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The Only $10 Desktop Filing System You’ll Ever Need

The secret to conquering and organizing paper clutter


The amount of paper that comes into my house is mind-blowing. Not only do we get all the regular mail (bills, statements, letter that require some kind of action), but we also have Girl Scout stuff, PTO stuff, and notices from two different classrooms at two different schools. On top of that, we’re still helping my mother-in-law sort out her affairs since my father-in-law passed away, so there’s a ton of paperwork for that as well.

It’s impossible. How in the world can you keep it all straight when you’re getting more papers every time you turn around?

A new system had too be created. Previously, I had a 3-part-system: Received, processing, and file. It worked great when I didn’t have so much to juggle. Now it’s time for something a little more heavy-duty.

I created this system with a simple, desktop file. I picked up this one at Office Max, but you can get them just about anywhere: Target, WalMart or Amazon. Then I added some hanging file folders (sold in all the same places). I tried to think about the life cycle of the various papers that came into our home and decided to create files for the following:

* Received (it’s come into the house, but no action has been taken yet)
* To Scan
* Scanned
* To Pay
* To File
* To Call
* Follow Up
* Shred

This has made a huge difference in how well I can stay on top of everything. I especially love the “Follow Up” file: this is for things that need the occasional call to check in on. It’s usually medical bills that are pending an insurance payment. They’re things that I need to take action on in a few weeks, but don’t need them cluttering my desk.

There is one downside to this system. If you are like me, things are out of sight, out of mind. I have to set aside time each week to go through it or else I’ll ignore the whole thing. Generally, I try to set aside time on Friday or Saturday to go through everything from the week.

What do you do to manage the papers that come into your home? I’d love to know what works for you!






Thanks to the following blogs and link parties that  generously allowed me to share this post:

Work It Wednesday, Lamberts Lately, Reviews, Chews & How To’s

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14 thoughts on “The Only $10 Desktop Filing System You’ll Ever Need

  1. Anonymous says:

    What do you use to scan all your documents of different sizes?

    1. Christine says:

      Hi! I use a couple of different things.

      For most scans, I have an Epson scanner which is great for photos. It also has software that can make the text within the scanned image searchable, which has been helpful. It doesn’t have one of those continuous roll, paper-feeder things though for larger-sized items.

      For longer things, I have an older color printer that has a scanner in it. It’s a Cannon that I got for around $100 or so at WalMart a few years back.

      Honestly, I’ve been loving this Android app on my phone: Fast Scanner. It works with your smartphone camera, makes a really clear “scan” and is free.

  2. Corinne says:

    I am setting this up today! As I’m typing this, I’m looking at a stack of papers piled so high it’s about to tip over, balanced on the edge of my desk. I need to do something to get this under control. Thank you so much for sharing your system.

    1. Christine says:

      Thanks Corinne! Good luck! I hope the system works for you 🙂

  3. Christie says:

    I try my best to take care of things as soon as possible, then file or trash it. I hate clutter!!! This sounds like a great way to keep track! 🙂

    1. Christine says:

      I love that! It’s such a freeing feeling to be able to deal with things right away. Our current situation doesn’t allow for that (grrrr).

  4. I love the sound of this system! Paperwork is the area I struggle keeping organized. I’ll have to try it out!

  5. Jen Cooper says:

    I love this! I am currently trying to figure out how to “man handle” all the paper in our home. I think I might re-think my filing plans because I like how simple yours is.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Coming to you from: http://www.abowlfulloflemons.net/2015/03/one-project-at-a-time-31715.html

  6. Thank you so much for this post! I really like your categories. Too often I throw papers into a magazine holder or set them on my desk but I leave them for a long time and it accumulates. I’m going to have to try this system, I think it will really work for me.

    1. Christine says:

      Thanks and good luck! I hope it works for you! 🙂

  7. Amber says:

    This is a great idea. I need to do something. I have piles of stuff just about everywhere it seems!!

    1. Christine says:

      Thanks Amber.

      Good luck 🙂 I hope this works well for you.

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