How to Reduce Paper Clutter

Dear Home Ec 101,
There are stacks of paper all over my house. Do you have any suggestions on how I can better organize this mess?
Signed,
Precarious Piles

how to reduce paper clutter

Heather says:

I am completely guilty of this avoidance behavior. Living in a mess of paper clutter is a sure sign that someone in the home is indecisive or afraid of commitment.

Why?

Papers most often represent decisions or actions that need to be done. Allowing the paper to pile up is the essence of procrastination.

Bills need to be paid, children’s artwork needs to be stored, displayed, or disposed, jotted phone numbers – are these people worth committing to memory or your contact file?- it goes on and on.

There is no immediate, magical fix for your paper clutter problems, but you can begin to develop habits that will counter the build up of paper clutter.

If you have reliable internet, switch to electronic communication for as many services as possible.  Important – this does not mean you switch to auto-pay, if there is a billing snafu of some sort, you want to manually  confirm what comes out of your bank account.

Learn to recognize your avoidance and commit-a-phobe behavior. Sort mail as it comes into the house. Don’t put the whole pile on the counter to deal with later; make the first decisions immediately. Flyers and junk mail go right into the shredder or recycling. Bills go into their appropriate place.

You don’t have to keep every piece of artwork your child ever created. Scan and save their better work and only display their best and most precious pieces. Not every sketch and doodle requires this type of effort. Just because Little Johnny slapped a couple of scribbles down for praise and a hug doesn’t mean you must keep it until the end of time.

Figure out how to back up your electronic data and stop storing scraps of paper out of fear. My friend Michael Carnell of Palmettobug Digital has a great post on how to back up your information.

So these ideas help reduce the incoming paper clutter, but how do you deal with what already exists?

home organizing tips

Click the picture for more tips!

There’s nothing to do except deal with it. It doesn’t have to be all at once. Each day set a goal of dealing with one pile. If those piles are huge, set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes and attack one of the existing piles: toss, scan, or file as needed. Just start making the decisions or the situation will only get worse.

I get it. I know it’s hard, but avoiding it only makes it harder.

Good luck.

Send your domestic questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.



6 Comments

  1. 789mom on January 21, 2012 at 10:12 am

    Speaking of programs, why not a digital solution to kids’ school papers? Art Keep, an app on my iPhone, lets me take photos of my kids’ cute drawings and paintings, organize them by child’s name or grade, and even add a caption. My boys are good students and I want them to stay that way. I encourage their best by having these pictures on my phone to show people when they ask how my family is doing. My sons see me taking pride in their accomplishments.

  2. Friday Links: Adopt a Rescue Pet Edition on August 27, 2010 at 7:01 am

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  3. EV on August 26, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    For the person who is nervous about needing something again, (for example: We can't throw that announcement from the water company; we might need it again,) there is the program Evernote (http://www.evernote.com/). My husband uses it coupled with a scanner (as the program OCRs) for much of his work. He knows people who use it for everything and have empty desks yet the ability to search through years of documentation stored somewhere for what is needed. The search feature is huge for him. It keeps us from filing multiple copies of things in different folders. And it is FREE! Yes!

    • HeatherSolos on August 26, 2010 at 10:19 pm

      I just installed Evernote on my phone. I haven\’t started playing with it yet, thanks for the suggestion!

  4. Carol Shive Mirek on August 26, 2010 at 10:48 am

    I hate the paper monsters that take over my house. It seems like it is on a daily basis. I am getting better about tossing junk mail and other non-essential stuff as it come in the house. School starts in a little over a week, and I am afraid of all the new stuff I will be getting again! Thank goodness they do some of their notices via email now. Cuts down on a lot of clutter.

  5. carnellm on August 26, 2010 at 10:13 am

    Thank you for the kind mention. I must admit though, I often get swallowed under piles of paper. Then I get organized, everything all neat, tidy and zen like. Then I let it go and the paper-monster returns again. My life is a constant cycle of battles with clutter.

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