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Warning! Read This Before Doing the Marie Kondo Papers Method

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.

professional woman in mustard business jacket with papers, text overlay "how the KonMari organize method got it wrong about papers"

I've written about it several times, such as how to make money with Marie Kondo's method, and how to get the most amount of money for your clothes after a KonMari closet cleanout.

But I have to speak up about her intention to get you to throw away all of your papers.

Konmari Paper Purge

Of papers, professional organizer (and life-changer) 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 recommends keeping the following papers while decluttering:

  • 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), even if they didn't get me closer to a tidy home.

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 was bogus.

Specifically, I was able to point out to them where part of what they were trying to collect 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 also keeping a binder where I organize them chronologically as they come in (see, nice and tidy!).

One of my favorite binders that has helped me numerous times? Our home binder (psst: here's how I organize recipes in a 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 (instead of purging them).

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 about 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 altogether 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.

Konmari Paper Declutter

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 in the state of Texas for four years – but I think you need to hold onto some of those papers when cleaning out your home. You never know when you will need them. Yes, I'll continue promoting her work and benefiting from the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up myself, for sure. But just had to step in today and let you all know what I think about her paper philosophy.

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Amanda L Grossman

Personal Finance Writer and CEO at Frugal Confessions, LLC
Amanda L. Grossman is a writer and Certified Financial Education Instructor, Plutus Foundation Grant Recipient, and founder of Frugal Confessions. Over the last 13 years, her money work has helped people with how to save money and how to manage money. She's been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger, Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, Business Insider, LifeHacker, Real Simple Magazine, Woman's World, Woman's Day, ABC 13 Houston, Keybank, and more. Read more here or on LinkedIn.


Sunday 9th of January 2022

Marie Kondo speaks about papers that “must be kept” and this includes “insurance policies, guarantees and leases”. (The Magic Art of Tidying Up, page 98). A contract for a property you currently lease and warrantee info for an appliance you still have that’s still in the warrantee period certainly falls into Marie Kondo’s “keep” category. I don’t see how any of your examples contradict Marie Kondo’s advice. Marie Kondo does emphasize to throw most papers away, so it is helpful to repeat which papers she says you “must keep”.


Friday 19th of March 2021

What about scanning documents? That's quick, easy and easily accessible without having all those papers all over the place.

E. Frear

Tuesday 14th of July 2020

I liked your perspective! I'm helping a close person sort their life and paper is a different category for him than me and your insite helps me see what he may need to keep!

Amanda L Grossman

Thursday 23rd of July 2020

I'm so glad to hear you found this useful when helping someone sort out their life and try to figure out what to do with all the paper clutter!


Friday 13th of December 2019

thank you for this info! It felt like perfect middle ground for me. I've held on to paperwork "just in case" for too long and hated the mess, but as a cautious person couldn't quite buy into throwing it all out. This feels reasonable. I don't mind letting go of some clothes, and love KonMari for other things, but I agree, the paper proof has been needed more than once, and with personalized info not able to be found on internet. Thanks for some peace of mind :)

Enough BS already

Monday 25th of March 2019

Marie Kondo is wrong about paper. Just to prove it, I will send her a bill and let her know she is obligated to pay it...until she can prove she already has... that will change her mind! What an imbecile!

Marie supporter

Wednesday 25th of September 2019

I can't believe your comments. Just go online with your checking account and do a search. You're better? The point is to pull something that improves your lifestyle based on something she taught. The benefits of organizing and space saved is worth the pennies or few dollars you may lose. Overall her methods have helped millions.