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How to Organize Paper Clutter & Documents

Hello! I’m Alejandra Costello, professional organizing expert from Alejandra.tv! Since 2008 I’ve been helping people get organized and in my experience, paper is by far the most common clutter challenge! If you can relate and feel overwhelmed by the piles of paperwork in your home or office, and are procrastinating getting started, this page is intended to support you in your journey to getting organized! It includes paper organizing videos, key takeaways, best practices, recommended paper organizing products, and finally, support & accountability for getting started so you can rid yourself of paper clutter… for good! It’s possible for anyone. You just need to START!

How to Organize Articles, Notes, & Literature to Read Later (Part 8 of 10 Paper Clutter Series)

In this video I show you how to organize articles from magazines, clippings, notes, and other literature you’re saving to read someday!

If you know someone who could benefit from watching this video series, please consider sharing it using the buttons at the top.
If you have any tips or feedback, please leave a comment at the bottom of this page.

Read Transcript Here

Organizing Articles, Notes, & Literature to Read Later

If you have magazines, newspaper articles, journals, bulletins, notes, quotes, any kind of literature stacked up on horizontal surfaces around your house and you're saving these things to one day read, this video is for you. My name is Alejandra Costello, I'm an organizing coach, and in this video we are talking about how to organize all these things so you can find them easily and actually be able to read the things that you are saving. So before we get started, if you have hundreds of magazines, thousands of magazines, instead of focusing your time and energy on organizing all the things, a better idea is to focus on letting go, to make space, to make your life easier.

Decluttering Articles, Notes, & Literature

Now I realize you may be holding onto these things because you don't want to miss out on any important information that you may need some day. If that is the case, I totally get it. I totally understand. I recently hosted a class on how to let go of clutter when you cannot let go. And I share a very easy five step process for getting yourself to mentally, to emotionally be able to detach from your physical possessions and eventually let go. So I will put a link to that course< below if that interests you.

Step #1 - Gather Articles, Notes, & Literature to Organize

All right. So the first thing is to gather all of your articles, all of your literature, anything that you have printed out to one day read. And I don't know about you, but sometimes I just put flags in magazines. Like for example, here's a magazine, and just flag an article that you want to save. So if you've already identified the article, go ahead and pull it out. If you have not identified the article, then you kind of have to flip through and figure out where the article is.

Step #2 - Sort Articles, Notes, & Literature

The next step is to take all of your articles, all of your literature and begin sorting by high level category. So I say high level category, because if you get too specific, you get too granular, you're going to end up with so many different piles and it may feel overwhelming. So just keep it high level. So take the first article, figure out what it is, high level. So this is, let's just say it's travel. This looks like a recipe. This looks like a recipe. This is recipe. This looks like health. Now, now that I have like three categories and I have more sorting to do, now is a good time to begin putting labels on your piles so you can eliminate any confusion. Because once you have a lot of piles, it can be confusing. So this we said was travel, so I'm just going to go ahead and write travel on a scrap sheet of paper or a sticky note just like that. And then this next one we said was recipes. So just go ahead and write recipes. Sticky note, scrap sheet of paper. This is health. There we go.

Now I can be nice and clear as I continue to sort. All right, next thing. Travel. This looks like a recipe. This is travel. This is all travel. Health, health, recipe, travel, recipe. This was travel, health, travel, travel, recipe. And as you're sorting, look for things you can get rid of. Maybe there's like, you don't have interest in traveling to New Mexico anymore. Get rid of the article, only want to save the best things. Travel, health, health, health. And if you feel like, "I don't want to let go of this, I want to consume the information one day." If you're watching this video, then you probably have access to the internet, which as we all know is like a wealth of just free information. So just have comfort in knowing that a lot of information you can find again.

Step #3 - Categorize & Organize Articles, Notes, & Literature

All right, now that I've sorted by category, the very next step is to organize all of your piles into a system. And so that is what I'm going to share with you right now. Here's how I've organized all of my articles to one day read into a binder. So once you have all of your piles, what you can do is look at all the categories that you came up with. So when I did this for myself a couple of months ago, I looked at all my piles and I'm like, "Wow. The common denominator between all these articles is that they're all related to personal growth." So spiritual growth, physical growth, mental growth, emotional growth. And so what I did is I created a binder and I called it Growth right here, because that's what they all had in common. So it just made sense to call it growth.

Using Binders to Organize Articles, Notes, & Literature

So I found a one and a half inch binder to put all of the articles. I would recommend looking for a binder that's like one to two inches in size. Anything more than two inches is just too heavy. I feel like the papers are hard to turn because the rings are so big. So if you can stick to one to two inches, start with one binder instead of setting up ... Like if you have a bunch of articles, you don't want to set up like 10 binders. Pick one binder. If there's one category that you want to expand on, then maybe you set up a second binder, but just err on the side of keeping the best, letting go of the rest.

All right, so I put scrapbook paper in the cover to personalize it, and then inside ... So I found a set of 24 dividers, so I could put all the different categories inside here, and I just went through and I labeled all of the tabs on the dividers with my high level categories. Some of them are more specific but I erred on the side of keeping it high level. So now, behind each of these dividers is all of the articles, all of the printouts that are related to that category. Nice and easy to find. And when I need to reference the information, I just come here, very simple. In the front of the binder there's this gusseted binder pocket that's built into the binder for anything small that doesn't have three rings. If your binder does not have something like this, you could always add a gusseted binder pocket just like this. Again, for anything small. You can also add sheet protectors for different size pieces of paper. But just get creative, have fun with it, keep the best and yeah. It's just easy to find what I need now.

Step #4 - Scan Articles, Notes, & Literature

Now, if you don't want to add another binder to your life because you are trying to downsize, minimize, whatever it is, you can set up the same system using a scanner. Take all your articles just like we did here. Scan in all the articles. If you use a great scanner like the Scansnap ix1500 that I talked about recently, that has something called OCR technology, meaning it's going to recognize all the characters, all the words, and so then once your articles are scanned into your computer you can just search for a keyword and it's going to automatically find that article, nice and efficient. And then going forward, if you are receiving a lot of magazines, limit them to like two to three per month and just keep your favorites, and then be mindful of all the papers that you choose to print out, the papers you choose to bring home. Because anything that's physical inside your house has to be organized, it has to be maintained and eventually it has to be gotten rid of. So just be mindful going forward.

Again, if you need more support on letting go of clutter, there's a link below to check out my course on How to Let Go of Clutter When You Can't Let Go, so you can learn my five step process on getting yourself to mentally and emotionally detached from your possessions. I hope you enjoyed this video. Thank you for being here and I'll see you soon. Take care. Bye.

Key Take-Aways & Products Mentioned

  • Gather articles you’ve been saving and sort by high-level category. For example, if you have travel articles on New Mexico, Colorado, and California, instead of categorizing by each location, consider using the category “Travel.” Keeping categories high-level can help prevent overwhelm from LOTS of micro-categorized piles!
  • Only keep the best of the best articles, clippings, notes, & literature. Let go of the rest! If you’re reading this post, find comfort in knowing you have access to the internet which has a wealth of free information should you need the information again 🙂
  • If you can’t let go of magazines or articles because you don’t want to miss out on any important information, see my recent class on “How to Let of Clutter When You Can’t Let Go” in which I reveal a simple 5-step process for mentally and emotionally detaching from possessions.  
  • Keep articles to read in ONE binder (not 5!). If you need to more space to expand on a certain article / topic, create a second binder if absolutely needed.
  • This is the binder featured in this video. The size is 1.5″. I recommend using binders that are 1-2″ in size. Anything above 2″ feels too heavy and the pages can be hard to turn due to the large ring-size 🙂
  • These are the dividers I used (set of 24 tabs).
  • The gussetted binder pocket I showed in the video is from Staples (no link available but if you look in store you’ll see they’re available in clear, teal, and purple. The brand is the Staples Brand). These are similar. 
  • If you don’t want to create a binder, you can setup the same system digitally on your computer by scanning the articles. This is my favorite scanner which has OCR technology meaning it’ll recognize each character and word scanned making everything searchable. 
  • Going forward, limit magazine subscriptions to 2-3 per month while being mindful of the papers you chose to bring home!

Having trouble letting go of sentimental items?

How to Organize Tax Documents, Paperwork, & Receipts (Part 7 of 10 Paper Clutter Series)

In this video I show you how to organize tax documents, paperwork, and receipts at home or in your office so you can stay organized for tax season!

If you know someone who could benefit from watching this video series, please consider sharing it using the buttons at the top.
If you have any tips or feedback, please leave a comment at the bottom of this page.

Read Transcript Here

How to Get Organized for Tax Season

Hi everyone. I'm Alejandra from alejandra.tv. And in this video, we are talking about how to organize your tax documents, paperwork and receipts so you can easily find everything you need when it's time to file your taxes.

So before we get started, if you have stacks of paperwork all over your house and you are feeling overwhelmed and you're not sure where to begin, there is a link below to learn more about my Paper Clutter Kickstart, which is a mini course designed to help you easily begin sorting things out because that is the very first step when it comes to stacks of paperwork all over the house.

How to Organize Your Tax Papers

Okay. So when it comes to tax documents, it's all about having systems in place for all types of stuff that comes in so when tax time comes around, it's nice and easy to locate everything you need and taxes are a breeze.

Filing System for Taxes

So I'm going to show you the systems I have in place. The very first thing, and this is probably like the most important thing out of everything I'm about to show you, is to have one folder for all of your tax documents that you receive throughout the tax year. So for example, let's say it is the middle of the year and you get your personal property tax bill in the mail. So once this comes in the mail, you are going to put this in your mail center, which I did a mail center video recently. The mail center video is available here.

How to Prepare Receipts for Your Accountant

Put it in your mail center until you pay the bill. Once you pay the bill, then you're going to take this document, you are going to put it in your tax document organizer for the year because action has already been taken. You never want to put anything in here that still requires action. This is just a holding tank for your tax documents that don't require action because you've already taken action. So put the rest of the documents inside here. Anything else you receive throughout the year that is tax-related that you're going to need when you file taxes, go ahead and put it in here.

Personal and Business Tax Returns

You can separate out personal tax documents from business tax documents if you have two separate ones. So I have my personal taxes and my business taxes but I don't have enough like tax documents throughout the year to justify having two of these. So I just combined this with business and personal. So on the outside of the organizer, and I will put a link to where you can get this below. But on the outside of the organizer, I have this checklist that says everything you need to know for taxes.

Tax Preparation Checklist for Due Dates

And then I have a little note that says this is easy because I know myself well. When I do one task like once a year, what is likely to happen is the next year it comes around and I'm probably going to feel resistance to getting started because I probably forgot how to file taxes. So I have this checklist right here. The top part has everything I need to know for business taxes. And then the bottom part has everything I need to know for personal taxes. And really this is a blank checklist for this video, but really, it's a bunch of reminders, it's due dates.

List of Documents for Taxes

This list down here has a list of all of the personal tax documents I can expect to receive and what to put in here. When I first started this checklist, like I think I started doing this like five years ago. And prior to that, I never knew like what I needed for tax time. And so when tax time came around, I would always have to like just do all this research and ask all these questions and stuff. So I started a checklist and every year I modify the checklist based on new information or as like tax laws change.

And all I do is I just take a sticky note and I'll put a sticky note here. And then once this checklist has enough sticky notes and I'll go to my computer, update the checklist, print it out and then put it here again. But basically make a checklist so tax time is nice and easy. And if you don't know, if you're going to need something for tax time, go ahead and put it in here. And then when tax time comes around, then spend more time researching and figuring out if you need that document.

Business Income Tax vs Personal Income Tax

So one thing I do is isolate all of my business tax receipts in a separate poly envelope that just lives in my mail center. So this is last year's organizer. This year I'll just rip off the label and then relabel it, and reuse the organizer. I isolate the business receipts because I feel like there's a lot of them and I want to quickly access them and not have to shuffle through everything else that is in here. So if you have one category of tax documents that you have a lot of and you want to keep it separate, go ahead and isolate it from your main tax document bag.

How to Categorize Receipts for Taxes

Okay. And so if you have a lot of tax documents and you want to keep them more organized, more sorted than just like shoving them inside one bag, like if you have a lot of them (I don't have enough to justify doing this, and this works for me), but something else you can do is you can get an accordion organizer and put all of your tax categories or basically like the categories of all of your documents, like medical, childcare, real estate, car, whatever it is into an accordion organizer. Label your tabs, just sort by category and then keep them this way if you want to be a bit more organized than just shoving them inside one bag. So that's an option as well.

Sorting and Categorizing Receipts

Okay. Now once tax time rolls around, let's say it's like February or March and you are filing your taxes, what you're going to do is you're going to come to your red envelope and it's a bright color so you know where to find it. And you can tell your spouse like, yeah, just put that thing in the red envelope and it's just nice and easy. So you come to your red folder, you are going to take out your documents. So let's just say this is my real estate tax bill. Take everything out, sort it all by category if it's not sorted.

Highlight Important Tax Information

And then one thing I do is I take a highlighter and I highlight the title of the document. So I'll come here and I will highlight real estate tax bill. I will highlight the amount and then I will highlight the date. Because when I go to file my taxes, I can just easily take all the information it's already called out, enter it into the tax software or enter it into the tax organizer provided by my accountant and I don't need to like search for the information. So I do that first, sort the documents, highlight the important documents. I'm sorry, highlight the important information and then take those things and enter it into the tax software or the tax organizer. Very simple.

How to Prepare Tax Return Documents for Your Accountant

Now one thing you can also do if you're feeling like extra organized, I do not do this every year. I do this some years. I will reference this document. So I will put like number one and put a circle around it. And then in the tax organizer that I get from my accountant because we use an accountant, I will put number one where I enter this information. So when he or she is going through it, they can easily find the supporting documentation. It just makes it a little bit easier for me and I feel like it makes it easier for them as well. But I don't always do it. I just do it when I'm feeling like extra organized and I have more time.

How to Organize Tax Returns from Previous Years

Okay. And so the last part of it is when you get your tax return back, either printed out or you get it back from your accountant. Our accountant always gives us a folder. Let's say this is the tax return. You're going to take your tax return and you're going to put it inside of a folder or a mesh poly envelope just like this.

I label the outside with the year, so 2019 personal. This is for last year. For the business one, I will have a separate folder. I keep them separated even though the documentation's in one folder, keep them separated. The other one will say 2019 business and it's in a different color so it stands out. And then I will take all of the supporting documentation for the year and I will just put it behind the tax return. I will take all of the receipts, I will take them out of this pouch and just put them directly into here or I will take a scrap envelope, put them in the envelope and then place them in here.

And then I will reuse the pouch again for this year's receipts and then I will reuse this red bag for this year's tax documents for the year. So this always gets reused. This always gets reused. This one gets a new one every single year. So then I will take the tax return in the folder and I will put it in my tax drawer behind me and I'll put personal on the left, business on the right and I am done with taxes.

Scanning Tax Returns

If you feel like you are limited on storage space, one thing you can consider doing is scanning your tax return documentation and receipts and putting it on like a backup hard drive or putting it somewhere safe electronically to free up storage space and just keep it electronically.

Okay. So I will put a link to all of the products below. If you are curious on suggestions on how long to keep documents, I have a document on my website with 132 documents listed with suggestions on how long to keep them and suggestions on going digital. It is part of my Paper Clutter Kickstart I will put a link below if you'd like to learn more. Part of that is also helping you get started with all of your stacks of paper. Thank you for being here. I hope you found this video helpful. Have fun with your taxes.

Do something now. Your future self will thank you for it next time you file your taxes. Take care and I'll see you soon. Bye.

Key Take-Aways & Products Mentioned

  • Keep tax documents in your mail center until you take action (e.g., pay bill, etc). Once action is taken, store tax document in a tax document organizer for the year.
  • Keep all tax documents you receive for the year in an isolated folder that’s easy to find! If you have tax documents for personal AND business, you can collect them in separate folders or all together in one folder if you don’t have many documents. This is the red “tax document organizer” folder I use for both personal and work tax documents. This folder gets reused year after year.
  • If you have a LOT of tax documentation each year, instead of using one folder to organize all the documentation, consider storing everything in an accordion organizer so you can sort by category and make it easy to find documents. This is the accordion organizer I showed in the video!
  • Make a detailed checklist of personal and business tax documentation you need to save throughout the year including what documents you expect to receive in the mail and any important due dates to eliminate confusion during tax time!
  • This is the mini poly envelope I use for collecting business receipts!
  • When filing taxes, highlight important information on each tax document (title, date, amount) to make it easier to plug in the appropriate numbers and/or double check your work!
  • If using an accountant, label each tax document with a number that is cross referenced in your tax organizer provided by your accountant!
  • Store tax returns + tax documentation together in one folder for each taxable year. Label folders accordingly. These are the tax return folders I use.
  • If you have both personal and business tax returns, consider storing them separately to avoid confusion.
  • For a complete list of how long to keep documents, check out my “Paper Clutter Kickstart” which includes a detailed list of 132 paper categories and suggested times to retain paperwork.

Need help getting started with decluttering papers?

How to Organize Important Documents at Home (Part 6 of 10 Paper Clutter Series)

In this video I show you how to organize important documents at home or in your office so you can quickly and easily find your most vital records/paperwork in an emergency situation!

If you know someone who could benefit from watching this video series, please consider sharing it using the buttons at the top.
If you have any tips or feedback, please leave a comment at the bottom of this page.

Read Transcript Here

How to Organize Important Documents at Home

Hi everyone, I'm Alejandra from alejandra.tv. In this video, we are talking about how to organize your most important documents at home so if you find yourself in an emergency situation and you have to quickly evacuate your house, you don't have to run throughout your house looking for your most vital records, deciding what to grab, what not to grab and probably not thinking straight. Instead, you can just go to one place in your house, grab your most important documents and evacuate your house.

Getting Started Decluttering Paper

Before we get started, if you have stacks of paperwork in your house and you are having a hard time getting started, getting yourself to show up and begin sorting out your paperwork, there is a link below to check out my Paper Clutter Kickstart, which is a mini-course designed to help you get started easily with sorting things out. Because, sorting is always the very first step when it comes to organizing your paperwork.

How to Organize Documents at Home

Okay, this is the bag right here where I have my most important documents. It is a fire resistant and water resistant bag, and it lives in a safe place in the house where both my husband and I know exactly where to find this bag if we're ever in an emergency situation and need to grab this thing and go. The biggest thing is to isolate your vital records and safeguard them in a safe place. A great place to keep your most important documents is in a safe that is bolted to the ground or bolted to a stud in the wall.

Home Filing System Ideas

Let me go ahead and show you what is inside, and I will put a link to where you can find this bag and what I'm going to show you inside. Right here I have this legal size accordion organizer. I labeled it vital documents because they're vital documents and I used an orange label because when I think of important, I think of the color orange. I found a legal size accordion for some of the legal size paperwork as opposed to letter size. And using this organizer with this bag, it's a tight fit but it does work, and I feel like it just fits nicely.

Home Filing System Categories

Inside here, I have 12 different tabs with all of the different categories of most important documents. I'm going to go through the categories with you. The first category is birth certificates or death certificates. This can also include any adoption paperwork or any adoption paperwork from animals or birth records from pets or something. The next category is Social Security. The next category is passport and ID, which can also be any immigration paperwork or citizenship paperwork.

Where to Store Vital Records

The next category is marriage. This is marriage, divorce, any prenuptial agreements if you have that. The next one is car title, which is really any automobiles, so it could be your car, an RV, a boat, a motorcycle. The next category is house deed. This can also be any title insurance that you have for your current house or previous house as well, any trust documentation. The next category is wills. This could be a living will as well or estate planning.

Where to Store Financial Records

The next category is financial, so anything related to money. If you had a loan and you paid off your loan and you got a statement and saying your loan is fully paid off, go ahead and keep that statement inside the financial section. All of these documents are all documents that you want to keep permanently. These are all documents that either cannot be replaced or are difficult to be replaced. That's why we want to isolate and safeguard these documents.

Where to Store Financial Documents

Other financial records are any savings bonds or if you have a safety deposit box. Maybe you have a list of contents that's in that box, that would go here as well. Appraisals, so any appraisals for antiques, jewelry or art, or any ownership certificates that you have would go in that category. Government, so government is any security clearance paperwork, any military paperwork, anything related to an audit if you've been audited or any police records or something.

How to Keep Important Business Documents Safe

Then the last category is business. Business can be any copyrights, any trademarks, any patents or any business agreements like contracts or something. Really big contracts, that would go in here. Then the last category I don't have here is legal. Legal can be like a custody agreement, or final settlement paperwork, or a power of attorney or something. But anyways, see what vital records you have around your house.

How to Save Important Documents

If you're just getting started and you see this and you're like, "Wow, I really need to set this thing up," grab a box, grab a reasonable bag, or go out and find an accordion organizer just like this and go on a scavenger hunt around your house looking for all of these categories and see what you find. Maybe you'll find like three out of 12 of the categories, which is a wonderful start. The next time you can make time to work on this project, maybe you'll find another category documents. You just keep iterating and keep making it better and better, and eventually you will get to this beautiful vital documents organizer.

Making an Important Document Organizer

If you are a person who loves to organize and you're excited about setting something up just like this, one thing you can do is, make this for someone in your life that is having a birthday or celebrating something that doesn't love to organize, or someone that has a lot their plate and they are having a hard time prioritizing organizing. This would make such a unique gift that really I feel like everyone needs inside of their home.

Sub-Categories for Important Documents

Something else you can do is, you can further categorize each section. So, if you have a lot of financial documents that are permanent, you never want to get rid of, sort them by category within the financial section. Paperclip them together, put a sticky note on the cover sheets writing the category of the name, and put it inside of here.

I hope you found this video helpful. Again, the biggest thing is to isolate your most important documents and safeguard them so when you need them, they are easily accessible and they are nice and organized. If you did this, your future self will thank you for it. Thank you for being here. Again, if you are just getting started with paper clutter and you are looking for a great place to start and you need support, then check out my Paper Clutter Kickstart to help you get started. Thank you for being here and I'll see you soon. Take care, bye bye.

Key Take-Aways & Products Mentioned

  • Keep your most important documents isolated and safeguarded from the rest of your documents so in case of an emergency you can quickly and easily grab your most vital paperwork without needing to make decisions (it’s difficult to think straight under stress!).
  • Important paperwork includes any critical document that is difficult to replace or cannot be replaced at all!
  • Sort and categorize vital records into high-level categories. The categories I use are:

    • Birth / DeathBirth certificates, death certificates, adoption paperwork (child / pet)
    • Social Security Cards
    • Passport / IDIncludes citizenship / immigration paperwork
    • MarriageIncludes divorce decrees, pre-nuptial agreements, custody agreements
    • Automobile TitlesIncludes motorcycle, RV, boat, and any other automobile titles
    • House DeedIncludes title insurance
    • Trust
    • WillIncludes living will, estate planning, power of attorney
    • Financial Includes loan paid-off statements, CDs, saving bonds, foreign currency, list of safety deposit box contents
    • AppraisalsIncludes jewelry, artwork, antiques
    • GovernmentIncludes security clearance, military, audits, police records
    • BusinessIncludes trademarks, patents, agreements
  • One category I didn’t include was legal. You could include legal if you have a lot of legal paperwork outside the above categories (e.g., final settlement paperwork, etc.). 
  • Use an accordion organizer to sort & categorize your most important documents. This is the legal-sized accordion organizer I use. 
  • If you prefer a letter-sized accordion organizer, this is my favorite letter-sized accordion organizer.
  • Keep the accordion organizer in a fire-resistant / water-resistant bag and/or in a safe that is bolted to the ground or to a stud in the wall. This is the fire/water resistant bag I use.
  • Be sure everyone in your home knows where to find important paperwork in case of an emergency.
  • If you’re looking for a unique gift to give a family member or friend, consider making them an organizing system like this as every house NEEDS a system for their most vital records!
  • Something else to consider storing inside the bag is a list  of small valuables to add to the bag in case of an emergency. Items include: jewelry, cash, keys, and family photos. 

How to Organize Project Papers (Part 5 of 9 Paper Clutter Series)

In this video I show you how to organize project papers in your office or at home so you can stay focused and on track!

If you know someone who could benefit from watching this video series, please consider sharing it using the buttons at the top.
If you have any tips or feedback, please leave a comment at the bottom of this page.

Read Transcript Here

Organizing Project Papers

Hi, everyone. I'm Alejandra from Alejandra.TV and in this video, I'm going to share with you how to organize all of your open project papers. But first, if you are just getting started with decluttering and you have stacks of paperwork to go through and piles have accumulated on the countertop or the desktop and you're having a hard time getting started, Click here for support and accountability if you think you can benefit from that.

Project Organizer

Okay. So when it comes to organizing all of your project papers, it's all about keeping them nice and organized, keeping them nice and accessible so you can find what you're looking for when you need it in order to stay productive. Here is the project organizer that I have on my desk. It has all of my open project papers. If there's a file folder in here, that means that the project is ongoing or it's still active, it's still being worked on. Once a project is closed, it's done, it's finished; all the papers, they go in the shred bin, the recycling bin, or they get filed away into my inactive filing system.

How to Organize Papers for a New Project

So let me just share with you what this looks like. Anytime I start a project, I, most of the time, not every time there's paper, but most of the time I will start a folder just like this. This is an interior file folder and I will just start accumulating paperwork inside this file folder. Now, once I accumulate enough paperwork that I have to shuffle through the papers and find what I'm looking for, then I will begin organizing the documents. For example, if I'm working on a contract or a draft or something and there's multiple versions, what I'll do is I will just begin stapling together all of the versions. All of the older versions are in the back and the latest version is on top. So version five is on top, version four, version three version one is all the way in the back. I will highlight it, make note in the upper corner, so all of the versions stay together, all the drafts are together and I can find the latest one nice and easy.

How to Manage a Project To-Do List

Something else I do is sometimes for projects that there's a lot of details, there's a lot of things to remember, I will create a separate project to-do list for this specific project. Then I will staple it on the inside of the folder or on the outside of the folder, and then just work from this to-do list since I have all of the papers right here, nice and easy and accessible. If you have smaller papers for your project, like a business card or note cards or sticky notes or something and you're finding that they're falling out of your file folder, if you have a lot of those, you're probably using the wrong tool. Switching your file folder to something different may be helpful. But what you can do is grab one of these adhesive pockets, put it in the back and put all of your small notes inside there so they don't fall out. They also make file folders with edges. They're are more limiting to taking papers in and out, but it is an option as well.

Labeling File Folder Tabs

When it comes to labeling your tabs at the very top, so I don't know about you, but I always reuse my file folders because they're in great shape and stuff, but once you label the tab with a marker or something over the label maker, the next time you go to reuse this thing, you have to cross off your label or you have to label on top and then it gets really thick eventually or you peel off your label and it peels off the paper as well. So one thing you can do is you can put a removable label on your file tab before you label. It gives a nice clean surface.

Then you can just put a label on top, and then once you're done with this file folder and you need to change your label, all you do is you just peel this off just like this and it's nice and clean, and it's so easy. Now, I can just reuse this file folder and have a nice fresh start. You can find removable labels in a kitchen section at an organizing store or you can create your own by taking packing tape and putting it on top. Maybe you put a fun color underneath it and we have a nice removable label.

Paper Organizers for Large Projects

Now, if you find that your papers are accumulating and you have a lot of paperwork and this folder is getting really thick, it may be time to switch your organizer to something that offers further organization and a little bit more space. So let me show you a couple options. You could go to something like this. This is basically, it's kind of like five file folders in one. It's an accordion organizer and it offers sections, you just label your sections as opposed to shoving everything into one folder. If you need something a bit larger, you can go to a larger accordion organizer. So this has, I think it's 13 different sections and it fully closes. You can do something like that as well. You would just label all of your sections. You can label the outside. So if you need something on-the-go that you want to fully be able to zip up and has handles, you can do an accordion organizer that fully closes, has handles.

How to Organize Medical Records

This is great for medical documents that you want to bring to the doctor, bring to the hospital or just isolate some kind of files. If it's not a project, maybe there's important files to isolate. This is great for that. Now, if you're finding that you want to stick to the file folder, but you need to travel with it, maybe go in the car or you're flying somewhere, you can get one of these mesh pockets. They are water resistant, they have sides, they have a nice zipper and all you do is take your file folder, you put it inside here, use zip it up, you can put a pen in here, you can put a journal or something and it's just so great for traveling. I use these things all the time. They are so lovely.

Setting Up Binders For Large Projects

Then finally, if you have a really large project and you have a lot of paperwork, the last thing you can consider is moving to a binder. Binders offer so many options for getting organized and they're really great if you have a ton of paperwork. When we renovated this house, totally had a binder because there was so much to stay on top of, so much that had to be organized. So those are all of your options in terms of organizing your project papers. Well, there are more options out there, but these are just some of the options. Decide when you get started, how large your project is going to be. Use what you know at the time to make that decision. Obviously, there are unknowns, but do your best. Have some kind of project organizer nearby. This is a desktop project organizer, sits on my desk. If your horizontal space on your desk is limited, you may want to consider a wall project organizer, like a wall, like a vertical magazine rack or something like that.

So again, if you have stacks of paperwork, piles of documents that are accumulating on horizontal surfaces, and you're having a hard time decluttering, making space so you can set up systems like this, Click here for help for support and accountability with starting to declutter papers. Thank you for being here. I hope you enjoyed this video. I hope you found it helpful and I look forward to seeing you in an upcoming video. Take care. Bye-bye.

Key Take-Aways & Products Mentioned

  • Keep project papers organized together in a desktop or wall-mounted organizer. This is the desktop organizer I use. This is the wall-mounted organizer I recommend (it’s made for organizing magazines, but it works equally as well for project papers!)
  • Keep active project papers accessible within reach from desk and visible (if you’re a visual person)
  • Keep inactive project papers filed away in a file cabinet, closet, or discard if no longer needed
  • For projects with minimal paperwork, use a basic file folder. These are the black & white striped file folders shown in the video!
  • You can also find file folders with built-in dividers like this one here!
  • For projects with more paperwork, consider using an accordion organizer. This is the accordion organizer I showed in the video!
  • For projects with paperwork on-the-go, consider using an accordion organizer that fully closes and has a handle.
  • For projects with a LOT of paperwork, consider using a binder. These are my favorite binders!
  • Here are the aqua mesh poly-envelope I showed in the video that is great for traveling!
  • Label file folders with laminated labels so the labels can be easily removed when the file folder is reused. You can make your own by placing a piece of packing tape on the tab then adhering a label from your label maker on top! This is the label maker I use. Or, you can purchase pre-made erasable labels for your file folders!

Best Scanner to Go Paperless Using ScanSnap iX1500 (Part 4 of 10 Paper Clutter Series)

In this sponsored video I show you the best scanner to go paperless with your documents, receipts, photos, and other small pieces of paper in your home or office using the ScanSnap iX1500!

If you know someone who could benefit from watching this video series, please consider sharing it using the buttons at the top.
If you have any tips or feedback, please leave a comment at the bottom of this page.

Read Transcript Here

Best Scanner for Going Paperless

Hi everyone. I'm Alejandra from Alejandra.tv. And in this video we are talking about how to scan papers to reduce paper clutter, increase storage space, and increase efficiency when it comes to dealing with papers if you're open to consider scanning and going digital with some paperwork. So if you've been part of the community for a while then you may or may not know this, but I've been recommending the same scanner for about six to seven years. It's the Fujitsu ScanSnap ix500. It is such an awesome scanner. It quickly scans documents. It's easy to set up, it's easy to use, and it really just feels like an essential for making any home office nice and efficient.

New Scanner Model for 2020

So recently the team at ScanSnap reached out and asked if I would review the latest model and sponsor the video. So in this video we are talking about the latest scanner, which is the Fujitsu ScanSnap ix1500. We're going to be talking about it in this video and I'm going to share some of my favorite features. So the biggest difference between the newest model and the older model is the newer model has this really nice touchscreen right on the front of the scanner, which you can just like tell the scanner what you're scanning and where you want to send it and it's just all right there. Nice all in one.

Updated Scanner Features

And it also comes in this nice white color, which is really pretty. So the scanner is going to work with your desktop computer, whether you have a PC or a Mac, both will work. It also works with devices, iOS, it works with Android. And the coolest thing about it, well there's a lot of cool features, but another cool thing is that you can scan directly to the cloud. Meaning if you don't have a computer, if you don't have a device, that is okay. Once you configure the settings, like setting up the wifi, you can just put your document inside the feeder, you can hit scan, and it's going to send your document directly to the cloud once you set up your cloud service.

Stand-Alone Scanning to the Cloud

And you can scan to 16 different clouds services like such as Google docs, Google photos, QuickBooks, Box.com, Evernote, and then there's like 10 other ones. It's just really neat. Okay, so let's do some examples and I'm going to show you some really cool features about the scanner. So I have all of these things here ready to be scanned. The first thing we're going to scan is we're going to pretend like this is a tax document from years ago that you want to increase your storage space. So you want to move this to a backup hard drive.

How to Scan to the Cloud

So go ahead and put it in the scanner, flipped upside down, flipped backwards, and then you are going to go to the touch screen. And this is the one of the very first things you're going to set up once you get a scanner, you're going to set up all these different profiles. So you can set up up to 30 profiles. And a profile is basically telling the scanner what you're scanning and where you want to send it. So, for example, this is a document. The scanner can scan documents, receipts, business cards and photos. So I'm going to select document. So I have seven different profiles set up and you can have more than one user using the scanner.

Custom Scanning Profiles

So if my husband wanted to come in here and set up his own profiles, he could be like a green color. So it's all color coded by user. So the first profile is document. I'm scanning a document and I want to send it to the desktop. So all I do is I hit that profile. Then I'm going to go ahead and hit the blue scan button. Nice and simple. What we're also going to do here is we are going to time it and see how many pages we can time ... How long it takes to scan this document. So let me go to my phone, I'm going to pull up my stop watch and we are going to time this. So I'm going to hit start on the timer and start on the scan and we'll see. Ready, set, go.

How to Scan a Document to Your Computer or Phone

Okay, so we scanned 30 pages, it's going to say how many pages were scanned on the scanner, in under a minute. So roughly like 54 seconds to scan 30 pages. It's super fast. So now that that is scanned and I sent it to my desktop, what's going to happen is depending upon how you've configured your settings, it'll then like open up the ScanSnap home software that the scanner comes with, and then you can just save your file wherever you want to save it. So I have it configured to go to a certain folder, making it nice and easy to find all of my scanned documents.

How to Edit a Scanned Document Using O.C.R.

Okay, so now that we know it is very fast and you know you can scan a lot, let's do another example. All right, so let's just say that I have this document, hard copy and I lost the original file on my computer, like hard drive crashed or something. Or let's pretend like I am at the library and I make a copy of some kind of research that I want to include in a project I'm working on because I can't check out the book. I take this home and in order to use this I would have to like re-type everything because I don't have it saved to my computer. But this scanner does something really cool.

If you put it into the scanner and do the same thing. I'm going to hit document desktop and then hit scan. Okay, so now that the document is scanned I just go ahead and save it on the computer and then I right click on the document and I hit send it to Word. And what it's going to do is it's going to take this document, it's going to send it to Microsoft Word and make all of the text in the document editable. Meaning I can just highlight everything, copy and then paste into my project paper, whatever I'm working on.

So it is like super efficient, nice and easy. And then also what you can do when it scans this, there's an option to make all of the text searchable. So if you want to, once you scan this, you can just search for like one of the words in here and it's going to like immediately find the documents, nice and efficient.

How to Scan Receipts to Evernote

The next thing you can do with the scanners you can scan receipts, and this is a really cool feature that I'm excited to personally use on my own because right now I just keep all of my receipts hard copy, but let me just show you how cool this is. So if you have a receipt business or a personal and you're holding onto it in case you want to return the item, you can just scan in the receipts. So I have a profile for receipts, one for work, one for personal. They both scan directly to the cloud, they just scan to different folders. If I hit, let's hit work receipts, well let's hit personal receipt. This is from Costco and then I hit scan.

How to Organize Receipts Digitally

What's going to happen is it's going to send the receipt directly to my Evernote because I have it configured that way, which means it's also going to go to my phone. And now I have the receipt on my phone. So if I'm traveling or if I'm out and about and I need the receipt, I can just access it on my phone. And what's really cool is that you can search for all of your receipts, because all of the text is searchable using OCR technology. So let me just pull this up and I will show you. So here's the receipt. Now if we look at one of the words, so one of the words is hummus. So if we just search for hummus, I will show you that it's going to find this receipt. So here it is right here. The keyword I searched, hummus, is highlighted in yellow, making it really easy to find that keyword.

How to Scan Photos

Okay, so the next thing we're going to scan is this photo. So I have this photo here. Let's say I want to send it to a family member or a friend or I want to make like a photo book or something, put it in the scanner backwards like that. And then I'm going to go ahead and hit photos. So right now I have it configured to scan directly to my computer. Hit scan. It's going to scan in full color. It scans, photos, single sided. But again you can play with the settings. And now I have a photo that I can work with in a photo book that I may make with like old photos or something.

And what's really cool is you can do the same thing with like greeting cards. Like if you have flat greeting cards, nothing with like you know, texture or like glitter or something, you don't want to scan that. But if you have flat greeting cards, you can put them in the scanner. Or if you have notes or letters from like family members or friends and you want to scan those into a photo book. I have another setting here for cards and letters. It basically does the same thing as photos except it's going to scan double sided. So hit scan, watch it, scan. And now I can take these documents and put them into a photo book and I'll show you something quickly that I did.

Scanning Photos to Make a Photo Book

So my husband and I got married like five years ago, and after our honeymoon I made this book that he still says to this day is like the best present I ever gave him. I saved all of like the airline tickets, the bus tickets and everything from our honeymoon, like the notes and stuff in the hotels. And I scanned them all in using my old scanner and I made a photo book and it just brings back so many great memories every time we look at it. Okay, and so you can do the same thing with like family recipes, if you have family recipes that you want to put into a scrapbook as well.

How to Scan Business Cards

And so the last thing that I want to show you are business cards. So if you have a lot of business cards and you travel and you're contacting a lot of people and you don't want to travel with these cards, you can just take a business card, put it in the smallest section into the feeder, go ahead and hit business cards, which is one of the ... It's one of the settings that comes preloaded on the machine. And then hit scan. And what it's going to do is it's going to scan the business card double sided.

I have the settings set to send to my phone. So I will get the front and the back of the card. So another cool feature is you can set the scanner to save your file based on certain information. So for example, with the receipt, you can save all receipts as like the vendor name and as the amount and also on the date of the receipt. So it just makes it really easy to search for the document that you need.

Preventing Digital Clutter

So one thing I do want to mention is just because we can scan things and it's nice and efficient, nice and fast, nice and easy. One thing to be mindful of is digital clutter. So before you scan something, see if it's something you can just get rid of, eliminate it from your life completely before scanning it and moving it to your computer. Because it's one more thing that you do have to organize and figure out where to put it. So declutter before you scan.

Shred Documents After Scanning

And I have to say, once you scan a paper that you actually need, shredding it or recycling is such a great feeling. You just feel so much lighter with less papers. Okay, so I hope you found this video helpful. There is a link below if you want to learn more about the scanner. Thank you for being here. Thank you for watching and I will see you soon. Take care.

Key Take-Aways & Products Mentioned

  • Learn more about the Fujitsu ScanSnap ix1500 here
  • This is the latest model of the same scanner I’ve been recommending for the past 6 years! The latest model has a touchscreen for easy scanning, can scan directly to the cloud (without a computer or device), and it now comes in black AND white!
  • Scans documents, receipts, photos, business cards
  • Scans documents and receipts to searchable .pdfs. Meaning – you can search for a word and it’ll find it instantly!
  • Can convert documents, spreadsheets, and presentations into editable files (ideal for recovering documents!)
  • Scans to desktops (PC & mac), devices (iOS & Android), and to the cloud wirelessly (Evernote, Google Drive, Google Photos, Dropbox, etc.)
  • Scans up to 30 pages per minute
  • Great for going paperless or scanning less frequently used documents to free up storage space!
  • Be mindful of digital clutter! If you don’t need it, shred or recycle it (not scan!)

The link above is an affiliate link, which could result in a commission, but doesn’t affect the price. All the products I recommend have passed my rigorous testing, I use in my home, and I absolutely LOVE! One of my core values is authenticity and I would never recommend a product just for the sake of earning a commission.

Need help getting started with decluttering papers?

How to Organize Mail & Bills (Part 3 of 10 Paper Clutter Series)

In this video I show you how to organize mail and bills in your office or at home so you can stay on top of your incoming paperwork and documents!

If you know someone who could benefit from watching this video series, please consider sharing it using the buttons at the top.
If you have any tips or feedback, please leave a comment at the bottom of this page.

Read Transcript Here

How to Organize Mail & Bills

Hi everyone, I'm Alejandra from Alejandra.TV. And in this video I'm going to share with you how to organize your mail so you can eliminate the tall stacks that may be ending up on your desk or your dining room table. And instead be able to know what you have, take action and stay on top of all of your important documents. But first, if you have paper all around your house that needs to be gone through, needs to be decluttered in order to make space to set up organizing systems, and you are struggling to get started, you feel overwhelmed, you're procrastinating. Click here if you need support and accountability for beginning of your project.

Step 1 - Check Your Mailbox Frequently

Okay, so step one is to check your mailbox frequently. It can be easy to put off checking the mail when all you receive are bills in the mail, junk mail, and coupons that you're never going to use. But if you flip the script and you go to your mailbox with the attitude of, "What am I going to receive today? What kind of exciting news or what can I be enthusiastic about?" Maybe there's a cheque that you're waiting for. Maybe there's a greeting card from a loved one, or maybe there's a coupon to your favorite restaurant. Either way, be excited to check your mail as if something fun is waiting for you. Try and do it every day. Don't try, do it every day. Or every other day, so by the end of the week, the mailbox isn't filled and it feels overwhelming to go through a tall stack of mail. So check it frequently and it's going to be a lot easier to stay on top of it.

Step 2 - Sort Mail A.S.A.P.

Okay, so step two is to sort the mail immediately or soon after. So when you walk in the door from checking the mail, if you can sort the mail right away, that is ideal. However, you may want to say hi to your spouse, your children, the dog may be excited to see you or dinner is ready. So if you're not going to do it immediately after, do your best to do it before you go to bed or before the day ends.

Setup a Home Mail Sorting Station

So I have my stack of mail right here. I have these three trash cans, they're in my office. You can do this in the kitchen or wherever you have space, wherever you process your mail. One is recycle, one is trash and one is shred. So I had my stack here. All I'm going to do is go through this stuff. So receipt, trash, those cannot be recycled. This is shred, this with the envelope as well. Credit card offer shred with the envelope. A coupon I'm never going to use, recycle. Recycle catalog. Coupon, I'm never going to use, recycle. And if you want to set aside things to unsubscribe from, so any catalogs or magazines or something, put that aside with your action items to do later when you take action. All right, this I may read. This, recycle. This I will read later. File. This looks like a bill. These are important. This is important. And this looks like a greeting card.

Step 3 - Organize Remaining Mail Into a Mail Center According to Priority

Okay, so I've sorted all of the mail. Now, I just take all of my action items and I'm going to place them in my mail center or wherever you process your mail or pay your bills. But for now, just focus on sorting out, weeding out the things you don't need. You don't have to take action right away. You just have to eliminate the unnecessary. Okay, so step three is to sort all of your actionable papers into your mail center. So this is my mail center. I keep it on my desk in my office. You may have it in the kitchen. Just make sure you have some kind of basic simple mail center, a place to put all the things that require action from the mail.

Mail Center Categories

So let me go through my categories. The first category is, timely action. So timely action is anything that requires you to take action by a certain date in order to avoid some kind of consequence, like a late fee or something. So for example, it's an electricity bill or any other kind of bill that has a due date. So what I do is I open the bill when I get it. I put the due date on the outside because I don't take action right away. I have certain times I take action on these documents. So write the due date on the outside. Second category is, action. So it's anything that requires action. Anything that requires action, but there's no due date. So this could be like some kind of form or a questionnaire, survey that you need to fill out. Or maybe you are doing some kind of renovation in your house and you have multiple quotes from contractors. And you just need to decide there's no real due date, but it just requires some kind of decision to be made. Maybe you put that in action.

Processing is anything that does not require your action right now, but instead you're waiting on something. So you're waiting on a certain date to come. You're waiting on a certain person to take action. So for example, this could be like a travel document, or tickets to a concert or something. There's no action, but you just need to bring this when the date comes. So it's kind of like a holding tank for papers that you're going to need very soon. And then coupons. So any coupons, just go in this section right here. This is my coupon binder. There's a video from years ago on how to set up this system. Nothing has changed.

Organize Receipts Into Poly-Envelopes

This section right here has receipts, so I'm not really getting receipts in the mail, but when you clean out your purse, come to your mail center. So I have receipts for business and then I have personal receipts as well. So I just put them in these little poly envelopes. The personal receipts I go through on a quarterly basis and I clean it out. The business receipts I keep for the entire year. Once the year's over, this goes in the filing cabinet with my tax return for that year. And then for any one-off occasions, so there's a lot of receipts. Like for the holidays or something, you can consider taking a scrap envelope or just a regular envelope writing down what it is. So Christmas receipts, 2019. Or maybe this could be a certain birthday party or an event you're hosting and isolate those receipts so you know where to go when you need them, if you need them.

Oh, and then one thing is, so you don't have to put like petty receipts in your personal receipt holder. So any kind of gas receipt or grocery receipt where you know you're not going to return something, immediately get rid of those receipts. And only save the things that have some kind of purchase that you may return. And the last section is bill paying. So this is where I have my cheque books and then I also have stamps and then cheques to deposit. And they stay in poly envelopes just like that in here. That is the mail center.

Step 4 - Process Mail & Take Action

Step four, last step is to get into the habit of checking your mail center. So in other words, get into the habit of taking action. Going through your different categories. Seeing what needs to be action. Seeing what you can get rid of. Seeing what needs to be followed up on. And the best way to do that is you could just take a couple minutes, like every other day or once a week. A great time is Sunday night or Monday night in the beginning of the week. Take a couple minutes, scan your mail center. See if anything requires action. So what I do is every Monday, I pay bills every other Monday. So I will check this every other Monday. But I'm always sitting right here because it's right at my computer. So I'm always having my eye on, is there anything I need to action before a certain due date?

So again, if you have stacks of paperwork, piles of paper. Documents are accumulating on your horizontal surfaces, and you're having a hard time getting started with going through the stuff, making decisions, letting go, getting organized. Click here for support if you need a holding hand and if you can benefit from accountability. So that is the mail center. I hope you enjoyed this video. Thank you for being here and I look forward to seeing you in an upcoming video. Take care. Bye bye.

Key Take-Aways & Products Mentioned

How to Organize Files (Part 2 of 10 Paper Clutter Series)

In this video I show you two ways to organize your files and documents in your office so you can easily find what you’re looking for when you need it!

If you know someone who could benefit from watching this video series, please consider sharing it using the buttons at the top.
If you have any tips or feedback, please leave a comment at the bottom of this page.

Read Transcript Here

How to Organize Files at Home

Hi everyone. I'm Alejandra from Alejandra.tv and in this video I'm going to share with you two ways to organize your files. But first, if you have stacks of paperwork, piles of documents that are just accumulating on horizontal surfaces around your house, and you're having a hard time getting started making decisions, decluttering, click here for support and accountability if you could benefit from that.

How to Organize a Home Filing System

Okay. When it comes to files, there's two ways to organize them. There's more ways to organize them, but in this video I'm going to share two ways.

Home Filing Cabinet

The first way is with a traditional filing cabinet. So I have been using the same filing system for about eight or nine years. It is really easy to set up. It's intuitive, it's color coded, and I highly recommend it if you're looking for an easy filing system. All you do here is to set it up, you categorize your documents, and then you decide what major category they belong in. So all the tabs are color coded, not the actual files. Not the file folders, you can color code your file folders but it makes it harder to maintain. So I recommend sticking to one color file folder and just color coding your tabs. All of the red are your most important documents that you never want to get rid of. All of the orange are documents that get updated periodically. So an insurance policy that gets updated every year we'd go in orange. Green is anything financial blue is any tax related documents, purple is any special interest and then they also have brown and gray as well. That's not here. But it's a great system.

Organizing Years of Paperwork

I have spent the past month or so going through all the papers inside my house, decluttering, getting rid of things that are outdated, expired things I don't need anymore. What I've done is I've come to the realization that I do not like opening up a heavy file drawer and sticking papers inside of an awkward shape file folder. And I feel like very limited to the amount of organizing that can actually get done in a file folder. Like you can staple things together, binder clip them, paperclip them, but I really wanted to take it to another level. So I decided to switch all of my papers in my filing cabinet to all of these binders up here. What I did was in addition to decluttering, removing things that are outdated. I also took out any documents that are my most important documents that if I was in an emergency situation, what would I run and grab. If you're in that situation, you don't want to have to come here and make a decision even though they really are in the red section.

So I set up a different system, which I will share with you in an upcoming video. I pulled out any sentimental papers, so any photos, any awards, certificates, clippings, any family recipes, artwork or report cards from when I was a child and my parents gave me. Pulled all those things out of the filing cabinet, put them in another system, which I will share a little bit about an upcoming video.

I actually did a whole course on organizing sentimental clutter and letting go and making those decisions. Click here if you want to learn more on that, but I pulled all those things out.

Organizing Paper Records

Taxes came out of here and basically all that I was left with was everything that I feel like belongs in a filing cabinet. All of your records. So medical records, financial records, pet records, car records, home records, and then any reference material. So insurance policies and paperwork, anything related to my business, like staff, payroll, all those things. So it's records and reference materials are all in all of these binders up here and I'm so excited to share what the binders look like.

Okay. What I've done here is I've taken all of my favorite features out of all of these binders behind me. I'm not going to show you all of them because that would take forever. But I created this one binder that has all the same features as all of these binders. And so that's what I'm going to go through and show you.

Organizing Paperwork With Binders

This is the binder. I use the same binders for all of my binders except illegal size. This is a Better Binder from Staples. It's actually called Better Binder. In my opinion, they really are better binders. They come in so many different colors. The front has this nice pocket for putting some kind of a cover page or something. I always put scrap of paper that matches the color of the binder. On the spine, the outer spine, there's a place to label your binder and so all I do is I use the label that I would put in the filing cabinet. Same thing here. Inside the binder, one of the very first things in the binder more so for the newer binders. A lot of the older binders don't really have this, but there's a built in gusseted binder pocket on the cover and it's great for small things like new cards, CDs, thumb drives. You can put office supplies in here, you could put journal in here. It's just nice to contain them right there.

In some of these binders behind me, some of the binders have important information that I often reference or it's just really important information. So what I do is I call out that important information and I put it in a sheet protector in the very front of the binder to make it really easy to find to access. And so basically it's an important note for future self. It could be a critical note reminder. It could be instructions on how to do something. It could be a checklist, a spreadsheet, or a chart. Just some kind of important information.

Using Dividers to Organize Paperwork In Binders

Behind that I have all of my dividers, so something you could never do in a filing cabinet, which you could have small file folders in a hanging file folder, but this is just so much more organized. I use the same dividers. I have all of the subcategories for the main category of the binder. If this was a medical binder, some of your subcategories may be medical records, test results, dental vision, OBGYN, skincare, so forth. So you have all your subcategories. Now if you use dividers like this and you label them with the label maker or you handwrite them and you want to reuse your dividers next time, what you can do is before you label them, go ahead and make a copy on your printer or scanner, something like that before you label them and keep the copy behind the table of contents. So you can reuse these things and have a fresh table of contents.

Using Adhesive Pockets On Dividers In Binders

Something else you can do here is you can have adhesive pockets on your dividers or somewhere on your binder for again, containing something that is small. Note cards, receipts, CDs, anything else, business cards. In here, you can put this in the front cover if there's no built in pocket. So one thing you can do is if you have a lot of documents, you can further categorize them by date, by year, alphabetically, by some other kind of identifier. For example, my husband has so many car records because his car is 13 years old. What I did was I went through all of his car records, I organized them by year. So 2006 together, 2007 together, and so forth. They're stapled. And then in the upper corner, upper right-hand corner, I just write the year. I highlight it so next time I go to that file folder, everything is together. For example, here's 2019, here's 2018, 2017, and so forth. It just makes it a little bit more organized.

Using Sheet Protectors to Organize Papers

Something else you could do in binders is you can use sheet protectors. They make sheet protectors for all sorts of sizes. So you can put paint swatches in here. These are like small business card pockets. Obviously you can do business cards. We can also do paint swatches. What I've done in my home binders, I have paint swatches by room and then I label them like family room, bathroom and so forth. You can also have, or you find sheet protectors for note cards for work or something, also for recipe cards, for photos. These are four by six. They also make five by seven. There's obviously full-page sheet protectors for important documents. There's longer sheet protectors for like photo negatives or anything long. I couldn't think of anything else besides photo negatives.

And then if you have a lot of catalogs or brochures and you want to put them in binders, they make these little catalog holders, they just slip right in the middle of the catalog and then they go into the rings and it's really cool. And then here's one of those gusseted binder pockets that is not attached to the binder but it's just on its own. Again, those are good for journals, brochures, and anything that is loose that you want to secure to the binder and make sure it doesn't fall out.

That's what all these binders look like behind me. I hope you found this video helpful. If you're setting up a binder for the very first time, have fun with it. Use your creativity and see what you come up with.

Again, if you have stacks of paperwork and you need more support to go through and declutter, click here to help you get started.

Thank you for being here and I look forward to seeing you in an upcoming video. Take care. Bye-bye.

Key Take-Aways & Products Mentioned

  1. The first way to file your papers is with hanging file folders in a traditional filing cabinet. The second way to organize and file paperwork is with binders!

  2. This is the color-coded filing system I highly recommend, have been using for years, and showed in the video.

  3. When using a color-coded file system, color-code just the tabs, not the folders (or else it’ll be harder to maintain!) These are the white hanging file folders I showed in the video.

  4. These are the binders I showed in the video.

  5. When using dividers to organize a binder, always make a copy of the table of contents cover sheet so the dividers can be reused! Keep the copy of the table of contents behind the table of contents that is currently in use.

  6. These are the color-coded dividers I showed in the video.

  7. These are the adhesive CD pouches I showed in the video with organizing small items.

  8. These are the gusseted binder pockets I showed in the video for organizing journals, pamphlets, and other loose papers.

  9. These are the thin catalog organizers for storing catalogs, brochures, etc.

  10. If you have a lot of papers in one file folder or section in the binder, you can further categorize by date, alphabetical, or by sub-category.

  11. Label the outside of your binder with the main category while labeling the dividers with sub-categories. For example, a binder name may be: “Medical” while your divider sub-categories are: medical records, imaging, referrals/letters, test results, etc.

  12. You can see the full list of categories and sub-categories I use for ALL of my paperwork here!

How to Organize Papers & Documents at Home (Part 1 of 10)

In this video I give you my top 5 tips and ideas for how to organize papers, paperwork, and documents at home or in your office so you can focus on what matters more!

If you know someone who could benefit from watching this video series, please consider sharing it using the buttons at the top.
If you have any tips or feedback, please leave a comment at the bottom of this page.

Read Transcript Here

How to Organize Paperwork at Home

Hi, everyone. I'm Alejandra from Alejandra.tv and in this video series I'm going to be sharing with you how to organize all of your papers at home. So we're going to be talking about binders, files, your most important files, sentimental papers, taxes, mail, papers to scan, any open project papers, information you want to remember, and any articles that you have pulled out of magazines to one day read. We're talking about all of these things, how to organize them so you can find them, you can stay on top of them, and most importantly, you can focus on what matters most.

But first, if you have stacks of paperwork, you have piles of paper, documents are accumulating throughout all of the horizontal surfaces at home and you feel overwhelmed and you're procrastinating the task of going through and decluttering and you can benefit from support, there is a link below to help you, to guide you, and to give you any accountability that you may need so you can actually declutter, let go, and get organized. Because it's always easier to get organized if you've first decluttered and gotten rid of all of the noise and made space for the things that do matter.

Make Space to Declutter Piles of Papers and Documents

Okay, so the first tip is to declutter and make space. And I know you've probably heard this a million times, but you really have to make space if you want to begin setting up your organizing system. So, if you have stacks of papers, piles of papers on all kinds of horizontal surfaces, the best thing you can do is do a little bit at a time.

So, if you think about it, all of your papers didn't come in overnight. They took months, years, decades to come in. So the same way they came in as the same way that they're going to go out, although it's not going to take you decades, but just do a little bit at a time.

For example, take one file folder. Maybe you have to leave your office because there's so much going on and you can't focus, take it to the kitchen table or take it somewhere else. Go through the files, figure out what can be destroyed, which is shredded, figured out what can be recycled and just do one file folder at a time and eventually you will make progress, eventually you will make space, and it will be a lot easier to begin setting up your organizing systems.

Assign Homes to Start Organizing Papers and Documents

Okay, so the second tip is, you've probably heard this a million times, but to give all of your pieces of paper a home. So it doesn't have to be a fancy home, you just have to have a place to put every single type of document that you have. And once you declutter and you're left with just the things that you need, it's going to be a lot easier because there's going to be less papers to go through. So even a simple box like this that you labeled the front Tax Documents for 2020, so now you have a place to put all of your tax documents for 2020, can save you time and energy when it comes to looking for these documents.

So give everything a home. It doesn't have to be fancy. All it has to be is functional. Tip three is once you go through all of your papers and you declutter, you let go, and you're just left with the papers that you need, then you'll realize that all these papers fit into two categories.

Organize Papers According to Categories to Determine Location (Active vs. Inactive)

The first category are active papers. So active papers are things that require action that you're going to use like you're using right now or in the immediate future. It could be open project papers, information to remember, something that you want to hang up because it's some kind of reminder or an important note for yourself. So all these things are active papers and you want to keep your active papers nice and visible within reach. If you identify as being an out of sight, out of mind person, keep them open on surfaces so you are reminded to see the papers and consume the information.

The second category of papers are inactive papers. So inactive papers are papers that you don't need right now, but there's a good chance that you're going to need them in the distant future. So this is reference materials, any kind of records, medical, financial, pet records, home, car records, all these things. Keep these things behind closet doors, keep them in drawers, keep them out of sight, but keep them accessible, just not in prime real estate.

Sort and Declutter Papers As Soon As They Come Into Your Home or Office

Okay, so tip number four is to take all of your incoming papers, so any incoming mail, documents you bring home from work, from school, any bulletins, brochures, literature you bring home from church activities, any other extracurricular activities, as soon as you get home, take your stack of papers and you're going to sort them into recycle, trash, and shred.

So you don't have to take action on the things they were holding onto but you just need to eliminate the things that you don't need. Because once you get rid of these things, you never have to look at them, you never have to shuffle them ever again, and it's going to make your life a lot easier.

So I have this stack right here I'm just going to quickly go through. Okay, I need to hold onto that. I don't need this receipt. Receipts can not be recycled because of the paper, so that goes in the garbage. This, I need to hold on to. This I want to read. This is action. This is action. These two are action. Okay, this is shred. Get rid of that. The envelope has my address so I'll show the envelope. This is a coupon. I don't need that. Recycle. Recycle. Not going to read that. Not going to read that. A coupon that I'm not going to use can be recycled as well. A credit card offer. I can shred that as well, and it has my address on the envelope so I will shred the envelope as well.

So I've eliminated about half the stack. I never have to deal with those papers ever again. Now I can take all of the papers that I need to open, to read, to pay, take this, bring it to my mail center or wherever you take action, that could be in your kitchen, your office, a desk, anywhere in your house, and then take action whenever it becomes a priority for you. But the biggest thing is to weed out anything you don't need right away or soon after when you get home.

Leave Notes To Your Future Self on Active Paperwork

Tip five is to always be leaving notes for yourself. So, anytime you have some kind of active paper or really just any paper and there's something that you want to remember so when you come back to the document, you have clarity, you can eliminate the confusion, and just take immediate action. So, for example, if there is a task that you are responsible to get done once a month or once a year, and because it's not every day, chances are you may forget, take a sticky note to write yourself instructions on whatever the task is so when its time comes, you have clarity on what needs to get done and you don't have to waste your time and your energy to recall all of those thoughts on how to do a certain task.

Another example is if you have a problem with a bill or something and you need to call a company and you speak with someone and they give you a confirmation number and they give you the amount you're getting refunded for, write yourself a note. When you check your account in a week or something, you have your notes to fall back on if there is still an issue or if there's some kind of information that you still need to remember. Or another example is if you have a lot of receipts and you went out and bought a gift for someone and you want to find the receipt again because they want to exchange the gift, write down at the top of the receipt, Ed's birthday gift, or something like that, so when you are shuffling through all those receipts, the one that you may need will just stand out amongst all of the other ones.

So those are my top five paper organizing tips. Again, if you have stacks of papers or piles of documents and they are accumulating on surfaces and you're having a hard time getting started going through the paperwork, there is a link below if you need support and accountability to begin your project. Thank you for watching and I will see you in another video. Take care. Bye bye.

Key Take-Aways

  1. Declutter & Make Space – Declutter one file folder at a time in a space where you can focus. Eventually you’ll make progress & it’ll be easier to setup organizing systems!

  2. Assign Homes Every category of papers needs a home. Doesn’t need to be fancy, just needs to be functional!

  3. Active vs Inactive Keep active papers visible front & center while storing inactive documents behind closed doors and in cabinets.

  4. Sort Papers ASAP Take two minutes and sort piles of paperwork soon after they enter the house to avoid tall overwhelming stacks!

  5. Write Note to Future Self Save time and energy by always leaving yourself an important note in order to avoid confusion in the future.

Need help getting started with decluttering papers?

Upcoming Videos:

How to Organize Articles & Clippings to Read (Part 9 of 10)

How to Organize Computer Files & Desktop (Part 10 of 10)

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