Small Bites Paper Sorting

Sort Out All Your Paper

And stay organized!

by Anney Ardiel, Downsizing Coach

If you’re like most of my clients, you have a paper problem. You’ve got filing cabinets or bankers boxes full of old documents and photos. You might have papers you’ve stuffed in shopping bags in a closet, or piles of letters on your desk or kitchen counters. You might even have boxes of documents in your garage or storage space.

Sound familiar?

Once the piles begin to grow, it can become quite difficult to stay organized around the home. Important documents get misplaced and it can be really time-consuming, not to mention frustrating, to find what you need.

These small frustrations can lead to serious stress and you just know the problem isn’t going to get better unless you do something about it.

Typical Home Document Clutter

  • Bills
  • Unopened charity requests
  • Subscriptions
  • Letters
  • Cards
  • Instructions
  • Warranties
  • Lists
  • Family history

In order to turn this around and get organized, you need to sort through all the existing piles of paper and set up an efficient filing system. In my experience, the best way to declutter documents is Small Bites Sorting.

Small Bites Sorting

The bad news: This sorting process will  take you a few weeks to complete, or maybe a few months if you have a large amount piled up. 

The good news: If you do it properly, you will only have to do this major sorting job once.

The reward:
-Clear surfaces in your home
-More space in your drawers and closets
-An organized filing system for new papers so the problem does not reoccur
-Huge sense of peace of mind

Before You Start

Set up a sorting station with these receptacles:

  • A paper bag for recycling papers, labeled “Recycling” 
  • A paper bag for documents you need to shred, labeled “Shred”
  • A filing box where you can store the “Must keep” documents. I like this one from Staples.
  • A second filing box where you can store the “Must keep” photos.

Small Bites Sorting Session: Get It Done

  1. Gather up all the documents from ONE drawer/box/bag/pile in your home. This is the “small bite” part.
  2. Sit down at your sorting station with your receptacles on the floor beside you in easy arm’s reach.
  3. Pick up the first piece of paper, evaluate it, then put it in the proper receptacle: Recycle, Shred, filed in your Storage Box, or filed in your Photos box.
  4. Repeat until the pile is gone, then take a break!

Tip #1 I like to use large paper grocery bags for my Recycling and Shredding receptacles, labeled on both sides with a black Sharpie pen in large letters.

Tip #2 Set up your sorting station somewhere out of the way so you can leave it set up in between sorting sessions.

Tip #3 Once your Recycling bag is full, take it out to your Blue Bin and replace with a new (labelled) paper bag at your sorting station.

Tip #4 Once you fill a Shredding bag, tape it securely closed and store it away safely until you have a few bags to take to a neighborhood shredding event. Our local school holds a shredding event regularly. Check with your local Rotary or Lions clubs to see if they offer “shredding by donation”.

Filing box for documents:

Set up a box that fits hanging files and label a series of files with the categories you need.

To make this process really easy, I’ve listed the most common home filing categories here.

More Good News

Your adult children or a patient friend can help you get sorted from afar!

My 82 year old mother has cleared away 75% of her paper clutter by herself over the past few years (Covid silver lining) but she is struggling to make decisions about the remaining documents and photos.

Mom lives a ferry ride away from me and it’s not possible for me to stop by to help her chip away at the piles of documents, photos and letters that she has to sort out.

Since helping her in person isn’t possible for me, we have decided to “meet” weekly with a video call. Having me “with her” on her iPad lets us discuss each document and share the work. It helps so much to have a second opinion on difficult decisions and it’s more fun than doing it alone!

I’ll let you know our process in my next newsletter! Meanwhile, let me know if you need help getting your papers organized or if you have any questions about Small Bites Sorting!