How to Organize Important Documents, Part 4

avalanche of paperWelcome to Part IV of How to Organize Important Documents. You can read Part I here ,  Part II here. And Part III here.

If you’ve been following the series, you’ve taken care of all your piles and pretty much now all you have left are magazine articles, newspaper clippings, recipes and hobby/craft paperwork.

Do you think you’ll ever use them?

Be honest now.

If the answer is no, just toss them and go do something fun. No guilt, no more projects that you clearly aren’t all that interested in doing hanging over your head.

Didn’t that feel good?  Now, don’t clip out any more articles. Just find them online and pin them.  Pinterest can be your virtual bulletin board/filing cabinet for all the really cool ideas and really delicious recipes you’re never going to do anything with.

But if you really must go through them, here’s how.

First, toss all the magazine articles that are more than six months old and don’t mention you or a member of your immediate family by name (you can keep those; they’re called family history. Put them in an appropriately labeled file folder and file them for future generations to marvel at). You can keep any articles less than six months old that you can get read within two weeks. They aren’t going back into your file cabinet or your to-file pile. Keep only what you know you can get to within two weeks.  And remember, you will need to allot time for sleeping, eating and working during those two weeks so be realistic.

If you are a crafty person and you actually make these crafts, you have my permission to keep your favorites. Toss everything that is no longer in fashion. If those crocheted toilet paper covers really do ever come back in style, I’m sure you will find the instructions on the internet. Do not keep things just in case. Do NOT give them to your crafty friends.  They already have too many of their own and don’t need to store yours so you won’t feel guilty.

Sort the keepers by subject. For example, file knitting patterns in one folder, tole painting projects in another and home improvement ideas (that could actually happen in your house) in their own folder. Every six months go through these folders and purge them.

After the crafts we’ll tackle the recipes. If you can’t pronounce the dish or the ingredients in it, toss it. Experience shows that most people won’t cook dishes with ingredients they can’t identify—or find at the grocery store. Before keeping any more, see if you can find the recipe online and either bookmark it or download it and store in a digital recipe file (Cook’n is great for this). I’m a recipe person—I really do make them—and I’ve started tearing recipes out of magazines, taking them to my desk and looking them up online. 90% of the time, I find them. If I don’t I pop it in the scanner and digitize it on the spot. It’s much easier finding what I want to cook on my computer than it is sorting through piles of paper (and this is from the Cookbook Queen—I have close to 100 cookbooks in their own special bookcase). Give yourself a timetable for these new recipes—add them to your monthly menu. If you try it and don’t like it, toss the recipe immediately so you don’t mistakenly make it again.

And last but certainly not least are papers relating to hobbies or interests. The biggest hobby paper tiger I can think of is family history, aka genealogy, though there are certainly any number of other hobbies that can generate reams of papers to be sorted and filed. I can’t tell you what to keep and what not to keep and if you’re avidly into your hobby, I’ll leave it up to you to figure out what’s really important.

You know; you just need to ditch the guilt along with the trash.

And in the last installment of this series—just in time for the end of the school year—we’ll look at what to do with all those “treasures” your kids bring home from school.


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  1. After years of searching two overstuffed, unorganized folders for recipes, I decided to organize them before the Holidays. I used a large three ring binder and sturdy, clear page protectors. I labeled them as follows: Appetizers, Soups, Breads, Vegetables/Salads, Turkey, Fish/Vegetarian, Chicken, Lamb/Beef, Pork, Dessert, Pasta, Misc., Breakfast, Kids and Holiday. Each of my tried and true recipes now have a home and more importantly, can be retrieved in a snap.

    1. Great idea, Katmax. It’s so much easier to find them now, isn’t it? I love my recipe binders–all the best of my mom’s cooking.

  2. Thanks Marie this is a very valuable article, I’m going to have to go back and read the first three. I am so guilty of keeping things “just in case,” it will feel good to rid myself of them! I’m in the process of organizing my office, which looks like the photo you have with this article, so your timing is perfect.

  3. It is such a freeing act to let all the clutter go Marie 🙂 I have very few magazines and when I am finished with them I take them to a local Nursing home 🙂

  4. Hi Marie,
    I find this post to be very informative. I used to collect magazines and newspapers for my kids’ projects in school. I also collected other stuff for “just in case”. But then I realized that the more stuff, the more I have to clean. Time which is better spent elsewhere. So I got rid of most of them and my mom advised me to just keep a spare or two.
    You’ve just given me a wonderful idea on how I can make use of my Pinterest account. I also like to collect articles and recipes which I’ve saved in my Evernote. I’d love to try these ideas of yours. Thanks a lot for sharing!

    1. It is amazing how “just in case” ends up taking over our lives, isn’t it? And how letting it all go is such a freeing act.

      And so glad the Pinterest idea will be helpful for you. I believe in making my tools work for me and not in having to adapt to them.

  5. Thanks for sharing with us this organizational post, I do love to try this ideas…

  6. There’s not a whole lot of glamour in keeping tabs on your paperwork. But if you want to stay in good fiscal shape, you need to organize your financial records. Consider hiring a pro to get you on the right track–check out to find a certified financial planner in your area..

    1. You are so right. Organization–and getting organized–is so unglamorous. But neither is being stressed out all the time. And a good financial planner is worth their weight in gold.

  7. These posts were very helpful and certainly very informative; I am not much of an organizer. So, I printed them out to go get to work and follow up what you are suggesting. Thanks!!

    1. Great, Olga. I hope they help you get organized. You’ll also find other posts on organizing if you use the search tool.

  8. Great tips, Marie. I love this series! I think it’s a fantastic idea to use Pinterest to keep articles you enjoy instead of keeping paper articles. Brilliant!

    1. Thanks, Lisa. I’ve found Pinterest to be the perfect tool for keeping track. I used to bookmark everything, but Pinterest is so simple–and I love the visual aspect, especially when I’m looking for a specific recipe or to-do idea that I’ve pinned.

  9. I used to save little magazine columns or recipes that I wanted to re-visit later. It never occurred to me to pin them as a way to save them, because I’ve never really looked something up online that I saw in a magazine. Makes sense though – always looking for a way to e-save something instead of having more stuff around the house! Awesome tip!

    1. I came up with recipe idea–and then pinning other things–mostly because I got tired of typing in recipes, Nisha. I was looking at one of my clippings one day and noticed there was a “for more recipes, go to” and realized that this one was probably there, too. It’s worked great for me. what a timesaver.