The KonMari Papers method is something that consistently would have cost us untold amounts of time + thousands of dollars in costs we didn’t need to pay. Let me show you why.
I love Marie Kondo and her KonMari Method.
But I have to speak up about her intention to get you to part with all of your papers.
Of papers, Marie Kondo says, “My basic principle for sorting papers is to throw them all away…After all, they will never inspire joy, no matter how carefully you keep them.”
She does relent some and recommend keeping the following papers:
- Papers currently in use
- Papers needed for a limited period of time
- Papers you need indefinitely
But she makes it quite clear she’d rather you pick up your recycling bin and/or shredder and throw them all away.
From a financial and legal perspective, I don’t think this is in your favor.
Let me give you four concrete examples in my own life where having my trusty filing cabinet and binders of papers was immensely helpful (saving me hours of phone calls and untold amounts of money).
Example #1: Saved Me from Erroneous Debt Collections…twice
If I had recycled or shredded my lease contract with the landlord in Florida, then I would have probably never been able to prove to the collections agency they sold me to that the $3,400 debt they were trying to collect on was bogus.
Specifically, I was able to point out to them where part of what they were trying to collect on was illegal per the terms of my contract (you know, the contract I held onto instead of shredding a la konmari-style).
Then when a doctor group here in Houston tried to collect $1,097 from us for a preventative care appointment, how would I have been able to clear us of THAT erroneous debt without having kept the nearly 2-year old credit card receipts and other documents from old doctor appointments to make my case?
Paper Organization Tip: Keep records of leases, contracts, loans, etc. for five years or more.
Example #2: Saved Me from Overpaying on Internet/Cell + Insurance Costs
I’m a huge proponent of not only keeping papers for several years, but keeping a binder where I organize them chronologically as they come in.
One of my favorite binders that has helped me numerous times? Our home binder. It houses quotes we receive, receipts from work we have done, measurements/product IDs for those pesky things we have to periodically replace like air conditioning and refrigeration water filters, our deed, etc.
Since our homeowner’s insurance is lopped in with our auto insurance, I also keep our bills from each six-month period. After reviewing these several years ago, I realized just how much our insurance bill crept up. It was just $10 here, $45 there, but it really added up and if I didn’t have the numbers in black and white to keep track of it, then I never would’ve recognized the pattern.
The same thing happened with our internet/cable bill. Slow, automated bill creep is a thing, people!
Armed with this info, I called our internet/cable provider and had our premium reduced by $66/month plus a $72 bill credit. I’ll be calling our insurance agent next (and shopping around with two companies I’d like to try once we’re clear of Hurricane Season). That’s an extra $864 back into our household in just a year (though, admittedly, I’ll have to keep an eye on that automated bill creep again to keep it down).
Paper Organization Tip: You don’t have to save every bill. But every 6 months you should compare what you are paying that month to what you were paying six months earlier. If there’s a difference, then it might be time to make a phone call.
Example #3: Provided Product Use Information that Saved a Trip to the Trash Can
I actually have a file in my filing cabinet where I save all the warranties and user manuals for the various items in our home.
It’s pretty thick and unwieldy. However, I keep it because it comes in handy all the time.
For example, I was able to:
- Clean out the rust-looking stuff in our electric tea kettle using a cycle run-through with cream of tartar, per the user manual instructions, instead of believing it actually was rust and throwing it out.
- Increase the vacuum power significantly by reading the manual about all the compartments to clean out, instead of throwing out the cleaner and thinking we needed a new one.
- I saved the car seat manual and was happy for it, because just one year later our little guy needed to be converted to the next seat up…again. Not only that, but turned around to actually face us (which is where having the car manual to look up recommendations was helpful as well).
Paper Organization Tip: While I’ve kept, and been able to locate, most of the product user information over the years thanks to my system, sometimes I haven’t been able to. In these cases, I’ve done a search online for the product + user manual and have been able to find some sort of information to answer the question.
Example #4: Saved Us from having to Pay for A/C Parts and Repairs Under Warranty
Over the summer our downstairs A/C unit – the one we just replaced 7 years ago – died. It had been petering out over the last few years, getting less and less cool, and I finally had had enough. We had the company come out and they added Freon into the system and looked for a leak, which they found.
What they didn’t find? Was that the item was still under warranty (for 10 years). When they tried to bill us for these items? I went to my home binder, found their original receipt with the warranty info, and the man made a call into his office to discuss.
We won that one.
Which is fortunate, because not only was there a leak (which is why it wasn’t cooling well the last two summers), but it died all together just one week later. So, they came back out and installed a new capacitor, free of charge, plus fixed the leak after they found where it was.
Paper Organization Tip: Keeping around product warranties is super important to getting the most out of your purchases. The tip? Many product warranties are actually listed in the back of the user manual. So, make sure you look before you toss the user manual altogether.
Okay. So even Marie Kondo wasn’t totally against keeping papers.
She wrote, “Of course, I am not saying that my clients have never regretted discarding something…What if, for example, they need the contents of a document that they disposed of earlier? First, because they have already pared down the amount of documents they own, they can quickly confirm that they do not have it, without having to search all over. The fact that they do not need to search is actually an invaluable stress reliever…When we have reduced the amount we own and store our documents all in the same place, we can tell at a glance whether we have it or not. If it’s gone, we can shift gears immediately and start thinking about what to do. We can ask someone we know, call the company, or look up the information ourselves. Once we have come up with a solution, we have no choice but to act. And when we do, we notice that the problem is often solved surprisingly easily.” (pgs. 186-187).
You can say it’s the environmental investigator in me – a job I worked at the state of Texas for four years – but I think you need to hold onto some of those papers. You never know when you will need them. Yes, I’ll continue promoting her work and benefitting from it myself for sure. But just had to step in today and let you all know what I think about her paper philosophy.