Organizing Your Incoming Papers


Q: My house is always getting messy with all of the papers floating around—between art projects, school flyers, mail, etc.—it is impossible to find anything. What do I do with the never-ending avalanche of papers?

A: Create a system to manage incoming papers:

  1. Storage options:

  • See-through drawers—

My favorite one has six-drawers. Buy 2 or more sets.

Set 1 will be for family members. Designate one drawer per family member or pet. Write each name on the drawer with permanent marker. All papers that enter the home should immediately get sorted into the drawers.

(Exception: Important papers to be acted on, such as invitations or prescriptions, belong in the Command Center—see below.)

Set 2 will be for bills and other important papers. The categories are a custom system, so label the drawers as needed. I like this system because everything is contained, labeled, and there is no need for complicated filing systems. My personal categories are health, retirement, school, receipts, miscellaneous, and bills.

  • Decorative box or see-through box—

Use this box to save larger items, such as art projects, photos, or sentimental “keepers”.

  • Ziplock bags, size extra large—

I like these for long-term storage of important documents, like educational evaluations and important medical records. Label the bag with each family member’s name. Store all the bags together in a safe place, like a wicker basket or a cube.

DECLUTTER PERIODICALLY WHEN THE DRAWERS OR STORAGE BOX GETS TOO FULL. The goal is control the amount of space the paper has. No matter how much space you allow the paper to have, the paper will fill that space. YOU control the papers, not vice versa.

Other categories of papers and how to manage them:

Shaimos/Geniza: Have a designated place for geniza/shaimos, such as a reusable bag or basket.

When the bag is full, bring to it the proper depository.

Junk Mail: Put immediately into recycle bin or trash.

Magazines and Newspapers: Keep only the articles you want to read. Recycle the rest. Alternatively, donate old magazines to doctors’ offices or other places with waiting areas. They are generally happy to receive new materials.

Art Projects and Crafts: Featured art projects or special papers can also be displayed in the family member’s designated section in the Command Center (see below). Alternatively, a separate area in the home can be created to display artwork, craft projects, Lego creations, etc.

Take photos of art and projects so they don’t take over your home. Keep the memory, not the clutter. Extra creative folk can go one step further and upload the photos to make a memory book.

2. Create a Command Center for other papers

Where: refrigerator, metal door, wall, bulletin board, cork board or combination

What to put in the Command Center:

  • calendar

  • dry erase boards and markers

  • daf kesher (class phone list)

  • phone list of important numbers

  • invitations

  • chore lists

  • grocery lists

  • medication prescriptions to be filled

  • Other

Designate a section in the Command Center for each person in the family. In their section, hang up permission slips, items to be signed, and other items needing action.

These suggestions should help control the paper avalanche. If you have any question, feel free to reach out to me!