How to Organize Paper Clutter in 6 Easy Steps

Are you tired of paper clutter overwhelming your home office? One might think in this day and age we wouldn’t have so much of it, yet paper arrives in endless amounts. Paper comes in from invoices to advertisements only to overwhelm your home office. That is, if we aren’t careful!

How do we transform our little mess (or big one) into an organizational masterpiece? Read on to glean our top 6 tips for keeping your home office clean of the paper mess.

#1 Shred It

First thing’s first. Evaluate your desk space. What do you see? If there is paper everywhere, get rid of any accumulated paper that you no longer need. Yep, that’s right! Shred it. Shredding is not only great for junk mail but also security reasons. Always use a cross-cut shredder if you have the option, which creates confetti as opposed to strips. Don’t forget to recycle once the bin fills up.

#2 Create a Workflow

Create a personal workflow to save time and lessen stress. To do this, you need to decide how to utilize your desk space. First, establish one area for processing paper. This can be a two-level desktop filing station for all papers that arrive. Use the top level for papers that need to be completed. Once they are completed, transfer them to the bottom level as a reminder to scan them in, file them away, shred them, or send them out.

Second, decide how you’ll store all the papers sitting in that bottom level. Will you maintain physical copies? Or will you do everything virtually? (More on this soon!)

Third, make it a general rule to keep your computer area free from paper. This will nurture serenity in your work space.

#3 Invest in a Mobile Cart

If you choose to maintain physical copies, invest in a mobile cart to keep under or near your desk. Mobile carts are pretty standard for filing. Pick up some folders and tabs in a color scheme that you love. This will be a prime place for copies of all receipts, invoices, check deposits, and the rest of your filing needs.

#4 Purchase Binders & Hole Puncher

For event planners, or people who may need on-the-go access to hard copies, purchase a binder with color-coded dividers, pockets, and tabs. Choose a color for each of your events. Now put the event flyer or promo materials in the very front pocket so each one is easily identifiable.

Punch holes in a copy of each important document that you may need (i.e. room/parking reservations, catering requests, contracts, event checklists, speaker itineraries, etc.), and place them in the appropriate sections. This has proven to be amazingly effective. You will never leave your home office without it!

#5 Go Virtual

Don’t let paper slow you down! Going virtual takes up less space and ensures easy on-the-go access. At first, it can be quite an undertaking to transfer everything, but don’t get discouraged. One must learn to walk before they can run! As Francis de Sales once said, “Have patience with all things but first with yourself.” If you’re starting your home office from scratch and choose to go virtual right off the bat, well done, my friend.

So, how to begin? Tackle a small portion of your office each day. Scan all pages to digital over time. PDFs could just be your new best friends.

Decide how you’ll save everything (i.e. Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.). You’ll want to come up with a document naming system for swift searches. Create a virtual filing system.

Be sure to scan all papers into the appropriate folders as soon as the papers arrive (or by the day’s end if you’re using the two-level desktop filing station). Check out the following tricks to aid your paperless endeavors:

  • Scan It: there’s an app for that! Simplify your work life by downloading an app like Genius Scan to your phone, and you can convert paper into PDFs anywhere anytime. Try a few apps and find the one that works with your workflow.
  • Get a Whiteboard: Get your Pinterest on, and save some trees by investing in a whiteboard, or a whiteboard wall for longer to-do lists and brainstorming.  These can cost anywhere from $15 to $100 depending on whether you prefer the higher quality or whatever gets the job done. Don’t forget the eraser, cleaning solution, and your favorite colored dry erase markers. Throw in some magnets for extra fun!
  • Track Expenses: Check out sites like for receipt scanning. You can even create a monthly expense report.
  •  Take Advantage of Gmail: Gmail is a phenomenal organizational tool. You’ll find it especially helpful for keeping track of all reminders, important dates, and meeting times. You do not want to pass this one up. Hook up your Gmail tasks, keep, calendar and emails to your phone. With this you’ll be able to work from anywhere.

 #6 Think Vertically

 Utilize your wall space! Wall space is often used only for decoration and for good reason. Whatever you invest in for your walls, think of your home office aesthetic. As too much on your walls, can be an eyesore. Focus on simplicity and creativity. This is a great opportunity for beauty. The more beautiful your work space, the more you’ll feel motivated to get the job done.

As the noted Polish poet, Cyprian Norwid once wrote, “beauty is to enthuse us for work, and work is to raise us up.” Check out a few favorites:

  • Paper Rack: Paper racks are excellent for storing newspapers and magazines. Word to the wise: you’ll need to sort through your paper rack each month! Subscriptions add up, and maintaining a clean, serene atmosphere is key.
  • Hanging Calendar: Pick out a large calendar to tack onto the wall of your home office. This is great for brainstorming and checking your availability at a single glance. (i.e. when you’re on the phone!) Just make sure to cross off each day and important events as they pass as well as penciling in new ones as they come up.
  • Wire Wall Grid or Cork board: These are two creative ideas for reminders. You can purchase clips for the former or thumbtacks for the latter to remind yourself about important to-do’s or to simply hang up photos.

Remember, tackle that paper clutter, or it will tackle you. With your favorite combination of these methods, tips, and tricks, you’ll be ready to take on the world, or at least your very own home office space.

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