Smart Solutions: Paper purge gets the organizing ball rolling

By Jeanine Matlow
Special to The Detroit News

After my initial attempts to organize my home while quarantined were semi-successful at best, I decided to try a new strategy that seemed a bit random at the time. These efforts would focus on all the paperwork that had gathered around the house where we have lived for more than 20 years.

This would turn out to be one of the easiest categories for me to tackle. Despite the fact that my papers were in separate boxes and drawers, there were only three places for them to go in the end. They could be recycled, shredded, or properly filed away for safekeeping. So, while an average storage container filled with assorted contents could take me in a million different directions, this scenario was much more manageable.

During the process, I became unstoppable and couldn’t believe what I found along the way. Let’s just say an old folder full of receipts took me back to the days of buying diapers and other baby supplies. And while I had to sort through each piece because some records had to be shredded, it turned out there was nothing there worth keeping.

Furniture designed for files can replace those old metal cabinets of the past and blend in seamlessly with other pieces.

Since most of the papers I discovered around my house had no reason to be here, I made an effort to part with many of their containers so I wouldn’t be tempted to fill them again. In one box that held old legal pads with my work notes, I found enough blank ones hidden in the middle to last for at least a year.

I also found countless projects and other documents from our daughter that provided free entertainment for weeks. Now that I’ve put the keepers together in one spot, I know where to find them when I need a good laugh.

My paper purge eventually led me to address what we had left of my daughter’s old toys. I was able to sell some of her American Girl furniture and give a bunch of other stuff to a friend for her young granddaughter. This project allowed me to part with more storage bins, miscellaneous containers, tote bags and shoeboxes that revealed how much progress I’d made in my storage room with relatively little effort when they left the house.

Though organizing my storage room had been my original goal back in March when I had no excuse while sheltering in place, it still didn’t happen right away. At some point, I finally realized that my paper purging process hadn’t been so random after all. Unknowingly, I had been applying some Marie Kondo wisdom by choosing a category instead of a specific space and it was working like a charm.

My previous attempts at this method were not successful, perhaps because the tidying expert suggests starting with clothing which happens to be the one item we edit often in our home.

Many of the papers I kept are conveniently located in a display cabinet with file drawers that make them easy to find. After becoming distracted again, it was time to get back to business sorting through my coffee table books that are inspiring me along the way.

Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at