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  • Michelle Jensen

The #1 Home Organizing Request I Get from Clients

Updated: Jul 18, 2021

As a professional organizer, the most common request I get from clients is to help them organize paperwork. You may have several boxes or a storage unit full of paperwork. Whatever the case may be, you can follow my simple procedure below to do it yourself.


  1. Make space; set up folding tables to make space to sort paperwork.

  2. Set up three sorting sections on your tablespace: “RECYCLE”, “SHRED”, “KEEP”.

  3. Place the following items into the “RECYCLE” section (bin): mail advertisements, coupon mailers, magazines, and catalogues. Tear off the mailing label containing your name and address and toss it into the “SHRED” section.

  4. Place the following items that have no open balance and are paid into the “SHRED” section: utility bills and bank/credit card statements previous to 2020, car loan and maintenance records for cars SOLD.

  5. Place the following items into the “KEEP” section regardless of date: tax returns, monthly statements for pensions, IRA’s, 401(k)’s, stock certificates, social security, health insurance, and mortgage. Also keep receipts for home improvement, medical records and invoices, most recent versions of living will and trust documentation, auto maintenance records (if you still own the auto), rental agreement, auto pink slip and insurance coverage, and of course - birth, marriage, death certificates, and social security cards.

In my experience, upon completion of your high-level sort, you will reduce your paperwork quantity by 10 – 50%. Great job!

To manage your “RECYCLE” paperwork, place it into the recycle bin.

To manage your “SHRED” paperwork, you’ll likely have too much to shred yourself. I recommend you google search "shredding in xxxx" where "xxxx" is your hometown to compare qualified companies to shred documents and prevent identity theft.

To manage the paperwork stacked in your “KEEP” section, continue below.


  1. Set up sorting sections and label each section for the category of documentation you’ll sort from the “KEEP” section. Your categories/labels might include: “Taxes”, “Home”, “Car”, “Insurance”, “Health”, “Investments”, “Retirement”, “Work”, “Will / Trust”, and/or “Life” (birth, marriage, death certificates, social security cards).

  2. Place each “KEEP” document into the appropriate category/label. As you progress through sorting, you can add more categories such as “Pets” or “Business” depending on your situation.


  1. Check with a lawyer on retention guidelines for various categories of documentation.

  2. Sort within each category of documentation by year, starting with the year recommended by your lawyer.

  3. Set aside unneeded documentation for shredding.

  4. File by category and year (ex: “Taxes – 2015”) and place files into a clear, plastic bin that you label (ex: “Taxes 2010 – 2020”).

Envision how good you’ll feel when the organizing is finished. No more stress caused by boxes of paperwork in the garage or spare bedroom. More space to park the car in the garage or open up your home office.

If you need help, reach out to me at Paperwork organizing is my favorite.

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