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If you’ve been following along here then you know minimalism is something I have come to embrace (Have you jumped on board the Minimalist Wardrobe train?) and life feels so free and light. Moving through this process for my own family was rewarding enough for me to want to share this with you all as inspiration, but my mother recently passed away, and the weight of her paperwork nearly crushed me. I had to comb through thousands upon thousands of pieces of paper searching for precious memories and essential documents among tidal waves of the obsolete and insignificant. The loving feeling of being cared for by my mother was getting washed away by the onslaught of clutter I had to navigate. I couldn’t float in a warm spring of maternal memories because I had to read through printed emails, decades old receipts and cards from failed relationships. This is not the legacy I will leave for my children. No file cabinets hiding hordes of tree carcasses, no contracts from past lives anchoring us down, no stacks to scour in search of a birth certificate. One of the ways I will care for them after I’m gone is by keeping only the essential – curating the story I leave behind – and I invite you to do the same. You will gain immense benefit for yourself and your life today and your future children will be ever so grateful.
The first step is going to be to clear an entire weekend to pull out every single piece of paper you own, hold it in your hand, and decide in which pile it belongs. You will have 4 piles: (1) recycle (2) shred (3) scan and shred (4) scan and keep
For example: (1) a flyer for an event that has passed (2) an old phone bill (3) a receipt for a business expense (4) your child’s social security card
How do you know if something should be scanned or kept? My criteria was this:
If this burned in a fire would I (a) sentimentally cry over its loss (b) need to replace it for practical reasons (c) be in trouble for legal reasons?
For example: (a) photos (b) driver’s license (c) social security card
Each family member has 1 keepsake box, which is a large plastic bin to store objects (and papers) with sentimental value. Drawings are a good example here. If you have piles and piles of children’s drawings, scan them, and choose one from each developmental season to keep in the keepsake box (make it collaborative and let them choose their favorites).
I’m not gonna lie, this is going to take time and not be fun. But once it’s done, it’s DONE (because the system moving forward won’t allow for accumulation) and it will feel so amazing. Scan everything in piles 3 and 4.
Digital Record Keeping
Keeping digital files decluttered and organized is just as important as keeping physical files organized! Under Documents, have several main folders (that are all backed up to the cloud). I have 1 for each family member plus things like cars, dogs, house, and taxes (Did you know the IRS accepts digital tax records in case of audit?). While pages are scanning, go through your digital files and declutter and organize. Delete anything that does meet that criteria above! Then sort in all of your newly scanned documents.
For the few documents remaining in pile 4, put them in an organized system. I have a simple, small file box along with some natural file folders.
My files are as follows: West, Bay, Sky, Rachel (social security card, birth certificate, passport, marriage license, diplomas, etc.), Joshua, Autumn (dog license), Odyssey, and Prius (car titles), Legacy (will, etc.).
That’s it – the only paperwork we keep on hand in physical form.
I have an inbox that is simple and small and any papers that come into our home go here for me to process. Sometimes that might look like paying a bill and then shredding the paper. Sometimes that might look like scanning the document and then recycling it. Other times that might look like scanning and filing. Every paper goes here and every paper gets processed.
The key to easy maintenance is to modernize all of your systems to be paperless as much as possible. All of my bills are ebills that I receive via email and pay via online banking. All of my business forms are digitally submitted and stored. My kids’ curricula are digital and accessed through their iPads. Even my purchase receipts are all emailed nowadays. Any paper that enters your home, ask “Is there a paperless alternative for this?”
So clear a couple days, grab every paper you own, and start piling, scanning, shredding, and organizing. You got this! If I can do this as a mompreneur of 3 homeschooled kids, you can too!