[Day 20] Mail: Kitchen Clutter Clear Out

Hello to Day 20 of the Kitchen Clutter Clear Out!  Mail and other papers can be a huge source of clutter in our kitchens, so it’s about time we address it.


I’ve seen it in every kitchen I’ve organized……piles of mail and paper.  You are soooo not alone if you suffer from too much paper and paper paralysis. 

Do you find yourself scooping papers from counters to make space for meal prep.  And where do the scooped papers end up?  The kitchen table, UGH!  It’s a vicious circle.

counter2 before_resize

We will get serious today about clearing papers so we can once again see the surfaces of our counters, tables and islands.  It will feel amazing!

Here we go.

  • You will need a trash can, a recycling container and a bag/box labeled “shred.”
  • Start sorting your piles of papers.  One inch at a time. Be ruthless and toss as much as possible.
  • Here and here are some basic guidelines for Personal paper retention.  Business papers have different guidelines.  Consult your accountant.
  • Set a timer for 30 minutes and see how much you can get done before the timer goes off.
  • Revisit those piles everyday, 30 minutes at a time.  They will be gone before you know it.
  • Find a basket, box or small bin to hold the mail you collect from now on.  Keep it separate from the piles you are sorting.
  • Toss the junk mail and shredding as soon as you collect it from the mail box.  I walk past my city recycling bin on the way into my house and toss most of my mail before I walk through our door.

Liberate your surfaces from papers today.  Let me know if you discover your kitchen surfaces once again.



Are you prepared for a medical emergency?

Are you ready for a medical emergency? Apparently I am not. My mom recently needed to be taken to the E.R.  I’m blessed to live near my parents so they called me to help out.  

Mom and dad with Natalie

My parents with our daughter

This made me more aware of the medical paperwork we need quickly accessible during an emergency.

Medical emergencies are stressful enough so the more prepared you are the better.

We now have a red file folder labeled “Medical Emergency” in an easy to locate spot in my home and my parent’s home.

Here is a list of information you may want in your own “Medical Emergency” file, binder, or envelope.

1. Advanced Care Directive and Living Will unless they are on file at the hospital.

2. Birthdates for everyone in your household. It’s easy to forget the year a family member was born and the family member may be unconscious.

3. Social Security Numbers

4. Copies of your insurance cards, front and back if you don’t keep them in your wallet

5. Phone numbers of doctors as well as after hours phone number

6. List of all medications and their dosages

7. Drug and food allergies

8. Preferred pharmacy name

9. On a separate sheet of paper, write a list of things to take with you. I would place “phone charger” on that list because I discovered my cell phone battery was in need of charging after I arrived at the hospital!

****I have a bonus tip. Enter a contact named “ICE” (in case of emergency) into your cell phone directory. ICE will be your spouse of other family member. If you are in a car accident or alone during an emergency, the EMT’s will call this number first.

Here are a few resources to help you prepare.

Free Medical Authorization form

Wallet Card for Emergencies

Free Emergency Medical Form

I learned we should have medical paperwork and other information gathered before the need arises. Take 30 minutes this week to gather your medical paperwork and the paperwork for those under your care.

Free Paper Shredding Events

eye of the gerbera

Spring is the time of year for filing taxes, disappearing piles of snirt (snow+dirt), de-cluttering and FREE paper shredding events.

If you live in the Madison, WI area, click here for a list of local events.

These events are happening all over the U.S.  Search the internet for events going on in your area.


Too many donation requests from charities?

HIf you have donated to charitable organizations in the past you probably receive several donation requests in your mailbox every week.  Did you know some charities sell, share or rent your information with other charities?  It’s confusing and time consuming to keep up with the solicitations.  You wonder, didn’t I donate to this charity already?  When did I donate to that charity, this year, last year, never?

How do you keep track of all those requests and plan your giving?  Before you become more confused and frustrated,  take back control and organize your giving with the following steps.

  1. Create a budget for your total annual contributions and revise this annually if needed.
  2. Do you want to give monthly, quarterly, semi-annually or annually?
  3. List the charities you want to support on a piece of paper or in a computer document (spread sheet or word doc.)  Now you know what organizations you want to support, when you want to support them and your budget.
  4. When you collect your mail you can be confident and toss, shred or recycle solicitations from charities you do not support, charities you are not scheduled to support, or duplicate solicitations.  Don’t let fear prevent you from tossing.  You will receive another mailing or you may find the charity on-line when it’s time to donate.

Have you received solicitations from new charities and you want more information before giving?  Check them out at the website Charity navigator.

A simple solution for paper piles


 Do your papers need a home?

A command center is a simple system and solution for those paper piles.  This system will help you keep your office desk or your kitchen counter and table surfaces free of paper clutter.  Set one up in your home by following the instructions in this post and you will have the system up and running in no time.

There are two parts to the command center: The Desk Top File Box and The Tickler File.

Part One

The Desk Top File Box:

This file box will hold approximately 6-8 hanging folders.  Place it in a convenient area, preferably close to where you process your papers and mail.  For example: your kitchen counter or your office desk.

Sort your current pile of papers and mail.  Separate mail into categories according to the action that is needed.  Label the hanging folders in your desk top file box with the action needed and place the papers in those folders.

Some examples:

  • File—papers that need to be archived in a file cabinet or box.  File these papers when this folder is full.
  • Enter into computer—data entry, Quickbooks, ect.
  • To order—items you want to order off the internet or by phone.
  • Pending—when you are waiting for someone to get back to you.
  • Errands—a list of errands.
  • To call—return calls you need to make.
  • To write—letters or emails that need to be written.

Other papers may need to be referenced frequently.  Those papers will also need a home in labeled hanging files.

Some examples:

  • Coupons/Menus—restaurant take-out menus and coupons.
  • Receipts—file your debit and credit card receipts and other store receipts. You will easily find them if you need to return something.  Purge receipts on a monthly basis.
  • Diet/Exercise—healthy menus and class schedules for the gym.
  • Home/Work—papers that need to go back and forth from office to work.
  • School—class lists and teacher information for each school your children attend.
  • Projects—papers you have related to a work project, a home project or a big ticket item purchase (home or car).
  • P/T—exercises your physical therapist wants you to do.
  • Family/Other associates—Label a file folder with the name of each person in your household and the names of people you deal with on a regular basis(office assistant, boss, tutor). Use these folders to hold papers that refer to their activities and items that need to be discussed with them.

Part Two

The Tickler File:

The tickler file will reside in the front half of your desk top file box. The numbered tabs correspond to the days of the month.  There are also labeled tabs for each month of the year.

Use the tickler file for your papers that need to be completed by a certain date or are date specific.

Some examples:

  • Concert tickets
  • Sporting event tickets
  • A greeting card you purchased for a friend’s birthday
  • Bills
  • Invitations
  • Forms for a doctor appointment
  • Notes for a meeting

Determine when these papers need to be looked at again or acted upon and file accordingly.  If a bill is due on the 10th and you need to mail it, file it in front of the 5th tab. When a paper needs to be acted on in a future month, file it in front of that month’s tab. These papers will no longer be misplaced or clutter up your surfaces.

This system will work beautifully if you make it a habit to check your tickler file and your active files on a daily basis.  File papers in the system and remove papers as needed.  You may need to post reminders in your calendar or on sticky notes around your home/office to check Command Center, until it becomes a habit.

I find you will be more likely to use the command center if you place it in a visible location, not hidden in a cabinet.

Where will you put your command center?



Organizing Memories

Everyone has mementos from the past.  If you have children you may have even more mementos from their past.

We sorted through our daughter’s mementos this summer, before she headed off to college for her freshman year.

Unfortunately we didn’t eliminate many memories from her box but we enjoyed looking through them.

Tips for organizing memories:

  • If your mementos are scattered throughout your home and need a place of their own simply, purchase a sturdy container to hold them.  A container has a limited capacity and will prevent you from keeping too much (unless you buy another container:).
  • Every person in your household should have their own memory box.  Label it with their name.
  • Store the boxes under beds or on a closet shelf.  You should have easy access to this box so you can add new memories without much effort.
  • Keep things that are truly special.  If you keep everything, nothing is important.   Write the date and child’s name on their artwork, letters, cards, and papers.
  • When the box is full, take a few minutes to sort and eliminate the items that you no longer feel strongly attached to.  You should be able to close the box and have room for a few more memories.

My clients usually find items they want to keep as memories.  While sorting stuff with one client, she asked me to add many items to her memory container.  At the end of our session she looked at the pile and said to me “I didn’t know I had so much to remember!”

Do you have too many memories?


5 Essential Paper Organizing Tools

Are you overwhelmed by paper and feel like giving up?  You are not alone.  It’s a common and frustrating issue for many of my clients.  There are 5 essential organizing tools that every home or home office should have.   These tools will help you regain control over your papers and you will also be able to find the papers you are looking for!

1. Containers for papers that need recycling and shredding.  Put these containers near your mail and other paper sorting area.  This will allow you to quickly sort your papers and eliminate junk mail.

2. File folders.  Do your reference papers need a home?  A simple hanging or manila file folder will protect your papers and if labeled, allow you to find them quickly.  Alphabetize the folders in a file cabinet or file bin for easy access.

3. Action file box.  This tool will provide a home for papers that require action. Simply place them in a labeled hanging file folder inside the file box.  It’s compact and portable.  Storing your papers vertically keeps them visible. It’s going to feel good knowing you will be able to locate your important papers.

4. A home for recipes.  Do you enjoy clipping recipes or printing them off the web?  Once you clip them, do they end up in piles around your home?  I recommend storing recipes in a 3-ring binder with plastic sheet protectors.  Slip your recipes into the sheet protectors, to keep them clean, and use tabbed dividers to categorize the pages.  Now you will enjoy trying those new recipes.

5. Magazine file boxes.  Another vertical storage option for your magazines, small recipe booklets, directories, and projects. They fit nicely on bookshelves and may be labeled.

Do you currently use these tools in your home?



Shred it and forget it

Do you own a paper shredder?  Every house should have one unless you are willing to tear your personal papers into itsy bitsy pieces or burn your papers.

Identity theft is very real.  Once your identity is stolen, it’s difficult and costly to restore your credit and reputation.  I’d like to help you protect your identity with a few shredding tips.

  • Purchase the best shredder your budget allows.  In other words…..you get what you pay for.
  • Don’t overload your shredder.  A piece of paper folded into thirds will count as 3 sheets unless you unfold it.
  • Just because your shredder is labeled “5 sheet capacity”, don’t believe it.  I usually subtract 3 sheets from the shredders maximum capacity, to be safe.
  • Do not shred address labels.  Based on my own experiences–it becomes one sticky mess.
  • If you notice a burning smell coming from you shredder, it’s time to let it rest for a couple of hours.  Same goes if you notice is suddenly stops working.
  • Besides feeding your shredder paper, and in some cases credit cards and CD’s, feed it a little oil to keep it working properly.  Check your office supply store for shredder oil or sheets of paper that are pre-oiled (seriously they do exist).

Now that you have the care and feeding of your shredder down let’s move onto…..What-Papers-Should-You-Shred!

  • Anything that may ruin your reputation….need I say more?

Papers with:

  • Any of your account numbers
  • Social Security numbers
  • Your birth date
  • Your medical record numbers
  • Pre-approved credit card offers
  • Your signature

If you want to take it a step further then also shred:

  • Anything with your address

Do you own a shredder?  If you don’t, consider purchasing one this month.