My KonMari Journey — Paper

Paper. Ugh. There’s not much else to say, really. But you know that never stops me. 😉 (You can catch up on how I got on with the first two categories here and here.)

It didn’t take me nearly as long as I thought to gather them all together (only about 20 minutes). It definitely helped that, in recent years, I’ve switched all my bills and statements to online versions. That’s cut out a massive amount of paper coming to my home every month. I’d highly recommend it!

I didn’t include anything “pretty”, so scrapbook paper, cute notebooks, journaling cards, etc. will be done as part of ‘komono’. For this category, I stuck with more functional, practical papers. I also didn’t include tax documents because they’re already neatly stored in small folders and are absolutely necessary to keep.

Still, the pile was about 6ft. high in total. Obviously I didn’t itemise everything or I’d still be sitting there but, at a rough guess, I’d say there were a bajillion pieces of paper in total.

The KonMari Method -- Paper. Decluttering.

That Pampers box on the left is half full of user manuals. And the archive box is basically my filing cabinet — it’s full of file folders for all my important documents (birth & marriage certs, insurance details, passports, etc.) and some case papers for work. Half the middle pile is notepads, and the remainder is a mish-mash of old receipts, statements, to-do lists, college notes, letters, bills, etc.

It took me 3 hours and a substantial chunk of my sanity to go through everything, and that was spread over 2 evenings. I found it much more time-consuming than previous categories because it was the first one that needed a little more than just a quick jolt of joy. I had to give most things at least a cursory scan to see if they were important or not. This was particularly mind-numbing with receipts.

Nonetheless, I persevered through the pain, and the Pampers box became the recycling box.

The KonMari Method -- Paper. Decluttering.

There’s also a pile waiting to go through my poor shredder. And yet, by some black magic, I still have about 75% of the original pile left. About a quarter of that is notebooks. I tore out pages I no longer needed (which I formerly considered heresy), so that reduced their bulk a bit. I did recycle some but, on the whole, notepads bring me joy. And I use them regularly for writing.

The KonMari Method -- Paper. Decluttering.

Most of the rest of the pile contains stuff that’s just being stored temporarily, like warranties. Even case papers are only kept until justice has been served and I’ve been paid. And because of that, it’s probably the only category I’ll have to re-visit frequently in order to keep it in check. Still, it’s a little easier to keep track of now that it’s been pared back and all in one place.

As usual, I’ve recorded a video that explains things in a little more detail. ‘Cause I’m super helpful like that. 😉

Definitely the most difficult category so far, and I’m so relieved it’s done!

Onwards! And upwards?

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  1. Hi –

    I’m doing the KonMari method too – just finished clothes last night, and I think I got rid of 90%. All my foldables now take up 4 drawers of my six-drawer dresser, and my hangables will be about two feet wide, all hanging together, with space between. I have a pile three feet deep and four feet wide, waiting to be bagged up and donated. I must say, looking over everything individually like this, and trusting my instincts about what I really love and what it just a nice thing, has been surprisingly cathartic. I did the same thing with my daughters toys and clothes with her the day before, and I can tell she’s more at ease in her space already. I am really looking forward to having a perfectly orderly home, having been a miserable surveyor of clutter for my entire adult life. But if I think too much about the end result, I find myself getting impatient to have it, and overwhelmed by what is left to go through… I found myself snapping at my fiancé on the phone as I was working, coming undone by the sheer enormity of the piles in front of me. It’s no small task, but I am determined to stay motivated.

    So glad I found your blog! I will definitely keep reading!

    • It’s a huge task but so worth it! The clothes category has definitely been the biggest life-changer for me so far. Finding something to wear is easier, laundry is easier, putting clothes away is easier… It’s just made such a huge difference. I totally get you with the overwhelm though. I feel like that before every category but, once I get stuck in, it always goes much easier than I initially thought. So stick with it! Of course there will be times when it will be a struggle, but all good things require a little hard work. =) Glad you enjoyed the post, and thanks so much for sharing your story. I love hearing about other people’s experiences. Keep it up!

  2. Sorry for the late comment, but I just re-watched your video on the paper category and I had some suggestions that might be of some use (when you do revisit the category): 1. the letters and poems and stories you found might be better to set aside for the Sentimental category at the end of the Konmari process, so that things don’t get bogged down quite so much, 2. the manuals that you are keeping for the model numbers and serial numbers can be discarded, if you like, without recording the information – I think you’ll find in most, if not all cases, that this info is readily available on the devices themselves, 3. beyond that, for any information you do feel you need to keep – but that does not necessarily need to be kept in its original paper form – scanning and photographing the pages for digital storage can help get rid of a lot of the clutter (if it’s sensitive information, the digital copies can be encrypted). Something like, say, Evernote might be of use in keeping this digital information organized and accessible. It’s time consuming, perhaps, but you might enjoy the result of having even less papers sitting around most of which is just waiting to be dealt with….

    Hope that’s helpful,

    • I re-visited paper a few weeks ago and have to admit, it’s still a work in progress. In terms of serial numbers, I plan on transferring those into a Word document or similar, to have them all together. My only reason for doing so instead of just getting rid is that, if we ever lost our items to fire, burglary or similar, I’d have all that info immediately available for insurance, criminal investigation, etc. The letters I actually found reasonably easy to deal with (most of them were shredded) but it was difficult to go through the category without having to stop and read things. That made it incredibly time-consuming! As for the scanning, I genuinely think that just keeping the physical copy would bring me more joy because I hate scanning. Ha ha. I also think it’s easier to clear out physical paper when it surpasses its usefulness than digital files, which tend to hang around indefinitely. I think my paper collection is quite small (it all fits in one archive box) so I’m happy enough with it for now. But, as with all the categories, I think I’ll constantly be re-tweaking things as time goes on. Have you re-visited any categories? I feel like I’ll re-start the whole process again once I’m finished because my “joy meter” has been honed a little more.

  3. Christine McLafferty

    I am just about to start papers and not looking forward to it one little bit. However just thinking about it has been revealing. I have an ugly metal filing cabinet and a beautiful set of oak drawers made by my talented partner. I was thinking of BUYING new neat folders for the filing cabinet when it occurred to me that it would be so much better if I could get rid of it altogether and reduce down to the set of drawers. This is now my goal. If I don’t quite achieve it, Plan B will be to buy a small concertina filing system or nice looking smaller filing cabinet and still get rid of the metal one. It has been such a useful place to file everything that I had been blind to its ugliness.

    • Hurray for discovering what does (and doesn’t) bring you joy! And for saving money. 😉 You’ll be done and dusted before you know it, so just dive right in and don’t look back! At least you have them in one central location. =) Let me know how you get on.

      • So, am about half way through papers and it’s every bit as bad as I expected. First obvious difference is that many of our papers contain fond memories e.g. our first house, mortgage, hilarious payslips from 30+ years’ ago etc., so it was quite difficult to isolate them from memories. Second obvious difference is complexity, I don’t think Marie Kondo has numerous vehicles, been self employed, had insurance claims, owned lots of properties some simultaneously, administered family wills, etc, and needed to keep stuff for at least 7 years. Apart from separating papers requiring attention, the division into 3 categories didn’t work so well either because it splits up papers that really should stay together. It has taken ages because a lot of it has to be read. I’ve managed one black bin bag and improved my filing system. The metal filing cabinet can go, but will need a replacement. However, I’ve noticed looking around the house that there are no clothes or books (and, mostly, no papers) in places where they don’t belong which is very satisfying. When I’ve finished ‘Kondo-ing’ (which will be a while yet) I’m planning to repeat the process using the Peter Walsh method which is similar but room by room and should complement it and add finishing touches. The book is Lose the Clutter Lose the Weight, have you come across it?

        • Yes, I found the sentimental side to be quite challenging too, as well as the fact that most things had to be read or at least given a cursory glance. If definitely slowed progress considerably. But you’ve obviously made great strides overall and it’s amazing that you can see a visible difference in your home. That’s the motivation you need to keep going!

          I, too, plan on repeating the process once I’m done (won’t be long now) so I know things will be whittled down even more. Maybe hold off on buying a replacement filing cabinet until you’ve given the papers a second going over? And could you possibly scan some documents and then discard the originals? I understand what you mean about being self-employed though! I plan on buying a fire-proof box for old receipts, returns, etc. and then placing it in the attic. I still have them, should I ever be audited, but they’re not taking up precious living space. Could that be an option for you?

          I haven’t read Peter’s book but I actually subscribe to him on YouTube so it’s probably only a matter of time! =)

          Well done on coming so far with papers. Everything afterwards will be a breeze. 😉 Stick with it!

  4. For the papers that you need to keep for a certain time-frame or until a certain date, maybe put all of those in some kind of time or date-based storage area? Then you know what needs to be reviewed (and purged) at a glance and you don’t have to keep going through the whole pile periodically. Maybe that’s too much work for the small reward, just a thought.

    • All my tax documents are filed according to year. And I have an “inbox” (a paper tray) I use for short-term storage. Overall, I don’t have enough papers that it would be an issue to go through all of them if I had to. I sort according to category (warranties, etc.) so I can quickly lay my hands on something if I need it. =)

      • Thanks for the reply. Your system sounds very similar to mine (except I’ve collected far too many manuals and need to KM them hard), down to having already perfected the filing system for taxes, and the inbox (for unprocessed items). 8^)

        The time-based storage I mentioned is often not recommended, and I’m beginning to think it’s largely because of exactly what you pointed out here — that there isn’t so much that the effort of doing it that way would give reasonable return on investment.

        Still, I’m having trouble letting go of the idea that even just one separate file/box/area for all time-based things might be worthwhile — to limit the number of things you need to scan. When everything in there definitely has an “expiration” date, your odds for a win (tossing something) are much higher.

        Still, categories may accomplish the same thing. By their nature, for example, warranties expire. So… hmmm.

        I’ve even seen some heretical writings that categories are a waste of time too. My brain won’t allow that one to sink in at all. Maybe that’s only for digital, but even then (and even with great search functions) it doesn’t feel more productive.

        I need a griddle for all this waffling. 😉

        • You’re talking to the waffle queen. 😉
          Have you heard of the tickler system? That may satisfy your desire to have everything stored on a time basis. Sometimes you need to try something to get it out of your system. =)
          Other than that, you could try just adding a note to your to-do list, either for regular clear-outs or something much more specific (eg. once every 2-3 months you go through everything, or you make a note on your to-do list that in June you can remove a certain warranty.

  5. In your video, you talk about how much it slowed you down when you came across mementos from school, poems, etc. In her books, Marie Kondo advises that anything, be it clothing, books, papers, or komono, that has a deeply sentimental quality, should be set aside for the Mementos category. Anything can be a memento and, if it is, will be much more difficult to tidy. It seemed as though you tried to power through all of those things as part of your Papers category. Better to set them aside. Thanks for the great work you do with your blog and videos! They’re fun and very instructive. Also love the cute, chin-length haircut!

    • Yes, putting them aside is definitely part of the Method. The trouble I ran into was not knowing what was on a piece of paper until I scanned the contents. I didn’t know they were sentimental until I’d first looked at them. Does that make sense? For example, I’d open a folded piece of paper to see what it was, and then discover it was a letter from an old friend. I did set it aside then, but it was hard to stop memories flooding back anyway.

  6. Papers is the bane of my existence! I felt this section of the book was a little unrealistic from the onset. 2 folders for everything? How can you empty the to be dealt with folder for more than a couple of days?

    My husband is Swedish. I am not. So when we first moved to Sweden I didn’t speak Swedish, that coupled with a severe math learning disability meant that hubs handled most of the paperwork (he still does even though I can speak Swedish now for the other reason). His philosophy is that paperwork needs to be an eyesore. If it is stored neatly out of sight it won’t be dealt with and can easily be forgotten. So he would sit piles of paper on the counters and on the sofa and a bit all over really. After a time the piles would get such that it would be difficult for him to locate anything specific and documents would fall on the floor and get thrown away by accident (I am terrible at throwing away stuff I find on the floor unconsciously) or else my daughter would pick it up and draw on it or cut it up. Dealt with/to be saved papers were stuffed into a drawer. Often he would ask me where a specific paper was and I would never know but I would be the one who had to find it. So finally I decided to organize the dealt with papers so that I could find them quickly when he wanted to reference them. I bought some colorful folders, labelled them and voila. I didn’t throw away things because I could not judge them seeing as I was not the one handling the paperwork. After seeing what I had done he did look through and throw away some things but we still had the issue of the not dealt with papers all over the house. That issue has taken years, years! Right now he has 3 piles. 1 on his desk, 1 in the living room, and 1 in the kitchen. I bought some ugly clear plastic treys so the papers can remain an eyesore as per the requirement but not an eyesore that we have to keep on the sofa or that falls on the floor. I have designated a trey for myself and for my daughter because I explained that we should be able to find our own papers without going through your papers. He has accepted this compromise so it has gotten easier. Sometimes he looks through his piles and hands me stuff for storage which is like Christmas for me because then the piles look less atrocious (he allows me to put his piles in the closet when we have guests thankfully. He is also someone who reads instruction manuals sometimes I honestly think for recreation but he has gotten rid of the ones he can easily find online (we have some very old electronics so not all of them are available). I can only go through my own stuff which is organized and relatively easy. Joint stuff and his stuff he would have to sort. He saves a lot more than the Kondo method recommends but Sweden is a VERY bureaucratic country and so much is needed. Luckily lots of stuff is online now. Letters and cards are in one box. Hubs is sentimental and keeps them luckily people rarely send us any mail. Stationary was easy. Magazines and the like we have very few of. Notebooks we have many. I am the worst in this category. See I start writing in the middle of a notebook, I write all kinds of unrelated stuff together in handwriting so awful it is unreadable. Meanwhile hubby writes math problems and mysterious diagrams on the other pages so our notebooks look like the work of lunatics! I mean technically what he writes makes sense just not to many people. My daughter draws a lot. I save her favorite works in one of those notebooks, file things with lots of pockets (I can’t think of the name). Scanning would be ideal but she wants hard copies. I think she has 3 full ones (she is 11). I had to throw away my journals many of them because they were totally illegible. Thank god that I can write my poetry/stories on the computer now so I can actually read them. I am just as bad on my word documents I will open one and write 30 pages of different unrelated things grocery lists, prompts for my writing blog, stories, poems. I am still working on this because otherwise my computer is pretty well-organized (hubbies computer is immaculately organized). Now we have our own notebooks. Paperwork does suck. Definitely the thing hubby and I have fought the most about.

    • Paperwork definitely seems to be one of the biggest struggles for most people but it sounds like you’re getting a good handle on it. It can take a huge amount of trial and error, especially when you and your husband have different ways of organising, and most systems need continual tweaking as circumstances change. But the important thing is that you’re making progress. You’ve come a long way from where you started and, in another year, you’ll be even further along. =)

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