Beware these 2 paperwork pitfalls

Who dreads the thought of dealing with the paper piles in their home?

Paperwork nightmares are the BIGGEST problem most people face with clutter.

I asked last week if you had 1 wish for your paper piles, what would it be?

And you all responded!

Hundreds and hundreds of email replies (my apologies if I didn’t respond!)

And so we’re going to tackle that together over the next couple weeks.

The first step is to be aware of what the common pitfalls are.

You’ve got to know what NOT to do before you can focus on what TO do.

Here’s a 2 minute video with the 2 biggest pitfalls I see when people try to conquer the paperwork mess.

Would you like an easier way to manage paper clutter?

Check out our Household Paperwork Made Easy program for help.


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35 thoughts on “Beware these 2 paperwork pitfalls”

  1. I so need a good system to deal with paper! Paper clutter truly is the bane of my existence. Thank you for giving me permission to not go paperless…at heart, I am a pen and paper gal. I will do my best to not be paralyzed by perfectionism…it has been a problem for me in the past!

  2. I have so many thjngs the kids have earned or made at school that are paper
    I don’t want to get rid of them but not sure what to do w them

    • I heard this a long time ago and remembered it because it sounded like a great idea: Ask each child to pick ten favorite items (or 5). roll them up and slide into an empty paper towel roll….even a t.p. roll will do. Put a date on the outside or tell each child to make a small list of what’s in there and tape it to the outside. If it gets buried in the attic, no problem….their children will love to see what they did at their age.

    • I used their paintings to cover their books the following year, until they weren’t allowed to cover the books when they were older.

    • When our kids were young, I had a shelf in a storage room for a few boxes with lids. I would put any “special” paper into a box. Think artwork, contest wins, certificates, even the “getting ready for Santa to come” sticker charts one year. When they were grown, I went through the boxes, found key items to “keep” and preserve in a digital photo album (scan/arrange/get printed–there are many companies that do this). Now each child has a slim album they can look at whenever they want. They liked them! I offered each of them the saved boxes of papers, but they did not want them!

  3. A few of those things applied to me, but mostly I’m overwhelmed with lithe whole idea. So every year or so, I will go through everything and toss. And then the struggle starts again. I’d like a better way.

  4. I have started getting things from the mail box and putting it on the kitchen table. Standing there I go through the contents and 90% of it is trashed. Would I like to be able to contribute to most good causes? Yes. Do I have the finances to do this? A BIG NO! So don’t even open it and throw it in the recycle ♻️ immediately. What is left over is my problem. What to save and how to save it? If it is something if needed in the future I can get online or request a paper copy there probably isn’t necessary to save a hard copy. You really need a good and well organized file system which BTW I don’t have. Consequently I have piles of paperwork that is unprocessed. My husband fussed all the time but maybe because I am a Virgo and have to have things in a certain order I am just overwhelmed and there it sits! HELP!!!

  5. I never got the questionnaire regarding: If you had one wish for your paper piles, what would it be? Also
    I have to work on perfectionism. I also have tried different ways of organizing my paper piles and I have trouble sticking with any system. Please help. Sincerely,
    Sharon Sadler

  6. I go though the mail every evening while sitting at my desk. I open everything, then discard the envelopes to eliminate the unnecessary paper. Anything I may need I scan into my computer, name it and file in the correct folder then shred. My shredder sits conveniently just under the right side of my desk. I have most every monthly bill set up online but once in a while I received necessary documentation I may need.

    I tell people I am allergic to paper. It works for me but we have no children at home so i get far less paper than many but this works for us. Never a lost bill.

    • Joy,

      Once you scan the document and put it in the appropriate file – do you have the files set up in the documents on your computer or do you have another location? Aurelia Rowan

    • Me too! Totally looking forward to it! I have started in my office already during “quarantine”. I realized part of my problem is I have stationery, pictures, cards and memorabilia, new cards I’ve never sent, all in different places in my office. Yesterday I sorted all these things into groups! What a concept! Lol

    • I have lots of cards and envelopes with short notes and photos enclosed that I don’t really don’t know what to do with as well as lots of photos taken over the years that I am not sure what to do with. Also lots of paperwork dealing with genealogy but that is MY problem. I know what to do, just need a kick in the rear end to get started going through piles of papers. Lots is very unnecessary.

  7. Paperwork. The one thing that is easy to put on the back burner. The one thing that never stops accumulating! Thank you for telling us to put perfectionism to the side, that seems to be a big thing keeping me from Paper Success! With your helpful tips, a mind change, & “extra” time on our hands- a cocktail for accomplishment!
    Thank you Sarah and all decluttering friends! We Got This

  8. I was only able to view 52 seconds of the 2:35 video, and it just stopped. Second try, only got 12 seconds. Could I have another? Hoping for a nugget toward this neverending challenge. Thanks!

  9. Thanks for giving permission to NOT SCAN THINGS!!! I am overwhelmed at the idea of how to store these files, how anyone else could access them if something happened to me … dealing with the paper and keeping what I need is all I want … so much easier to retrieve a paper file than try to remember how I had e-filed it. Thank you!!!!!

  10. Thank you for helping me and others to figure out and fix the paperwork nightmare. I look forward to learning more.
    I hope you will offer some insight in what to keep and not keep to make storage, access, and filing taxes or other documents that may ask for some sort of info.
    Again, thank you for helping so many of us to declutter our homes and minds.

  11. Great Sarah. Yes. I almost got hooked into one of those very complicated and expensive trainings on paperwork. Very overwhelming. SO many steps. Then I found your site and have been working your simple system everyday now. You’re SO right. I don’t need anything fancy. All I needed to do was take ACTION for little bits of time everyday…..and poof………paper gone. Now, after going thru it and throwing 65% of it out. I know very well what and where every piece of paper is in my house. What a great feeling.

  12. I always have such good intentions but get paranoid if I throw something away I’ll never be able to access the information again. I have gone paperless with most bills. I can’t understand why I am still in trouble with the papers and the endless piles everywhere! Piles and piles and piles. I am looking forward to this challenge. Hopefully I will be able to tackle what is probably the biggest problem I have. I just look at it and turn away.

  13. Thank you Sarah. A little lightbulb went off when you suggested I do not need to go paperless. Thought I would always have to keep up with the times. Getting harder as I age. I just want the bill on hand so I remember to pay it.

  14. We run a business (20+ years), and I was super overwhelmed with it
    and sentimental with raising 4 kids, so I am overloaded with years of boxes of accumulated paper!
    1st, I try to separate business from personal. We are required to save most everything for the business for 7 years (+). I kept too much of the personal too, since they were sometimes mixed together if I didn’t get sorted.

  15. I was so very happy watching this video. I almost spent money to go with a paperless system. But I didn’t because of the things you mentioned just seemed overwhelming to me. And the second thing. I am a perfectionist. My OCD kicks in when I try to sort through paperwork and organize things. I never get anywhere. Thank you so much for sharing the two pitfalls. I’m ready for the challenge on Monday. God bless you.

  16. Paperwork everywhere! Piles and boxes of it, for years and years worth! I bought a shredder last year and have sorted out 2 boxes worth that need shredding but haven’t gotten around to it. That will be the easy part!
    Overwhelmed? To say the least!

    • I wore out a shredder. When I went to buy a new one at Staples, one of the salesmen told me about their shredding service. Much cheaper than getting a new machine and once a month I bring in a plastic grocery bag to shred.


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Welcome. I’m Sarah!


I’m the creator of Decluttering School (formerly known as Early Bird Mom), lover of organized spaces, encourager to women and mom to four boys. Click here to read more!

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