40 Easy Ways to Eliminate Paper Clutter Forever

40 Easy Ways to Eliminate Paper Clutter Forever
Image: iStock.com/AnikaSalsera

paper organization at home

Everybody knows that being a parent means having more clutter around the house than any childless person ever thought possible. From toys to baby gear to zillions of miniature socks, there's no end to all the space-hogging stuff that comes with starting a family. But bottles and blankets and binkies aren't the worst of it. What really clutters up our lives as parents is paper -- and lots of it. Who knew adulting came with so much paperwork (especially in the digital age), or that it would be so hard to keep it all organized?

Maybe school field trip permission slips and book fair fliers are spilling out of drawers everywhere. Maybe there's so much junk mail piled on the kitchen counter that it's nearly impossible to actually prepare food. Maybe there's so little time to go through the "non-junk"/ mail that the bills never get paid on time (because nobody can find them). As for the refrigerator, it's likely so covered in kindergarten art projects that a construction paper avalanche begins every time somebody tries to get a glass of milk. The problem with paper is that it never stops coming. It's like an endless stream of clutter that's always on the verge of turning into a flood.

The good news is, there are lots of ways to get paper clutter under control. And once there are some solid organizational systems in place, it's so much easier to keep the paper situation from getting out of hand again. Some of these ideas are practically effortless, while others might take a little extra time to implement. But all of them are potentially life-changing!

paper organization at home

  • DIY a Mail Sorter


    Perfect for bigger families, this DIY personalized mail sorter from Her Tool Belt will keep everyone's correspondence organized -- and it can be used for more than just traditional mail (think stray homework assignments, sporting team practice schedules, etc.).

  • Build a Command Center 


    This command center from Pottery Barn is just one example of a trend that's taking the organizing world by storm: a wall organization unit which includes plenty of places to file and/or tack up immediately relevant papers.

  • Color-Code Important Documents

    Using a system of colorful folders, like this one shown on Ask Anna Moseley, is a cheerful and effective way to clearly differentiate between files of different types (such as taxes, insurance forms, bills, etc.). Make sure the labels are marked clearly, too.
  • Build Kid Art Display Boxes


    These genius kid art display boxes from IKEAhackers require a tiny bit of DIY-ing, but the effort will be worth it. Not only do they make attractive frames for kiddie artwork, but they also serve as storage for other drawings and paintings.

  • Organize Receipts & Manuals 


    One never knows when the manuals and/or receipts for big-ticket items will come in handy, which is why this idea for a receipts and manuals organizer binder from A Cultivated Nest is such a terrific time-saver.

  • Store Important Receipts in Cabinet Door Pockets


    These cabinet door pockets from Organizing Home Life are a clever way to make the most of limited storage space, and they're easy to make. Just laminate scrapbook paper and cut the top edge to create plastic pockets.

  • Make Binders for Important School Papers


    Some of the papers kids bring home from school are so unimportant they get tossed immediately (another picture day reminder?), while others are the kind of things that get packed away for decades (the very first report card!). Luckily, these school paper binders from Organize 365 are an ideal way to make sure nothing essential gets lost. When it comes to knowing which papers to save, the site recommends using binders (these are just regular white three-ring binders with decorative labels/papers inserted under the clear sleeves) to keep all art, all stories, "anything with a handprint," and certificates of all kinds.

  • Collect and Categorize


    To collect and categorize your clutter, follow this tip from Laurie Cosgrove: Take notes on the different types of paper clutter, and divide it accordingly (finances, business forms, recipes, keepsakes, etc.), placing each in a separate binder, folder, or section. 

  • Design a Homework Station


    Not all kid papers need to be saved for sentimental reasons, but there are still quite a lot of them that need to be managed day in and day out. A homework station like this one on Life's Carousel designates magazine holders for different types of docs (plain paper, papers to be signed, papers to send back to school, and papers to keep) and includes writing and art supplies, too, all in a rolling craft card. A great way to put an end to the "but it wasn't in my folder" excuse once and for all.

  • Fill a School Memorabilia Box


    An excellent way to preserve all (or some, ahem) of the stuff the kids have been proudly bringing home year after year, this school memorabilia box from I Heart Planners is a streamlined way to preserve and identify those early masterpieces for years to come.

  • Organize Receipts


    Receipts have a way of ending up crumpled up into balls all over the house (and in pockets, and washing machines, and so on). Gather up all the stray slips and organize receipts as recommended by Home Storage Solutions 101, which involves tossing the majority of them. For example, receipts for most "everyday purchases" (the grocery store, gas), can be thrown away once your credit card or bank statement confirms the purchase; receipts for bigger investments, meanwhile (such as those that require a receipt to use the warranty) should be saved, as should those for items that you might want to return or that are necessary for tax purposes.

  • Go Through Papers Weekly


    Nip clutter in the bud by dealing with papers weekly as suggested by Home Storage Solutions 101. Categorize papers into piles: "trash it right away; delegate it to someone else; file it for future reference (meaning no action is currently needed with this paper); or keep it to take some type of action on." Next, handle them accordingly.

  • Switch to Online Bill Payment 


    This tip from Home Storage Solutions 101 might not address the clutter that's already all over the place, but switching to online bill payment for everything from credit card to utility bills can stop the paper piles from growing bigger by the month!

  • File Mail by Type


    This mail filing system from Wrapped in Rust is a simple (but effective!) way to prevent letters, bills and the like from getting all mixed up as soon as they're delivered: Just put them in their corresponding kitchen file right away.

  • Resize and Display Kid Art


    A brilliant way to preserve kids' artwork without turning the basement into a major fire hazard? Scan drawings, shrink them down, and print them out in collage form as explained on Simple as That, then frame and hang on the wall. 

  • Store Binders in a Dish Organizer


    Know where important docs are at all times by sorting them into a few small binders in a dish organizer as shown on A Bowl Full of Lemons.

  • Separate School Stuff by Drawers


    Make drawers for school stuff (like these from Simple Living Country Gal) and each kid will know exactly where to put tests that need to be signed, school picture forms, and whatever else would otherwise probably end up lost.

  • Make a Kitchen Counter Basket


    Much more aesthetically pleasing than the sloppy pile of papers most of us have next to the toaster oven or the blender, this kitchen counter basket from Chic on a Shoestring Decorating will actually look like it's part of the room's design scheme -- the lining and the files can be chosen to coordinate!

  • Plan the Month with a Calendar Box


    A compact way to keep on top of appointments, events, and tasks, this monthly planning box from Lovely Crafty Home is a file folder box with a calendar on the side that contains hanging folders for each family member's important current paperwork (permission slips, bills, invitations, etc.) and a notebook for reminders and plans.

  • Start a Receipt Box


    This receipt drop box from Carissa Shaw is the smartest thing that's ever happened to an old tissue container: Instead of leaving them wadded up in pockets and purses, everybody's receipts get tucked away inside the box.

  • Label Paper Supplies 


    School projects will be so much less stressful when paper supplies are separated into labeled drawers as shown on Child at Heart. Print-outs, stencils, colored paper, and more are instantly easier to find.

  • Organize Recipe Pages from Magazines


    Doesn't everybody tear the good recipes out of a magazine before tossing it in the recycling bin? Instead of stuffing those slippery pages in a drawer where they'll get torn and mixed up, try filing and organizing them in a magazine box sideways as demonstrated on It's Overflowing, with tabs for "breakfast," "drinks," "salads," and so on.

  • Gather Important Documents in An Emergency Binder


    There's nothing worse than not being able to find a crucial document like a Social Security card or a birth certificate. That's why Simple Family Preparedness recommends keeping important papers in an emergency binder -- a quick and easy project that will save tons of stress in the long run.

  • Spend 15 Minute Shredding 


    The idea of spending hours feeding documents into a shredder is off-putting. Home Storage Solutions 101 suggests spending 15 minutes shredding papers at once, which is still enough time to make a sizable dent in the clutter. Bag up documents in large ziplock bags ahead of time.

  • Use a Pot Lid Organizer to Organize Papers


    Those with a crafty streak will make fast work of this DIY pot lid organizer from The Family Handyman, which works just as well for mail and other daily papers as it does for pot lids. Plus, the natural wooden dowels can be painted to match the kitchen.