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When getting started with an organizational system, start slow by organizing your home’s sensitive documents and other paperwork.


Unless you are born organized, getting started with organizational systems isn’t always easy. It can be fun to buy all the pretty organization supplies and set up the systems, but keeping up with the plan is where many of us fall short. I am one of those people who has always loved the idea of organizing papers with cute folders and notebooks but never really mastered the art of actually using the system for more than a few days.

Over time, I’ve learned at least one thing about myself. I have to make my organization expectations very simple and doable or I won’t succeed with it. My new rule of thumb is “you have to start somewhere!” Instead of starting out feeling overwhelmed or getting in over my head by creating elaborate systems, I prefer to start with a plan so simple I know I can keep up with it. It may not be perfect or address every possible problem, but I can always expand the options and system to be more detailed once I master the first step!

Last month I shared a simple plan highlighting 12 months of organization projects. I was so overwhelmed by the positive response from readers who were excited to use the plan that I decided we might as well go through it step by step together.

To help encourage and inspire you to organize your life this year, we’ll be focusing on this plan each month here at The Decluttered Home. I’ll be sharing a monthly article to inspire and motivate you. You can also follow along over at The Inspired Room, where I’ll share even more details of my own organizational progress around my house every month.

What I especially like about the monthly organizing plan is not only is it very simple to implement, but it is flexible. While you might choose to do different activities on different timetables based on your own needs or yearly schedules, the end result is you can feel a sense of progress or organizational momentum in 12 areas of your life and home by the end of the year.

So let’s get started with the first assignment: organizing time-sensitive papers!

There are many systems where you set up folders for every day of the year or every week,  as well as alphabetized systems and folders for every possible category of paper. Those are great if you feel like you will use a detailed filing system. But if paper overwhelms you like it does me (I’d much rather get rid of excess paper), trying to over-organize it all too soon may defeat the plan before you get in the habit of using it. This filing plan helps you to focus in on what to do with the most time-sensitive papers you accumulate throughout the year and establishes a system for dealing with them.

1. Set up your monthly folder system:

You can set up a monthly folder system in a file cabinet. However, if you want a more portable system or don’t have a file cabinet, I would recommend starting out with a pretty file box. Go to your local office supply store and find a box you like. It doesn’t matter if it is cardboard or plastic or metal. Buy a set of hanging file folders. Many of them come with a set of labels and may even have the months pre-printed on them. If not, you can write them out by hand or use a label machine.

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How to Deal With and Organize Time Sensitive Paperwork

2. What to put in your folders:

You may use your folders for tax receipts, important papers you will need for future reference, or reminders you want to save for a particular month down the road. You can toss in birthday cards to mail, coupons to use, gift certificates or holiday ideas you find in a magazine, or a recipe that you want to use for an upcoming holiday.

Get in the habit this month of putting time-sensitive papers in the folders rather than in a pile on the counter.

3. Take monthly action:

At the beginning of each month, set aside a day to go through the new monthly folder and deal with all the papers you put there. This will create a new habit of dealing with important tasks on a monthly basis.

Do you need to mail a birthday card? Do you need to set up a doctor’s appointment, order car license tabs claim or pay the bills? Do you need to make a grocery list for the recipes you want to use this month? You can handle all of the paper and to-do lists at one sitting and move on! The less we have to handle paper, the better.

Now the folder is ready to be used for your upcoming monthly receipts and papers you need to save.

At the end of the month, the receipts you filed to keep for tax purposes can be left in the folder or be sealed in a manila folder labeled by month for the upcoming tax season. Anything that is no longer needed can be recycled.

4. Make it a habit!

Make it a new habit to use your monthly folder system. As your simple filling system becomes a successful routine you actually use all month long, you can add more categories of folders to your box or drawer and start to tackle more paper organization around your house.

Let me know if you set up your own monthly filing system!

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About the Author

Melissa Michaels

Melissa Michaels is the author and creator of one of the top home decorating blogs on the web, The Inspired Room. She has been featured on such sites and publications as, Apartment Therapy, and Ladies Home Journal.

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  • Janet C

    Instead of using a monthly folder, I have been using a 5 x 7 manila envelope to put all bill statements in (after they are paid) each month. Back when I wasn’t so lazy, I would even make a chart at the beginning of each year and tape it on each envelope so I could indicate how much each bill was that I put into the envelope. As time went on, I quit doing that and just put the month and year. I have been doing this for many years now and find it is easier to find something in the envelopes by month than to try to find something in a pile of stuff that is waiting to be filed in file folders. I keep the envelopes in a plastic bin and at the end of each year, I put them in a little shopping bag and put them in a box in the basement. When I go to put the most recent year away, I pull out the oldest one and shred it. I have had to find things in an instant and this has proven to be an easy way to do it. I also have separate envelopes for Tax Documentation, insurance policies and bank statements. Since I don’t like spending a lot of time filing, this has proven to be an effective way for me to curb clutter and be able to retrieve something when I need it. In addition, I have two message spindles that I put all receipts on for anything we purchase. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to look for a receipt on one of those spindles. When they get full, which is usually about a year’s worth of receipts, I toss them in a shopping bag and put them in the box in the basement with the monthly statements. I then take out the oldest one (I date the bag) and shred it. You may think it is a lot of paper to be hanging onto, but when you need to find a receipt for something you purchased, it is a quick and easy way to find something. One instance that comes to mind when this came in handy was we had to find a receipt for tires after they were recalled and I was able to find the receipt in the bag in the basement.

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