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Get Organized: Purge the paper


Get organized

This 5-part series may inspire you to organize and simplify your home. It’s a new year and a fresh opportunity to clean up, clean out and develop ways of storing and managing your stuff

Week 3 – Purge the Paper

Keeping your things organized is worth the time it takes to get it all pared down and put away properly. Consider it an investment which will pay off in less stress, less time spent hunting for things and the pride of knowing it is all in its place.

It is easy for papers of all sorts to get out of control.  Stuffing it in a box here, a drawer there and in a bag under the cupboard will present difficulties sooner or later.


Get rid of all old bills, guarantees for appliances long gone, and letters that are no longer needed. Note: If it is important for you to keep all the Christmas cards sent to you by your sweet aunt Bernice, by all means have no guilt about that. Perhaps put them all in one large brown envelope?

Cleaning out your papers is no small thing, so set aside a big block of time to do this. Decide how you will get rid of the paper which may contain personal banking information. Have a plan but start by having two boxes – one is garbage and the other is to keep. You can shred it, or tear it into tiny pieces or burn it in a wood stove or fire pit.

Read the dates.  If your Hydro bill from 2007 was paid, and we assume it was, get rid of that paper.


Once you have disposed of the unwanted paper, organize the papers that you are keeping. Having a system will help keep your bills, letters and guarantees in a place which is easy to access.

Depending on how much important paper you have left, a hanging file might be the perfect solution. You buy the frame, the files and labels.  Then, when you need a certain paper you can find in just a few moments.

Income Tax:Income tax returns, notices of assessment and supporting documents should be kept for six years. This is in case the CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) selects your returns for review. Keep these in a separate zippered pouch.

Books: Time to purge any unwanted books. Might be helpful to have 3 piles for this job: donate, dispose and keep. Books can have sentimental value and keeping those is perfectly fine as well as books that you will read again. If owning any or all of your books brings you joy, by all means keep them.  Just dust them and re-shelve neatly.

Receipts and guarantees: Receipts and guarantees for big ticket items can be placed in your hanging files.  Recent receipts can be kept in a small envelope in a desk drawer.  Every so often go through these and throw out the ones no longer needed. 

Clean out your wallet and purse: Take everything out of your wallet and get rid of all unneeded papers.  Put everything back neatly. Dump your purse out on the table and do the same. Take a wet wipe or damp paper towel and clean it out.

Organizing your papers is a big, time-consuming job but is an investment of your time now for a future where you can handily find the papers you need.