Paper Purge | Spring 2015

My home purge series continues as I tackle my home office.  After successfully whittling down my book collection to my favorites, I decided to turn my attention to paper.  I broke this down into two main categories: files and memorabilia.

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I have two large lateral file drawers in my home office next to my main desk.  The top drawer is dedicated to current files containing documents from the past year ranging from financial and home care to medical and personal.  The bottom drawer houses my back files dating back to 2005.  2005!

I knew I liked to hold onto paper documents, but I didn’t consider how unnecessary it has become in the digital era until only recently.  I’ve always been organized when it comes to paper and enjoy keeping a tidy filing system.  You can see how I kept my files pre-purge here if you’d like.  Some people prefer paper to digital when it comes to storing personal records and I certainly fall into that camp.  I decided, however, that I could save space and paper by changing over to electronic delivery of statements and bills for most of our financial and home-related accounts.

To purge my filing cabinet, I simply went through the drawers one folder at a time.  I removed the folders for all accounts I could manage online with access to previous statements and sorted them into bags to recycle or shred.  Our township offers local shredding several times a year, which is a great service if you have a lot to shred all at once.

I was able to purge over half of the paper in my filing system.  I kept anything tax related from the last seven years, receipts related to big household, electronic, and personal purchases, insurance documents, and important health records.  I am considering scanning our more important documents and keeping them stored in the cloud for safekeeping, which would further cut down on paper.  I’ll probably condense my files into just one of the two drawers and use the other for storage.  I don’t plan on going back to keeping so many paper files on hand.

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I also have a tendency to hold onto a lot of paper when it comes to memorabilia, which for me includes past calendars, journals, and sentimental items.  I realized I never look back through my food and gratitude journals, so I recycled those.  While I used to occasionally peak at old calendars, I really haven’t done so in recent years, so I purged my collection dating back to 1998.  Yes, you read that right.  I kept every calendar since my sophomore year of high school!  What I decided to keep is my collection of diaries dating back to when I was just a kid.  These are precious to me and deserve a spot in my home.

I didn’t tackle my six bins of sentimental paper items just yet because I’ve decided to do so when I go through my craft closet next, but I already made up my mind that the majority of that stuff will go.  I’ve saved every ticket stub, theater program, birthday card, and a slew of other paper memorabilia from the past decade, all neatly stored in labeled bins just waiting for…for what?  If I haven’t scrapbooked this stuff by now, I’m never going to.  I realized I was holding onto these things just for the sake of keeping them.  I have my memories and my photos and I don’t need all that other stuff taking up space in my life.

If you’d like to hear more about my paper purge process, check out this video:

I believe that what you purge and what you keep is a personal choice and one that has to feel right to you.  There’s no right or wrong when it comes to personal belongings, because value is subjective and cannot fairly be compared between people.  I am happy with my decision in my paper purge process, which I considered for quite some time before taking the leap.  Ultimately, I went with my gut feeling and it feels amazing to have purged what I did.  I am left with the important paper I need and want to store in my home.  Mission accomplished!

I’d love to know how you manage paper in your home or if you’ve decided to change your system if you care to share.
Happy recycling!

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24 comments

24 thoughts on “Paper Purge | Spring 2015”

  1. Wow! That was a lot of files, good for you. I used to keep one month of bills just to make sure that last month’s payment went through. Now of course it’s all digital. I have one small file drawer of everything personal and household related. Our business on the other hand….boxes and boxes and boxes we have to keep everything for 7 years, but that’s in my husband’s office at the shop.

    I think you should keep your diaries of course. those are different from bills and even calendars. The memorabilia – you don’t have to scrapbook it to keep it, it can live in a box that you dig through and reminisce on.. That being said all my ticket stubs and cards could fit in one of those boxes you showed. You could keep ticket stubs but not the playbills, that would weed out a lot of bulk. You could keep cards that someone wrote more than “To Jen From me”, when they actually handwrote a personal sentiment. Or one from each special person in your life to have a piece of their handwriting.

    1. I am going to go through the paper memorabilia and I’ll probably keep some of it, but I imagine most of it will go.

  2. It’s weird what you never look at again, but strangely can still remember. I think, though, to purge everything and go too minimalist means you are losing a connection to your past and to others. At least, that is how I see it. I know there seems to be a kind of movement against stuff, like stuff is bad. But, I think each person should have their space set up the right way for them. I too kept many letters and this’s and that’s but you are right you don’t go back and look at them. I suspect most of us need little more than that keepsake box kept in the upper back portion of the closet we so often see in movies. A box of letters and memoribilia we can actually go through. But, to whittle down to that would be a huge undertaking. This is something I think of a lot. And as time passes, the older items mean more. Easier to let go of newer things. I know I am rambling and perhaps this is appropos of nothing. Just that I have been watching this process you are going through and really admire it. (I have only looked at the pictures since I am not ready for it myself) I wish I could do the same but I’m just not in mode now. I go back and forth between starting over from scratch. Fill up a trunk and go like when you were a student and thinking, wow I made this a home and it took a while and all this stuff. So kudos to this amazing process. You have definitely planted the seed. For me, personally, paper stuffs have always bothered me more than other items. That would be a wonderful area for me to go minimalist. I have a vision in my head. It’s just a matter of execution. I read something once and it talked about how people feel on vacations. I think sometimes that is because you are away from your stuff (in addition to bills, work and family stressors etc. etc.) and a house of stuff requires a lot of energy and management and you don’t have to do any of that on a vacation. You have with you just what you need and some extras. That has stayed in my mind for years. Something I aspire too but alas am not good at doing. So keep it up. I’ll keep looking at the pictures. Until…

    1. I understand what you’re saying about connections to stuff. I, too, believe personal belongings have value and meaning and it’s totally individual. You have to decide what works for you, not necessarily what the current trend is. Even just contemplating starting on a purge process is a sign what you currently value in your home is changing.

  3. Jen.
    You are so good with this stuff I’m so not wish I was. Maybe I need to read the good. Really need to do the paper thing. I don’t want to do the online paper thing but I know I have old bills and stuff I can get rid. I need to do clothes too have just too many just in case I ever get back to those sizes. I have done parts of the closet etc but never finish. Shoes are not bad used to switch with seasons but have not done that in awhile I should do that again soon. Can probably weed out. I need the motivation that is my biggest problem. Books I do not keep many read ones only signed my unread ones which are so so many is my big problem. Yes have cut down on buying but I love bookstores so still do it but now as much with nooks and iPad mini now. I still read both print and Ebooks. I don’t know I need to do something about organizing my life better I’m running out of room.

    1. Whenever I’m struggling with motivation on these types of projects I like to start with something very small…like maybe just one drawer or my purse. Completing a project, even a very small one, can give you the motivation you need to start tackling bigger projects.

  4. Hey Jen I was in Waterstones today, which is a chain of bookshops here in England and guess what – they now sell a range of Orla Keily stationery – notebooks, pens and mechanical pencils, I couldn’t help but think of you! (I apologise if you’ve got this message twice, my phone froze and I don’t know if the first message got sent or not! )

  5. i really loved your paper purge! I do the same thing- trying to get less paper mail and do everything online. I don’t even look at some of my statements if I know I didn’t buy anything and then they go in the shredder!! What a waste! When I can, on my day off, I try to go thru my mail and call or go online to try to decrease my mail situation! Also, there is an app called paperkarma. You take pics of mail you no longer want to receive and supposedly, they alert the company sending it. I’ve been doing that for a while, so hopefully that is making a difference too! The less mail that comes to my house, the less paper I have to sort! :). Thanks for sharing!!

  6. Hi Jen.

    I just recently found your blog and vlogs and have spent hours watching them. I am so impressed with your attitude, organizational skills, and your sharing of ideas and tips.

    I am 66 years old and I have always been into organizing. I find your skills and viewpoints exceptional.

    Many blessings to you. I shall follow your adventures daily.

    I appreciate the links to sources for the items you purchase and use. I have already linked to Amazon for a couple of items.

  7. I had a moment of clarity this past month and purged almost everything! I kept the last three years tax returns, and scanned everything past that time. It’s all stored on my computer, on a set of CDs, and in ‘the cloud’ for good measure. The only things I kept the hard copies of were the obvious things (marriage licenses, birth certificates, divorce and child support stuff, and a few other essentials. Everything else is scanned, named clearly, and sorted into their own folders if I ever need them! 47 lbs of paper gone! Empty file cabinet (well, except for about 6 files holding the above mentioned items) and no more piles, bags or stacks of paper!

  8. Hi Jen! I second Glenda’s comment. Your content is great!

    I, too, am a transitioning-to-recovery paper hoarder. Mementos for a long time have felt synonymous to the memories they represent. I recently purged all the superfluous bills as well, haha! It felt like an easy way to start. Hopefully I’ll get around to dealing with my cards/calendars/playbills/journals soon. The real space-sucker is all my schoolwork, which I’ve saved since eighth grade! My husband would love it if I dumped it all, but to me it is the physical incarnation of all the effort I put into that decade. I would like to at least thin it down to the ‘important’ stuff though. I just turned 23 and I feel like it’s time.

    Thanks for sharing!

  9. I have way to much paper as well one thing I’ve found works well for me is to put my papers for lilly and sophie into a big binder and then I took old bills and stuff and scanned them onto my computer and created a folder market bills and one marked receipts and then broke it down into more folders for one for each bill and inside each bill it has the years I did this and then filed everything in its proper folder and zipped all of the past years to condense them . It’s worked great for me for the companies who don’t go paperless me and my roomate are actually planning a trip to Chicago in march what would be some neat places to visit in the area.

  10. I just got rid of a lot of old mail, post cards and pictures.
    I’ll keep my old calendars (starting from 2007) because they are a combination of calendar/diary. All my movietickets and memorabilia are glued in there so I won’t have little pieces of paper flying around (scrapbooking isn’t hat big here)

  11. I always enjoy watching yur “purge videos”,so thank you for sharing!
    Going straight to check this video,I m sure, I ll enjoy!like every video and post you share!
    Thank you and hve a happy sunday!

  12. I use Evernote to store my digital statements and such. Although I still have papers to scan in (with a scansnap), I have over 20,000 notes in Evernote. The searching in there is great and you can make the “filing” system work the same way your paper filing system works if that is what you like. (http://lorithayer.com/paperless-what-to-scan/)

    Way to go on your purge, I haven’t gotten to a document purge yet. I did do my clothing purge last weekend and will eventually have an article on it. Researching the KonMari method is how I found you and I really enjoy your website and videos.

  13. Hey Jen, do you like your PB desk pieces? I have loved this set since I was in high school and I am thinking about making big changes to our homeschool room this year and going with a nice desk for myself. Would love to know from someone that has it ad uses it.

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