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Control Paper Clutter in Your Home & Feel More Energized

By March 1, 2020June 13th, 20249 Comments

Do you want to feel more energized? One way is to control the paper clutter in your home. Have you ever noticed the effect that clutter has on you? Clutter has the super-power of removing energy from people. It multiplies like bunnies it it’s left alone. Before you know it, clutter’s everywhere. Give yourself more energy and put energy back into your home by taking steps to control the clutter in your home.

There are many kinds of clutter. This week I’m talking specifically about controlling the paper clutter in your home since it’s tax season.

Paper clutter

Just the thought of finding the papers necessary to file taxes overwhelms some people. Talk about zapping energy and strength. What if you knew exactly where to put any and all papers related to taxes as soon as they made their way onto your computer screen or into your snail mailbox?

Awesome, right?

Every year, in December, I create a manila folder (I use a red one) for my taxes. I label it for the next tax year (Taxes 2020) and put it in the hanging file, labeled TAXES. Then as I receive anything tax related: letters acknowledging a donation, 1099s, interest statements etc. I put them in the red manila folder. If I get them digitally, I print them so I can put them in my taxes folder.

One way I control the paper clutter in my home by having a place to put everything tax related. I have everything I need in this folder when I’m ready to do my taxes. Simple.


Piles of paper, piles of files, little scraps of paper, post-it notes written and left here and there rob people of energy because it takes energy to figure out what to do with all these piles, notes, and scraps. You have to read each note and take time to remember its significance. Then, you have to decide what to do next.

It could take you quite a bit of time if you need to find a document or a specific note you left yourself. That’s a time waster and an energy thief.

If this is happening to you, let’s turn it around and get that energy back.

Some people teach the O.H.I.O. rule for paper. O.H.I.O. stands for Only Handle It Once. I’ve never been able to follow this rule. Sometimes, I simply don’t have time to take care of the next step involved in handling each paper. So, I put it down and it ends up in a pile. Does this sound familiar?

 In all honesty, I’m a bit of a paper piler. I’ve learned through trial and error how to control the paper clutter in my home by reducing my tendency to pile paper. I’m going to share my strategy with you here.

By the way, an added benefit is that you can also apply this same strategy to your digital documents.

Assign an action

When you open an envelope and look at the contents, think about your next step.  Write the verb associated with your next step on the top of the paper. For instance: Pay, File, Read, Call or Email. Then there are the things you just don’t know about. I write Pending on these. You may also have a folder labeled: Ask if you have a partner you want to check with before acting.

By the way, these are just some of the more common action folder names. You may come up with different action words with which to label your action folders.

Have a desktop hanging file holder or a stadium file folder sorter nearby to hold these action files and folders.

desktop hanging file holder
Reduce paper clutter with this acrylic desktop hanging file holder from The Container Store

These are temporary holding spots for these papers.

3-Section Vertical Folder Holder
Control paper clutter with this Vertical Folder Holder from The Container Store

There are lots of different types of either desktop file holders or stadium file sorters. Look for them at these stores The Container Store, Target, Walmart, and Office Depot .


Once you have sorted your papers into action files, plan to revisit these action files regularly. After all they are meant to be a temporary holding spot to control the paper clutter in your home. My suggestion is open each folder once a week, look through it, and schedule actions to take in your calendar. You do not want to merely collect papers in these folders. Work this strategy by continually revisiting these folders and emptying them.

You can apply this strategy digitally by creating action folders for your email. Once you have taken the action (paid the bill, replied to an email, scheduled an appointment) delete the email. This reduces email clutter. Email or digital clutter is a topic for another day.

When you control the paper clutter in your home, you are in charge. The clutter is not robbing you of energy. Just the opposite. Feel more energized by knowing that you have your papers under control. You know the actions to take to stay on top of your to-do list. Piles of paper and piles of files will not accumulate because you have places to put them.

Check out my website for more tips on organizing files.

Feel free to reach out to me to help you create action files and folders to control the paper clutter in your home that work for you. We can meet in person if you are in the Atlanta area or virtually if you live elsewhere.

Diane N. Quintana is a Certified Professional Organizer®, Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization®, Master Trainer and owner of DNQ Solutions, LLC based in Atlanta, Georgia. Diane teaches busy people how to become organized and provides them with strategies and solutions for maintaining order in their lives. She specializes in residential and home-office organizing and in working with people affected by ADD, Hoarding, and chronic disorganization.


  • Julie Bestry says:

    Diane, you know how much I love organizing paper, but I still tend to let it pile up…just so I can sort it and put it away. And I agree, that OHIO rule only words for things that arrive in our spaces and require no thinking to determine what to do with them. I usually need to read, then think, then have a conversation (or a few) and then finally act or file. OHIO makes a better state than a rule. 😉 I love that acrylic desktop file holder!

  • Kim says:

    Good ideas for paper clearing. Often one of the biggest challenges that clients have. Paper is tedious because you need to make a decision about every little piece. If you are shredding with a home style shredder it takes forever. Also, I really find that dealing with paper is such a individual and personal issue. What works for one does not work for all? I always say if its not broken, no need to fix it. If it works for you then that is great. Thanks for this. I actually feel like working on my own paper.

  • Those temporary holding files can be dangerous! I have a “Pending” file on my desk that I haven’t looked in for months. Theoretically, I should be able to toss the whole thing, since everything important has an actual home, but who wants to take the risk?

  • Oh, yes! I just did that recently (at the end of the year), and you reminded me that I need to pull more old paper bins for shredding. I will be adding that to my to-do list this weekend. I am meeting with a small business client on Friday to go through their paper files as well.

  • Seana Turner says:

    Slogging through paperwork can feel less rewarding than clearing larger clutter because the results are not as impressive. However, I think there is a huge psychological boon to finally looking through and dealing with the mounds of paper. Stacks hang over us because we worry about what might be inside, and what we may have missed or need to do. Love that clear paper filing box!

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