Paper Clutter Dissected

Dearest FlyLady,
office in a bag

I have been a member for about 4 years and your system has transformed my life. I have Aspergers Syndrome and with this comes severe organization problems. Some people with Aspergers are obsessionally tidy but I am the opposite. For me it is as if in the space in my brain where there ought to be an categorizing place there is a blank space. I know this is a part of my condition, but sometimes it is so hard. There are many things I have had to learn along life’s path, where others pick things up almost magically I have had to get from books. I am so grateful to you, I wish I could meet you in person to hug you, for without you my home and my life would still be a mess.

I have one remaining mountain to climb, and that is one of paperwork. I cannot seem to apply your system to this mountain. Perhaps it needs a different system? My problem with paperwork goes back years, and I am ashamed to admit I have been sacked from jobs because of this problem. It is so painful and so humiliating that It is only now, after I have had some success in the house, that I can admit to this particular struggle. My husband tries to help me, however he is BO when it comes to paper and is able to fling and sort without having to think about it.  It is as if I only have one category in my head – ‘all paperwork goes here’ and there it sits, in a huge box, in the middle of my guest room, getting bigger and bigger, making me feel sooo stupid. I read your categories of paperwork essay, but I am ashamed to say I do not understand it. I was hoping to maybe understand it if I read it a few more times, or left it to sink into my head a while, but it is no clearer to me. I know that most other flybabies would have found it invaluable, so I know it isn’t you, your ideas and essays are always fantastic, the problem is with me and my brain.

I think I need the paperwork essay broken down into even smaller babysteps, perhaps tiny weeny babysteps? A tiny, teeny task at a time? I know you have hardly any time to reply individually to people, with individual special needs, but maybe you know of a website that can help me, or have some ideas as to where I can start? If I was given a list of very small tasks to do that did not require massive processing eg “divide paper into pile A and pile B. Next put a pile A into box A”. Something a very small child would understand. (That is the level I am working at.) So it can’t be, eg ‘stuff to chuck’ and ‘stuff to keep!

My son has Aspergers too, he is only 8 and has the same problem. His room is covered in paper. I am desperately trying to help him but I can’t. I have been trying not to cry about it.!!!

Many thanks for reading this, and God bless you for the fantastic work you do.

Much love
Hopeful Flybaby xx


Tell me where the paper comes from.
Make a list.



Thank you so much for replying!

I seem to have two kinds of paperwork, the stuff which comes in the door, and the stuff I produce myself.  I hate all the stuff which comes through the door!!

The Stuff that comes in the Door

From the bank

statements, adverts, information, advice of changes to mortgage, letters, mortgage insurance & household insurance

Bank Statement from last year in the 2012 file or a three ring binder.

Adverts go in the trash

Advice of changes to mortgage; trash if you didn’t act on them, if you did goes into your documents folder

letter; from bank on your mortgages should be put in the current year or last year folder.

Insurance policies need to be kept in the Family Documents folder

From the utilities

bills, information, adverts, offers

Bills can be kept in current and last years folder. If you have more than one year just put them older than 2013 box or folder. Don’t try to organize; just sort.

Information is usually trash

Adverts is trash

Offers is trash

Credit cards

bills, reminders, offers, money off vouchers, adverts, letters, statements of accounts

Bills- if they are current they go in your Office in a Bag.

Reminders are trash

Offers are trash; shred them or burn in your fire place

Money off vouchers. no clue but they are probably are dated and have expired.

Letters; letters from credit card companies are just wanting you to get more credit cards; dispose of them carefully in the shredder or fireplace for kindling

Junk mail

I know to toss these now

Junk mail has to earn the right to come into your home. SHRED SHRED SHRED

Childrens school

letters, information, homework, adverts, newsletters, lovely drawings & craft work from the children

Letters should be read immediately and acted upon. If they are in a pile then their info is probably no long valid. Probably trash. If is it something that needs to be put on a calendar then post it. You can make a folder for each child in your family.

Information; read and process.

Homework; if it has not been done then it is trash or contact teacher to see what to do.

Adverts are always TRASH  till you get a handle on the paper clutter

Newsletters can be trashed except for the latest one and put it on your bulletin board or refrigerator

Lovely Drawings & Crafts. Collect them for a week and then allow your child to pick his favorite for the scrapbook and send the rest to the grandparents. Crafts take a picture of them. If you have a bunch of them just put them in a box for now. Set up the weekly system by making a place for your child to put them when he comes home.

Autism & Aspergers societies

information, reams of it

Information; if you are overwhelmed by too much info it is not doing you any good. I would eliminate it from your life. Set up a Google alert to give you any new information on your computer. You can find most anything you need on the internet.

Child agencies

– eg child benefit, child tax credit, lots and lots of forms and statements and official looking documentation and information and leaflets

Child benefit and tax credit should be kept with current tax information. You may want to set up an Office in a bag or folder just for this information. Be sure and throw away the ads.

Tax forms

these are usually small bits eg statement of tax over the year

These should be kept with the current years tax info envelope.

Wages slips

again, small and manageable

These can be kept in your Office in a Bag for this year. Last years go in the 2012 folder.

Registration forms for teachers

both my husband and I are registered teachers, and we keep copies of our teacher status numbers, national insurance, criminal checks

Teacher status numbers, National insurance and criminal checks need to be kept in your family documents.


– there are 4 of us in the family. My husband and youngest son only have a few bits eg some vaccine certificates, but my older son with Aspergers has lots of medical reports and information, letters from schools, assessments, etc. I have many pieces of paper related to my health, as I have had lots of operations, so hospital information, letters from doctors and specialists, information about operations and medical conditions, also many bits of paper to do with my teeth and the associated bills!

Set up a folder or an Office in a Bag for each family member. I had one of these bags that I carried with me for any doctor visit or other appointment that my mother had. Everything in one place and easily accessible.

Careers allowance and disability allowance

I am a registered career for my son who gets the allowance, there are lots of bits of paper for this, statements of disability, photocopies of documents, letters from social security, forms and information

These should be kept with your Family documents.


birth, marriage, vaccine, exams & qualifications etc

Birth Certificates – Family Documents folder

Marriage Certificates -Family Documents Folder

Vaccine records- Family Documents Folders

Exams- Not certain what those are; if they have to do with your work then make a folder for your job.


– for stuff we have bought

I put receipts for appliances stapled to the manual; in the manual accordion  file


– for products

With the booklets/manuals after the first part is mailed in. All in the Instruction Manual Folder. When you put something in there; throw something out that the new appliance is replacing. Take a minute to purge.

Information on the products

– we have bought eg manuals

In the Instruction Manual Accordion file

House stuff

solicitors letters, deeds, plans, certificates, letters from all sorts eg estate agents, legal documents

These things go with your Family Documents

Car stuff

MOTs, insurance, tax, registration forms, information on insurance

MOTs – I don’t know what this is; unless it is a title transfer; that would put into the Family Documents Folder.

Insurance- in Family Documents folder and a proof of Insurance in your car.

Tax -property taxes that are unpaid should be put with your To Pay Bills.  When paid put in your Current year tax folder

Registration is supposed to be kept in your car.

information on Insurance; if it is a supplement to your policy then put it with the policy in the Family Documents Folder

Old stuff

information on past jobs and assessments in employment eg tests passed, courses attended

Put this stuff with your employment records and make sure your resume is up to date.

Bank bits

spare cheque books, credit cards, post office bonds, savings books

Extra Check books should be kept under lock and key in a fireproof safe alone with Credit card not in your wallet, savings bonds and savings books.

Letters, cards, e-mails

from family and friends

I have a Happiness File that I keep my favorite things in.  With email I have a folder that I keep Family and Friend’s messages is.

Course information

useful handouts from courses, they are like reference books if I want to go back and read them, notes I have made on course

Put these in a box or boxes and date them and tape them up. If you have not opened up the box in two years then I would say trash them.


things like postcards or little things that go into our yearly family memory book

Then put them in the book as you get them.

Other stuff

I am sure there is a bit more, but without going through the boxes I cant remember

Most of that stuff will be trash. Don’t get sentimental over trash.

Stuff I Produce

Writing jobs

I work part time as a writer/proofreader, and have kept published copies of my work, but also letters from the publisher, copies of cheques received, statements of earnings, photocopies of work in progress, lists of contacts

Copies of your work do not have to be kept if you have digital copies in your computer.

Letters from publishers can be kept. It is according to what they say. If it is just a statement of earning then it should go in your current tax records. If it is from last year then put it in your Tax 2012 folder.

Lists of Contacts need to be kept in your computer and in a 3 x 5 card file box or address book in your Control Journal

Other writing

I write lots of things, poems, short stories, ideas, educational information, ideas for stories, diaries (from my youth and now), reams of stuff

Put the the stuff from your childhood in a box. All of this stuff can’t be on your desk.

Works in progress need to be kept in a notebook or a computer file. I have relieved myself of many pieces of paper by only using a spiral notebook to take notes and write down ideas.


I run an educational website and write and illustrate worksheets, articles and schemes of work, I keep hard copies of the printables and illustrations and any correspondence related to it, also reference material

Keeping hard copies of this stuff if it is stored on a website and on your computer is a waste of time. They are at your fingertips if you need them and much easier to find.

Family History

there is so much paperwork related to this, certificates, documents, information about family history, letters, photos, notes, leaflets from family history society, website addresses, files, contacts, maps, books etc, all of it different sizes and shapes so it cant be kept in one place together

Put a box together for your Family History. This sounds like a Hobby of yours.  This is what our filing cabinets are for. We have to purge the paper clutter so you will have a place for the hobbie you love.

Art work

I am a portrait artist, I have paintings, drawings, art equipment, letters to and from clients, art society newsletters and information, reference material and books, it feels never-ending

Start putting this stuff in one place. The more you get rid of stuff; you will make room for your special place a studio for you. Even if it is easel and a tackle box of your equipment; paints and brushes. Put your letters in a notebook.


I get great ideas and make mini-projects eg holiday files, inventions (complete with patent applications)

Inventions/patent applications need to be kept in your safe. These are intellectual property rights. They are legal documents.

Holiday files and projects need to be kept in folder or a bin. I really don’t know what this is.


leaflets and information and money-off vouchers on holidays and fun things to do for the family

The vouchers have probably expired. You can put together a wish book of place you want to go. Your children can help you do this. So trash what is junk.


I have taught in the past and made my own resources eg worksheets, booklets, maths resources (eg fraction pizzas), there is so much stuff I can hardly bear to throw away in case I need it again, I have limited myself to my favourite subject now, Mathematics, and thrown out all the literacy and other subjects

I am proud of you for limiting yourself on this. Set up one rubbermaid tub for this and limit yourself even more to what can go in that tub.


I teach my older son part-time in Maths, he is 6 years ahead of his age and needs special provision, so I have many resource books and materials, also files and folders of his work, documented evidence of ability eg tests & results, letters from school and other agencies to do with this side of his education

Put this in a bin too that is easily accessible for you.

Other stuff

again, without going into the boxes I cant remember what more stuff there is.

I think you just about covered it all. This took a lot of work on your part. When you get started purging you will begin to be able to find what you have when you need it. Instead of saying it has to be here. Less stuff gives you more time. Most of these things are not needed.

It is amazing how that feels actually writing it down! You knew, didnt you, that getting it out of my head would help me to see it more clearly.

One thing I see is how much stuff I have and that it is stressing me to fit it all into the small space I have.

Another thing I see is that the two sides of Aspergers in me intense creativity (in many Aspergers the creative force is so strong, as strong as the need to breathe), and problems with organization, are in conflict with each other. If only I had a secretary.

My family really love me and do not complain about the stuff they understand me and my husband tries to help, but he cant organize my stuff, he does not have time nor does he know what half of it is! His idea of organizing it, is to commit it to memory and then throw it. I have been wondering why I have been unable to do this! I have come up with two reasons.

1.       I have a brain which absorbs facts in an unorganized way. I cannot organize my thinking. If I read information, I am unable to identify the main points, I focus on details. This is part of Aspergers. So instead of throwing away information I keep it, so that I don’t miss important stuff. I would be scared to miss the stuff I was supposed to know. When I have tried to take notes it takes me so long. I have to read things many times to absorb information properly. And even then I don’t know which bits are important unless someone tells me. I try to memories all the information. My older son can memories whole books if he listens them on tape a couple of times. Then he can repeat them verbatim. It really is wild!

2.       I have intense emotional attachment to my creations. It feels like I have given birth to them! Thus to ask me to throw any away would be like asking me to give away my children! I can’t explain why I feel this way. I know that my poems etc are not people. I don’t treat them with more respect than my family, indeed I pour so much love on my family they never feel that they are less important than what I do. But my creations seem to take on a life of their own, they are like the little people in my world. I know a lot of famous artists and writers and inventors are like this I read about them. I never realized I am like that too. It is impossible for me to throw away a painting or piece of writing, it would be like committing murder or abandonment.

So dear dear FlyLady, if you have any way around this, I would be so grateful. I have tried to organize the stuff into files but I can never decide where it is all to go, so I have several different filing systems, and none of them functioning. I forget the categories and cant find stuff once its filed.

May God bless you richly today. If you cant come up with a solution for me for the above, I will not be angry with you, you have helped our family so much already. But your comments are so valuable to me, and you do see things that I cant, perhaps you will spot something I didnt and that will be the light that leads me out of this mess.

Much love from your grateful, hopeful Flybaby xx

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