6 tips and tricks for tidying paper

We are creating home for our EnjoyLife Project this year. The first step is to purge my home of the unnecessary, anything that isn’t useful, beautiful, or loved. I am using the KonMari method, developed by Marie Kondo, a Japanese decluttering guru and author of two book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up {LM} and Spark Joy {SJ}.  So far, I’ve introduced the project, discussed my criteria and completed my clothes (part I and part II) and books.

Graphic. konmari paper

As promised, I am back with my tips and tricks (from Marie and myself) for Konmari(ng) papers. Papers was, by far, the most difficult category for me to tidy. I detailed the experience in a previous post.

Clutter is nothing more than the physical manifestation of indecision. – Marie Kondo

This was never more true for me than with papers.  Most of my paper clutter was from previous lives that I have lived and wasn’t fully ready to let go.  These included the notebooks that I made when I aspired to be hip and thin.  Now I realize that the goal to be hip was probably never that attainable for me in the first place.  And thin, as I had been envisioning it, was probably even less so.  Now, I’m working to feel comfortable in my style choice and to be healthy and so anything that doesn’t pertain to this new direction was out of here.

Additionally, there were papers from my previous careers (administrative support, event planning, project management, and grant writing).  I think I kept them because I wasn’t sure whether I would be doing that work again. I have been so indecisive about the type of work that I wanted to be doing in the world and going through my papers has forced, OK, that might be too strong a word. Going through my paper has strongly encouraged me to commit to the decision of my life’s work. And surprisingly, not surprisingly, it has come down to what will “spark joy”.


  1. Bring ALL of your papers into one place. This is very important because it lets you see the sheer volume of all the papers in your home. Staring at it all, I was shocked and appalled and you will probably be surprised, as well.  My papers covered a space that was five feet long and three feet wide.  The stacks stood up to two feet high.  It was very overwhelming.  But I needed to see it-to realize in no uncertain terms how bad it had gotten and that now was the time to do something about it.
  2. Start with the premise that ALL papers will be discarded. You are only choosing what to keep. This was incredibly freeing but also incredibly scary! And to this day, I have a nagging feeling that I have discarded something that am going to need. It hasn’t happened yet, but I am waiting for it.  However, I followed Marie’s advice and kept only the papers for which there was a clear purpose. The rest (four trash bags worth) are gone.
  3. Start with papers that evoke no pleasure. Tax documents, bills, etc. These are fairly easy to deal with. Need it; don’t need it. It’s simple. I used a combination of guidelines from Suze Orman and Dave Ramsey to determine which of my financial records to hang onto. After I did those, I moved onto my other papers.
  4. Save greeting cards, letters, journals, etc. for tidying sentimental. I began to lose steam when I tried to sort things that I was truly sentimental about. I say truly, because I have had a thing for papers since I was a child. I have always had “very important papers” even when they were just literal scribbles because I didn’t know how to write yet.  My mom has a recording of me imploring my sister (ok I was actually yelling) to “get off of my papers!”  I believe I was 5 or 6 at that time. But greeting cards, letters, etc. should NOT be sorted with this category if you have a special affinity for those things and so I have saved them for the sentimental category. 
  5. Create a pending box to handle papers that need to be dealt with later, and keep forging ahead. This is important. Don’t dawdle and linger. If you are not sure, put it aside and keep pushing.  I didn’t do this a few times and lost momentum. And once momentum is gone, it is very difficult to get it back.  Not sure? Put it aside for pass number two or three.  As you keep going, you will begin to “hone your sense” and you’ll know what you need to keep. Which bring me to my final tip.
  6. If you have a lot of papers, it may be necessary to go through it in several rounds. It took me a total of three rounds to know definitively what I was going to keep and what needed to be dealt with.  And after three rounds I was able to get the stack of papers to be dealt with down to a magazine box that I use as my pending box.

So, that’s it.  If you have any questions please, do not hesitate to ask me in the comments or sent me an email directly.  I would LOVE to answer them for you.

enjoy life…