Day 14: Papers. AKA, Tackling the Filing Cabinet



I share this kitty’s feelings about sorting our filing cabinet. As in, I open up the drawer, become exhausted, and then take a nap. (PC: /u/Hyloo – Reddit)

For some reason, this was the toughest area within the KonMari method for me to start. Marie Kondo is just as ruthless when it comes to papers. Either it sparks joy, or get rid of it. Don’t we have a filing cabinet for a reason? I feel like we already have a good sense of organization, including labeled folders and alphabetization, but what we’ve kept certainly could be trimmed. But, papers can easily sprawl out and require a decent amount of space to sort. Furthermore, it takes considerable time to scan through for thoroughness. So this seemed daunting, because Kondo’s method panics me. For example, tax returns do not spark joy, but I certainly won’t spark joy at the prospect of an IRS audit and somehow lack the past 7 years of necessary returns. From this I wanted to ensure that there was a method to make sure anything that we needed record of was still accessible.

Once I got moving, this proved to be just as easy as the other categories. I had a variety of papers that were no longer needed. I followed through with the three rules in the method, sorting by category instead of location, keeping only the things that bring you joy, and discarding everything before you organize. Marie Kondo takes this a little further, sorting by: needs attention, should be saved forever and should be saved for short term.  So from this I went through this exercise creating four subcategories of my own:


  • Taxes, legal documents, titles, insurance policies, and medical records.
  • Some nostalgic items that carry meaning.

Scan, then Shred:

  • Explanation of benefits statements, medical billing statements, for past visits.
  • Various college items: transcripts, loan payment statements, notifications.
  • Car payment statements and invoices.
  • A small number of sentimental papers that we said farewell.

Shred, then Toss:

  • Anything with our address.
  • Past prescription information (usually has sensitive information on it).
  • Old checks for an account we recently closed.


  • This was vast and accounted for probably 80% of the paper we had filed.
  • Instruction Manuals (Especially if warranties were expired).
  • Accompanying materials, like prospectuses, HR benefit summaries, etc.


  • My wife’s life’s work in science. This spans an entire drawer, and she’s taking a crack at it as we speak. I anticipate some scanning and shredding in the near future.

Going Digital:

This is something that I pay more attention to. As I wrote earlier about clearing digital clutter, I also am attentive to what statements we actually need. So for some of the items, before I shredded them, I thought keeping a digital record might be helpful. Scanning them as a .PDF format, and then filing them on a backup drive seems to be a workable solution for record-keeping purposes.

Secondly, We don’t get statements in physical form anymore. We’re all digital for auto insurance, banking, pay-stubs, retirement, etc. Often we check these for receipt or fraudulent activity anyways, then discard them. Electronic delivery is actually helpful for us in this the paper we receive, and is arguably a more sustainable solution. So what does it all look like?

The Results:


The simplicity is so lovely. I am appreciative of this. And, no papercuts! 🙂
img_2369I spent nearly my whole afternoon, and a portion of my morning, doing this. Left: Toss. Middle: Shred. Right: Scan, then Shred.

Everything is in a single file now, or we have a digital backup.This actually feels quite freeing, because there’s anything we ever need to access, we have a fix on its location. We currently have a four drawer filing cabinet, and this is likely going to downsize into something much more realistic. Regardless, I hope this post has been useful in some form or fashion. So as you approach the tax deadline, perhaps it’s time to go through the rest of those files that might be deserving of some attention! If you have any suggestions or tips of your own, I’d love to hear them!

I hope you have a great week.

Warm Regards,



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