All of My Papers (all of them) Fit in Here

Yep. All of my tax documents, warranties, and other not-throw-away-able papers fit in that blue box and blue folder. The blue folder is for my legal-size papers (mostly house-purchasing stuff). Everything else is in the blue box with plenty of room to spare. The black accordion folder is for work items that could easily fit in the blue box, but I need it to be more portable than the rest of papers so a separate folder is necessary. And that’s it. All of the papers in my whole house.

I spent the weekend sorting and recycling old documents. Here’s what my study looked like at the beginning of the weekend:


My important papers were mixed in with office supplies, tons of crafts, and random stuff that just didn’t have a home.

As I do with every organizing project, I first re-read the chapter in Marie Kondo’s book about going through your papers. She’s pretty ruthless about papers, basically saying that you should get rid of everything except the very few items that you really need (house deed, tax documents, warranties, etc.).


So I jumped right in. I got rid of all of my product manuals (I wrote down the model numbers in Google Docs for items like my stove and fridge), old vet receipts, medical claims that were super old, credit card statements, 7+ year old tax documents, and other boring, unnecessary paperwork. That was the easy part.

Then came the old letters from friends and family, artwork from college, and my fashion scrapbooks. I’ve kept so many letters from the past because I love letters – they’re so old fashion, and quaint, and proper. Plus, isn’t that what you do with letters? Keep them? Like a Jane Austen heroine. I’m sure Elizabeth Bennet and Anne Elliot kept all of their letters!

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that as much as I love the idea of the letters, I’ve never actually re-read them. I was just moving them around with me from home to home for the past fifteen years. So, what did I decide to do with them? To the shredder! Same with my fashion scrapbooks that I spent hours putting together from magazines in high school. I thought that I would enjoy looking at them after all of these years, but found them pretty boring.

I also got rid of most of my craft items (clay, yarn, tons of different papers, colored pencils, etc.) because I’ve probably spent only about 5% of my adult life really crafting. If that.

Post organizing, all of my remaining crafts, office supplies, and random stuff (travel neck pillow, yoga block, dance shoes) fit into the cabinet. And I was able to clear out so much stuff in the study closest that it now fits all of our suitcases with room to spare!


I’m honestly kind of surprised it took me the whole weekend to sort through it all. Grant it, I did take lots of breaks – took the dogs for a walk, worked out, saw a movie, went out to dinner, did laundry, etc. The papers were easy, but it was the letters, crafts, and other nostalgic bits that completely slowed me down. I should have anticipated that, but I didn’t. Nevertheless, I persevered! And now I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Even though I could close the cabinet doors and shut the closet door, I still hated going into my study before this weekend because I knew all of that stuff was haphazardly piled in there.


Now I feel a sense of calm wash over me when I enter the room. I know exactly where everything is and won’t get annoyed by toppling paper piles.

Before I end this very wordy post, I just want to list a few things that helped me get through the process:

  • There’s a nearby thrift store that I love and always bring my stuff to (it’s Second Life for you local readers). The best part is that they’re open on Sundays. So after I finish a big organization weekend project like this one, I can pack everything up in my car and drop it off. It makes the whole project really feel completely done and then I don’t have to second-guess my give away choices – out of sight, out of mind.
  • My paperwork collection wasn’t too ridiculous when I started the weekend, because twice a year, I go through all of my documents, check the required retention length for each type, and get rid of the ones that are old. I do it twice a year because there’s a local paper shredding event twice a year in Decatur where you can bring bags and bags of your old documents and put them in a giant shredder that can shred everything in seconds. No need to clutter my home with a personal shredder that’ll just burn-out on me.
  • For some of the time that I was sorting through my papers, I listened to The Minimalist podcast. Even though they weren’t necessarily discussing paper clutter, listening to them helped keep me motivated through the whole process.
  • I didn’t worry about having the perfect filing storage system for my remaining papers. The hanging folder box and accordion folder were items I already owned. Eventually, I might get a nicer looking setup or get some better organizing containers for my office supplies, but I don’t really need to.
  • Before starting, I made sure to get all the papers in my house gathered together including the mail on the table near my front door, the fridge (lots of outdated stuff magnetized on there), and the dining room table, which always collects crap.

And there you have it. This post was a long one! If you’ve made it this far, good for you! Now, go celebrate by going through your own paper piles and let me know how you feel afterward.

18 thoughts on “All of My Papers (all of them) Fit in Here”

  1. Oh my gosh, Cath! Can I be you when I grow up? I did clear out my papers when I KonMaried last year, but this summer I realised how I sort of cheat because I have lots of boxes of letters tucked away at Mom and Dad’s. I’ve never once shredded anything.
    Currently, we have a small box that I toss everything in to and I’ve never looked up how long to keep things. Your organization is truly inspiring. I’ll have to look up and see if Seattle has any kind of shredding event — they are so eco friendly, I feel like they might.
    Also, I love the tip about listening to The Minimalist podcast whilst you work — and that you didn’t buy any new organizing stuff. You’re my hero/guru!

    1. Hahaha. I am no guru! You’re my motivation for organizing! I’m sure I still have stuff at mom and dad’s too – I always forget about that, which probably means I should just get rid of it!

      I’d be surprised if Seattle didn’t have some type of shred a event. i know there are some churches around here that also host shredding events for the public, which is just so great.

      have you listedned to any of the Minimalist podcast? I’ve only listened to the few that I got through this weekend. They’re definitely more extreme, personally, but are so supportive of anyone on the minimalism journey that i love it. The Lively Show is also a good one – although not focused on minimalism.


  2. Whenever I do some sort of cleaning/ sorting, I always listen to audiobooks – I love it, I get to read and do things at the same time!

    Well done on the paper sorting! I have never shredded anything – I just throw it all in the paper dump, where it gets recycled. Probably asking for ID theft!

    Btw – do you know that the emails with a new post never contains the pic yoh post under the header? All other pics are in the email, but not the top one.

    1. Listening to audio books is such a great idea! I don’t know why I never think of downloading audio books. Any recommendations?

      My dad has made me super paranoid about shredding stuff. He’s always so good about it that I resist temptation to just recycle everything.

      In regards to the emails, the first photo doesn’t come up because it’s uploaded as a feature photo. I’m going to ask Troy and see if that can be fixed. Thanks for the heads up!
      xoxo, Cath

      1. From me the narrator is a big part of what makes an audiobook enjoyable – for instance, I love Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, but find the accent/voice of the narrator a bit annoying, so I’d say it’s probably pretty personal. Having said that my fave audiobooks are the In Death series by JD Robb, The Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson, The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling, The Tuesday Next series by Jasper Fforde, Harlan Coben’s books, Mindy Kaling’s books and Ellen DeGeneres’ books as well.

  3. Oh my gosh, I consider myself a pretty decent and long term minimalist in a lot of ways but paper kills. I spent a week on and off (but intensely) shredding last January 2015 doing this and after four bags of shredded material – kitchen bags! – I still have a lot more to do. But looking forward to finishing the task after this year’s tax season. Since we moved we needed to hold onto more documents as we made the transition. And good pt. about the vet bills, I had held onto those as medical records for my dog. How much do you really need to save? I guess nothing other than her adoption papers and immunization records?

    1. You can do it!

      I don’t even hold onto my dog’s immunization records because I can just get them from the vet if I need them for the groomer. Also, I’ve been holding onto my tax documents for up to 7 years and my friend just told me you only have to keep them for 3 years.

      Learn something new everyday!
      xoxo, Cath

  4. FANTASTICO! Cath, this is so so impressive. Of course, I’m blown away by the result – but I also really appreciate the insight you gave us into your process. (Not to lengthy for me, ma’am! ^^ I ate it up.)

    I really like your tip about listening to the Minimalists podcast! I usually jam out to electronic flow something-or-other music (not at all my typical genre), but I’m always complaining that there aren’t enough hours in the day for all of the podcast-listening I’d like to do. Keep it up!!

    1. Thanks for being so sweet about the post and being so supportive on this process! I never know if they’re boring or not. I always make Lar read them, but she’s just as sweet as you and always so supportive.

      Yes, the Minimalists podcast is great – it’s a lot of Q&A so you don’t have to focus all of your attention on it. Unlike a podcast like Serial, which I always find myself unable to do anything else while i’m listening to it.

      xoxo, Cath

  5. Whoa, your study looks great! Good job.

    If we’re discarding any sensitive documents from home, the boy and I will bring them to work. He has a shredder and I have confidential paper bins that hold documents to be shredded. Shh.

    1. It’s so funny you mention that because my co-worker just suggested that I bring my stuff to work to get shredded – hahaha. Everyone must do it!

      xoxo, Cath

  6. This is inspiring! Paper and books are my biggest decluttering hurdle because I’m a professional writer and always took it for granted that I *should* have tons of books and keep all my old journals, letters, and drafts.

    I have noticed that each time I try to declutter in these categories, I’m able to let go a little more easily. Earlier this month, I gave away two bags of books and recycled about 1/3 of my old letters.

    Did you read your letters as you sorted them? I did, and it was such a strange look back on old friendships. I discovered that some I really wanted to work out at the time were more shallow than I realized and others were the opposite. I’d like to keep sorting until I have just a handful of letters that mean a lot to me.

    I’ve always loved your blog, but I love it even more now that it’s taken this new direction. Thanks for sharing your insights–you and Lar both!

    1. Thank you so much Mia! I totally know what you mean about feeling like you “should” have a ton of books. I felt that way even though I’m not a writer. I grew up thinking that it was important to be surrounded by books, but I actually feel so much better now that I’ve gotten rid of so many.

      I agree that decluttering gets easier the more you do it. Each time I get rid of stuff I realize how great it feels and then I have more courage to get rid of more stuff.

      I was really tempted to read my old letters, but I was worried that it would make it harder to get rid of them. It also would have taken me forever to read them all!

      xoxo, Cath

  7. I just updated all of my tax paperwork and it took hours! I have two rental properties with receipts that needed to be itemized in a spreadsheet and then organized by year. It was so much work, but I was glad when it was done because now I can find everything. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to get down to such a reasonable sized file box. I have 4 total, 2 for regular documents, 1 for landlord and real estate stuff, and 1 for my guy’s stuff. I don’t even bother telling him to clean it out because I know he won’t

    1. Ha! I feel that same why about Troy’s stuff. The cabinet that’s pictured in this post has a bottom section that is filled with his stuff – mostly cables for his sound recording. I didn’t even ask him to organize it.

      Having two rental properties would definitely require more paperwork to save. I only have the one house, one full time job and one part time job, so things are pretty simple tax-wise. That being said, I haven’t even started on my taxes yet – eep!

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