beating back paper clutter

A mere 27 days after I said I would (really, you can't possibly be surprised at this point by that kind of procrastination coming from me), I beat the library/office armoire into submission today. Spanked it, I tell ya. Now we have an organized and legit space to keep order in the business-and-paperwork part of our lives.

For the last several weeks in anticipation of ordering this space I've sort of piled paper clutter and bins of miscellaneous office stuff in and around the armoire. I'm a firm a believer that to clean up a mess you may have to make a bigger mess first. Maybe everyone doesn't work like that, but I often times do. That certainly happened today.

Be prepared for hot-mess photos (as if that's new around here . . .).

I first pulled EVERYTHING out of the armoire and emptied all the bins around it. Then all of that stuff ended up in one of three destinations: 
a give-away box
the trash
or sorted out to be put back into the armoire.

I was ruthless. I find great delight in throwing away junk or boxing up for Goodwill stuff that nobody is using well around here; winnowing at its finest. Winnow I did, and it yielded a heap of stuff for the thrift store and a packed garbage bag of trash.

Pulling it all out, trashing it or packing it for the thrift store was fast work. Where I intentionally slowed myself down was in deciding what and how things should go back into the armoire. Besides wanting to minimize the clutter, I also wanted to not create some unattainable system of organization that none of us are actually going to use. I'm learning myself more all the time and over-complicated schedules or systems around here don't help anyone. Remembering this made me still myself and really think about it before putting items back in.

Pretty snazzy, huh? Here's a slightly closer tour . . .

The bottom left that was one big tangle of completely outdated and unusable cords and cables now has our bank books, one up-cycled food canister of cords we may actually use, and a box containing an external disk drive and its associated cables.

The bottom drawer now has only a box of stationary (that got cleaned out and reorganized, pictured to the right), some computer disks, a flash drive, and a printer cartridge.

The top drawer has office supplies like a label maker, paper clips, labels, and plastic containers with pens, pencils, scissors, and glue.

Since the piece of furniture I am using is an armoire, the right side is tall without any drawers or shelves, where clothing could be hung. This makes for an awkward space to try and use as a cabinet. To solve that problem I put two crates in to form shelves. Now this side of the armoire holds scrapbook and large craft paper stacked vertically, a bag of old but special video camera tapes, packets of notebook paper, and a plastic box of the kids' markers, crayons, and colored pencils.

We had a super surplus of coloring stuff, including markers that had not been recapped and long ago had dried up. I cleared a ton of them out and left them with only what still works.

My favorite part of the reorganization is this area back to the top left. A while back I started using a six-file fix for our paperwork. Over time I've figured out how to custom fit it to us. In our home the six-file fix has morphed into four file boxes:
incoming mail and bills
papers to read or items to send
time-sensitive material
and papers to be filed.

This is where all the papers will come into the house and be sorted. I've found that pretty much everything falls into one of these categories or can just be trashed or shredded. Rather than manila folders I have come to prefer these boxes for their form, structure, and capacity. I can grab the to-be-filed box, head over to the file cabinet and file away. Pretty convenient.

I've also set up a station to the left of the armoire giving the kids each a bin for their school pages.

So there it is. Today I'm thankful for beating back clutter and a junky mess one afternoon at a time.

I always like to know how other people manage these things we all have in common. How do you stay on top of paper clutter?

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