolodex or address book.  Use a small decorative container to drop your keys, chapstick, and other small items that would otherwise be scattered on your counters.

Magazine Storage via Clean Mama

I’m a big fan of hidden and sneaky storage.  If you’re a magazine and catalog junkie like me, keep them in a basket or bin.  Limit yourself to keeping the magazines in the basket and when it’s full, recycle what you’re done with and keep those magazines off counters and couches and in a special place.

How are you doing with this week’s focus?  Making some progress?  Have a challenge you need some help on?  Ask away!


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Start Here. Week 3 – Paper

It’s week three of Start Here. – I hope you’re still feeling motivated and like you can do this – because you totally can!  If you didn’t see the first post and grab the free printable, go back to the post for the full overview and explanation here. If you want to follow along on Instagram or post your own progress, I’d love it if you used the hash tag #cmstarthere

Start Here.  Cleaning + Organizing Calendar Infographic via Clean Mama

This week the focus is on PAPER.  Anyone else struggle with paper clutter?  I know I do.  Paper clutter is the reason I have clutter on the daily calendar, I need to deal with it on a daily basis to keep it away for good.  And you know what?  That’s what works for me.  Deal with it daily, and don’t let it pile up.  Today I’m going to offer up a little paper challenge for the week. It’s simple and my hope is that it helps you get started on muddling through your paper clutter, going paperless, or just clearing off your counter tops.  5 Steps – tackle them all at once or over the course of the next 5 Days – are you ready?

How to Get Rid of Paper Clutter in Just 5 Steps via Clean Mama

  1. SHRED – Buy a good shredder or find a place to shred your documents on a regular basis.  Some banks offer this service monthly.  We just upgraded our shredder to this one and it’s amazing how much of a difference a higher quality shredder makes.  It can cut through the piles in record time.  And just so you don’t think that I’ve completely got my act together with paper clutter, my husband found some old papers of mine circa 1993.  We’ve/he’s been on a shredding tare and we’ve/he shredded bags (yes bags) of papers.  That’s all I’m going to say about that.  They’re gone and I used this free printable to figure out what to save and what to keep.
  2. CLEAR YOUR COUNTERS – Take a bag and put any clutter from your counters straight in it.  Wipe down your counters and look at how nice it looks to have all that paper and those piles off the counters.  Did you notice that I have both COUNTERS and CLUTTER on my daily task list (see freebie link at the bottom of this post)  Why?  Because I have to make a concerted effort to deal with it every day or it takes over.  And if you’re like me, clutter makes me crabby.  So it’s better to not have it hanging around to keep the crabby away.  Okay, back to the bag – empty it, deal with it, shred, toss, file.
  3. DEAL WITH YOUR MAIL DAILY – Open, toss, pay the bills, shred, or put them in a file.  If you love magazines (I do!), make sure that they go in a basket or on a shelf where you’ll access them.  Take a couple minutes this week to weed through any magazines you don’t need to hang out any longer.
  4. GET A FILING SYSTEM – If you can go paperless with your bills and financial statements, I strongly urge you to – it makes a huge difference.  I’ve converted what we can to paperless, but we still have bills and other papers that need to be filed.  Get a box and some folders or go all out and get a filing cabinet.  Create a system that makes sense for how you deal with important papers.  You can see how I converted my file box into a grown-up file cabinet here.
  5. GET OTHERS INVOLVED – Figure out systems for the rest of your family.  My kids bring home piles of paper daily.  I have a system that works for them and me – we deal with the paper every day after school, important or special papers and artwork are filed, most papers and worksheets get tossed, and any permission slips are signed and sent back the next day.

I’ll be back on Wednesday with pictures of how I specifically deal with each of these areas in my house – in the meantime, tell us your most annoying paper clutter dilemma or spot in your house and what you’ve done to correct it or maybe you’re completely stumped – share away!

Want to join in on the fun? Grab a FREE cleaning and organizing calendar for January and give it a go. Follow along all month for motivational posts and tips to keep up with the daily and weekly tasks.

Cleaning + Organizing Calendar January 2014 via Clean MamaGo here to grab your FREE calendar for January 2014!

Want to make 2014 the year that you cleaned and organized everything? Me too!

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(If you like the calendar style of this freebie, you’ll love The Simplified Life Series in my shop!)


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Simplify the Season : Organize Your Paperwork

Simplified Filing Station via Clean Mama

A great way to simplify things before life gets busy is to finish up any looming projects.  My looming project was my file cabinet.  I’ve been working on and off on it for the last two months and finally finished it up yesterday and it feels so great to have it completed.  Your project might be something completely un-paper related, but if you have been wanting to create a grown-up file cabinet or file your 2013 papers, now is the time to do it.  The timing is perfect – categorize, file, and shred.  Pretty simple, but time-consuming.  I’m so excited to go into 2014 with a plan for the files, bills, and paper clutter.

Part of the reason this project took me so long is that I couldn’t decide on what categories I’d use and how I’d work the cabinet itself.  So after some careful consideration, list making and planning I came up with a simple system that works for us.  I’m sharing it today in case your brain processes like mine and it’s helpful for you.

Close Up File Cabinet via Clean Mama

Here’s how I went from accordion files to grown up file cabinet (and you can too!):

Bought a large file cabinet – you might already have a file cabinet, I was using accordion files (gasp!)

Wrote down all of the possible categories and subcategories and then narrowed and combined

Bought 5 colors of hanging file folders

Used this label maker to make the folder labels

Filed, filed, filed, and filed some more.

Categories 101

I have oodles of paper ideas on my  organize: paper Pinterest page if you are interested in perusing that too.  But here are my categories and how I broke them down.

HOME + AUTO (together in the file cabinet, but separate subcategories)

File Folder Organization via Clean mama

Then I broke down the categories into specific SUBCATEGORIES.   The thing that I love about how I filed these is that I alphabetized the subcategories but I kept each subcategory in line so if I add or take away it won’t mess up the system.

My subcategories look like this (I’ll give examples of money and taxes – it’s very important to break everything down into specifics – each account gets its own folder:


January-December – separate file for each month for the year

bank account : bank name (separate file for each account)

credit card : credit card name (separate file for each account)

loan : loan name (separate file for each account)

paid off


paystubs : person (separate file for each account)

retirement : person (separate file for each account)

tax : deductions

tax: donations

tax : expenses

tax return : 2013 – 2008 – separate folder for each year


one for each family member

medical : dental

medical : prescriptions

medical : vision

paid : doctors’ bills


insurance : accidents

insurance : autos

insurance : homeowners

insurance : life

insurance : personal articles


home : address

home : improvements

home : landscaping

home : mortgage

home : warranties


auto : service

auto : one for each car


licenses : one for each



Files via Clean Mama

I used a piece of paper to jot down my ideas as I was working through this, but after working through the system I thought it would be more FUN to have a printable to work with so here’s a very simple one if you’d like to jot down filing ideas and categories as you work through this.

File It Printable via Clean Mama

Go here to grab the freebie File It printable.


It sounds so easy, and on the screen it is, but in real life it can be daunting and overwhelming.  I am so happy to have this corner of my office and life working in a functioning and helpful system.  The key to organization is that it should make things EASIER.  If you are organizing something purely based on looks it’ll look great and you can take some nice pictures, but it has to be workable for your life and family.  This filing system is going to save us TIME, ENERGY, and it will make paying bills and doing taxes EASIER.  That’s an organizing project WIN.

How Long Should I Keep It For - Clean Mama

If you haven’t seen this post with the FREE How Long Should I Keep It For? printable, go grab it if you are working through your files and need a quick (and cute) reference sheet!  (You’ll also see that I officially started this project at the beginning of August!)

I also use The Simplified Life Kit and The Simplified Life Budget + Bill Pay Kit in my homekeeping notebook and for keeping on top of the budget and bills (seen pictured in the wall organizer).  You can see them in my shop!



This post is part of a series designed to help you Simplify the Season. You can see all the posts here.

Simplify the Season via Clean Mama

How Long Should I Keep It For? FREE Printable

I’m knee deep in receipts and paper piles this week while I’m tackling a major filing cabinet makeover.  Translation:  I am going from accordion files to a grown up file cabinet.  My biggest struggle has been trying to decide how long to keep some of this stuff.  I’ve operated on a keep almost everything mindset and while that seems to be sort of right, there are some papers that I can toss with confidence.  I made a little cheat sheet to help me through the sorting and since I don’t have anything but piles of papers to show you, I thought I’d share a free printable if you have this overwhelming project on your list too.  Enjoy!

How Long Should I Keep It For - Clean Mama

Grab your FREE How Long Should I Keep It For….printable here!

You can also grab a coordinating printable for your paper filing pleasure – the File It FREE printable – get your ideas for filing on paper first in these six categories and then start filing!  If you go to this post you’ll also see how I finally updated my filing cabinet too.

File It Printable via Clean Mama

If you like these printables, you’ll love my shop – Clean Mama Printables! 



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