Is your New Year’s resolution to get your life organized? Take control of your paper clutter BEFORE Christmas. Today, I want to share some tips to help you organize your documents. I do think that when it comes to organization that we make it a lot harder than needs to be.
As many of you know, we have a small house, 1100 square feet, with no office. We used to have a small secretary desk that we no longer have. However, we do have a writing desk in our upstairs family room that the kids use to color or do projects on. Many of you have asked what we do with our documents and where I keep everything since I work from home. Worry no more because, you do not need a dedicated office to stay organized. I promise you, you just need a system.
I have partnered with Adobe Document Cloud to give you ideas on how to organize all your documents. Today I am going to help you solve your “paper woes”! I have designed a guide on how long to keep certain documents, which documents you need paper copies of, and how to organize your paper clutter by keeping digital copies instead of physical ones. I really think this will be a solution to all your paper struggles.
I know some of you may feel consumed by the overwhelming amount of paper documents around your home. I know this because I asked over on Instagram what overwhelms you the most about papers. Below are some of your comments I received about the paper chaos! I got a lot of replies and many were the same, so I narrowed it down to the major paper issues that came up over and over. The good news is that I have found a solution to solve your paper problems.
A Simple Solution for Your Paper Woes
I’ve recently discovered Adobe Scan, a free app on my phone that lets me quickly and easily scan paper documents and save them as PDF’s. Using Scan allows me to recycle all my paper clutter, but still have the documents I need at my fingertips.
Your Major Paper Woes:
The mail!! So much! Make sure to take the time one day in the month to un-subscribe to mailing lists! And to switch to online bill pay to as many accounts as you can. This will save you!!!
Taxes and household papers where to put them? A fire-safe box!
How long to keep important papers? I have a complete guide below 👏 👏
Kids report cards, medical record and forms, what to save and how to organize? Decide right then if you need to save it or take-action on it. If you need to take-action put it in a pile to tackle that night or write it down on your family calendar. Or simply scan it with Adobe Scan to reference later.
Self-employed and need to save so many important documents! Follow the guide below on how long to keep paper files. Hot tip: most everything can be scanned and saved as digital copies.
Kids manuals in case of recalls? I don’t have anything like this saved since I can find it online. But I do find it important to save the receipt. You can quickly scan all your receipts and save them as PDF’s. That way you have them all in one place!
What to do with papers you need to look at but can’t look at immediately? I put them in a pile on my computer and then sort through them before I go to bed. It takes me maybe 10 minutes at the most and helps me decide what to do with them. I rarely end up keeping the paper. I just take action on it. Either write it down on the calendar, scan it, file it, or recycle it.
Kids papers and artwork, I get so attached! I only keep papers and crafts that REALLY tug at my heart and showcase their personality. I don’t need a million papers with Finn’s hand on it from preschool (I love them all and appreciate them). I just keep one! Scanning artwork as it comes home also allows me to have a full digital copy of all the kids creations at the end of the year.
Coupons and cards, where to put them? I put coupons right into my purse. I have a little pouch in my purse that I go thru every month or so and get rid of expired coupons. If someone sends me a card, I read then I recycle! I used to hang onto them but realized I NEVER go back and read them. If there is a personal note that means a lot to me I would frame it and find a special spot for it.
Sentimental papers- Do you keep cards that were given? See above!
Where to put inspirational thoughts to go back to later. Maybe you wrote them down, clipped them from a magazine, or got a hand-out from church. I scan them and create a file “Inspirational Quotes” that I can easily access! Then, I just simply recycle the original paper copies.
How to organize ongoing medical papers? You guessed it, I add these into Adobe Scan as well. That way you can have them all in one place. No more digging through papers. That way to can easily email them or print them again if you really need to.
Recipes! I clip out magazines recipes and handwritten recipes where to put them? I take a photo using my phone and save recipes as PDF’s in Adobe Scan in a file titled Recipes! A bonus, is that you can share the recipe with friends by emailing the recipe right from the app,
First up, I am so thrilled to share this app with you! Adobe Scan solves all of my paper woes. As This is a FREE app that is SO user friendly. It will be your paper storage for those things you might need access to and don’t want to save forever by filling it away and forgetting about it, then to spend hours searching for it (ME!!!).
I use Abode Scan for many things. One is to turn a signed contract into a PDF and email it to someone, all right it in the app. I also have a file for receipts, you know that UPS tracking receipt that you need to save but don’t want to file it or lose it. I just take a photo and scan it right into Adobe Scan and save them all under receipts. You can label each scan and search it by the title as well. So much better than taking a photo of it and losing it in your 14k photos on your phone (what I used to do). I have a file for “school schedules” that I started when I kept getting paper schedules and didn’t want to lose them. And one for “yummy recipes,” a place to put that recipe a friend wrote down and gave to me, or a clipping that I scanned from a magazine.
I also use Adobe Scan to keep inspiration photos! As I was cleaning out a cupboard and trying to declutter the other day I found an old binder with magazine clippings that were my “inspiration ideas” for our other home. Even today I buy magazines just for that one photo I want to remember. Now you just scan all of those magazine clippings and ideas right into Adobe Scan. I have a folder titled “Home Inspiration.” You could upload these to Pinterest, but you really should credit the original source if you are putting it online. Adobe Scan is just a paperless version of your own inspiration book. So happy I found this solution rather than shoving those papers somewhere thinking I would remember where they were.
It took me a minute to figure out how to create folders in Adobe Scan. So I thought I would share that here. After you have taken a photo and “scanned in” your image. You can then click on the three dots in the bottom right corner. Next click “Modify Scan.” Then click on the photo icon in the left corner and lastly click “take another photo” or “select from photos” to add to your existing image, thus creating a file.
We have a little cabinet in our family room that works as our “office.” We keep our important documents here along with our printer and photo books. The papers were piling up and I was feeling very unorganized and messy because I didn’t have the best way to file my important documents. So Kevin and I decided to tackle it. The first step was to take everything out of the cabinet. And PS- I suggest if you are married or live with someone, get your partner involved. Kevin helped sort through the papers and helped things move so much faster! We stuck to our guide and that helped us to know what to keep and what to shred. Below I share my guide on what papers to keep and for how long. It really helped us. I went through many resources online and came up with an easy to read guide for us!
If you haven’t already opted to go paperless, you might be swimming in a flood of receipts, bills, pay stubs, tax forms and other financial documents. But it doesn’t have to be that way. This probably doesn’t come as a shock: You can go paperless! Some of those papers you have collected need to be kept, but others can be shredded and tossed. We realized we were hanging onto papers that we didn’t need to. I am sure a lot of us are.
Quick Tips for Deciding When to Keep or Toss:
Think about how difficult or time-consuming it would be to obtain or replace the document. If the process takes substantial time or effort, then hanging on to that document is a wiser choice.
Many statements these days can be retrieved online for at least several months back, so you don’t need to keep things like utility bills (to prove residency, for instance) if it’s easier to download them when you need them. If you’re not signed up for electronic statements from all of your creditors and vendors, do so now to simplify your record-keeping.
Guide on which documents and papers to keep and for how long
Keep These Original Documents (in a Fire Safe Box)-
- Birth and death certificates
- Social security cards
- Marriage and divorce certificates
- Adoption and immigration papers
- Last wills, living wills, living trusts, and powers of attorney
- Pension plan documents
- Vehicle titles and loan documents
- House deeds and mortgage documents
- Home, auto, and life insurance policies
Keep Digital Copies of These Documents for a Limited Time
- Year-end investment statements
- Home improvement records (Hold these for at least three years after the due date of the tax return that includes the income or loss on the home when it’s sold. If you plan to sell the house, and you have made improvements to it, keep receipts for those improvements for seven years – you may need them to lower the taxable gain on the house when you sell it).
- Medical bills (keep for one year after they’ve been paid- If you plan to take that deduction, you’ll need to keep the medical records for three years for tax records).
- Pay stubs (one year to match to W-2)
- Records of loans that have been paid off
- Tax returns and supporting documents
Keep Current Copies
- Year-end retirement fund statements
- Annual insurance policy statements
- Vehicle repair and maintenance records (keep until you no longer own the vehicle)
- Warranties and related receipts (keep until they expire or you no longer own the items)
- Medical records and current prescriptions
- Receipts for valuable items, such as jewelry, electronics, and art (keep while you own the item for insurance. Receipts for anything you might itemize on your tax return should be kept for three years with your tax records).
Now let’s look at the small, but BIG changes to us to our little office cabinet space!
First, we took everything out. We went thru the big plastic container that we were using as our file storage and sorted through the papers. In the left corner you can see a black box – that is our new fire safe file box that holds the only papers we decided to keep. I have been meaning to buy one of those for a LONG time! It didn’t really even cost that much and is so worth it. I also added three baskets to the top shelf where I put the art projects or papers I want to save from the kids school projects. Then after the year I will have them made into a book. (If you remember I started to do that over the summer, but ended up wanting to wait for more papers at the end of this year).
We also got a paper shredder. We keep this in our un-finished basement. It is very handy to have. I just throw recycle papers into a bag and my kids can shred them once a month. I got one that can shred a credit card too. Everything else that is not filed or shredded we scan into Adobe Scan.
We were able to get this little “office space” cleaned up and organized in about an hour. Since I do not have a desk, I keep a large bag with a file in for projects I am working on, and use my planner for any other “in-progress” projects. That way I can just grab the bag if I am working on the road or somewhere other than home. It also is a quick way to clean-up my workspace by just having it all in one place. Right now, in my bag I have my stack of Christmas cards I am going to address and send out this weekend, my kid Christmas lists and some other papers I need to reference for projects.
I do work at my kitchen table the most. But with a laptop and minimal papers, you can work anywhere.
We have this little spot in our kitchen where our “command center” is. I have a dry erase calendar that we all use. It’s important to have a calendar when you are trying to go with less papers. We do keep some in-action school books, school directory and anything else the kids are in the process of working on in one of the cabinet drawers in our Ikea chest.
And a lot of our kid’s craft paper, coloring books, blank cards, etc. are all very organized in our entry piece.
I highly recommend the Adobe Scan App to cut down on all the papers and to help keep you organized. It has for me! You can download the FREE Adobe Scan App HERE.
Adobe Scan app (free)
Video Clips of our Paper Organizing Process~