Get Rid of the Paper Clutter – Part 2

Get Rid of Your Paper Clutter - Part 2

This is Part 2 of the 3-Part series: Get Rid of Paper Clutter Once and For All.

You can find Part One here, and Part Three will be posted on Wednesday.

After yesterday’s post, you may have felt overwhelmed about clearing the paper clutter. There was a heap of information there, I know! This post – Part 2 – will be much shorter.

The bad news?

While the post is short, the steps you need to take are time-consuming. Depending on the state of your desk/filing cabinet/office/floor, it could take a few hours.

The good news?

Part 1 is where you did all the hard work. This part simply takes a while.

So, grab a drink (again, depending on the state of your files, it may be a cup of tea or a glass of wine!) set aside some time to yourself and let’s get sorting.

1. Clear Some Space

Firstly, create a clear surface.

This could be the office floor, the dining table, your bed. As long as it’s a big, clear space that you can use for a few hours.

This is where you will sort your papers into piles for filing.

2. Grab Your Files

Remember all the papers you collected yesterday? Make sure you have them on hand, as well as anything else that has made its way into the house over the last day or two.

If you have a serious amount of papers to sort, you may want to add this step – in case you get interrupted or overwhelmed:

Grab some scrap paper and tear it into pieces. On each piece of paper, write the category of file and the sub-file type. (If you need reminding, take a look at the list in Part 1 here)

Set these out on your work surface – marking the space for each pile. This way, if you’re interrupted, you won’t lose track.

3. Keep It? Action It? Toss It?

Now the time-consuming part of our program…

You need to pick up each piece of paper and, based on the list of requirements in Part 1 of the series, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is it current?
  • Can I get the information online?
  • Do I need this?

Each person has different requirements, so what you keep and what you toss will be slightly different to what I keep and toss. So take the time to really assess what you do and don’t need. And be as ruthless as possible.

As you work through each paper do one of three things:

  • Anything you need to action, put aside. You can work through those later.
  • Anything to file, place in its corresponding pile.
  • Anything to toss – pile it up for shredding/recycling.

4. Sort Your Piles

Once you’ve finished working through every piece of paperwork you have collected, it’s time to put it all in its place.

Anything that needs to be filed should be in its appropriate pile. Pack each pile into the corresponding folder and file them all away in your filing cabinet.

Anything that needs action should be taken to the space specified in Part 1. This could be a folder, a box, a nook. As long as it’s somewhere obvious. You can either deal with these now, or set aside time to do them tomorrow. But don’t wait longer than that – otherwise the clutter will be back before you know it.

Once those things are actioned – file them away with everything else.

Anything left should be recycled. Shred any sensitive information (banking, credit cards, bills, invoices etc) and recycle everything else.


5. Marvel

Just how fabulous does that feel? Marvel at yourself for a second, then go and do something more enjoyable…


Tomorrow I will look at how to keep your paper clutter under control, as well as answer any questions you might have.

If you do have a question, just leave it in the comments below and I’ll do my best to include it in tomorrow’s post.

3 Responses to Get Rid of the Paper Clutter – Part 2


  2. Thank you so much for this. After 30 years of struggling with this–and definitely getting better though just as definitely not having arrived yet–what I find the most helpful about your posts is the idea of having ONE (and only one) “action” pile.

    In previous paperwork sessions (which I’ve done once every 1-3 years whether I need it or not), I’ve always sorted out my “action” items into categories: bills, catalogs, things to read, things to consider, and so forth. But looking carefully at everything, and trying to make decisions about it, activates my anxiety and slows me down.

    This time, I made one box for “action” and threw everything into it. That went much faster, so that my space got cleared up quickly. I do intend, now, to sort the action items into categories—-but then again, I may not. I may just keep it beside my computer and deal with the things, one or two or five at a time, as I find the motivation.

    I went one better, actually, and threw all the “file” stuff into one pile, too–definitely a change from before. I don’t know what will happen with that pile, but at least it’s now separated from the action items!

    And my action items are all in one fairly small box, and I hope that being able to sit down in the living room with it will help me feel better about it.

    My desk area is about to vanish in a kitchen remodel (turning into much-needed cabinet space), so it’s time for me to conquer my paper clutter once and for all! Thanks for the help.

Leave a Reply to Beth Cancel reply