One of the biggest clutter challenges my readers ask about is PAPER. It’s like a faucet that never shuts off. Every day when the mailman comes – more paper. The kids come home from school – more paper. And don’t get me started on the newspapers, and the magazines, and the coupons. If you don’t get a handle on it, pretty soon your house is going to be buried in freaking PAPER!
OK, I’n going to give you the secret to dealing with the excess paper issue – are you listening carefully?
OK, here it is – YOU DON’T NEED NINETY PERCENT OF IT. There, now do you feel better?
No really – you DON’T NEED IT.
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Here’s Some Paper Clutter you Can Eliminate IMMEDIATELY
- Utility bills – Nope, don’t need ’em. If you have a question (and how often does that happen – like never!), they will print you another one in just minutes. If you feel the need for them, just scan them and keep them on your computer. I even have a great scanning app on my phone for free! I use Scanner Pro by Readdle.
- Paystubs – Again, you don’t need ’em and you shouldn’t leave them lying around. Usually they are available on-line. If not, someone in Payroll definitely has another copy of them and they will be happy to provide it in those rare cases you might need them. OR scan them and store them securely.
- Bank statements – It’s much smarter to keep these stored online anyway and most banks encourage you to do so. But if you do get them in the mail, you can just open your phone, scan the page or two or relevant information and then SHRED them.
- Flyers, mailers, junk mail, coupons – the only ones you might need are coupons, but even then, how many coupons do you CUT vs. how many do you USE (before they expire), probably not many. Pitch most of this stuff straight in the trash without even a second look. Why let some retailer clutter up your home?
- Catalogs – definitely don’t need them and it’s better for your budget if you can get them to not even come into your house. It’s just letting unnecessary temptation in your door. Every place that sends you a catalog has a website with everything in that catalog available in a searchable format. There should be an unsubscribe option listed somewhere in every catalog.
- School Papers – Most of the stuff that comes home from school is informational in nature. Newsletters, upcoming fundraisers, permission slips, etc. Take 30 seconds to read it, or sign it. If it has a date on it you need to remember, snap a quick photo on your phone so it will be right at your fingertips, then TOSS.
- Art Projects or Homework – These are tough because you do want to keep SOME of them, but definitely not all of them. Especially if you have several kids, you will DROWN in these papers. Homework that is completed and graded – toss. If you are unsure, snap a quick photo of the front page with the grade. Artwork – set up a bulletin board that will hold their best few items and let them rotate the selections as new ones come in. Then let the kids snap a photo for grandma and toss it. Fun tip: Laminate one or two large pieces for fun and easy placemats.
Here is the desktop organizer I bought just last week to organize the little bit of paper I do need to hang onto. And I bought these pretty file folders to go with it. Simple is SO much better! Just a few spots for receipts, important mail (not junk mail or bills), and projects or recipes I’m going to be using in the next little while. This would work for well school papers, a calendar, and a few simple office supplies. And I love the gold sparkle touches on the file folders – I’m a sparkly girl!
A Word About Security
I am a maniac about privacy and security. Pretty much all of these papers except for junk mail and kids school stuff should be shredded. You’ll want a good cross-cut shredder and maybe more than one in the house – upstairs/downstairs, office/kitchen, etc. Anything with sensitive information such as account numbers, social security numbers, dollar amounts, prescription or medical info, should be shredded.
Here is the type of shredder I use:
You’ll also want good security on your computer and phone since you’ll be storing important documents. As a blogger and business owner, I have hundreds of passwords to juggle, so I use extra secure password apps on both my phone and computer. I keep backups of all my important documents on a physical hard drive rather than in the cloud. Then I put the hard drive in a closet away from my computer for safe keeping. I’ve been robbed several times and my thinking is that if someone broke in, the first thing they would do is scoop up the computers and anything attached to them – bye-bye backup copies. Paranoid much? YEP. But I’ve learned from experience.
Here’s the type of portable hard drive I prefer. I don’t want something delicate that’s going to break into a million pieces if I drop it. I have the 1 terrabyte version, but you can go bigger if you have a lot of photos.
I almost forgot, I bought a set of these binders too. They are perfect for more permanent storage of things like user manuals, insurance policies, car titles, random photos I don’t want to get damaged and favorite recipes that I’ve collected over the years. And they look pretty with the file folders too!
Most people don’t take an actual newspaper anymore (do they still deliver newspapers these days?). If you do, make a pact to only keep a day or two worth of papers around. They pile up so fast and seem to travel everywhere.
Magazines can be a huge source of clutter and they’re such a waste of paper. The average person has 3.1 magazine subscriptions and they don’t actually read them half the time. What’s up with that?
Most magazines have an online option that is just as nice and then you don’t have them lying around making you feel guilty about not reading them. See my post on my Magazine Fast – where I eliminated 95% of my magazine and newspaper subscriptions. I just have one little Boy Scout magazine that I still get.
We get these shiny, pretty magazines and think we’re going to make all these yummy recipes, create all these fabulous crafts, make over our home to look like a magazine layout and try all these miracle diets, but honestly, we probably won’t, and those shiny magazines just pile up in stacks all around your house.
To at least avoid the stacks, consider investing in a magazine holder like this one. It keeps them from drifting around the house and if you see them sitting there, you might actually take a minute to read them. (Yes, I know, they color coordinate with the binders and the file folders – so shoot me! I LIKE pretty stuff…)
If you want, just tear out the articles or recipes you want and keep ’em in a file. It’s OK to tear it up, you’ve paid for the magazine. Then find somewhere to pass it on to. I always think it is such a waste for just one person to read a magazine and then throw it away. Even better, you can find even better stuff on Pinterest and it is a clutter-free solution!
Paper Clutter can Stack up SO FAST!
Paper clutter can really build up if you don’t keep on top of it. My in-laws were about the neatest people around, but after they passed away, we had to clean out their house. We found drawers FULL of so much useless paper – hundreds of utility bills, cancelled checks, bank statements, decades of paystubs, Christmas cards. Hundred pounds of completely useless paper. We literally burned up a shredder disposing of them all. Don’t do that to your kids.
Surprising fact about me – I haven’t read a daily newspaper, watched any regular news shows, or listened to any news radio shows in probably 15-20 years. Seriously. It’s a conscious choice I made years ago to focus on more positive things in my life. And you know what, I probably haven’t missed a single important news story in all that time – not one.
I have news alerts that come to my Email for big news stories like natural disasters or stupid politician tricks. Anything else, I catch info on the Internet, hear a blip on the radio, or someone says “hey have you heard…”. I figure that saves me about 6 inches of excess paper every week. And a lot of negative BS that I don’t want in my life.
What to Do with the 10% Paper You’re Keeping?*
This part is a piece of cake because you only have 10% of the paper clutter to deal with, but you gained an extra 90% of space all over your house – how’s that for a deal?
All you need to do is set up a system to keep track of those few papers you do need to keep. Here are some tips that worked for me.
- Daily Reference Info – For phone lists, sports schedules, other papers that I really want to keep track of, I tape them up INSIDE my cupboard doors. It’s neater looking than a bulletin board and I don’t have to dig through a pile of papers or a drawer to find them.
- Bills – I have a special bill drawer and nothing but current bills is allowed to go in this drawer. We just toss them in there as the bills come in. Then on payday, I just go through and grab them and pay them with my bank’s online bill pay. Even if they aren’t due yet, I can set them up for the following payday. Then I shred them.
- Coupons. I will admit it, I’m not a big coupon person. I do have one of those coupon organizer thingies, but it’s usually pretty empty. However, I do a TON of online shopping and I have a great post on managing the flood of Email that comes in after you buy something online. I’m an impulse shopper and I don’t need that temptation!
- Actual important papers – genuine important papers like passports, tax documents, birth certificates, theater tickets, and stuff I do keep in special files, but they’re small ones.
Here’s the coupon organizer I probably would use if I were a coupon person. It’s pretty and it would fit in my purse.
As I’ve mentioned, I do make a lot of use of my technology – scanners, phone apps, my computer, etc. Those are really helpful and are big time savers also. There are some great free apps to help you organize EVERYTHING in your life also. Trello is my go-to, but I’ve also used Evernote, OneNote and Asana. Any important info that I want to remember goes right in a folder or in an app.
I hope this helps you with your paper challenges!
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