Do you hate dealing with mail and other papers that seem to multiply while you sleep? While too much of anything can lead to stress and anxiety, paper, in particular, can be hard to manage. Each piece of paper requires consideration, action, and decisions.  No wonder it piles up!

There are many ways to tackle the problem. One paper management system is called the Sunday Basket System created by Lisa Woodruff, a former teacher, and now productivity, home, and paper organization expert. 

The Sunday Basket System identifies five types of household paper:

  1. Mental piles (the to-dos taking up space in our heads that we need to write down)
  2. Kitchen counter piles (where we dump active paper, mail, and anything not finished) 
  3. Unorganized notes (those random ideas, plans, and action items), 
  4. Unorganized reference paper 
  5. Important papers

One Home, One Day

Set up a single container where you can put all your papers throughout the week. This includes all your mail, to-do lists, random notes, and important documents. No more kitchen counter piles, post-it notes on the mirror, important papers stashed in a drawer. All the paper, each week, in one place.  Check out the Sunday Basket storage containers on Lisa’s website

Pick a regular date/time during the week when you will go through the container. Lisa recommends Sunday, but it can be whatever day works for you. It can take from 90 minutes – to 3 hours each week, but remember this is time you saved during the week by not being reactive to the papers as they came in. Instead use this time to be intentional, thoughtful, and focused. 

Make a plan 

  • Separate actionable items from the paper that needs to be filed away. Do the tasks that you can do during the time allotted, and assign a time during the week to tackle the rest. 
  • File the papers that you need to keep for reference.
  • Shred or recycle the rest!

Repeat each week

Allow time for the habit to stick. It typically takes 6 weeks to fully establish and embrace a new routine. But once you get there, Lisa estimates you can save 5 hours a week. 

How to File the Keepers

Binders are a portable alternative to using a traditional filing cabinet. You can take them with you on appointments, or evacuations in case of an emergency. Consider what major categories your family needs. Some examples are:

  • Medical
  • Financial
  • Household Reference
  • Household Operations

But will it all fit in a binder? Yes! You can use plastic sleeves to speed up filing. Consider that we typically only need 15% of the paper we hang on to. Set criteria, and seek advice from your professional organizers, financial advisor, tax preparer, or realtor when in doubt. And don’t be afraid to purge the rest!

As with all organizing advice, one size doesn’t fit all. Check out other paper management techniques in our past posts: The ART of clearing paper piles and Freedom Filer.