Decluttering Paper with the KonMari Method
I’m currently following – for a second time – the KonMari method for decluttering my home. This is category 3, if you missed the first and second I’ll link them here:
Marie Kondo’s basic rule for papers is to “discard everything”.
“I recommend you throw out anything that does not fall into one of three categories: currently in use, need for a limited period of time, and must be kept indefinitely.” – Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, page 113
Papers is by far the category that I have most kept up with after “KonMari-ing” them a couple of years ago. I only save papers that actually need saving, papers that need action taken on them go in my pending box on a shelf above my desk, everything else is rubbish. I’m careful about deciding what papers I need to keep now. Some of them Marie Kondo would probably tell me to discard, but in a weird way, it brings me joy to know I have them if I need them. I don’t do this with many papers though, just ones that are one-of-a-kind and it would be very difficult to find the information from them when I needed it. Other papers I keep are things like birth certificates, insurance documents, and papers I need for my small business.
Anyway, enough about me, let’s get to it. Here’s how to declutter your papers using the KonMari method, in just 4 simple steps.
#1 – Create a designated space to work in
How big of a space you need will depend entirely on how many papers you have about your house, you might just need a desk, a dining room table, or a whole floor (or maybe even all 3!) If you’re not sure how much space you need it’s probably best to clear the floor. Give the area you’re working in a quick clean or hoover/vacuum. Just a quick clean, you’re only making the space comfortable to work in.
#2 – Gather all your papers to your space
There may be some in the kitchen, in the entrance to your house, your bedroom, around your desk or office space. Personally, I recommend only handling papers you yourself are responsible for at this stage. If you have a partner or another adult who lives with you and is responsible for the papers too, it would be a good idea to try and get them on board with this, but leave your kids papers for now. Depending on their age they can deal with these themselves or with your help at a later date (I plan on walking you through KonMari for Kids after this series of posts!).
#3 – Sorting the papers
This may be a big task in the sense that it might take a while, but the process is actually very simple. When I sorted through my papers – both times – I only made three piles:
- things to keep (either forever or for a certain amount of time)
- papers that need to be dealt with
- items to throw away
With papers, you’re not asking if they spark joy, because if it does then that piece should probably be in the sentimental category. You’re only really asking if you truly need it, which can be really easy once you realise what you don’t need.
If you’re like me and you have a business or a lot of paperwork that is related to your job, I suggest doing these separately, because they don’t fit in with the other household papers. This way, if you need to find a document for work it will be much easier to find it if it’s not mixed up with your household and family papers.
Study papers are for studying. If you’re no longer using them, you don’t need them.
Most of your bills and statements can be found online these days, so you don’t need the paper copies.
Out-of-date warranties are no good to anybody.
You can find manuals for all your appliances on the web or from the seller.
Everything that is past its date of usefulness, and everything that can be easily found elsewhere, can go.
#4 – Put the papers away
After you’ve separated your piles you can discard your “throw away” papers, by shredding or recycling if possible.
Next, put the papers you need to deal with in a pending box. You might already have one, or you might have another box lying around that you can use, or just a spot on a shelf. If this pile seems pretty high then have another look through it, you might be able to deal with some of it now or just jot down the important information to your to-do list or calendar.
The last pile is stuff you want to keep. You can further separate your “things to keep” pile into 2 more piles – “needed for a limited period of time” and must be kept indefinitely” – if you wish, but I found that these piles were small enough now to store them in the same folder without any bother.
Where To Put Them
It makes sense to store papers together, or within close proximity to each other. I put my pending box on a shelf above my desk (so I can see it and not forget about it), and I put the other papers in the cupboard of my desk. Maybe you don’t have a desk, that’s fine. Just think about where you usually sit to deal with papers and try to store them in that vicinity.
In the picture below you can see that in the front I have printer paper, envelopes and a folder for scribbles and ideas. At the back I have – from left to right – my business papers in 3 ziplock wallets, all my household papers in a purple folder inside sheet protectors, and all my legal papers in a white box (to the right of that is just my laptop bag.)
You’re done with papers
That was probably a big task, so go celebrate how awesome you are!
If you haven’t read Marie’s books The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying and Spark Joy yet I highly recommend you do so. Even if some of her methods seem a bit strange to you (like talking to your belongings), it’s worth the read to get a firm grasp on the KonMari method. If you’re trying to save money check if your local library has any copies.
Other posts you might be interested in:
Are you doing or have you completed the KonMari method? Let me know, I’d love to hear your life-changing story!