Organize Your Family’s Paper Clutter

By Noreen Music | Organizing Tips

Mar 31
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How to Organize Your Family's Paper Clutter

Paper Clutter Challenges

Are there piles of unsorted paper all over your house and things get buried and lost?

Paper clutter is one of the most challenging and prevalent forms of clutter in our homes.

One of the main differences between managing paper at the office and your family's paper clutter is that there is many different sources, sizes and topics of paper making its way into your home.

Think of your children's artwork, junk mail, newspapers, school papers, magazines, notices, bills, vital documents and more!

Read on to discover how to organize your family's paper clutter.

Paper Organizing Strategies

Types of Incoming Paper

Even though each family member contributes differently to the paper clutter in your home, paper tends to fall under one of these categories:

  • Urgent or time sensitive
  • General information or current activities
  • Reference
  • Archive

To properly deal with the incoming flow of paper and organize your family's paper clutter, it is important to implement a system that takes into consideration each of these different types of information.

Decluttering Your Paper

Before you organize your family's paper clutter, the first step is to edit the quantity of papers you keep. This means going through each and every piece of paper and asking yourself these questions:

  • Does this need action?
  • Is this information recent enough to be useful?
  • Would I use it again?
  • Is it difficult to obtain again?
  • When was the last time I used it?
  • Is there a tax or legal reason for keeping this?
  • Does it belong with my memorabilia?

Once you have sorted and organized all of your family's paper clutter, you are ready to set up your paper management system.

Did you know that we generally only refer to 20% of the information we keep 80% of the time? Be brutal with what paper you hold on to.

Paper Management System

When you are setting up your family's paper management system to capture and sort all incoming paper, think through these questions first:

  • What types of paper do we deal with?
  • Who brings in the paper?
  • Where should the paper management system go so paper coming into the house will land there?
  • Who has the main responsibility to oversee the paper management system?
  • How do I ensure my family members use the system?

It is important to be clear on what kinds of paper your system needs to be designed to handle and who will be using it before you decide what your system will look like.

Having one person ultimately in control of ensuring your system is being used by family members and that the papers are being dealt with will ensure your paper management system will continue to flow well.

Organizing your family's paper clutter is a group effort but it generally lies on one parent or the other to keep the paper in order.

Family Command Centre

Every family should have a family command centre to contain your family's paper clutter. The main purpose of it is to keep the family on track by providing a place to keep note of appointments, meetings, activities, weekly meals, the grocery list amongst other things. 

The main components and supplies needed for a robust family command centre includes:

Main Components:

  • Calendar (paper or electronic)
  • Chore chart
  • Phone book with emergency numbers
  • Information binder
  • Daily tickler file ("action" file)
  • Reference files
  • Archive files


  • Clock
  • Recycle bin nearby
  • Storage baskets
  • Pens, pencils, highlighters, sticky notes, note pads
  • Calculator
  • Family computer or tablet
  • Hooks for keys
  • Bulletin board (this is a great spot for your grocery list!)

Pick a high traffic and convenient spot in your house for your family command centre and use it to organize everything. It doesn't have to be fancy, just functional for your family's unique needs.

It will become the place where everyone goes to see what's going on with everyone else and your family's paper clutter will disappear!


The calendar has all of your family's activities written or keyed in including activities for each family member, family birthdays and other important dates, holidays, reminders, doctor and dentist appointments and meal planning information.

Chore Chart

Use a chore chart to help your kids become more responsible and to help out around the house more as they grow. You can tie your child's allowance, screen time or other rewards to help motivate them to complete all of their chores.

There are so many great ideas online for different and creative chore charts so do a little research and implement one that your kids can help create and that they will stick to.

Information Binder

Your information binder is for current but not date specific reference materials such as game schedules, school contacts, team lists and so on.

You could also include important family, doctor, vet, dentist and emergency phone numbers in your information binder instead of using a separate phone book.

Daily Tickler File

Things that are date specific like school field trip permission forms, party invites, bills to pay, prescription receipts to submit, medical requisitions, etc. all go into your tickler file which is checked daily.

Your tickler file is for holding all "in progress" or pending paper - think of putting paper here that is categorized as ACT, PAY, READ, WRITE, CALL, PENDING.

Reference Files

Papers that are useful but not urgent go into your reference files. This is where home and auto insurance policies go, receipts, warranties, report cards, last and current year income tax information, medical records, paid bills to keep.

Many of these items can also be scanned and kept in electronic format to save on the amount of paper you keep in your reference files.

Reference files should be cleaned out once a year. This will ensure your family's paper clutter will not accumulate.

Archive Files

Archive files include tax returns, legal documents, property deeds, life insurance policies, old employment records, photos, memorabilia.

Paper versions of these types of documents generally must be kept.  

You could consider putting these archive files in a water and fire proof safe in case of a disaster.

Paper Filing System Examples

You can set up your reference and archive files numerically, alphabetically or by category. Here is how a home filing system might be categorized:

Reference Files
  • Child Care
  • Decorating Ideas
  • Employment
  • Activities
  • Family & Friends
  • Health
  • Memberships
  • Pets
  • Subscriptions
  • Travel
  • Warranties & Manuals
Financial Files
  • Auto
  • Banking
  • Budget
  • Credit Cards
  • Insurance
  • Investments
  • Utilities
Vital Documents
  • Birth Certificate
  • Education Records
  • Health Records
  • Marriage Certificate
  • Passport
  • Tax Documents
  • Life Insurance Policy
  • Wills
  • House Deed

These are suggested categories and names of files for you to use however, the key to creating a filing system that works for you is to name a file with the first word that comes into your mind. That way it will be easier for you to remember where you filed something and it won't take long to find what you need.

You can also colour code your files by category so it is easy to see, files are a breeze to put away and it just looks great!

Keep on Top of Your Family's Paper Clutter

Deal with incoming mail and paper every day.

Open the mail, put the bills you need to pay in your tickler file and recycle the envelope and inserts.

Have the kids take out their school papers from their backpacks every day and put the papers where they belong in your new family command centre.

Reduce your family's paper clutter by going electronic! Have your bills come to your email inbox instead of your mailbox.

Unsubscribe from newsletters, publications, magazines that you never get the chance to read. Go digital by reading the newspaper and your favourite magazines online.

Let us know how we can help you.....

We hope you enjoyed learning about how to organize your family's paper clutter and that you are motivated to conquer your paper mountain!

You might also like to read another one of our most popular articles called "7 Tips to Conquer Your Clutter". 

Leave us a comment if you have any questions or if you need help with organizing your family's paper clutter.

We are always here to help.

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P.S. - Would you like a handy "Keep or Toss" guide? Here you go!


About the Author

My passion is helping people find lasting freedom in their homes and businesses through my transformational organizing services and productivity solutions.

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