How to Organize Household Papers Once and For All

Household paper is a huge time suck and organization nightmare UNLESS you have a reliable system in place to keep it under control.


The system I’m about to share with you is what I’ve been doing for all my adult life and it works like a charm.  


I call this system my Brain Basket because honestly, if I didn’t have this, i would be a basket case.  This basket is my dumping ground for everything that needs attention but I don’t want it inside my head right now.




Here’s how it works:

On my kitchen counter I have a pretty basket from my favorite place on Earth, Target (okay, my second favorite place….first place is my house).  In this basket I keep my weekly planner printable (here’s a link where you can get your free downloadable PDF.  I toss in any birthday party invitations, newsletters from the kid’s school I need to read, sporting calendars for the season, bills I need to pay, forms I need to file away downstairs, recipes I want to try soon, a broken toy that needs to be fixed (or a note card that lists the broken item if it’s too large to fit inside my basket.


Anything that comes into the house, or my mind, that doesn’t need immediate action goes in my Brain Basket.  I am a huge believer of the “batching technique”  where you do all like tasks at the same time.


For example, I don’t pay one bill today and another on Thursday and another on Friday.  I let them all pile up and pay them all in a single sitting.


My brain can get into this bill paying mode and move through the entire list so quickly.  Then I move on to a different type of task.


One thing I want to mention about the Brain Basket is that you MUST , MUST, have a planned time set in your calendar to go through it each week---on the same day.  


For me I choose Friday afternoons.  I love starting my weekend with a clean slate and then I know I have the entire weekend to tackle any tasks I discover in my Brain Basket.


The day of the week doesn’t matter as long as it’s the same day each week.


This will soon become such an ingrained habit in your schedule almost like brushing your teeth in the morning.  


On Friday afternoons when I get home from cleaning (for those of you who don’t know, in addition to my Productivity & Success coaching business, I have a housecleaning business too). I dump everything out of my Brain Basket and see what needs to be done before next Friday...since I won't look in this basket til then.


Last week I had 2 birthday party invitations that my sons were invited to and we needed to go shopping for gifts.  I knew this task couldn’t wait til next Friday because the party would be over by then.  So I laid the invitations on the other counter so I would remember to buy gifts.


I also saw bills in there that came in during the week (or if a bill is emailed to me I write it on an index card and toss the index card into my basket).  I keep my checkbook in this Brain Basket so it’s super easy to write out any checks.


If anything can wait til next Friday I put it back in the basket.  


To keep things organized within my basket I use the Avery Binder pockets.



We are currently planning a vacation for next month so as I print out hotel reservation confirmations, airline information, brochures, I put it all in a Avery Binder pocket so it is contained.  


My Brain Basket keeps me focused each day of the upcoming week on the 3-5 Most Important Tasks (MIT) that day.  No more mental clutter distracting me or pulling me in a dozen directions.  


My husband also has a basket so I toss things in his basket I want him to take care of or look at or to file.  


Today’s Assignment (if you choose to accept):


  1. For the purpose of this assignment, I want you to go through your entire house and gather all your household papers. Toss them all in a box, tote or basket (we’ll organize them soon)  I know some papers end up in the living room, on your nightstand, in your purse, in the laundry room, in your car.  This step is simply getting all the papers in one location

  2. Now you can sort through the papers and put them into categories.  I recommend you make a category for :

    1. School related

    2. Work related

    3. sports/extracurricular activities

    4. Bills to be paid

    5. Papers, receipts to be filed

    6. Misc.

  3. Every paper now has a category.  Until you purchase the Avery Binder pockets I recommend you paper clip each category and label it with a sticky note.

  4. Place all the stacks of papers in a basket or a bin (You can purchase a permanent basket later)

  5. Now go through those categories of papers and take out anything that needs immediate attention.  Keep those papers out so you remember to take action.

  6. Write in your calendar your weekly Brain Basket appointment with yourself.  Until then, just toss everything into your basket.


I hope you can see how helpful this system will be for your mental clarity and your productivity


The most successful people contribute their success to being focused.  Organization and a decluttered space works wonders for your focus.


I know this was a lot of information to take in at once.  Please move through it one step at a time so prevent overwhelm


I’d love to see photos of your Brain Basket even if it’s still a work-in-progress so leave your photos in the comments below.