Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter

Plow Through Your Papers

Yael Wiesner

Are you buried beneath the mess on the desk (and every other available surface)? Five foolproof steps toward finally organizing that mound of paperwork

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

 Mishpacha image

“Eighty percent of the papers we file we never refer to again.” (The Small Business Administration)


tep 1: Research Your System — Before You Buy

Just because the store sells a contraption doesn’t mean it will work for you. Here are some popular storage options:


The most traditional system, it provides easy access for both active and inactive files. The downside — this system often gets over-detailed and you can’t remember which file is located where. To prevent this, keep an updated index in the first file.

Tip: Don’t use a filing cabinet if you’re inconsistent about filing papers.


For active papers only. In a home office, this useful office tool usually becomes a dumping ground and collapses. Save it for work.


Excellent for reference papers such as recipes, magazine clippings, random shiur notes, special children’s drawings, etc. Use a new one for each category. Tip: Save only your favorites.


Typically used for inactive papers, like archives or old tax documents. Tip: Ask your accountant how many years’ worth of papers to save. Every time you fill a new box, try to dump an old one.

“The average American receives 49,060 pieces of mail in a lifetime. One-third of it is junk mail.” (National Association of Professional Organizers)


Compact systems useful for those who haven’t accumulated a lot of papers yet. Alphabetize all files into a few sections. Tip: This system is short term. A few years down the line, overstuffed accordion files won’t do the job anymore.


Perfect for busy people who don’t file daily. It’s a place for papers in use that you want around but not sprawled over the dining room table (current bills, medical papers, magazines, etc.). Sort through monthly, and permanently file or trash its contents. Alternatively, try the “one in, one out” method; for every paper you put in, deal with another. Tip: Create a shelf of drop-in boxes, one for each category.

Step 2: Quick Processing

Cut back on papers before you even begin filing: 


Many papers can be eliminated by writing the date of the event in the calendar, entering the phone number in the phone book, or recording the errand on your to-do list.


Probably half your pile is garbage — paid bills, old receipts, expired warranties, old school notices, outdated invitations, excess duplicates.


Use technology as your filing cabinet! Scan specific categories of paper into the computer, back them up in a safe place, and discard the originals. Try doing much of your paperwork online to begin with.

Related Stories

Linked for a Lifetime

C.B. Lieber

Four pairs of women who have held on to their friendships for more than half a century share the inn...

The Art of Speaking Up

Shoshana R. Meiri

Women sometimes struggle with assertiveness, believing it makes them sound unfeminine or unlikeable,...

Volume Control

Binyamin Rose

While legislators are considering banning muezzin loudspeakers, Jewish and Arab leaders in one neigh...

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.

Evolution vs. Revolution
Shoshana Friedman I call it the “what happened to my magazine?” response
Up, Up, and Away
Rabbi Moshe Grylak What a fraught subject Eretz Yisrael is, to this day
Where Do You Come From?
Yonoson Rosenblum Could they be IDF officers with no Jewish knowledge?
Heaven Help Us
Eytan Kobre Writing about anti-Semitism should rouse, not soothe
Work/Life Solutions with Chedva Kleinhandler
Moe Mernick “Failures are our compass to success”
An Un-Scientific Survey
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman Are Jerusalemites unfriendly? Not necessarily
Out of Anger
Jacob L. Freedman How Angry Lawyer was finally able to calm down
5 Things You Didn’t Know about…Yitzy Bald
Riki Goldstein He composed his first melody at eight years old
When the Floodgates of Song Open, You’re Never Too Old
Riki Goldstein Chazzan Pinchas Wolf was unknown until three years ago
Who Helped Advance These Popular Entertainers?
Riki Goldstein Unsung deeds that boosted performers into the limelight
Your Task? Ask
Faigy Peritzman A tangible legacy I want to pass on to my children
Are You There?
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Emotional withdrawal makes others feel lonely, abandoned
A Peace of a Whole
Rebbetzin Debbie Greenblatt Love shalom more than you love being right
Seminary Applications
Rabbi Zecharya Greenwald, as told to Ariella Schiller It’s just as hard for seminaries to reject you