Easy Step By Step To Create A System You Can Live With
I have 1 child. It is the fact that she is my singular that I attribute to the need to collect every piece of paper that she has ever deemed to grace her signature with. I’m also a terribly sentimental being so photographs and certificates tend to pile up too. Yea. Its been a struggle. It got out of control quickly and I had to learn the hard lesson of letting go. This what I learned the secret to decluttering and organizing papers on a budget into a system that you can live with for years.
THE FIRST STEP
I started my decluttering journey by gathering everything. I mean EVERYTHING. Every spare piece of paper lying around the house. I covered the dining room table and then some. Form this point I pulled up the trash can, got 3 large boxes, and started dividing. Let me tell you about these beginning categories.
This was my box for all the things that I thought would be fine to only have a scanned copy of that I could print later if needed or that I could easily access already online. This is were most of my manuals went, doctors notes, etc. My reasoning is that I was planning a filing system in my google drive, which they have an app for now, and if ever I needed this things I would be able to get to them quickly on my phone or computer. Basically I would look at the paper and ask myself if this would be better service to me if it was on my phone.
If it was a photograph, drawing, certificate, newspaper article, whatever else it goes into this box. Plan and simple. We will sort through the rest of that later. If it pulls at your heart strings, stick it in the box. When you hit the kids artwork (my kryptonite) you’ll need to look at each piece and ask yourself, do you know how old they were and the story that went into it? What memory does it trigger? You need to have more than its just cute. Everything they make is cute. Someday they will come and ask you about it and each piece you have is gonna need a story. The ones that do trigger this in you, write it down and attach it to the item (staple or paperclip). I know it sounds morbid but if something were to happen and you weren’t there, you kid would still know why that was so important to you. If you cant bare to throw the other items out, put it in the digital box. I know its probably overflowing but at least its not in the forever pile.
This is anything that doesn’t fall into the previous categories. Before you stick it in this pile, ask yourself if you really need this. Is it a bill from 1999? You probably don’t need that. TRASH IT! If you’re not sure you paid it then trust you can get the contact information from your credit report and move on. I will caution you to shred or cut up anything that has identifiable information. Actually you should probably do this with everything so you cant rethink your choice. Do it quick like pulling a band aid.
STEP 2: FAMILY RECORDS
This task should help you manage that pile and hopefully you were able to get rid of quite a few unnecessary things. Now comes the difficult part. I know you are probably like WHAT!? but trust me, you have to go through the bad to get to the good. Keep your digital box handy. Its gonna grow. Because the first round probably took you a full day and it was exhausting, we aren’t going to touch the sentimental box yet. Lets start by organizing the hard copies box. Now there is many ways to do this but basically you are going to create your own categories. I went with HOME, VEHICLES, and EACH MEMBER OF THE FAMILY.
This is all things related to your dwelling. Any lease agreements, deeds, insurance policies, or paperwork you have that is specifically for your home or something in it.
Same principles has home but for any transportation you own.
You’ll likely have some records relating to school or work for the different members of your family, give each their own pile. If you have extra records that relate to you as a whole family, such as tax records, move those into the HOME pile.
It totally normal that has you go through this box you might find more stuff that you feel could be safe as a digital copy, that is why you should keep that box close. Congratulations on getting this far!
STEP 3: SENTIMENTAL
Because you already have these piles, its going to make sorting the sentimental easier. As you go through these papers, you can sort the certificate, news paper clippings, awards, artwork, and other memorabilia into the categories you already started for each person. If you have things like greeting cards and other treasures that doesn’t fit with any one person, then it goes into a miscellaneous stack. Put your photos in a separate pile to go through later (Separate post on how to handle these coming later). By the time you finish you should have a stack for HOME, VEHICLES, EACH FAMILY MEMBER, and a MISCELLANEOUS.
You will continue through these piles, put like things together to further divide them up. For instance HOME could be further sorted into INSURANCE, PETS, TAXES,… The same principle applies for the other categories. I know it seems counter productive to make your 4 piles into more but hang in there. You’ll find that for VEHICLES (probably your smallest pile) that you might only have 1 or 2 categories (ask yourself if any of this would make more sense digital). EACH FAMILY MEMBER will likely have something along the lines of MEDICAL, CERTIFICATE/AWARDS, WORK(for adults), ART/ SCHOOL WORK.
STEP 4: ORGANIZING THE HARD COPIES
At this point, you have pared down enough that you can start combining. For me, this looked like combining my VEHICLES and HOME categories so that I had PETS, HOUSE, TAXES, INSURANCE, and CAR into 1 stack that I new would eventually be its own folder. I noticed we had a surplus of MEDICAL so I made it a separate folder with each member having a slot. The same thing with AWARDS. Our daughter ended up with her own folder, sorted by age/grade levels. This gave me an idea of how many folders I would eventually need to sort this all in.
I bought some expandable files off of Amazon. They come in a 5 pack and each holds 200 pages with 4 divided sections. As you can see from the picture, I put my final categories in each folder and the small piles are under each divider. I keep these files inside a fireproof locked case because 1) my kid will find a way to get in destroy all my hard work and 2) the documents I do have in here are now the most important ones of my life.
LAST STEP: THE DIGITAL BOX
You’ll like feel super accomplished at this point and despise the idea of going through another box. That’s a good thing. As you go through this box, you’ll be tired and only want to take the time to scan and download the absolute most important things. I use a free scanner app on my phone and then put it directly into my Google Drive which as the files that are divided THE SAME WAY AS MY HARD COPIES! You have to be decisive about things in this box though. No wavering. Either it is scanned and uploaded then discarded or it goes straight to the trash pile. No in between. Be strong. You’ve come this far and think of how good it will feel when its all over.
I hope this has helped you conquer the massive piles and given you a sense of control over your life again. If you want to check out some more of my organizing on a budget options then checkout my Home organizing ideas.