This was the bit I was dreading. Previously, no matter how tidy I was there was always a terrifying stack of papers in the ‘to be filed’ pile, which had several ‘pre-to be filed’ piles around the house. Despite having lots of folders with stickers, and plenty of filing space, laziness and procrastination won out. Once in a while, generally when something important had to be found, we’d have a big sort out, but it was grim work and the effects short lived.
Even though we’d done quite well with decluttering our clothes and books, I found it hard to believe we’d made progress, that we were bound to fall at the next hurdle and that we wouldn’t be able to complete the process (which I appreciate is a bit stupid as it’s only bits of paper.) By this time though, I was totally obsessed with getting it done, so we cracked on.
So, to the approach. Marie Kondo’s basic premise with paper is to throw it all away.
There are a few exceptions, but you should be looking to throw nearly all of it away. Gather every single piece of paper in your house, make one giant, terrifying pile (ours covered the dining table and most of the chairs) and begin.
Things you need to keep can be divided into 3 categories
- Keep forever
- Keep for a limited amount of time
- Needs attention
Keep forever- these are things such as birth certificates, qualifications, house deeds, pension documentation, medical records
Keep for a limited amount of time- MOT certificates, current insurance policies, work contracts, tax documentation (warranties are included in this too, but not instruction manuals- get them online!)
Needs attention- anything that needs dealing with (even Marie Kondo admits she has never totally cleared this file!)
Once you have been through all your papers, you then need to store them in the categories above. No subfolders, no folders by type ‘car, house, work’ etc. Konmari does allow a separate folder for warranties, but that’s about it. The idea being that a) you shouldn’t have that much paper anyway so it won’t take you long to sift through to find what you want, and b) whilst sifting through you will naturally notice and pick out anything you no longer need.
We’re about 5 months on from doing this now, so far the system really works. We haven’t managed to clear the ‘needs attention’ folder, but paperwork hasn’t mounted up. We know very clearly where everything is ,and isn’t, we know if we’ve thrown something away and need to sort out a replacement (although I don’t think this has happened yet).
If you’re only going to try one of these areas, try paperwork, and do it completely. Going from having 15 or so different folders, and piles of terrifying unsorted papers to this, is totally ace.