Tools to Control Paper Clutter – Part 2

Now that we have all these project file folders, we need some place to keep them. We don’t want them piling up on our desks to create more clutter. So we need a way to contain them in an organized way.

That’s where file cabinets/drawers and file boxes (portable) come in.


I use all three kinds of containers to store my files. In Part 2 of this blog series I’ll show you how I use them.

File Drawer Cabinet

Each file container above has a special purpose.  I use the file drawer cabinet for my current project folders, project folders I eventually want to get to, and permanent file folders I store information I may need in the current year. For me, that adds up to a lot of file folders filled with a lot of papers!

If you don’t have a file drawer cabinet, don’t worry. The way I set up my drawers can be set up in several large file boxes. I prefer the plastic ones because they hold up better than the cardboard ones. However, if all you have or can afford are the cardboard ones, they will work fine to help organize the file folders.

I actually have two file drawer cabinets in my office, one on each side of my desk. That gives me four drawers to put project folders and active information folders.

As you can see, my desk is cleared off and ready for me to work. And no, it’s not this way all the time. But I try not to let it pile up so much that it takes more that 5-10 minutes to clean it up.

Anyway, back to how I set up the drawers.

Below is a list of how I organize the folders by category. I keep all my project folders in one drawer so it’s easy to pull out whatever projects I plan to work on that day. The non-projects folders are in the other drawers. Every once in a while I’ll go through those folders to declutter old papers I may no longer need. And right now, I have to admit, most of them are overdue for some decluttering.

Top left hand drawer:
  • Project folders for blogging and website
  • Project folders for bill paying
  • Priority folder
  • Health Insurance/medical bill folder
  • Current Tax papers
  • Household Projects
Bottom left hand drawer:
  • Folders for information on writing, blogging, etc.
  • Photography information folder. (hobby)
  • Information on sewing & crafts (hobby)
Top right hand drawer:
  • Current receipts
  • Charity donation info
  • My husband’s work papers
  • Medical & Dental info – not bills
  • Bank records
  • 401/IRA records
  • House records
  • Utility info
Bottom right hand drawer:
  • Computer info
  • Auto info
  • Personal files
  • Small household appliance info: kitchen, TV’s, etc.
  • Garden tool info: lawn mower, etc.
  • Household equipment: furnace/AC, stove, dishwasher, etc.

When you start adding up all those files it can feel overwhelming. But I have found over the years that when the papers are organized this way it is much easier to find the paper you need when you need it.

I know many of the papers I’ve kept over the years can be stored digitally. I just haven’t taken the time to scan them into the computer. That’s one of those future projects that can wait because I have adequate storage. Not having enough or the right storage system for your papers is one of the biggest causes of uncontrolled paper piles around the house.


Portable File Box – Large

Since I have the four drawers in the two file cabinets I don’t need the plastic file boxes for the active file folders listed above. I do however, use them for archived folders. These are for the papers that I rarely, if ever, need during the year. I’ve kept many of them simply because I haven’t had the time to go through them. Every once in a while I need something from those files, so I don’t want to get rid of them in one fell swoop.

I have four plastic file boxes with archived papers. Some papers are from my mother. She passed away 4 1/2 years ago. Some are from my mother-in-law who passed away one year ago. Eventually I’ll get through all the papers to declutter them down to maybe 1-2 boxes. I keep them in an upstairs bedroom closet so they are out of the way.

If you don’t have room for permanent file drawers, the portable ones make it easy to pull out the box with the folders you need. You’ll probably want to organize them a little differently than the way I do it. One box should have only the active folders that are used on a regular basis. Another box can have folders that you mainly just file papers away in.  Folders that you only access occasionally can be in another box. Then the archival papers in yet another box.

Of course, this all depends on how many papers and folders you have. When you have limited space to store all these folders and if you have to use portable file boxes, seriously consider digital storage for a large percentage of your papers. Outside of a few legal documents such as birth certificates, marriage license, divorce papers, death certificates, and several others (always consult a professional if you’re not sure), most other papers can be scanned or photographed and stored digitally. Just make sure you have a copy or two on an external drive or in a cloud storage site.


Portable File Box – Small

If you’re just starting out and haven’t accumulated too many papers yet, a small file box should hold most of the folders you need. But if you own a house, have medical bills, have children, have purchased many items and appliances for your home, or done any remodeling projects,  you probably have way too many papers for a small file box.

That doesn’t mean that this kind of file box can’t be helpful when it come to controlling paper piles. I’ve used my small file box for all the home remodeling projects we have done over the past six years. Whether it was the kitchen remodel, or bathroom remodel, or even the floor replacement project, there were a lot of pamphlets, estimates, receipts, etc. that accumulated for each one. When it came time to make the final decisions on what vanity to buy or faucet to choose, or color tile for the backsplash, I would pull out the folder from this box to look at the info I had gathered.

In the past I used a small file box to hold all the tax papers I did for different family members. At one time I did the taxes for my mother-in-law, one son, my own taxes, and helped prepare the tax papers for my mother’s CPA after she had her stroke. That was a lot of papers to keep organized during tax season. The portable file box made it easy without having to try stuffing the folders into my permanent file drawers. Especially since it was only a short term project each year.


Where To Buy These Tools

There are all kinds of file boxes that will hold the hanging file folders. Before you purchase any of them make sure where and how you will store them. They need to be easy to use and easy to find. Otherwise, they will just add to your clutter instead of helping you control it.

Many of these file boxes can be found in local or online office supply stores. Some can be found at stores like Walmart or Target, either locally or online. Plus there are many online stores that carry a variety of file boxes.


If you have any questions about using these kinds of tools to control the paper clutter, please let me know in the comment section.

Part 3 in this series will be about some miscellaneous tools that can help control the paper clutter.

If you missed Part 1 of this blog series you can read it here.


To a lighter load along the way.

Janice Scissors

If you feel this post would be helpful for others please feel free to share it.  Thank you.

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