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Getting Organized

By Cheryl Lewis

I know � many of you are going to read this and think I am a little crazy, but with three kids, and all the paper work that comes along with doctors, schools and my home office � I have boxes of papers Everywhere.

I finally have had enough. Every time I want to look for something that I need to send to the mortgage company, or the my husband wants to see that one bill that was paid two months ago I get lost in mounds of paperwork. I am organized, by month or by box that is. I always said I would get to it, and this past week I did!

Where to start

This may sound like an all day task, and to some people it may be � depending on how long it has actually been since you have gone through all of your loose piles of paper work.  Mine has only been about a year, the last time I needed all my receipts and goodies for tax season I would imagine. 

I now was on my way to the local discount store. I found four plastic boxes with lids- about the size of your desk pad and about a foot or so high.  Any kind of plastic box with fold down lids or the snap on lids work great. I did by colored boxes for this project, and the clear see through ones work if you prefer. Now I am on my way to �get started� while I still have the energy!

What a mess

I took over my living room. I went to my walk in closet, took out all the bags, piles, and �things� that didn�t belong as far as paper work were concerned. Then, I had to go to the kitchen cupboards. Again, I took to the living room all of the paper work that was paid, past school papers, photos � all of it. Then I went to the dreaded attic. I brought down the green garbage bag full of papers I have been stashing from everything. You know, it is when I would get tired of seeing all the papers in my bedroom, kitchen, closet � I would toss them all in a bag, toss the bag up the stairs in the attic and smile thinking I had done something for the day.

Well, I now had all of these piles of �stuff� all over my floor. My husband laughed at me, the kids tried to grab all types of pictures and drawings from past months and �rediscover� what things they had done before.  I started by pulling all of the photos, negatives, school pictures, and photo frames and putting them into one pile. This seemed like an easy task in itself. I put all of the photos, frames, and negative into a dark box. I put them into a dark box just in case I ever had sunlight hit them for a long period of time they would not be faded. I also used a box that had a snap tight lid on them in case I ever had moisture in my attic from the extreme heat and cold that my area gets.  I have future expectations of going over all my old photos and putting them into some type of order. While I had my photos out though I did grab as many as I recognized and put dates on them. I could not believe how much the kids (now eight and thirteen) had changed in just one year.

Second Steps

While I am sitting here surrounded by these many mounds of papers, I was trying to figure what would be the next easiest pile to get out from in front of me? There are bills, schoolwork, report cards, greeting cards, warranties, income taxes, receipts � you name it, I most likely kept it.

I made a pile for garbage, kids, warranties, paid bills, receipts, taxes, medical, dental, personal, and my �other� pile.  After taking each piece of paper and placing it into the �new pile� I them appeared to be a little more organized, and I am feeling a little better about my mess. I immediately threw the �garbage� away before changing my mind, and before anybody else came into the room to pull anything back out of this pile. 

This process so far, really has not taken me that long � it was about an hour and a half. Now that all the major sorting is done, I just had to create the files and boxes to keep the papers in order.

The Order

I am looking at this pile of schoolwork and report cards. I have thrown many papers away from this pile. I keep only the special ones. I like the drawings, or a funny story that one of the kids wrote. For about the last five years, I have had three big � yes, they are pretty big � boxes in my attic with my children�s names taped on them. I took the school pile, separated that according to the name on the paper, and put each in the box where it belonged. My kids have a collection of items from each year of their lives, and when they move out of the house, the box will most likely move with them. These boxes contain treasures from their lives, a special gift of freezing time that you never will get back when you grow old. 

I took some folders, and wrote on them a few titles. Bills paid, and the year � medical, and the year � dental, and the year, insurance, and the year � taxes, and the year, and of course receipt with the year. I filed away the pile of paid bills into these folders and placed the folder in to the box. I have a huge stack of warranties. From the bikes to the items in the house, almost everything now a day has some type of warranty on it. I put all of these similar items in to the folder and straight into the box. I hope that I will not need to return something to the manufacture but one never does know.

Now, I am down to personal greetings, taxes, and receipts. Many of the greetings I do have to say I did put in the garbage pile. I kept particular ones made by my kids, sent from my husband or greetings that came from a special person. I put those into my folder in my box.

The taxes from the previous year I insert into a folder and file in the box. The receipts for this year, now are all together and ready for me to do my taxes again. I put everything in to the one box � putting the lid on tight. I had my oldest son then drag them up the attic stairs and pile them in my corner of the world.


I am finally left with a small portion of papers on my floor. Papers I do not know why I kept I just have. I reread everything, put it into a �new named� file if I think it might be important, most of it I did throw away. There were old insurance cards, grocery lists, and old magazines I though I would want to read again sometime. I did accomplish many things in this one �small cleaning� of my house. My kitchen is paper free, my closet if paper free, the kids� boxes are getting fuller, and my bedroom now looks like a bedroom again instead of a mailroom.  Think positive you can get it done!

Visitors comments

What a waste of time Comments By: Anon on 2005-02-27
Why would you keep old paid bills? I keep my checkbook on my computer - I have a computerized record of every bill I ever paid. It is linked to my bank, where I can get a copy of every check I ever wrote. My software keeps track of all of my tax deductable expenses and prints out a report whenever I want it. The next step for me is computerized bills, which will eliminate all that paper coming into the house in the first place.

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