How to organize paper clutter

By Allison West

How to organize paper clutter at work - fast


No matter what type of work you do, you can’t get away from the need to organize paper. And because we really don’t want to take the time to organize properly, our papers usually wind up in messy piles and there’s more mess than ever when we finally do get around to organizing.

Consider all the documents you may have at your workplace - how are they currently organized?

  • Tax documents
  • Receipts, business contact information
  • Insurance records
  • HR records
  • Sales information
  • Bank statements
  • Credit cards statements
  • Payroll
  • Creditors/debtors
  • Accounts receivable/payable items
  • Banking records
  • Customer correspondence
  • Company information
  • Property records
  • Health and safety records
  • Property ownership
  • Ongoing maintenance/repairs – building and equipment

Why paper clutter matters

The National Association of Professional Organizers ( NAPO) says the top reason for our disorganization is paper clutter.

Studies show the average person wastes 4.3 hours per week searching for papers. That means the average executive loses one hour of productivity per day searching for missing information. According to the Small Business Administration, the biggest burden for small businesses is the inability to properly service customers, increase sales, and improve the bottom line because of mishandled paperwork.

Paper clutter hurts productivity in another way – it overloads the brain. An overwhelmed brain can’t give any single thing the attention it deserves. The result? Your work production and quality suffer.

What paperwork do you need to keep?

Sometimes getting paper documents organized is just a matter of knowing how and where to start. The “in for a dollar, in for a pound” method works best for me. This method requires brutal decisions about what MUST be thrown away versus what’s worth saving and organizing.

First things first. You must get rid of what doesn’t belong. Determine what you need to organize, sort, label, present, and throw away or recycle. This is the time to be ruthless.

If you haven’t looked at a document for years, or are holding onto extra
stuff for sentimental reasons. Get tough. Pitch it.

How to attack the mess on your desk

First, clear your desk completely. Clean any dirty, dusty surfaces with disinfecting cleaning wipes or a damp paper towel.

  • Throw away unnecessary papers. If they’ve been there for a long time it usually means you’ve already put off a decision about whether to keep or throw them away. If it should be filed, do so. If not, throw it out.
  • Avoid duplicating what you store electronically and on paper. It defeats the purpose of “going paperless” if you still feel you need a hard-copy backup. Copy those things only if and when you need to.
  • Return extra paper clips, pens, and notepads to a designated place inside a drawer or a desktop organizer.

Sort and consolidate like items

Once you’ve eliminated what you don’t need to keep, it’s time to begin separating your paper into like categories. Here are a few ideas:

  • unpaid bills and paid bills
  • debtors (unpaid sales and paid sales)
  • bank statements
  • bank reconciliations
  • credit card statements
  • payroll
  • employee information
  • tax
  • customer and vendor correspondence
  • Insurance
  • standard business policies and operations
  • education/reference



Tips for organizing paperwork

All businesses need a paper document organizational system. As much as we’d like to think that all documents can be stored and organized on a computer, we all know it just never seems to work that way. Many business owners and executives still use notebooks, journals, and notepads for much of their daily record keeping.

Forbes lists these items as important papers to save forever:

  • Birth certificates
  • Social Security cards
  • Marriage certificates
  • Adoption papers
  • Death certificates
  • Passports
  • Wills and living wills
  • Powers of attorney
  • Legal filings
  • Military records
  • Retirement and pension plans
  • Inheritance documents
  • Beneficiary forms


Try a UniKeep binder.

So what makes this binder different from the others you can find at any office supply superstore? This binder is a fully-enclosed, case style binder with plastic or metal rings. Nothing falls out or gets lost and the case provides dust-free, archival-safe protection for your documents and projects.

The UniKeep binder functions as a completely customizable planning, identification, and storage system. The clear polypropylene overlay makes customization and repurposing a breeze, so you can use it again and again.

Fully customizable case binder

  • Pair it with sheet protectors, pocketed pages and divider tabs and you have a great organizational tool. You can customize it further by inserting your own cover design into the clear overlay.
  • Purchase plain case binders without an overlay and have them digitally printed in full color on both sides.



Shown above: Fully customized UniKeep case binders with full-color digital printing with logos and photography.

Here are a few tips on how to organize the paper documents you choose to keep and organize.

1. Choose your binder type– regular, mini, or extra capacity?

Decide which binder size is right for you. You have a few choices here -- select a binder with poly or metal rings. If you want just an enclosed case for storing your items, you can select a ringless option, too.

Regular size binder - outside dimensions are 11.75” x 10.5” x 1.5”

Mini binders: available in one size: 7”w x 9.43”h x 1.25” d (Also designated by A5 binders, compact binders, and small binders on

2. Choose the case width size

What spine width you need depends on the type of collectible you have and how much you have to organize.

Regular binder spine sizes: outside dimensions are 11.75” x 10.5” x 1.5” Also designated as “full size” on ;

  • .5 spine holds 40-60 sheets of paper
  • 1.0” spine holds 160-190 sheets of paper
  • 1.5” spine holds 260-280 sheets of paper

3. Choose binder case size and color

  • Choose black, white or clear binders, with or without a plastic overlay cover.
  • If you’re purchasing binders for your company or a specific department within your company, try personalizing your binders with a company logo and department name.
  • UniKeep case binders are also available with clear overlays if you prefer to design and insert your own cover.



4. Add accessories

UniKeep accessory items help categorize and store your large and small collectible items. All sheet protectors, divider pages, and binder pockets made with acid-free, 100% polypropylene. They protect your valuables from dirt and dust that’s harmful to most collections.

Tabbed dividers are great for easy categorization of your collectibles Use them to separate the different categories of embellishments you’re organizing.



Organizing a planning binder is a lot easier with the right UniKeep case binder accessories. These page protectors fit standard three and five-ring binders, and smaller A5 binders, too.

Here are just a few of the most popular sizes:

  • Primary color-coded – 8.5” x 11”
  • Standard Page – letter 8.5” x 11”
  • Secure Flap – 8.5” x 11”
  • Legal – 8.5” x 14”
  • Business card page – 9” x 12”


Archival sheet protectors are perfect for a variety of photos and documents, and they’re available in many sizes.

Color-coded sheet protectors take your organization up another notch with easy to see colored edges. Use them to further organize each section - small goals, large goals, and steps for each - of your yearly planning binder.

UniKeep business card page protectors and 3" x 5" photo sheet protectors can beads, small decorations, and other small collectibles.


Do a little organizing every day

It’s very rewarding to work in a neatly organized, clean workspace, and we’ve provided a few tips and ideas for getting started here. But keeping it that way takes practice. Make it a habit to clean up a little each day so you don’t have an overwhelming mess to deal with by Friday.

Speaking of Friday, it’s a great day to do a quick audit of your desk and office space and get ready for next week!