Even in an increasingly digital world, paper clutter still seems to haunt us. Mail, paperwork from your child’s school, receipts, to-do lists, and take-out menus are only a small fraction of the paper that may creep its way into your home.
1. Unsubscribe from credit card offers, catalogs, magazines, and subscription services.
- The rate that credit card offers and catalogs enter my mailbox is obnoxious. I found catalogchoice.org and dmachoice.org to help take care of these issues. Both websites are free and will help you safely take care of this junk mail. You get to choose what to opt-out of receiving, so if you like the Pottery Barn catalog, you can keep receiving it and cancel the Lilian Vernon catalog you get twice a month.
- As for magazines…I am subscribed to 30 magazines. Seriously. I don’t pay for all of the subscriptions. Most were free for filling out a survey online or for joining an online panel. Just crazy amounts of reading and inspiration coming in my mailbox each month. But with that many coming in, do you think I actually have the time to read them all? Nope. Therefore, I made a list of those I’m no longer interested in and canceled them. If you’ve paid for the subscription, they may give you a partial refund. I’ve had that happen before, which is always nice. I turned off auto-renewal for those I’ve subscribed to through Amazon and Magazines.com.
2. Keep an incoming paper basket by the entry with a garbage can next door.
- All incoming paperwork goes into the basket. With a garbage can nearby I can quickly discard of the junk I know I don’t need.
3. Clear out your purse or work bag when you get home.
- When I walk in the door I put my purse on my desk. This reminds me to clear it out before I hang it up. I take out receipts, lists, appointment cards, coupons, etc. that accumulated while I was out and file them in their proper spots.
4. Have a system for constant paper clutter – such as coupons, product manuals, receipts, recipes, home management binder files, papers you need to save, etc.
- These things are all regular offenders in my house. If I didn’t have a system set up to keep them in order, I think I’d go nuts. My mail station pretty much rocks my socks and keeps me sane. It helps me with a lot of these things listed above.
- When coupons come in, I file them in the mail station folder labeled “coupons” until I have time to clip and file them appropriately in my coupon expanding files. I keep my store and restaurant coupons in my purse in my Thirty-One fold-n-go organizer.
- Product manuals get filed in a large expanding file by brand name. Larger, 300-page manuals get stored in a document box.
- Receipts are placed in the mail station folder labeled “receipts” until I can go through them and file those I need to keep in an accordion file. (See a repeat product?)
- Recipes also have a folder in the mail station – they come from magazines, my mom (in the mail), email, websites, etc. I have a very simple way of keeping my recipes filed in binders and photo albums, but I’m very perfectionistic about the way I put them in the binders, so it takes more time for me than just throwing them in there. (See how I organize my recipes.)
- I did a week-long series of posts about my home management binder, which you can see all of here if you’re interested. My HMB covers the following categories: calendar, cleaning & organizing, finances, shopping, grocery & menu planning, health & fitness, home & family, and birthdays, holidays, & gifts.
- Have a lot of papers that you need to keep an actual copy of? Get a filing cabinet or expanding file. Organize it in some way, seriously. I have a small filing cabinet that works perfectly for us since we don’t have a ton of stuff to file. I keep paycheck stubs, pet info, vehicle info, etc. in my filing cabinet.
- If you have a system you’re proud of and it’s easy to use, you’ll be more likely to actually use it. I always like to make mine colorful and fun so that it’s more visually appealing to me, making me okay with having it somewhere in the open. (I have the worst issue with thinking things look like yard sales in my home.)
5. Invest in a cross-cut paper shredder.
- My paper shredder is under my desk. When something comes in that needs to be shredded, I do it automatically. I receive credit card offers out the wazoo and don’t need someone stealing my identity out of my own laziness to not shred.
6. Scan it into your computer as a PDF document.
- I bought the HP Officejet 6500 Wireless All-in-One Inkjet Printer printer to help me digitize. Best idea ever. I was in the market for a new printer anyways because my previous Lexmark was eating my ink. Printing coupons every day shouldn’t cost me $30 a week to save me money…just doesn’t make sense. What I love about this HP all-in-one is that it has a document feed for the scanner. I had piles of papers from college classes that I wanted to keep but had no use keeping in a box I’d never look through. I scanned them, by subject, into PDF documents to save on my computer and threw away the paper copies. Amazing. It’s so easy and looks awesome digitally (no compromising quality here).
- All of those organizing/storage magazines I purchased and was running out of room keeping? Ripped apart, sorted by category, and scanned. Voila! Paper clutter be gone.
- Anything that comes in that I don’t need a physical copy of, I scan and get rid of. I’m a PDF junkie now.
7. Avoid printing articles and other things I’m interested in.
- Pinterest makes not printing inspiration easier. It also helps with not bookmarking everything I find. Pinterest allows me to categorize and easily see everything I’ve pinned all at once, rather than clicking on each link that I’ve bookmarked. Downfall — too much inspiration from others can lead to hours passing in my day without me knowing. Oops!
- Pocket, a Firefox browser add-on, allows me to quickly bookmark things I’d like to read or download for later. This can cause issues for me though when I don’t take the time to clear it out on a weekly basis. Recently I had 30 pages of things to read…it took awhile to go through. (More on this tomorrow when I conquer the digital clutter.)
- Why print it if I don’t need to? If I have a PDF version and can read it on my computer, I’m going to do that for now on. I have a binder full of “lessons” from an online workshop I took once. Why I printed them, I have no idea. I’ve never looked at them in paper form, only on my computer.
8. Ideas for conquering school-related paper clutter.
- When I was in college, I had a 3-ring binder for each one of my courses. Each binder was a different color, a color I had a coordinating pen color for so that when I marked things in my planner, I knew which class it was for. Colors help me visually and mentally focus. I kept all of my paper punched and filed in my binders with categories and tab dividers. I was always able to quickly access my course syllabus, notes, or whatever else I needed to in the blink of an eye.
- If I had children, I would definitely be keeping a 3-ring binder with all of their school information in it with my home management binder. (I would have a completely separate binder from my HMB because I think school is important enough to have its own binder, even if it’s only a half-inch binder rather than a standard one-inch.) I’d use tab dividers to separate things into categories — either by child or by category (schedules, class info, after-school activities, etc.)
- Create a command center for your children and their paperwork. I absolutely love the children’s homework message center DaNita at Delightful Order created. Excellent idea and a great way to teach children to be organized.
9. Create a family command center for all to utilize.
- Okay, so I just mentioned the children’s homework message center. But you can create a command center for all members of your family to use as well.
- Include your weekly dinner menu, grocery/shopping lists, to-do lists, reminders, a calendar, phone numbers, business hours of stores/community resources (like the library)/banks/etc. that you visit often, take-out menus, etc.
- Add a dry-erase message board or calendar to eliminate paper.
- Hang chore charts for your kids to easily access.
- This place should be easily accessible to all family members and be a space that you have room for the important things everyone needs access to. If your kids are too young to need a phone number list, and you and your spouse have all of the important numbers in your cell phone, then don’t add it to your command center. Keep it simple so it’s productively useful.
What have you done to conquer paper clutter at home?