Wrangling Your Paperwork


Paperwork is insane. As a business owner, it seems like there’s never an end to it. Heck, as a human being, there is a ton of paper everywhere. Between contracts, brainstorming and planning, and client notes, paper ends up stacked everywhere. I have at least four different piles going on at any one time around my house. It gets exhausting trying to wrangle all of it in! It can also be overwhelming. Let’s walk through it together.

Step by Step

Your first step is to get all of your paperwork together. Check out the bottomless pit in your car. Pull the stack off the top of your dresser. Grab the paper your dog is currently chewing on. Pick up the mail that slipped behind the refrigerator that you swore you were going to remember to pick up, eventually. All of the printables that you’ve printed out and saved in binders and drawers need to come out as well. Get it all into one place. Every single sheet of paper that isn’t a notebook. They will be dealt with later.

Step two: create your organizational system. If you want something simple, separate the paper between business and home. If you’re a bit more detailed than that, make different piles: bills, business, personal correspondence, and so on. The key here is not to overthink it. The categories should be easy to remember and make sense to you. They should also be easy to deal with. There shouldn’t be a pile that you have no idea what to do with.

The third step is to figure out what exactly you want to do with all of the paper. You can choose to file all of it and go through it piece by piece at a later date. You can choose to go through every single piece in your pile now and decide whether you want to keep it or throw it out. You can choose to go through each piece while you’re adding them to the piles.


Should I Throw This Out?

It can be hard to decide if you should throw something out, especially if it resembles something official or important. There are several questions I use to determine if I can throw something out or not. Believe it or not, it’s actually very hard for me to throw something out - especially notes and freebie worksheets. I always come up with reasons to keep them. I used the questions below to help not only clear my shelves, but my life, from clutter and useless stacks of paper.

  • Is it older than 3 years?

    • Generally if a piece of paper is older than 3 years than it can be tossed. I promise that if you haven’t referenced or needed it once in the last 3 years, you won’t need it anytime in the future.

  • Does it have anything to do with taxes?

    • This may be my paranoia, but I keep everything that could possibly be needed for taxes. I have a file where I keep everything. If that paperwork is what’s causing your downfall, considering keeping an online file or sending it to your accountant.

  • Is it something a photo reminder could suffice for?

    • A lot of parents have trouble with this one, but your kid’s projects don’t all need to be saved. Take a photo and store it in their memory binder. That way it is still something to remember them as they were little by, but it doesn’t take up a ton of space. I’m not a parent, so if this shocks and appalls you, ignore I just said that.

  • Can you live your life never having had this in your life?

    • If this piece of paper had never come into your life in the first place, would you have gone on living your life? I use this question to help me get rid of all of those pesky freebie worksheets. Every single boss lady and man who has created them is amazing, but I know that I will never actually use them and even if I do fill them out, they aren’t something that is going to radically change my life or business.

  • Can you file this online?

    • Check out the section below.

Filing Online

The wonder of the Internet is that we can now store things we may have needed to save a copy of online. Try having a digital filing cabinet, instead of a real one. Take the time to sort through and file all of the documents that you know you need, but don’t necessarily need the original or hard copy of. Things like billing statements, notes from books, letters or cards from birthdays and holidays. This eliminates the need to hold onto things that will probably never be referenced again.

Find a platform that you enjoy and is easy to use. Then use it - a lot. There are several different types of software, such as Evernote, OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox, and many more! I know several have anticipation over starting some of these accounts, but there are plenty of tutorials and guides to help you get started. My favorite application is Evernote and Google Drive. Evernote is my file cabinet and Google Drive is my word processor. If you want to check out some tutorials for setting up Evernote, check out NoraConrad.com.

While a lot of this seems like a lot of work, taking a day or even a weekend to really sort through all of your paperwork with help make you more at ease. The added benefit is that you now have a system for incoming paperwork as well and you will never be in this position again! If you have any questions about whether or not putting the work into this is worth it, check out this awesome quote from Barbara Hemphill,

“Clutter is nothing more than postponed decisions.”

Action Items

Download and print the checklist of these steps below. It’s a quick reference guide to the questions here, plus it gives you some ideas on how to create categories AND how to get started with online storage software.

Do You Have a Plan to Wrangle In Your Paperwork?