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Purge the Paperwork


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If you’ve been following along here then you know minimalism is something I have come to embrace (Have you jumped on board the Minimalist Wardrobe train?) and life feels so free and light. Moving through this process for my own family was rewarding enough for me to want to share this with you all as inspiration, but my mother recently passed away, and the weight of her paperwork nearly crushed me. I had to comb through thousands upon thousands of pieces of paper searching for precious memories and essential documents among tidal waves of the obsolete and insignificant. The loving feeling of being cared for by my mother was getting washed away by the onslaught of clutter I had to navigate. I couldn’t float in a warm spring of maternal memories because I had to read through printed emails, decades old receipts and cards from failed relationships. This is not the legacy I will leave for my children. No file cabinets hiding hordes of tree carcasses, no contracts from past lives anchoring us down, no stacks to scour in search of a birth certificate. One of the ways I will care for them after I’m gone is by keeping only the essential – curating the story I leave behind – and I invite you to do the same. You will gain immense benefit for yourself and your life today and your future children will be ever so grateful.


The first step is going to be to clear an entire weekend to pull out every single piece of paper you own, hold it in your hand, and decide in which pile it belongs. You will have 4 piles: (1) recycle (2) shred (3) scan and shred (4) scan and keep

For example: (1) a flyer for an event that has passed (2) an old phone bill (3) a receipt for a business expense (4) your child’s social security card

How do you know if something should be scanned or kept? My criteria was this:

If this burned in a fire would I (a) sentimentally cry over its loss  (b) need to replace it for practical reasons (c) be in trouble for legal reasons?

For example: (a) photos (b) driver’s license (c) social security card

Keepsake Box

Each family member has 1 keepsake box, which is a large plastic bin to store objects (and papers) with sentimental value. Drawings are a good example here. If you have piles and piles of children’s drawings, scan them, and choose one from each developmental season to keep in the keepsake box (make it collaborative and let them choose their favorites).


I’m not gonna lie, this is going to take time and not be fun. But once it’s done, it’s DONE (because the system moving forward won’t allow for accumulation) and it will feel so amazing. Scan everything in piles 3 and 4.

Digital Record Keeping

Keeping digital files decluttered and organized is just as important as keeping physical files organized! Under Documents, have several main folders (that are all backed up to the cloud). I have 1 for each family member plus things like cars, dogs, house, and taxes (Did you know the IRS accepts digital tax records in case of audit?). While pages are scanning, go through your digital files and declutter and organize. Delete anything that does meet that criteria above! Then sort in all of your newly scanned documents.

Disclosure: When I recommend a product that I believe will add value for you, it may contain an affiliate link. When you click the link to make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.


For the few documents remaining in pile 4, put them in an organized system. I have a simple, small file box along with some natural file folders.

My files are as follows: West, Bay, Sky, Rachel (social security card, birth certificate, passport, marriage license, diplomas, etc.), Joshua, Autumn (dog license), Odyssey, and Prius (car titles), Legacy (will, etc.).

That’s it – the only paperwork we keep on hand in physical form.


I have an inbox that is simple and small and any papers that come into our home go here for me to process. Sometimes that might look like paying a bill and then shredding the paper. Sometimes that might look like scanning the document and then recycling it. Other times that might look like scanning and filing. Every paper goes here and every paper gets processed.

Paperless Systems

The key to easy maintenance is to modernize all of your systems to be paperless as much as possible. All of my bills are ebills that I receive via email and pay via online banking. All of my business forms are digitally submitted and stored. My kids’ curricula are digital and accessed through their iPads. Even my purchase receipts are all emailed nowadays. Any paper that enters your home, ask “Is there a paperless alternative for this?”

So clear a couple days, grab every paper you own, and start piling, scanning, shredding, and organizing. You got this! If I can do this as a mompreneur of 3 homeschooled kids, you can too!

  1. Michelle B. says:

    I purged quite a bit of paper a few years back. But still had 6-8 file drawers full of paper. My hang up seems to be medical and school files. Mostly pertaining to our oldest who has spina bifida, has had 20+ surgeries, and attends public school with an IEP. I’m trying to approach it from the standpoint of what will he want to see when he’s an adult. Mostly diagnosis, major test results, and procedure reports. All of the billing and EOB’s will be shredded. I’ll scan the important stuff that would be a nightmare to replicate. So, my questions are: how do you keep your digital files organized and do you purge those regularly? Any insight to digital organization would be appreciated. Thank you!

    • Medical and school files can be a tough spot for a lot of families, especial when there are special needs involved. That is a great filter you have developed: Will he need or want this when he’s an adult. For medical and school type stuff, I have a folder for each person in the family and a folder under person for Medical and Education. But I really only keep things that they might need or want in the future. For example, I have the report and x-rays from my spinal fusion surgery saved in the medical file under my name because sometimes I have needed that. And yes, I do so through these files and purge about once a year. You really don’t need as much as you think you need.

  2. Kelsey says:

    What cloud system do you like to use?

  3. Natisha says:

    What scanners do you use? A regular printer scanner or those special ones specifically for filing. Please share I want to do this…also do you store your files on a cloud?

    • I use a basic all-in-one printer/scanner/copier. I store all of my documents and photos on my computer, which auto backs up to the cloud. So they are safely in my possession AND backed up off site.

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I work from an island in the Pacific Northwest, where I live wild and free in connection with my hilarious husband and three growing sailors in our fixer upper on the beach. I authentically live this healing work out loud raising my own neurodivergent family (inner child included) and draw on my decades of education and experience (I've done all the nerdy work so you don't have to) to guide a revolution of overwhelmed parents just like you to feeling at peace within yourself, consciously connected with your children, embraced by a supportive community, and enjoying a values-aligned life you love.

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