Reclaim Your Paper – 3 P’s of Paper Organization

Are you buried by paper and overwhelm? Good news: it’s not you, it’s the paper! Paper organization (or lack thereof!) is the number one challenge we encounter in households and businesses!

The amount and variety of paper that flows into our homes and offices requires a SET of systems. To get your paper under control, create my 3 P’s of paper management.

Every household or workplace needs these three sets of systems:


1. Processing

Do you find mail or paperwork on your kitchen counter, dresser, dining table, etc? This is a clue that you need an incoming paper processing system!

Paper Organization - Clutter

When paper comes into your home, it needs a designated place to land.

A good processing system captures incoming paper and queues it for action. We call it your “runway”.

Setting up a paper processing system is so important that we have a training video dedicated to Dealing with Incoming Paper.

Depending on your personal habits (what door you come in from the car, where your kids unload backpacks, etc) designate a space in your home for processing incoming paper. Once this spot is determined, make sure everyone in the home knows that it is the ONLY place that paper will land in your home.

Establishing a landing strip is the first step. But, don’t stop there!

Create an action center to keep items moving along based on what needs to happen to them. Using a tray system, label trays based on the action needed: to do, to pay, to call, to read, etc. As paperwork comes in, ask yourself “what needs to happen with this” and place it in the appropriate action tray.

Paper Organization Action Center for Processing

Notice, we call these ACTION trays! Make processing your paper and performing these actions a calendar item. Schedule time to process your paper daily and weekly to keep documents flowing.

2. Projects

When you have paper that is part of an ongoing current project – for example a home remodel, planning a party or vacation, or an event you or a family member are participating in – this paper requires a special system to house pending items.

Paper Organization - Action Center

We call these projects “short-term parking.”

Projects need an “above ground” system – meaning they need to be kept in view so you can see what needs to happen.

If these short-term projects are stored “below ground” in a filing system, they tend to get ignored and forgotten. For this reason, we recommend using an inclined-format stadium file holders labeled with the project name to hold your projects.

As projects are completed, the paperwork can be disposed of, or kept in your “below ground” filing systems for reference.

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3. Permanent

The final paper management system that every home and business needs is a permanent filing system.Paper Organization - Permanent Filing System

Your permanent paper management system contains your completed paperwork.

These finished files that live out of sight in a drawer live “below ground” precisely because they are done and no longer require your frequent action. Likewise, paperwork that is still ACTIVE should live “above ground” in either your processing or projects systems.

Permanent paper is paper that is needed for reference long-term such as tax documents, house documents, insurance, car papers, etc. Create a filing system organized categorically to hold these papers. Our training video Filing System that Work will walk you through creating this complex system.

Filing system tip: Use words for your labels that make sense to you! Be intentional about naming your files so they are easy to find. For example, do you think “auto” or “car”? Use naming conventions that make sense to how you think so you aren’t hunting for files or having to remember what you named them.

Triple Your Receptacles

One final strategy for paper management is to make it easy to get rid of paper you don’t need by tripling your receptacles. Place a garbage, shred, and recycle bin in close proximity to your paper management system to make moving paper along to its destination a breeze.

Invest in establishing these 3 P’s of paper organization and you will reclaim your paper (and sanity)!


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