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Wanda's Closet: Paper Trap

Sometimes a closet project is not really a closet project. A typical closet project involves shoe strategies, shelf-separators, and flocked hangers. But when I saw Wanda’s closet, it was a roomy walk-in with plenty of space and shelving for purses, hats, shoes and hanging items. So what was the problem? Wanda’s floor was filled with bags of papers. It’s hard to see them in the photo but the bottom layer of the closet consisted of bags stuffed with papers. So, how to declutter the dreaded paper clutter?

disorganized cluttered closet
decluttered closet
after one organizing session

Pick a time and pair it. Wanda loves to write plays. She is a whiz at connecting with her multitude of friends. But she hates paperwork. So I told Wanda to pair going through her papers with something she likes. Wanda chose to watch her soap operas, something that takes up only part of her attention. Other ideas could be pairing paperwork and filing with listening to music or a podcast. I got the idea of pairing from Gretchen Rubin’s Podcast “Happier,” which I love and recommend.


Spend at least 10 minutes a day dealing with incoming papers. This is an important habit to build because paperwork is quick and easy when dealt with immediately but can take hours once it piles up. Most people think of bills or mail when they think of paper, but don’t forget schoolwork, office work, artwork, notes, and receipts. I’m sure you can think of more items – but you get the idea.


Learn what to Keep and File and What to Toss. Papers, whether stuffed in a bag at the bottom of a closet or piled high on a desk, are simply delayed decisions. Making decisions on which papers you really need and which you don’t can be confusing. But don’t put it off. You will get better at these decisions the more you exercise your organizing muscle. In my experience, people keep way more documents than necessary.

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