Paper Organization 101: The Sunday Basket

Please welcome guest contributor Lisa Woodruff from Organize 365 to the blog today. I’m very excited to have her here to share all about her popular and effective Sunday Basket system.

What an honor to be a guest blogger on the Org Junkie Blog! Laura’s is the very first organizing blog I ever read. Over the past 5+ years I have followed in Laura’s footsteps sharing my practical and functional form of organizing on my blog, Organize 365, the Organize 365 Podcast and in my Amazon Books, The Mindset of Organization – Take Back Your House One Phase at a Time & How ADHD Affects Home Organization – Understanding the 8 Key Executive Functions of the Mind.

Today I want to share with you a simple, powerful system you can use to get control of that mountain of papers and to do’s on your kitchen counter. I call it the Sunday Basket™.

The Sunday Basket

Paper Organization 101 - the Sunday Basket to get your papers organized! at I'm an Organizing Junkie blog

The Sunday Basket was the system I created to help me get on top of all the paper and daily “to dos” I had as an adult.

Everything starts with the Sunday Basket. I didn’t realize it when I started the system years ago, but pretty much everything I know about organizing can be learned with the Sunday Basket. You will learn prioritization, as well as how to deal with mail, projects, and reference items.

Step 1: Find all of your paper.

Paper Organization 101 - the Sunday Basket to get your papers organized! at I'm an Organizing Junkie blog

And I mean all of your paper. Your first basket is going to be one or two laundry baskets.

Grab a laundry basket and go on a scavenger hunt all around the house. You’re going to pick up all of that paper that needs to be processed, like the mail you left in the car or the stuff you left in the garage on the way into the house. You’ll search your laundry room, the counter by the bathtub, that space near your dresser. You’ll look in the kitchen and on the dining room table.

I don’t want you to do anything with your paper. You’re not processing it or taking any action whatsoever. You’re just containerizing it all into laundry baskets.

If you fill two laundry baskets and there is still more paper in your house that needs to be processed, I want you to stop and do this process with two laundry baskets full of paper. Then start over again. Some people have lived in their houses for decades, and honestly, they could easily fill ten to twelve laundry baskets. I am not making any judgments. This is just a process of how to tackle it.

Finding your paper does two things. First, it gets the paper out of all the other rooms of your house. Now, everywhere you go, you’re not going to see paper. That will bring down your stress level and give you some breathing space.

Second, when put all your paper in those laundry baskets, you will know where to look for things. When you find out that you were supposed to send in a permission slip, that’s okay. It’s somewhere in those two laundry baskets.

Step 2: Separate the active paper from the archive papers.

Paper Organization 101 - the Sunday Basket to get your papers organized! at I'm an Organizing Junkie blog

Get another empty laundry basket and a trash can (or recycling bin). As you pull each piece of paper out of the laundry basket, you are going to divide them into piles.

  1. If it’s trash, just trash it.
  2. Paper like insurance statements, tax returns, or the kids’ report cards—anything you want to keep and file—goes in a to-file pile. They’re a long-term item you want to keep, but they don’t require any action. We are not going to file those now. Make a big pile of everything that needs to be filed, and then take that pile to wherever the filing cabinet is and put it there.
  3. Make a pile of anything that needs to be shredded.

These three steps are going to get rid of anywhere from 60–80 percent of your papers in that laundry basket.

The only items left in your laundry basket are active papers . . . like the invitation to that graduation party you need to reply to and buy a gift for, the permission slips that need to go back to school, the bills that need to be paid, the email you printed out about the dates for the kids’ summer camp that you need to add to the Google calendar, the Post-it note that’s in there to remind you to buy a Father’s Day gift for your dad. All of those things are what you now have left in the Sunday Basket. They are all actionable items.

Step 3: Work on the actionable items in your basket.

Paper Organization 101 - the Sunday Basket to get your papers organized! at I'm an Organizing Junkie blog

Items that we need to make decisions on or do something with. This is what your Sunday Basket is all about.

The Sunday Basket only works if you set aside time in your calendar to do the Sunday Basket activities weekly. I’ll be honest, some weeks that’s two hours. Other weeks, I can get the Sunday Basket done in fifteen minutes.

Fifteen minutes, two hours, it doesn’t matter. You need some time to go through this basket every week.

The first thing you’re going to do is to take every single thing out of the basket and put those papers in a pile on the floor. Your basket should be empty.

Pick up every single piece of paper and say to yourself, “Can this wait until next Sunday?” If you’re just starting out, or you’re in a really busy phase of life, you’re going to want to defer as many decisions as you can and put the papers back in the Sunday Basket.

There are two reasons for this. First, you do not want a lot on your to-do list, and second, the more you defer things week after week, the more often you actually decide not to do them at all. Fifty percent of your actionable Sunday Basket items never get done, and you will decide to recycle or shred them.

At the end of each session, you will have things in your Sunday Basket that will sit there until next Sunday for you. And you’ll have a handful of things that are sitting in your lap or on the kitchen counter, things that you need to act on and do, either today or sometime this week.

Step 4: Group like items together.

Paper Organization 101 - the Sunday Basket to get your papers organized! at I'm an Organizing Junkie blog

I particularly like slash pocket folders for this. Slash pocket folders are three-hole-punched plastic folders that are sold in the binder supply section of the store. Sometimes they have tabs on them, sometimes they don’t. You can get them in clear, but usually you’ll find them in assorted colors.

Slash pocket folders are how I organize the papers in my Sunday Basket.

After you have used your Sunday Basket for about four to six weeks, you’re going to start thinking, “Oh my gosh. I know that I have to plan the VBS camp in August, but it is May, and every single Sunday, I’m going through and I’m touching eighteen different pieces of paper because I’m coordinating Vacation Bible School. Touching each of these pieces is driving me crazy.”

Or, “We are going to go on vacation to Florida, and I have twelve pieces of paper that go with that.” Or, “The kids don’t go back to school until September first, but I’m collecting all these papers I need to keep track of until August first.”

These are natural groupings of paper. What you need is a VBS folder, a first-day-at-school folder, and a going-to-Florida-vacation folder.

You don’t want to start with slash pocket folders. Your paper, not your goals, will determine what your folders should be. If you do it the other way around, then you’ll start thinking, “What would be the ideal folders?” There are no ideal folders. It’s not a filing system. It’s just a nice way to keep papers, little notes, and projects together.

Once you have these like items grouped together, it becomes much quicker to go through the Sunday Basket because instead of having to look at all of the papers that go with your vacation, you just need to look at the folder that says “Florida Vacation” and ask yourself, “Can this wait until next Sunday?” You might say, “Yeah, we’re not leaving yet. I’ll just add in all these little notes, or I’ll rewrite my list, put it in there, and then put it back in the Sunday Basket. I don’t need that folder out.” Maybe the next folder is “Summer Tutoring.” You might think, “Yeah, we need to keep that one out. I need to schedule that and talk to the teachers.”

I bet as you were reading you thought, oh I have a system already kind of like this. Or, I NEED to get this ready before school starts again. I can’t wait to hear about your Sunday Basket successes!

Grab a FREE copy of the Sunday Basket ebook HERE during the month of July.

Organization 101 - the Sunday Basket to get your papers organized! at I'm an Organizing Junkie blog

Some people want a little more accountability and support. If that’s you, I’d love to have you sign up for a Virtual Sunday Basket™ Workshop. I’ll mail you a copy of The Mindset of Organization – Take Back Your House One Phase at a Time, and the slash pockets you need to get started. OR check out the 12 Sunday Basket™ Workshop Licensed providers who offer LIVE paper organization workshops.

Paper Organization 101 - the Sunday Basket to get your papers organized! at I'm an Organizing Junkie blog






Filed under: Guest Bloggers, Paper Organization


4 Responses to Paper Organization 101: The Sunday Basket

  1. 1
    Seana Turner says

    Great to see Lisa here on your blog! Sounds like a wonderful system. I definitely have clients who could fill 12 laundry baskets. The thing about paper is, if you can just keep chipping away it regularly, you can get on top of it. I like the idea of just dealing with 2 laundry baskets at a time!

    • 1.1
      Lisa says

      🙂 Hi Seana!

  2. 2
    Linda says

    Awesome!! I’m so excited to get my basket and slash pockets.
    Thank you.

  3. 3
    Clare says

    This is such a great way of organising papers! I’m totally going to get myself a basket and some pockets and do this. I hate the amount of random paper I have around the house! I feel like this will be a MASSIVE help – thanks so much for this great idea 🙂


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